FORT RUCKER, Ala.--To aid Families with special needs children, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) staff will offer a special education workshop Monday, focusing on individual education plans (IEPs) tailored to students' specific requirements. The workshop runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 371A. Participants must register by Friday at 255-9277. T

he event is free and open to the public. EFMP Manager Rachel Brooks said the workshop IEP team will examine IEP content, development and revision and review progress measurement and IEP information when relocating. She said a similar workshop was held this time last year and proved helpful for parents and children when school began.

"The special education process can be very complicated," Brooks said. "It's like a maze. We're trying to equip parents so they will educate themselves about the process so they can better advocate." Kelli Reynoldson, of Level Plains, is one of those parents. She knows how challenging navigating the education system can be. Her son, Alex, 5, has faced developmental delays since age 3 and currently attends Enterprise Early Education Center.

She said EFMP staff at every post have helped her find the services her son needs with each move the Family makes, along with aiding her in the IEP process when he attends school.

"The biggest thing it's done is help us get to posts where he can get services and connect to other Families," she said. Reynoldson said Alex requires various therapists and specialty pediatricians to help him reach his full potential. In addition to professional assistance, she spends extra time at home to ensure he can thrive.

"We work with him a lot. Repetition is key," she said. Reynoldson said Families should attend next week's workshop to be empowered to develop the IEP their children need. She emphasized knowledge is integral to a successful IEP.

"Parents can drive that process. The more you know going into an IEP meeting, the better you feel," she said. School Liaison Officer John Jennings agreed with Brooks and Reynoldson and encouraged parents to visit the workshop. Jennings said an IEP is an important thing in the lives of both EFMP parents and children because it controls how, what and under what conditions a child will be taught. In addition to periodic workshops, EFMP staff also manages a free respite care program to assist with Family member care for up to 40 hours monthly.

"That's been a godsend to a lot of Families, especially if their husband is deployed - some couples just use it to go on a date," Brooks said. Brooks said EFMP is required for all active-duty military Families with exceptional Family members "to accommodate the Soldiers' assignment process." Soldiers will be stationed only where their Family members can receive required medical treatment or other necessary services. An exceptional Family member is defined as someone with a disability limiting his or her ability to function or who requires continual treatment, counseling, training or education.