By Ophelia Bitanga-IsrealSeptember 28, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Sept. 28, 2012) -- While most garrison services are the same from post to post, community activities and resources can vary widely.
Differences can be particularly challenging when the resources sought are in support of a family member with special needs.
That's why the Army Community Service's Exceptional Family Member Program will be holding its first "Who's Who Symposium," Oct. 5.
EFMP is a comprehensive, multi-agency program designed to address the unique needs of an EFMP family and connect them to supporting services and resources.
More than 100,000 military families have members with special needs, according to the Department of Defense. The number includes spouses, children or dependent parents who require special medical or educational services.
In Army Hawaii, alone, approximately 5,400 family members have special needs; Tripler Army Medical Center provides support.
The EFMP Who's Who Symposium will bring 30 local resources together, in one location, so that EFMP families can learn about each organization and network with other EFMP families.
"Families with special needs can sometimes feel isolated, especially here in Hawaii where their family support system is usually an ocean away," said Leonard Webster, EFMP coordinator. "Connecting them (EFMP families) with the many resources here in Hawaii can help our EFMP families feel more comfortable, more confident."
Feeling more confident is key. EFMP families express that knowing where to find resources and support helps them feel more prepared to address their family member's special needs, especially if the family recently received a diagnosis for a family member or is new to the area.
"It's all new to us," said a mother visiting the EFMP ACS. "Being in the Army, moving here and finding out about our son's condition … it can be overwhelming, but at least we have a place to start to point us in the right direction."
Staff from the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, a congressionally authorized system to defend and enforce the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities, and to protect them from discrimination, will attend the symposium. The HDRC helps resolve disputes over implementation of Individualized Educational Programs, or IEPs, in some schools.
Staff from the Special Parent Information Network will also attend the symposium. The network is a parent to parent organization that provides information and referrals to parents of children and young adults with disabilities.
Several other organizations will participate, including the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Autism Society of Hawaii, the Hawaii Association of Behavior Analysis and the Hawaii Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.
Army Community Service offers many programs for its EFMP families. Support groups and workshops are generally offered on the first Tuesday of every month, and recreational activities are offered the fourth Wednesday.
EFMP's "Who's Who Symposium," 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, at the Bennett Youth Center, Schofield Barracks, is open to the community. Call (808) 655-4227 or visit www.HiMWR.com.