Better Lives for Children and Families

By R. A. McWilliam

What good is the Routines-Based Interview (RBI)? This blog will show how it can lead to positive ways of providing early intervention. In the Routines-Based Model, the development of a meaningful plan, such as an IFSP, can make a profound difference in the lives of young children and their families. On the other hand, some beautiful plans have been relegated to the oil barrel in the outhouse.

Image provided by R. A. McWilliam
Image provided by R. A. McWilliam

The RBI ends with the parents choosing functional and family outcomes. These 10-12 outcomes are a far cry from the pitiful 2-4 outcomes many early intervention programs have had. Child outcomes are functional when they address getting the child more engaged in his or her daily activities. Family outcomes can be either related to the child or not. Those related to the child include goals such as learning sign language or getting more written information about the child’s disability. Those not related to the child can range from basic needs to more self-actualized desires. Basic needs could be housing, clothes, food…. Self-actualized desires could be enrolling in college, working out, or spending time with one’s partner. During the outcome selection part of the RBI, all these outcomes are written down as notes and are not yet measurable, so the next step is to write child outcomes as participation-based outcomes.

The key to participation-based outcomes is emphasizing at the front of each outcome what routines the child will participate in by doing the skill. An example would be Kristine will participate in hanging out time, meal times, and bath time by using words or signs. In the Routines-Based Model, context is everything, so routines give us information about where and when there are needs, and, in turn, participation-based outcomes are written to meet those needs. They are also measured with acquisition, generalization, and maintenance criteria. For example, We will know she can do this when she uses three different words or signs during hanging-out time, one meal, and bath time daily, for 5 consecutive days.

A list of functional and family outcomes sets a team up, perfectly, to implement the primary-service-provider (PSP) approach. Although some professionals do use PSPs without having done an RBI, it is more logical to start with an RBI: PSPs work on functional child outcomes, in context, so it’s imperative to have a routines-based assessment, such as the RBI.

The PSP provides collaborative consultation to families and classroom teachers and receives information from other team members, such as therapists and teachers. Again, when the topic of consultation is the child’s functioning in the very routines the consultee has established as important for the child’s functioning, the consultee’s interest is heightened, and his or her contributions are vital to finding a solution.

This effective consultation can result in three measurable outcomes. First, if we’re going to pay attention to the quality of individualized outcomes, we should monitor how well children are actually doing on those outcomes, which goal attainment scaling can do. Second, scales of children’s functioning in daily routines do exist. One example is the Measure of Engagement, Independence, and Social Relationships (McWilliam, R. A., Hornstein, S., & Younggren, N. 2010), which has 300 items distributed across 13 common home routines. Third, we can monitor the attainment of family outcomes, which are written to be measured.

If we follow the path outlined here and shown on the diagram above, child outcomes—all three of the federal ones—should improve. Federal guidance to choose one outcome for improvement might have been misguided: Any good supports and interventions should have a generalizable effect across child (and family) outcomes and not be targeted to any one federal outcome. The point of the three federal child outcomes was that they would supposedly be functional. If so, then they would often co-occur in routines. If they co-occurred in routines, then all three outcomes would improve, even with interventions that might be weighted towards one outcome. In addition, the three federal Part C family outcomes would improve, if this functional, family-centered approach were taken. And, critically, it begins with the RBI.

In sum, the RBI isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it’s a pretty good way to develop a plan that will lead to a good service delivery model and, most important of all, will result in better lives for children and families.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Social Security “Need to Knows”

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension,

Social Security is the cornerstone of retirement income for most working Americans, including service members and their spouses. It is a valuable base to build upon, along with a pension, tax-deferred employer savings plan (e.g., TSP), IRAs, and other savings, and acts like an annuity because benefits are payable for life.

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões. CC BY 2.0.
Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões. CC BY 2.0.

It is important to understand how Social Security works, how future benefits are calculated, and how to claim benefits in later life. Below are 10 key “need to knows” for workers and their financial advisors:

  1. Delayed Retirement Credits- The increase in Social Security benefits by a certain percentage (depending upon date of birth) if you delay your retirement beyond full retirement age. The benefit increase ceases when you reach age 70, even if you continue to delay taking benefits. For workers born in 1943 or later, the annual rate of benefit increase is 8% or two-thirds of 1% per month.
  2. Full Retirement Age (FRA)- The age at which workers receive full (unreduced) benefits. FRA has been gradually increasing and is currently age 66 for workers born through 1954, 66 plus at least a two-month increment (e.g., 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 months) for workers born from 1955-1959, and age 67 for workers born in 1960 and later.
  3. Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)- The monthly benefit payment at FRA calculated by converting previous earnings into today’s dollars (35 years with highest indexed earnings), dividing indexed earnings by 420 to get the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME), and applying the Social Security benefit formula.
  4. Reduced (Early) Retirement Benefit- The reduced benefit that someone receives by claiming Social Security before full retirement age (FRA). Workers with a FRA of 67 receive 70% of benefits by claiming at age 62 and 86.7% of benefits if claiming at age 65.
  5. Social Security Benefit Estimate- A written report that provides a projection of Social Security retirement benefits at ages 62, full retirement age, and age 70, as well as estimated Social Security disability benefits, survivor benefits, and a summary of annual earnings. Workers can access a benefit estimate report online at
  6. Social Security Claiming Date- The date that someone decides to start collecting Social Security benefits. It is typically an age between 62 (early retirement) and 70 (end of delayed retirement credits). A claiming date decision is typically based on a number of individual factors including employment status, earnings and income level, marital status, lifestyle preferences (e.g., work vs. leisure), health status, and estimated life expectancy.
  7. Social Security Claiming Date for Married Couples- This refers to the strategic coordination of Social Security benefit claiming dates by married couples to earn the highest possible combined benefit. In general, the lower-earning spouse would start benefits early and the higher earning spouse would delay benefits as long as possible.
  8. Social Security Earnings Limit- If you begin receiving benefits early (before FRA), and earn more than $15,720 (2016 figure) before the year of your FRA (e,g., age 66), your benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 over the $15,720 limit. For example, if your earnings are $19,720 ($4,000 over the annual limit), the benefit amount would be reduced by $2,000 for the year. A special earnings limit rule applies for the year that workers reach their FRA.
  9. Social Security Spousal Benefits- The benefits that someone receives based on the earnings record of a spouse or ex-spouse. Divorced individuals are entitled to spousal benefits if their marriage lasted at least 10 years before divorcing and they are not remarried.
  10. Social Security Taxation– Up to 85% of Social Security benefits may be taxed. Single taxpayers must pay federal income taxes on benefits when they have an income of more than $25,000. Married Social Security recipients must pay taxes on benefits if they file a joint tax return with their spouse and their combined income exceeds $32,000.

Expert Advice Series: TRICARE ECHO – Public Facilities

Expert Advice Series

In a recent webinar entitled “TRICARE® Extended Care Health Option (ECHO)” participants were able to gather more information about the supplemental services for active duty family members with qualifying mental and physical disabilities provided through TRICARE® ECHO.

Question: What does it mean when it says that you must use a public facility first, before accessing care?

Advice: The ECHO requires that public facilities be used first for services and items related to training, rehabilitation, special education, assistive technology devices, institutional care in private nonprofit, public, and state institutions and facilities and, if appropriate, transportation to and from such institutions and facilities to the extent that they are available and adequate. The public facility use certification is a written confirmation that the requested Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) services or items are either not available from public facilities or are not adequate to meet the needs of the beneficiary’s qualifying condition. There are some exceptions:


  • Services available through state-administered plans for medical assistance under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid) are not considered available and adequate facilities for the purpose of the ECHO.


  • Services and items available through the ECHO Home Health Care (EHHC) or Respite Care benefits do not require a public facility use certification.


  • No public facility use certification is required for medical services and items that are provided under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in accordance with the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and that are otherwise allowable under the TRICARE Basic Program or the ECHO.


The public facility use certification may be issued by the Military Treatment Facility (MTF) Commander/Enhanced Multi-Service Market (eMSM) Manager or an authorized administrator of the public facility.  The contractor will determine that services or items are not available from a specific public facility when the beneficiary provides a written statement that the facility refused to provide the required certification. A case-specific determination of public facility availability is conclusive and is not appealable.


Expert: Richard Hart, Senior Health Policy Analyst, Defense Health Agency, Health Plan Execution of Operations.

For more advice from Mr. Hart about ECHO, watch and listen to the professional development training entitled TRICARE® Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).

The new blog series provides monthly advice from subject matter experts on issues surrounding military caregiving for service providers and families. We take questions and concerns from military helping professionals and families and provide the necessary feedback from credible experts in the field of study. Whether you are a provider or a caregiver, what questions do you have? We want to hear from you.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 19, 2016.

Parent Perspective: An interview with a military mom

Parent Perspective Logo
Image by R. DiPietro-Wells

This month the Early Intervention team brings you a unique interview with a mom who was in the military.  We are grateful for her willingness to share her experiences and knowledge with us.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What were the ages of your children when you were deployed? Please also share if you have any children with disabilities and, to the extent to which you are comfortable, what those disabilities are.

When I deployed to Afghanistan in 2005-2006, my children were three and six years old.

What were some things you did to prepare yourself for being separated from your children prior to your deployment?

In order to prepare myself, I printed several pictures of them to carry with me. I also arranged for family members to care for them. I was a single mother with two children, so I did little to prepare myself. In fact, due to not having any real advice or counsel before I left, I called and wrote my children for their sake, but internally I disconnected so that I could shut off my emotions.

What were some things you did to prepare your children for your deployment?

I had age-appropriate conversations with both of them about where I was going. We also counted the days we had left before I deployed. I did not want them to wake up and find out Mom was leaving them. I also let them know I would call, they could write me, and that I would be coming home to take care of them as soon as all of the people who I was helping got what they needed. I was a combat medic.

Please describe conversations you had with your children’s father or other caregivers prior to your deployment in regards to supporting your children

My ex-husband was in Korea at the time I deployed and did not share time with the children. This left me to bear the responsibility alone with my children.

What were some of your main fears and/or concerns regarding your children’s well being when you were deployed?

The main concern I had for my children during my deployment was that they would be emotionally scarred. They already had a father who was not active in their lives, making me the only constant adult in their life. I also feared that in the event I did not make it back, they would be parentless. My son was 3 years old and had just finished potty-training shortly before his 3rd birthday. He reverted back to using diapers until I came home.  My daughter and son were very close to me, and my style of raising children was considerably different than my Dad and stepmother’s style. Since they were staying with them, it concerned me that they would not get the abundance of love and affection they received from me. I paid for them both to go to private school while I was gone. I knew it would be smaller and more intimate than a larger public school.

What were some ways you were able to stay connected with your children when you were deployed?

I kept in contact with my children during my deployment by calling when I was near a phone on the main military base. This happened at least once a week. I also wrote them. They really looked forward to those letters in the mail every other week.

Please describe your transition back home. Did you do anything to prepare yourself and/or your children? Were there any challenges?

My transition back home was difficult, in my opinion. When I arrived home everyone but me had their families there to greet them. I stayed in a local hotel as I out processed from the deployment and just slept. It was a week before I headed back home. Upon returning, I was handed my children, the keys to my home and my checkbook. I needed time to decompress from the deployment, but what I got was more of a “Here are your kids. Have a great day.” This was difficult on all of us. I was tired, but had to “be mom” right away, so I felt very isolated. No one asked any questions. It was almost as if the only ones who realized I had even left were me and my children. My son was no longer potty trained, my children would not let me out of their sight, and we had to reintegrate all alone.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Amy Santos, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and YouTube.

Budgeting and Calories: Is There a Connection?

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension,

There are three major things that people budget in life- money, time, and calories- and they are all related. For example, physical activity to burn calories and working at a job both take time and eating less food saves money.

Photo by Alan Cleaver. CC BY 2.0
Photo by Alan Cleaver. CC BY 2.0

Many articles have been written in the health field about “budgeting” calories as a way to lose weight. People can visit an online Calorie Calculator and get their recommended daily calorie “budget” (a.k.a., calorie salary) based on factors such as age, gender, height, weight, and activity level.

Then it is up to individuals to “spend” their calories wisely throughout the day on meals and snacks and try not to exceed their “number.” Similarly, people make choices with the money they have available to spend. Barring an infusion of cash, such as a settlement or contest prize, most people build wealth slowly by living below their means.

Let’s go back to a calorie analogy. The basic principle to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn in a day. For example, if the calculator says you need 1,874 calories to maintain your weight, you’ll lose a pound a week if you consume 1,374. A financial equivalent example is earning $50,000, living on $46,000, and saving $4,000.

How do you live below your means? Many experts recommend starting with a detailed written or computerized budget with specific dollar amounts and categories. While this sounds great in theory, the reality is that only 32% of American households actually prepare a written budget or use budgeting software.

So what else works? Many people live on less than they earn by automating their savings. Commonly called “pay yourself first,” this strategy gives savings the high priority of a rent or secured loan payment. Savings gets deposited before people receive their take-home pay and they somehow learn how to live on less. Another strategy that works well for some people is personal “decision rules” that restrict their spending.

Consider this analogy from the world of NASCAR Motor Sports. Ever since a car wreck nearly killed hundreds of spectators in the grandstands at Talladega in 1987, when a speeding car went airborne, races at Daytona International Speedway in Florida and Talladega SuperSpeedway in Alabama have required drivers to use “restrictor plates” that limit the horsepower of their cars and slow them down.

To avoid overspending, people also need “restrictors.” In other words, cues that they’ve “had enough.” Not everyone will have the same restrictions, however. Rather, the amount that people spend relative to their income will vary. Looking for some specific ideas? Consider the following examples of personal financial restrictors:

  • Spend no more than $800 on holiday gifts and parties
  • Carry a revolving credit card balance of no more than $500 at any time
  • Charge no more than $200 per month in new purchases
  • Spend no more than $75 per week at the supermarket

If you want to lose weight, you monitor calorie intake by writing down what you eat and how much. Want to get ahead financially? You do the same thing by tracking income and spending. By writing things down- be it food intake or household expenses- you increase awareness of current practices and motivation to change. You also look at food and spending choices in a different light and mentally ask yourself “can I afford it?” For tracking worksheets for health and finances, see

Small Steps to Health & Wealth logoResearch conducted with a Rutgers University online quiz suggests a positive association between a wide array of recommended health and financial practices. This is not surprising since many of these activities require a time commitment, discipline, and/or sacrifice. Conversely, some people overeat and overspend and say they’ll cut back later to “balance things out.” Unfortunately, many never do.

Split Decisions: Working with Couples when Divorce is a True Possibility

By Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Cut up Marriage Certificate
pixabay [divorce-619195_1920 by stevepb, January 31, 2015, CCO Public Domain]
When I tell people that I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in ordinary conversation, I often get one of two responses; either that I must be analyzing them right then and there or that I am the person who will save their marriage when they are at the end of their ropes. Here is the truth. One, I am not analyzing you. I am a human first. In fact, I am most likely thinking about how I will get the sticky stuff that my two and six year olds got on the seats in my car off without ruining the leather. And two, no, I am not the person who will save your marriage. I am not a magician or a divine entity and I do not have a genie in a bottle that can grant you wishes. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist. I did not go to school to learn the formula for saving a bad marriage or how to mend broken relationships. I went to school to learn about communication and change; about human interaction and how to make sense of behaviors in any given context.

Marriage therapy is not always about saving marriages. In fact, what it should be about is helping the couple you are seeing achieve whatever goal it is they want to achieve at the end of your time together. And, it’s okay if that goal changes in the midst of therapy. Here are 10 important things to remember when working with couples that have divorce on the table:

  1. Keep your feelings and thoughts on divorce separate from your therapy: It is likely that you will have your own opinions on divorce, as it can be a rather controversial topic. But, whether you think it’s perfectly fine or not, it is not only unethical to carry your own personal thoughts over into therapy, but it is also very harmful to your clients. If you have particularly strong opinions and you feel like you can’t separate your personal feelings from the therapy room, the best thing to do is refer your clients somewhere else.
  2. Do not lead couples to believe that you can fix their marriage and make everything okay. As I mentioned above, we have not been to school to hone in on our magic skills nor have we been given a genie in a bottle for our clients to use. Always talk openly about the fact that the final outcome of therapy may not be them staying together. And, that staying together may not be what’s best for the couple anyway.
  3. Discuss the strengths within the relationship rather than focusing only on the difficulties. It’s easy to get caught up in the problems when a couple presents for therapy, but it is important to discuss the strengths within the relationship. Whether they remain married or their marriage ends in divorce, pointing out and magnifying the strengths can assist in many ways.
  4. Therapy requires work. Sometimes people assume that the therapists are supposed to do all of the work. But, that’s simply not the case. You don’t go home with your clients at night. You don’t live in their homes. In fact, you may only see them once or twice a week for about an hour at a time. Make it clear to your clients that therapy requires work on their part. They will ultimately be the ones responsible for the outcome of therapy.
  5. Never allow one spouse to feel like they are being singled out or ganged up on: Singling out individuals in therapy can only make them defensive. Having open conversations about what you see happening in their relationship is one thing, but you have to be very careful not to make either one feel that you are “taking sides” or advocating more for one person in the session than the other.
  6. It is okay to say the “D” word: If a split has been in their thoughts, it is perfectly fine to talk about it with the couple. A divorce does not mean a failure. And, it is important to talk with your clients about this. In fact, you may actually work with a couple that comes in ready for divorce, knowing that this is the best option for them.
  7. Help the couple weigh their options: Talk with the couple about what it will look like if they stay together or get divorced. Have them think about both scenarios and weigh out the benefits and risks to each scenario.
  8. If divorce is what they choose, help them make it as smooth and painless as possible. No matter what, divorce will be tough. But, you can assist them in learning ways to cope with the range of emotions and thoughts that may consume them over the next period of their lives. Just because they could not get along well enough to remain married does not mean that they can’t get along well enough to have an amicable divorce.
  9. If children are involved, talk about them, a lot. Always talk to your clients about their children and how much they know or don’t know about the situation. If divorce is inevitable, spend considerable amounts of time with the couple, helping them talk through their plans with the children. Offer them examples of scenarios that they may experience so that they can be prepared for dealing with them. Talk to them about co-parenting and assist them in becoming successful at utilizing this strategy to raise their children.
  10. Talk to couples about how divorce does not mean the end of a relationship. This is especially true, of course, when the couples have children together. Talk at length with your clients about the fact that the relationship will look very different and that it may take some adjusting at first. Learning how to interact with an ex can be very difficult. It is important for you to assist them in discussing what this relationship might look like to ease the transition a bit.

Of course, this list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it’s certainly a good place to start. And, while it is a good start when working with couples, always remember to consider their relationship issues within the context of their family system. For instance, your first couple of the day may be a same-sex couple married for 3 years, experiencing a variety of stressors including lack of family support, difficulty in adopting a child, and a recent death of a very close friend. The next couple you see may be coming up on their 21st year of marriage and experiencing a very difficult transition from military to civilian life after experiencing 8 deployments, the birth of 3 children, and 6 moves across the country in the 21 years they have been married. Obviously, sessions with these two couples would be very different from each other. The recommendations listed above can be used as a map to guide you in maneuvering your way through therapy with couples, but the details and the destinations may end up being vastly different.


This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the social media and webinar coordination specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development team on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Healthy and Happy with the Blues

CC Flickr Blue Angels Practice by OkiGator taken Nov 11, 2011
CC Flickr Blue Angels Practice by OkiGator taken Nov 11, 2011

by Robin Allen

I had the honor of watching the Navy Blue Angels perform in July from a boat on the Pensacola Sound in Pensacola Beach, Fl.  I will also have the pleasure of watching the Air Force Thunderbirds on Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL. I grew up in Pensacola and have a cousin who was in the Blue Angels, so I have watched them all my life, usually from the beach.  This time was especially poignant in the light of the recent tragedy of losing a Blue Angels pilot.  The crowds were enormous, and as I looked around, I saw thousands of people, many on the beach, some on boats, some swimming, some stuck in their cars fighting traffic.  We were the lucky ones who came by water. In our group was a nurse, pilot, and a few dietitians.  So naturally, as we watched the show, we discussed flying, health and nutrition.  I decided to write this blog on how to be safe and healthy for a long day out in the sun at 90+ degrees temperature and high humidity.

  1. Allow plenty of time to get to the show. I saw too many people still stuck in traffic in the heat while the show was going on.
  2. Water, water, water. Stay hydrated; you cannot have too much water on these hot days. The Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences recommends consuming is 3.7 liters water or approx. 7 quarts, for adult men and 2.7 liters, approx. 5.7 quarts for adult women per day.  People who are elderly, obese or who have other chronic health issues are more at risk for heat stroke.
  3. Be careful of your alcohol intake. Alcohol lowers the body’s tolerance for heat and acts as a diuretic, speeding up dehydration. It also affects the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Alcohol can also raise the body’s blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heat-related illness like hyperthermia overheating and heat stroke especially for people with high blood pressure.
  4. Sunscreen, apply before you leave the house and reapply frequently. You need a sunscreen with broad-spectrum or multi-spectrum protection for both UVB and UVA. Most people will do fine with SPF 15 which filters out 93%UVB, SPF 30 Screens out 97%UVB.If you’re going to be exercising or in the water, it’s worth getting a sunscreen that is resistant to water and sweat. But this means that it is effective for only 40 minutes of swimming.  You will need to reapply after 40 minutes. The sensitive skin of babies and children is easily irritated by chemicals in adult sunscreens, so avoid sunscreens with para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and benzophenones like dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, or sulisobenzone. Children’s sunscreens use ingredients that are less likely to irritate the skin, like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
  5. Get a babysitter! Especially if your baby is six months or younger. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants six months or younger should stay out of the sun. Infants cannot handle the heat or exposure, and many infants end up in the Emergency Room.  Keep babies out of the hot sun with a canopy and do not overdress. It only takes 15 minutes for skin to be damaged by the sun.
  1. Have the correct pair of sunglasses. You can burn your retina spending hours in the sun resulting in solar retinopathy. Solar retinopathy can cause permanent damage to the retina and your eyesight. Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. Also look for impact resistant, polarized (sunlight bounces off the lens), medium to dark lenses depending on the amount of sun exposure, and a wraparound frame offers more protection from all angles.
  2. Food safety! Keep your food safe by packing it in an insulated container with a lot of ice or ice packs. Do not let foods stay out longer than 2 hours and if temperatures are above 90 degrees, not more than 1 hour.
  3. Have plenty of life jackets. The US Coast Guard requires one life jacket per person. Some states require children to be wearing a life jacket, not just have it available. You should also consider one for your pet. Our dog proudly wears her “Outward Hound” life jacket.

Now that you have some safety tips also remember to have fun! We packed gulf coast steamed shrimp, turkey wraps, lots of fruit and veggies, cheese and crackers, deviled eggs, nuts and of course water.

What are your favorite foods to take to the beach?

Pensacola Beach Blue Angels july 2016 by Robin Allen
Pensacola Beach Blue Angels July 2016 by Robin Allen


This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.

Part II: Adult Learning – Life Experiences and Knowledge

Adul Learning Series

How can life experiences aid in the way we learn and process information?  As helping professionals many of us “learn from doing” or learn from experience. Did you know that learning from experience is a key principle of adult learning? Malcolm Knowles, the pioneer of adult learning, identified four principles to adult learning: (1) Autonomous and Self-Directed, (2) Life Experiences and Knowledge, (3) Goal-Oriented and Relevancy-Oriented and (4) Practical.

Last month we identified principle (1) Autonomous and Self-Directed and provided strategies for military service providers  who’s clientele prefers to be actively involved in learning and working around personal goals and interests. This month our focus shifts to principle (2) Life Experiences and Knowledge.

Life Experiences and Knowledge

Adults often bring their life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences. This could include family responsibilities, work-related activities as well as previous education.

As a service provider, when providing education and training to military families try to ask the individuals about their life experiences, part-time work, family commitments, schools or university experiences thus far, hobbies and leisure activities. Help your families connect their learning with their life experiences and previous knowledge. One way you could do this is to present a scenario and ask them if they have every experienced anything similar. By having your families connect to their personal experiences and knowledge you are encouraging a better connection to the topic, lesson, or idea you are teaching them.

Over the course of the next few months the MFLN Military Caregiving concentration will be discussing the remaining two principles of adult learning, as well as adult learning styles. If you missed our first post in this series covering Autonomy and Self-Direction, you can find it in our Adult Learning Series homepage. Our goal with this series is to provide service providers working with adults with a better understanding of how adults learn.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on August 12, 2016.


Virtual Learning Event September 2016|Strengthening the Family CORE

Strengthening the Family CORE

Date: September 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd

Time: 11:00 am-12:30 pm Eastern

Location: MFLN Family Development Virtual Learning Event 2016

VLE 2016

The Family Development concentration area for Military Families Learning Network is excited to announce the 2016 Virtual Learning Event (VLE). This year, we will be offering a four-part VLE that focuses on Strengthening the Family CORE. We recognize the unique challenges that military families face, but we also recognize their inherent ability to rise to the challenge. These four 90-minute sessions have been designed to equip military service providers with tools to join with these families in an effort to continue their path of resilience. It is our hope that these sessions will enhance your knowledge, strengthen your skills as a service provider, and guide your work with these amazing families. Join us on September 1st at 11:00 am Eastern!

We offer 1.5 National Association of Social Worker CE credits and CE credits for licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Georgia for each of our webinars, click here to learn more. MFLN FD Early Intervention will also be providing Early Intervention Training Program (EITP) CE credits, click here to learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2016 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

Home Emergency Preparedness

By Kristyn Jackson, LMFT and Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Fires, flooding, severe storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes affect families every year. Failure to adequately prepare for these emergencies can result in a number of consequences. However, in the event that you and your family experience one of these emergencies, proper planning and preparation will help you to weather the storm.

The most important element in preparing your home for an emergency situation is

Learn more about disaster preparedness from EDEN:
Learn more about disaster preparedness from EDEN:

communication. Everyone in your home must be involved and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Additionally, you will want to consider involving your neighbors. In times of crisis, your neighbors will most likely be the first responders to the situation.

A home emergency plan is the best way to plan and prepare for an emergency. This plan should be clearly communicated to all members of your household and practiced at least once a year. Also, if your family moves around frequently, tweak your emergency plan for the home that you are living in. There are four steps that you can take with your family to prepare your home for an emergency:

  1. Know what types of emergencies can affect your home. Certain types of emergencies are more likely to occur in specific geographic areas. For example, you may not know it but you may be living in an area that is prone to flash flooding. Regardless of where you live, the number one home emergency is fire.
  1. Create an emergency plan. Hold a household meeting to discuss how you will respond to a home emergency. It should be clear that all household members should share responsibilities when an emergency occurs. Be mindful of which tasks are age appropriate for each household member. The following topics should be discussed:
    • How to deal with different emergencies (e.g., fire, flood, severe storm)
    • Create an evacuation plan. Identify two meeting places outside of your home – one should be right outside and the other should be outside of your neighborhood in case you are not able to meet at your home.
    • Establishing a “safe room” in your home that will protect you and your family from emergencies such as a severe storm
    • Identifying an out-of-area safety contact person who will be able to assist you. Additionally, consider discussing your emergency plan with a trusted neighbor who can help you in the event of an emergency.
  1. Take emergency precautions. Taking the following safety precautions will help you and your family to deal with emergency situations:
    • Post emergency telephone numbers in central locations
    • Teach children how and when to call 911 for emergency assistance
    • Install multiple fire extinguishers (one on each level of your home)
    • Install smoke detectors, being sure that smoke detectors are located near all bedrooms
    • Stock up on emergency supplies such as food, water, flashlights, matches, etc.
    • Take a first aid and CPR class
  1. Practice your plan! Review your plan every 6 months, conduct fire and emergency evacuation drills, test fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, and keep your emergency supplies well stocked. Make sure that every member of your household is familiar with your plan and feels comfortable asking questions. Be mindful that a good plan is one that is easily understood and can be adjusted as needed.

The preceding is a general plan for action on how to prepare your home for emergencies. There are multiple resources available that will provide more specific details. For example, consider conducting a quick internet search to determine what should be in your disaster supplies kit. While creating your home emergency plan, you may also think of other steps that you need to take to ensure that your home is prepared for an emergency.

Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that commonly accompany home emergencies. Communicating with your family can potentially clear up any confusion and ensure that everyone survives an emergency situation. This is one of those discussions that should not be put off!


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