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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A child plays with sensory toys at the Army Community Service Sensory Gala, July 22 at the New Parent Support Program Building on Fort Rucker. (Photo Credit: Jay Mann) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A child plays with a sensory toy at the Army Community Service Sensory Gala July 22 at the New Parent Support Program Building on Fort Rucker. (Photo Credit: Jay Mann) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A family plays with sensory toys at the Army Community Service Sensory Gala July 22 at the New Parent Support Program Building on Fort Rucker. (Photo Credit: Jay Mann) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker organizations teamed up to host the Army Community Service Sensory Gala July 22 at the New Parent Support Program Building to spread information and bring families in the community together.

“We had sensory exploration activities for the kids in both gross motor skills and fine motor skills, and then little types of materials for them to touch and feel,” explained Susan Hesser, Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator. “It allows them to use their different senses to comprehend things. It also leads to things like mathematics skills and applying scientific methods to figuring out how to piece things together.”

The team that hosted the event was made up of representatives from ACS EFMP, ACS NPSP, and the Lyster Army Health Clinic Educational and Developmental Intervention Services, she said. “The biggest goal behind this event is to help spread awareness and bring families together, especially after COVID.”

“When I officially started as EFMP coordinator in January, one of the biggest things I wanted to work on was hosting events and workshops for our families, both those enrolled in EFMP and those who aren't,” Hesser said, “I wanted to do something that included art, and a Sensory Gala sounded like the best thing to do.”

Sensory play, as a whole, is important for all children in that it forces them to use their creativity and problem-solving skills, and it also aids in the development of their language, social and motor skills, she added.

Hesser said EFMP seeks to help the families who are enrolled in EFMP to make sure that they are getting the resources and support that they need.

“We do things like workshops and events. We have things like the support groups – I call them connectors – and they allow families to come together and share any concerns they have, or anything they'd like to see added to the board. The goal is to ensure that their experience is a good one, so that they can really feel like they are being taken care of.”

She added that most Soldiers and families are aware of EFMP “when it comes to the medical environment, when they tell you that you have to enroll into EFMP. People are aware that there are packets involved and overseas screenings.

“But there is not as much awareness about family support – what ACS can do for the families,” Hesser said. “Sometimes families feel like they're alone in EFMP and tend to accidentally isolate themselves. So, with us, we try to bring those families together to let them know that they're not alone – we're in this together! We try to help them with that journey and finding the information they need.”

The organization that hosted the event work together regularly to take care of military families, Hesser said.

“NPSP is a program that helps families of young children up to the age of 3 with finding resources and activities,” she said. “The program has weekly playgroups and hosts classes like Baby Sign Language; Baby Boot Camp, where families learn about a variety of programs that can assist like financial readiness for managing finances, EFMP for information about the process for enrollment and disenrollment, support groups and workshops; and the Power of Music Class, that shows how music can be included in daily routines and also can assist with learning.”

NPSP and EFMP help each other through referrals, as well, Hesser said.

“Sometimes, I'll meet with a family for a Multidisciplinary Inclusion Action Team and learn that the family has young children. During those times, I'll mention NPSP along with playgroup,” she added. “NPSP also refers families my way if they mention they or one of their family members is enrolled in EFMP.

“EDIS helps families of young children up to the age of 3 who may have developmental delays or conditions,” Hesser said. “They also help refer families to us, EFMP and NPSP – and we do the same for them. In the end, we're all one team and we're here to help the families and do that through sharing information together.”