REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- As the manager of the Exceptional Family Member Program at Army Community Service, Natalie Taylor plays an important role in the lives of the military families she serves.

"My job is to be an advocate for our military families who have special needs children or spouses who have special medical needs," she said. "I help them find resources and support groups, enroll them through the early intervention program, or help with any special need services through the school system."

That's why Taylor periodically offers free classes and informational sessions with the up-to-date developments regarding special needs legislation and policy. One such example is the AL Parent Presentation titled "IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) and Skills for Effective Parent Advocacy," scheduled Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at the ACS building on Redeye Road. This class is designed to increase parents' knowledge of the special education process, including special education laws, and improve parents' advocacy skills and the educational outcomes for their children.

"This workshop is for parents who feel like their child might fall into the special education process, whether they have ADHD or autism or a learning disability. It's also for families that already have children enrolled in special education classes," Taylor said.

"It will teach parents how to advocate for their children in the school system and how to get them the services they need from pre-K through college. To do that, parents have to know their children's rights and what to request in terms of additional support, whether it's a tutor in the class, an accommodation for reading and writing, or giving more time during a test."

It will also cover the recent legislation change with regard to Tricare coverage of retired military parents, and the upcoming launch of a one-year pilot program expanding applied behavioral approach care to all families, retired or active.

But Taylor doesn't just work with the parents of young children. She has recently expanded her purview to include elderly care, an issue that she said impacts many military families on the Arsenal.

"I started getting calls from other people, military families, who care for their parents. It made me think that maybe I should do something to help these people and let them know about assisted living or nursing," she said. "So while my primary focus was kids with special needs, this kind of highlighted the need for elder care."

To that end, she partnered with several local elder care organizations, including TARCOG's Area Agency on Aging, to offer classes on the topic. And on Jan. 29, she will enlist the help of the Alzheimer's Association for a presentation "Basics of Alzheimer's." The presentation will be given by Brandi Medina, the association's director of programs and education, and held from noon to 1 p.m. at ACS.

"We've had a lot of people call about the presentation already, because they're experiencing Alzheimer's in their family," Taylor said. "It will offer information on detection, cause and risk factors, stages of the disease, treatment and more."

Editor's note: Register by Feb. 19 for the AL Parent Presentation, scheduled Feb. 28, by calling 334-567-2252 or 866-532-7660. Leave your name and telephone number, and mention "Redstone Arsenal." To register for the Alzheimer's class, slated Jan. 29, call 800-272-3900.