Resources for Military Families Affected by ASD

Over 20,000 military dependents, mostly children, have a form of autism spectrum disorder.

These children with ASD as well as their families process the same hurdles that civilian families contend with while handling difficulties stemming from military service. 

Deployment, frequent moves, and other complications make it difficult for a child with autism to get active, consistent treatment. 

Children with autism from a military family have more chances of experiencing higher stress levels. Additionally, they have greater trouble locating and managing ASD-related services.

Fortunately, the number of resources and organizations dedicated to helping this group is growing.

Here are some of the ways parents can alleviate the impacts of relocation and extended separation.

Relocation

Operation Autism has excellent guides to support military families with children diagnosed with ASD prepare for relocation. 

The best way to manage a move is by planning for it as early as possible. As part of the process, families will need to research and organize several areas, such as: 

  • Educational placement and special education
  • Community-based support services
  • EFMP programming and healthcare
  • Additional relevant therapies 

The following steps will also help make this transition easier for every member of the family:

1. Collect information as soon as you are aware of the move. First, use the internet to research, then make phone calls. Patience and persistence are key. Here are some places to look into:

  • Local school districts and ABA providers
  • Grocery stores
  • Community-based support services

2. Next, organize your child’s information and gather it in one place. Designate a spot for the records during the move. 

Make sure to include these documents, as well as any other necessary paperwork:

  • An up-to-date copy of signed IEP
  • Current Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Plan
  • Medical records documenting disability, allergies, or other conditions
  • Information about specific medical plans, such as asthma, seizures, feeding, etc.

3. Prepare final arrangements while waiting for the Request for Orders and begin the transition. This time is when you should reach out to places you researched earlier to arrange services and start dates. 

Make sure to contact:

  • Exceptional Family Member Program
  • School Liaison Officer
  • Local school district’s special education office
  • Therapy providers
  • Community-based service providers. These might include vocational rehabilitation and intellectual and developmental disabilities agencies.

Check out Operation Autism’s website for further detailed information and resources.

Other Ways To Prepare For Moving

  • Share information cards with those who are unfamiliar with ASD. They will come in handy in case of a sensory-based meltdown. 
    • Likewise, they will also help explain autism to those unfamiliar with this disorder.
  • Have proof of your child’s diagnosis in case you need it for an airline or hotel.
    • Plan to ask for a letter from your child’s physician at least three months before the move.  
  • Make a list of cherished belongings your child can’t go without. Keeping their preferences in mind during this process is a small detail that will pay off in the future.

There are more ways to make this transition happen even smoother. Visit Operation Autism’s “How To Prepare For The Move Page” for more information.

Extended Separation

Frequently, servicemen and women are away from home. Whether its just one day or several months, the time apart can impact a child. 

The child’s reaction to this separation can range from disastrous to mild. 

Whatever the case may be, there are things parents can do to relieve the effects of extended separation:

  • Make a calendar with your child. Together, count the days until the serving spouse deploys. If possible, include dates for emails, phone calls, and homecoming.
    • During the separation, make a new calendar to mark off days until the parent comes back.
  • Film short videos of the departing parent before they deploy. Watch them with your child regularly.
  • If possible, help your child use online media such as e-mail, and Skype to communicate easier.
  • Ask for help from siblings, other relatives, or close friends to fill in for the deployed parent, such as during a doctor’s appointment.

Of course, stay-at-home military spouses must remember to take care of their own needs. However, this is easier said than done. But self-care goes a long way in easing the challenges ahead.

Resources for Military Families

Autism Speaks developed this collection of resources to help support military families affected by ASD. 

Conclusion

Currently, there is underrepresentation in the research of military families with a child with ASD. 

Services will gradually improve as more studies about the needs of these families emerge. 

In the meantime, groups like Autism Speaks and Operation Autism are excellent resources for families and their children.

Sandcastle Centers: Serving Military Families & Children

Sandcastle believes in providing the very best opportunities for every family and kid with autism.

We now accept Tricare. For more information, call 850-932-8021 or send us a message at info@sandcastlecenters.com.

For additional resources and information about ASD, check out our Blog.