Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War as a desire to honor those who fought and died.
May 5th 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic proclaimed “The 30th of May, 1868, is designed for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
In 1873 New York, became the first state to officially recognize the holiday and by 1890 it was recognized in all of the northern states. The south refused to acknowledge the day, instead honoring their dead on separate days. After World War I, both the northern and southern states recognized the date and changed the holiday from only honoring those from the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
Memorial Day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May. In December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed, which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.’”
In traditional observance, the flag of the United States is raised to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to half-staff, where it will remain until noon. The half-staff position remembers the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. At noon the flag is raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day to symbolize our memory of those who served and paid with their lives as well as symbolizes the livings resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
Other traditional observations include visiting cemeteries, placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes, visiting memorials and wearing red poppies.
In 1915, Moina Michael conceived an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. Inspired by the poem “In flanders fields,” Moina wrote her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
This memorial day please take a moment to remember what this day is really about.
The Personal Finance team will host our third Virtual Learning Event June 14-16. This year, we’ll focus on Financial Fitness. Join us as we engage with learners in this 3-day interactive series of events.
Schedule of Events
Tuesday, June 14, 11 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. ET: What is Financial Fitness & How is it Measured? Dr. J. Michael Collins of the University of Wisconsin, Madison will present this session, using the findings from the research he has gathered on this subject. Dr. Collins studies consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, including the role of public policy in influencing credit, savings and investment choices. His work includes the study of financial capability with a focus on low-income families. He is involved in studies of household finance and well-being supported by leading foundations and federal agencies. In 2015, Palgrave Macmillan released a book Collins edited calledA Fragile Balance: Emergency Savings and Liquid Resources for Low-Income Consumers. His 90-minute webinar on June 14 will focus on financial fitness as a goal for many people, but achieving fitness in terms of money management may require a combination of financial education, coaching, and financial access. After reviewing the components of financial fitness, this session will provide an overview of measures of financial capability and well-being, as well as practical applications of program measures in the field. The session will include discussion, interactive polling and Q&A.
Wednesday, June 15, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET: Positive Personality Traits of Financially Fit People. Dr. Martie Gillen will deliver this 90-minute webinar using data and research from psychology that tells us what traits are most commonly found in individuals who make positive financial decisions. Dr. Gillen is the Project Investigator for the Military Families Learning Network Personal Finance team and an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist for the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, in the Institute for Food and Agricultural at the University of Florida. Her research interests include personal and family finance, behavioral economics, older adults, Social Security retirement benefits, employment, retirement planning, financial social work, food security, and innovative post-secondary education models. The first section of the webinar on June 15 will include an overview of personality traits as well as a discussion of the research related to personality traits and personal finance. The webinar will conclude will suggestions for working with individuals while taking into account their personality and impact on their personal finance decisions. Participants will have an opportunity to take a personality trait quiz.
Thursday, June 16, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET: Wealth Building with Saving, Investing & Windfalls. Dr. Barbara O’Neill will lead this session. Dr. O’Neill is a financial resource management specialist for Rutgers Cooperative Extension, has been a professor, financial educator, and author for 35 years. She has written over 1,500 consumer newspaper articles and over 125 articles for academic journals, conference proceedings, and other professional publications. She is a certified financial planner (CFP®), chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC®), accredited financial counselor (AFC), certified housing counselor (CHC), and certified financial educator (CFEd). Dr. O’Neill served as president of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education and is the author of two trade books, Savingon a Shoestring andInvesting on a Shoestring, and co-author of Investing For Your Future,Money Talk: A Financial Guide for Women, and Small Steps to Health and Wealth. She earned a Ph.D. in family financial management from Virginia Tech and received over three dozen awards for professional achievements and over $900,000 in funding for financial education programs and research. Her webinar on June 16 will focus on ways that ordinary people with average incomes can grow wealthy over time. The first section of the webinar will discuss time-tested investment and financial management strategies and the second section will describe dos and don’ts for handling a financial windfall. Resources for each topic will be shared including the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Financial Fitness Quiz: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/ffquiz/.
Thursday, June 16, 1-1:30 p.m. ET:2016 MFLN PF VLE Wrap UpThis half-hour event is designed to allow participants to share their own experiences from the 3 previous webinars, and to share findings from the assignments given during those sessions. Drs. Collins, Gillen and O’Neill be be on hand to guide this interactive discussion. If you are interested in sharing your experiences during this session, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you’ll join us for 3 days of interactive and engaged learning. For more information, click here.
Flickr [3MJP_3 by Matt Johnson, May 14, 2011, CC BY-ND 2.0] retrieved on February 18, 2016
She is sitting on the couch with her 1- month- old baby in her arms. The baby is crying and she is alone. She’s tried everything to soothe him- rocking, bouncing, feeding, singing, pacifiers, blankets, and swaddles. He’s still crying. She hasn’t eaten or taken a shower since yesterday and it seems like she may not accomplish either one of those things today. Just a couple of weeks ago, people were in and out of her house with hugs, words of wisdom, food, and arms to hold her baby. Her husband was home for two more weeks until his next deployment, which she hopes will be his last. But now, the excitement has worn off and reality is setting in. Her husband is in another country protecting ours. In just two weeks, she has to get back to her full time job that pays her. It hits her that she will have to learn how to balance the mothering thing and the real job thing. How in the world will she be able to do that when she can barely even get a shower and a meal?
All of a sudden, she finds herself in a place she never expected to be. She starts to wonder what is wrong with her; why she feels like she can’t get it together and why motherhood doesn’t look or feel like she thought it would. Last week, she finally gave up on breastfeeding after trying every single thing she could think of to make it work. But, her breasts still hurt and her conscience is beating her up, telling her that she could and should have tried harder. She’s remembering all of the articles in her OBGYN’s office and on the internet about the benefits of breastfeeding the baby. And, she’s thinking of that friend of hers who has a 2- month old that is solely breastfed and thriving. Her body doesn’t look or feel like her own and she wonders if it ever will again. She wants her baby to just stop crying long enough to allow her to use the bathroom. And now she is crying. And she feels like a terrible mother. Helpless. Alone. Afraid. Angry. Guilty. Inadequate.
She starts to have thoughts she never imagined she would have and they scare her. She remembers an article she read in her doctor’s office about postpartum depression and realizes that this may be more than just those baby blues her mother referred to a couple of weeks ago. She picks up the phone and calls someone for help.
According to the CDC, 11 to 20 percent of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. Fortunately, the woman in the depiction above recognized her symptoms and was able to call for help. But what do we, as mental health professionals, need to do to help every woman be able to identify her symptoms and get help? Here are some potential barriers we need to recognize when thinking about our efforts to help women with PPD:
Shame and Embarrassment: Mom may not feel comfortable sharing her thoughts and feelings because she doesn’t want people to judge her. She is afraid that people will think she is a terrible person for not thinking that motherhood is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to her. When she hears the word depression, she associates it with being “crazy.”
What Society Says: Moms are supposed to be totally and completely in love with their new addition, right? She is loving life and rocking at being a mommy! Or at least that’s what the status updates on her friends’ Facebook pages tell her…
I Can Handle This On My Own:Mom may think to herself, “I just gave birth to an 8 pound baby completely naturally! I can definitely handle this one my own”.
Foggy Lenses: Mom may be struggling so much that she doesn’t even have any idea that there is a name for what she is feeling and that there is help for her.
Unknown Resources: Many moms may not have any idea where to go for help. A military mother, for instance, may have just moved to a new location and has not yet established any local friendships or identified any local resources.
So, what’s the solution to these barriers? Here are some possibilities:
Shame and Embarrassment: We should be equipping soon-to-be mothers with the knowledge of PPD so that 1) they can recognize the signs and symptoms 2) they can be prepared for the possibilities 3) it is normalized for them so that there is no stigma attached to it.
What Society Says: We need to be putting information out there where everyone can access it- social media is a great avenue- we should be showing the good, the bad, and the ugly too!
I Can Handle This On My Own:By sharing information on the facts of PPD, we can convey to mothers that they may need a little bit of extra help from professionals and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Foggy Lenses: We need to arm women with community support- family, spouses, friends, doctors, etc. – so that they know what to look for in a new mother who is struggling with PPD.
Unknown Resources: Having resources available in our practices and sharing those resources through social media and community avenues is key!
With our help, mothers like the one depicted above will know to recognize when there is a problem and know precisely where to go when they need help. Unfortunately, not all new mothers have the knowledge base of PPD to reach out for help like the one in the scenario. We need to take action and think about ways to inform soon-to-be mothers or new mothers and their family and friends so that they are prepared. Wouldn’t it be amazing if OBGYNs were talking candidly with their patients about the possibility of PPD during pregnancy? Or, if they were conducting surveys at the 6-week postpartum check-up. As mental health professionals, it would behoove us to start talking with these physicians about the statistics and realities of PPD so that we can all work together as a team to help these mothers.
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 ourwebsite,Facebook, andTwitter.
Welcome to the new Military Caregiving Expert Advice series. Our caregiving team is rolling out with a new blog series entitled, Expert Advice, where we provide 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. (Type your response in the comments section of this article.)
Expert Advice in Child Psychiatry
To kick off our new series, we focus on issues surrounding caregiving and special needs within the military. In a recent professional development training on ADHD, Anxiety, and Autism: Practical Approaches to Child Psychiatry service providers and families learned about practical ways parents and caregivers can help manage these disorders, while reconnecting with the fun of parenting. Below we highlight a question from an audience member and expert advice from a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Question:Does general anxiety ever get misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?
Advice: Anxiety is often misdiagnosed as ADD which is why the interview process (for diagnosing Anxiety and ADD) is so important. There are many times children come in having trouble with concentration, which is part of the diagnosis and criteria for both anxiety and ADD. The problem arises with the treatment of ADD because there are certain treatments that might actually make the anxiety worse. It is very important that we are careful to make sure we have the right diagnosis.
Carol Trivette, PhDearned her degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Child Development and Family Relations. Her research interests focus on identifying evidence-based practices for working with children and families in the areas of responsive parental interactions with their children with disabilities, family-centered practices and family support, and the development of tools and scales to support the implementation of evidence-based practices with fidelity.
In this session, Dr. Trivette will help Early Interventionists, private therapy providers, and other professionals working with young children with disabilities think about their interactions with the child’s family and how those interactions strengthen a family’s ability to support their child’s learning. Join us on June 23rd at 11:00 am Eastern!
This month the Early Intervention team brings you a unique interview with a mom who is also in the Air Force. 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?
My daughters were 13 and 8.
What were some things you did to prepare yourself for being separated from your children prior to your deployment?
The local Airmen and Family Readiness Center supplied me with briefings prior to leaving that were supposed to help me emotionally and physically prepare to leave my children. I also asked a good friend of mine to help my husband out if the girls needed a “mom talk.” I had a few hardcopy pictures of the family and asked for a drawing from each child to take with me when I left. Emotionally, I do not believe I prepared myself to be separated, mostly because it did not seem real until I was already on the plane.
What were some things you did to prepare your children for your deployment?
Before each deployment, my husband and I would sit them down, and talk about the possible locations I could go to and the importance of going. We would go on a mini-vacation and spend some quality time with them.
The last time I deployed I remember telling my children that this was something I had wanted to do and that hopefully it shows them that they too can do what they want and be a wife and mom. I now believe I was saying that so I would not feel guilty about going.
Please describe the conversations you had with your spouse prior to your deployment in regards to supporting him and your children.
My husband is very independent and the children were older so there was not too much support that they needed. However, we set goals of what we would like to accomplish during the separation and a family vacation we would take when I returned. The support that I believed he needed, was a female to help out with “female” type questions that could have come up if I was not readily available to answer them.
Also, while I was deployed, my husband took over the schoolwork tracking and the girls would only give me updates and good news. My husband and I decided that since I was deployed in a unstable environment, arguments over homework or not doing what they were supposed to do was not conducive to me keeping my head clear for my job. Additionally, if something was to happen to me, my daughters did not need me lecturing them to be their last conversation. My children had enough on their plate at home, they did not need me telling them to do more. However, I would still sneak a peek at their grades online, at least my older child’s grades.
What were some of your main fears and/or concerns regarding your children’s well being when you were deployed?
My oldest daughter had not started her menstrual cycle when I was preparing to leave; I was concerned that she was going to become a “woman” while I was gone and how that would affect her. Another fear I had was that they would not need me anymore (as if they were good with me not being in their lives on a daily basis).
What were some ways you were able to stay connected with your children when you were deployed?
We Skyped every day I could, and when we did not Skype I would send them emails. Once I got into my routine while deployed, I would work, go to the gym, and then Skype with the family before taking a shower and going to bed. Even with the many schedule changes I still maintained that routine, and my family adjusted their schedule to talk as well. I also sent them postcards and bought gifts online for them (such as flowers for Valentine’s day).
Please describe your transition back home. Did you do anything to prepare yourself and/or your children? Were there any challenges?
You can do all the preparation in the world to transition into your “life,” but you will be filled with too many disappointments if you do. From my experience, it was best for me to take each moment one step at a time, with a few “rules” to follow such as:
My husband and I had realized through other deployments that he would remain the “authority figure” with the children, and the children were told not to ask me for anything. My patience with my children was always low when I came home; I could not handle listening to their “petty” bickering. Also, any decision I made with the children seemed to undermine and undo my husband’s parenting. Because you want to be the “hero” in your children’s eyes, you tend to say “yes” to everything.
The children were given tasks when I got home to help me integrate back into the family, such as showing my around the house, helping me unpack, and doing laundry with me. They knew not to ask me for anything and not to ask to go anywhere.
I am not sure how it was for other moms who deployed, but for me when I was deployed I did not think of myself as a mom. I could not do that because to me I had to be emotionless. I could not let my emotions cloud my judgment when other peoples’ lives depended on it. While deployed I saw myself as a leader whose job was to ensure that lower ranking troops were taken care of and that the mission was executed. I had promised long before my girls were born that I was willing to give my life in defense of my country. When you are deployed you understand what that means and it becomes more of a possibility. When I was on Skype with the girls I was mom but it was not the same because I did not have to deal with the day-to-day issues.
To go from a high-stress environment where you have to be emotionless to becoming a mom again was a hard transition. When you are deployed you are only thinking about the mission and your current surroundings, there is no complaining of who is going to wash the dishes or take out the trash. Coming back to your children and reconnecting the emotions we all are feeling is not as easy as it seems. You love your children, but their rush of hugs, kisses, happiness, sadness, anger, etc. is way too much to emotionally comprehend all at once. I learned that there is a process to handling the emotions that I did not deal with while deployed, accepting that my experiences had changed me in some ways. In addition to overcoming the extreme guilt that life was still moving forward while I was gone, there also were a lot of new emotions that my family had gone through that were foreign to me.
Through multiple deployments we realized how important it was to find and keep a routine while separated, which minimized challenges because the children knew what my routine was and I knew theirs. Without that routine, I am sure there would have been more challenges. My husband was able to adjust at home so we could communicate, there were no missed calls, and there was some predictability in the situation we were in.
Please share a positive experience you had with your children when you returned home from your last deployment.
The last time I came home, we had decided to escape to Great Wolf Lodge. My husband and I decided to surprise the girls with this and picked them up from school telling the girls that we had to go to family therapy. When we pulled up to the lodge (only 15 minutes from our house) they were highly confused about this “family therapy” we were talking about. Since school was in session, we had the place almost to ourselves. We had a great time reconnecting as a family with no pressures from school, work, or taking care of the house.
It’s 3am and she has just gotten in bed after a very long process of getting her 2 year old back to sleep after his tube feeding. He has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that came after nearly a year of countless tests and doctor appointments and stress that she has not had the opportunity to process. She lies down in the bed and puts the covers over her body. She hears the vibration of her cell phone against her nightstand and her heart begins to race. She reaches for the phone and answers. The person on the other end tells her the news that she has come to fear almost nightly. Her husband has been in a horrible car wreck. He was drunk. It was his fault. He may not make it. She experiences a hundred emotions all in one minute.
Her first child was born while her husband was deployed. It was very soon after his birth that she realized something just wasn’t right with him. In the 10 months that her husband was deployed, she learned to become a mother, a nurse, a doctor, and a speech therapist, physical therapist, and occupational therapist. She also learned to become an advocate and fighter for her child. She was relieved at the idea that she could share some of these new job titles and responsibilities with her husband upon his return. But, she knew the moment she saw him that something had happened. He was not the same man she sent overseas.
Within a couple of months of his return from deployment, her husband was diagnosed with PTSD. He was relying heavily on alcohol to mute the sounds and sights he was experiencing post-combat. He was spending most evenings away from home. She was alone, afraid, and trying her very best to hold everything together.
Although the story depicted above is not a true story, there are certainly many families that have experienced very similar scenarios. As military service providers, we have a duty to assist these families when they are in crisis or experience trauma. The two questions I would like to address in this blog are 1. What do we need to think about when it comes to crisis/trauma and family? 2. How do we help these families?
The Impact of Crisis/Trauma
Not all families experience trauma the same – Just like no two individuals react the same to situations, neither do families. Some families may kick in to “high gear” and face their problems head on where some may do the exact opposite.
All families are shaped by their experience – Whether purposefully or not, experience shapes us. Families can be shaped negatively and/or positively by their experiences. How families are shaped will impact the way they live indefinitely.
Some families have more than one crisis/trauma at the same time – It is important to remember that life does not delicately and kindly place hard times in our laps; nor does it only create one problem at a time. Families may be having more than one crisis or difficulty at a time. In fact, trauma can lead to crisis and vise versa. There can be a ripple effect that takes place.
Resources and support systems can lessen the hardships – When support systems and resources are put in place, the effects of the events can feel less cumbersome and stressful for family.
Families will always remain connected, even if they physically fall apart – Although some families may end up separating or splitting as a result of what has effected them, they will always be connected in some way by the fact that they were once a family.
How do we Help?
Listen – It may sound simple. But giving families an opportunity to be heard can make a huge difference for them. Their experience is like no one else’s even though you may have heard a similar story. Provide your families with the opportunity to share their story and always listen to what they have to say.
Lean forward – This is literal and figurative. Some of the stories that families may share with us can be hard for us to hear. They may even be things that are hard for us to process as humans. But, we must always remember that the therapy we provide is about them, not us. We must lean forward so that they never feel judged or criticized.
Provide resources – Always, always, always have a plethora of resources to share with your clients. You never know which may be helpful to them and which may completely change or impact their lives and what they are going through. You can never have too many resources in your pocket!
Create a safe environment –If families don’t feel safe in the therapy room, then they won’t be successful and neither will you. Gauge their comfort level and adjust accordingly. When we feel safe, we are more likely to open up and create change for ourselves.
Ensure that no one is in danger – In volatile situations, it is always important to constantly make sure that everyone is safe. Assess and reassess situations and ensure that every member of the family is safe.
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 ourwebsite,Facebook, andTwitter.
Action plans are often written by the school nurse based off of the prescribing physician’s medical orders, with the intention of having school personnel educated in how to appropriately react when a student has a seizure. Although school personnel are often trained in basic first aid including what to do when someone has a seizure, an action plan needs to be created for students with epilepsy so that personnel respond effectively to that particular child’s needs.
Because every student is different, every action plan can be different and might include information about a prescribed seizure rescue medication. Prescribing physicians have multiple options for prescription medication to stop a seizure, however, there are conditions with the medications that could prevent school staff from feeling comfortable administering the medication in the event of a child having a seizure. For instance, Rectal Diazepam Gel is one of the most widely used seizure rescue medications however it requires the patient to be partially undressed, which could present a problem for school personnel. With other medications administering the medication can be oral or buccal administration. Although these methods would most likely be more comfortable for school personnel, there are still factors the administrator would need to take into consideration before administering the seizure rescue medication such as clenched teeth, copious secretions, and emesis during the seizure.
Field Talk is a monthly blog post sharing the voices of early childhood providers who serve or have served military families of young children with disabilities (birth to 5 years old). We hope you find it to be educational, personable, and encouraging.
This month we spoke with Jeff Mullins, MS. Jeff is an Early Childhood Special Educator working with the overseas Educational and Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS) Early Intervention program as an Early Childhood Special Educator at Naval Station Rota, Spain. Jeff has provided special instruction services to babies and toddlers (birth through age 2) with developmental delays and their families for twelve years with nearly half that time being with military families.
What’s your favorite part of your current job?
I love seeing a parent evolve over time as they learn to support their child. They often come to me overwhelmed when they first learn about their child’s developmental delay. I really enjoy watching them grow to become empowered and confident in supporting their child’s development. I get excited when I can see parents making connections, understanding their child in a new light, and taking an active role in supporting their growth. When I see them take ownership of their child’s goals and feel confident in how to help them, then I know I have done my job right.
Tell us about experiences you have had working with military families.
Over the last 6 years, I have worked with families in the Army, Air Force, and now the Navy through the EDIS Early Intervention program.
How did you come to work with military families?
I think it was my desire to live overseas that ultimately brought me in touch with military families. After an intensive search for work abroad, I was hired by my current contracting company to work in Germany with families serving in the Army. I later transitioned to work at an Air Force base in England with the EDIS program there and now find myself with the Navy. I am so glad that I have been able to meet and work with so many people across all three branches of the military. The military community faces unique challenges and it feels so good to be able to support these babies and toddlers and their families at such a critical time in their lives.
Describe a rewarding experience working with military families.
I remember having the opportunity to support a family who came into our clinic for a routine newborn hearing screen for their baby and discovered that he had degenerative hearing loss. They later learned that he had autism spectrum disorder. I watched them come to early intervention scared and uncertain of the future. Even as ‘seasoned parents’ they felt insecure in their ability to raise their son. Initially, they deferred to us as providers to tell them what they needed. However, as we worked together, they began to take ownership of the process and developed great ideas to support their son. They also began to clarify what they wanted, got connected to a local parents’ support group for children with hearing impairments and became strong advocates for their son’s needs. It was evident that they had both a vision and a plan for him and I really enjoyed supporting them through this process.
Describe a challenging experience working with military families.
My most challenging experiences have involved working with parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. When a family first learns about their child’s special need, they go through the same stages of grief as those who have experienced the death of a loved one. All families that I have worked with go through some form of denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as they process this new information. They often cycle back and repeat the same stages over again. Supporting them through this process can be quite challenging as denial, depression, anger, etc. are difficult feeling. A diagnosis alone can be incredibly life-altering for a family, but with military families, a diagnosis of ASD can often mean a compassionate reassignment to the states to pursue therapy resulting in yet another move overseas. Also, the parent may receive the diagnosis alone while their spouse is deployed and they are left to deal with this news away from their family or support system. So, handling the feelings and responses of these families can be quite challenging. But, by staying warm, compassionate, and empathetic during this time, we as early interventionists can help families move on to become strong advocates for their children.
From your experience, how are military families similar and different from other types of families? How do you change your practice between families?
The complexity of the needs of families is greater within the military than outside. The layers of need can be pretty complicated when supporting a family with a child with special needs overseas. They are living in a foreign country, away from their support system, and often parenting without the physical support of their spouse. Military families endure hardships beyond what other families often face. They deal with ever-changing and demanding work schedules, are sometimes asked to cancel family vacations to respond to the call of duty, and usually have to uproot their family every 3-4 years. Supporting families in the military requires much more of an early intervention provider than it would with other types of families.
As providers, how can we support military parents who are deployed or away frequently due to trainings/school?
Involve the deployed parent in whatever capacity they are willing to participate. Even though military parents are away, they still desire to be involved in what is going on for their child, so enabling them to participate via phone, Skype, or e-mail can be very empowering for them. This is also a very positive, connective force for the family at home as they can feel more united working together with their spouse, even from a distance. I remember holding visits with a father and his kids while the mother was using FaceTime to participate from her deployment location. She still felt like an integral part of the team despite being so far away. Remember to always assume that family members want to participate and enable them to do so however they can.
Describe a specific stressor that military families with whom you have worked have shared or experienced.
The most common stressor I have observed is transitioning early intervention services from the family’s current location to the next. Finding the appropriate contacts, ensuring that they have all the required paperwork, navigating Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) clearance, and the anxiety associated with getting acquainted with an entirely new early intervention team has always proved very challenging for the families I have supported.
What “insider” tips or advice do you have for service providers working with military families who have young children with disabilities?
Be humble and approach the family with fresh eyes every time. Do not assume that you understand the child and family and what is best for them. Allow them to teach you what is best for their unique family and you will gain their trust and have a greater impact on the child as well.
If you could change or improve one thing for military families with young children with disabilities, what would it be?
I would like to change the perception of the Exceptional Family Member Program as a “career killer” and a negative byproduct of participation in early intervention. Beyond the paperwork, EFMP can be a great and supportive resource for families as they locate assistance for their child with special needs. One of the military bases that I worked on had a full-time EFMP Family Support Coordinator who organized events, provided families with resources and information, and more. I would like to see every military base have a coordinator that would bring a supportive face to EFMP so that parents could look to them for the help they need as opposed to seeing EFMP as a source of endless paperwork and limiting them from their desired duty station.
What types of resources have you sought out to feel more confident and competent at meeting the specific needs of military families? (e.g., trainings, blog posts, organizations, etc.)
Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension
Have you noticed since becoming a caregiver that your vocabulary has increased? Mine sure has! I have learned many new words including medical terms associated with my husband’s medical condition, names of his drugs — many of which I can’t even pronounce and words related to my caregiver role and responsibilities. I refer to my enhanced vocabulary as learning the caregiver alphabet soup. Your alphabet soup is different than mine but I’m sure we have some similar words. I could define different terms but probably wouldn’t define the one you need, so I’ll share the strategies I use when I am confronted with new terms. These strategies are so simple, yet it’s taken me a while to become comfortable using them.
The first strategy is to ask the person who uses it what it means. I believe that I am the consumer and my husband’s advocate so I do not need to apologize for asking questions. In some cases I have to ask them to explain their definition so I can understand it. It seems as if I encounter new terms when we are in new situations, like medical procedures, so of course I’m stressed out. When I’m stressed I find the need to slow doctors or professionals down so I can keep up with the vocabulary and I need them to explain it several times. At times I feel inadequate, but then realize that if I don’t understand fully what is being shared then problems arise at home. So – it’s in everyone’s best interest if I’m aware of what the various new terms mean.
Secondly, there is the internet but I want to caution you about taking everything as truth that you find on it. The internet is a great resource but we need to verify the information we find on it. The best way to find reliable information is to use only reputable web sites. Here are my criteria for identifying reputable web sites (which I learned from reading several articles on searching the internet for reliable sources):
Who created the site? I look at web sites only of reliable organizations. We may have different ideas about what is a reliable organization, but I tend to stick to information from universities, medical, disease, or illness specific groups, and government organizations. This means the website will end in edu, gov, or org.
Where did the information come from? Even on reliable websites it is necessary to know where they got the information. Do they use information from research or are they sharing their own experiences or ideas?
Who is the author of the information? Do they have credentials? Are they selling a product or service? What is their training?
Are there common themes, suggestions, and ideas that emerge? Do they site several research studies? Another way of finding this is, does the web site share similar information to other sites or are they saying something completely different?
These are just a few ideas on making sure the information from the web is reliable. Here are a few sites I find helpful:
Websites for specific caregiver types, diseases, illness:
Since all of us are learning new terms please share the strategies you use to find definitions including web sites you find most helpful. Keep in mind there will always be new terms to learn regardless of how long you are a caregiver.