By Sgt. Philip KleinJanuary 12, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo. - When an Army Family makes a permanent change of duty station, they may often face a myriad of difficulties, from establishing housing to enrolling their children in school, all the while leaving friends and familiarity for a new home. These challenges may be compounded if the Family relocating to a new post has children with special needs.
Sgt. 1st Class Corey Brann, the 4th Infantry Division Operational Law noncommissioned officer in charge, and his wife, Joyce, and children, Christopher, 12, Cameron, 8 and Ja'Kayla 5, received orders to change duty stations when the division headquarters relocated to Fort Carson last summer. Again, the Brann Family faced the prospect of finding services and providers for their two youngest children diagnosed with autism.
While stationed in Hawaii and Texas, the Brann Family worked to find the assistance they needed for their children. When Corey came up on orders to move to Fort Carson, they Family prepared to start the process all over again.
"After Cameron was diagnosed with autism, we spent a lot of time and effort researching treatments available to us while we were stationed in Hawaii," said Joyce.
Joyce said that while they had excellent resources outside of the school system, the schools were slow to respond to the needs of special children, because of the nationwide lack of guidance in dealing with autism.
The Family struggled as they tried to find the treatment they wanted, simultaneously dealing with deployments and the stress Army Families routinely face.
With Corey deployed, Joyce did the ground work to research available treatments for the Family. She educated herself on which treatment and services would work best for her son.
"Everyone is different and every child learns differently," she explained. "I had to step out of my comfort zone and become actively involved in the process."
"It is about educating yourself on autism and then getting the treatment you want," she continued. "Parents are the biggest advocate for their children."
The Family had to deal with the prospect of wiping the slate clean and finding new providers when Corey was assigned to Fort Hood. When their third child Ja'Kayla was diagnosed as autistic, the Brann Family was better prepared to seek therapy.
The counselors and school system at Fort Hood worked with the Corey and Joyce and assisted the Family in finding services in the surrounding communities.
The Branns found applied behavioral counseling, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, which are components of developing the social-coping skills that are deficient in autistic children.
"With autism, if you don't attack it early you are going to lose the battle," said Corey.
Even with the available programs and services, Corey said the 4th Inf. Div. leadership and his chain of command understood the unique set of challenges the Brann Family faced.
"I've had a very supportive leadership, and they placed a lot of trust in me and my ability to do what is best for my Family," said Corey. "'Mission, Soldier, Family, Team' might be just words, but for this division it means something."
The Brann's wanted to remain at Fort Hood and were concerned that if they relocated to Colorado, they might not have access to the quality of care they had found in Texas, especially the relationships they had built with their children's providers.
The move from Fort Hood to Fort Carson turned out to be a lot less painful than expected, they said.
The Mountain Post Welcome was an information fair showcasing dozens of Fort Carson and U.S. Army organizations with local community representatives providing Soldiers and their Family members information ranging from school districts in and around Fort Carson to Army Community Services and military housing.
During the Mountain Post Welcome, Corey and Joyce met with local school officials to discuss their needs and provide the representatives with school records. The Brann's also met representatives from the Fort Carson Exceptional Family Members Program.
"The representatives at the Mountain Post Welcome were able to supply us with a list of providers who we were able to contact prior to moving, which allowed us a smoother transition for our children," said Corey.
"Having teachers who are trained in educating children with autism is a great benefit we have found here at Patriot Elementary," said Joyce. "Because Cameron's teachers have the skills, they can differentiate when he is having an episode or just being a bad 8-year old."
"We are thoroughly impressed with the amount of support the teachers and administrators have shown us," said Joyce. "The teachers here are working toward the same goals we are."
The Brann Family said they expect to release Cameron from treatment later next year and believe Ja'Kayla will eventually follow.
"When you meet my kids you wouldn't know that they were autistic," said Corey. "It is gratifying to know that, because early on we aggressively pursued treatment, our children are learning coping skills."
Families who would like to learn more about services and programs in the Mountain Post and Greater Colorado Spring communities are encouraged to contact the Fort Carson Exceptional Family Member Program at 526-0156