WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Parents deploying, permanent changes of duty station and switching schools come with the territory of being a military child. But, for approximately 20,000 of these children, there is an added layer of complexity: living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of ASD include difficulties in social interactions or communication, repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most people and might not want change in their daily activities.
Aaron Likens, the Easter Seals Midwest Autism Ambassador, shared his own aversion to change while giving a presentation to members of Team Whiteman during Autism Awareness month.
"I used to joke that trying something new was like a tetanus shot, you only need a booster once a decade," said Likens. "I don't have to try anything new until 2026!"
However, military families, who can be continuously subjected to unexpected changes, may not have the choice. Fortunately, the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is available to ease the transition.
"The biggest fear for families is starting over, especially after finding out what works," said Diane Munley, the Whiteman EFMP-Family Support manager. "There is difficulty transitioning from school to school, so we help break those barriers and get them settled in. I get to know my families and help facilitate a warm handoff."
The family support component of EFMP ensures continuity of care for family members by providing referrals to both on-base and off-base non-medical resources and helps put families in direct contact with school officials. It is part of the broader EFMP program that includes EFMP-Medical and EFMP-Assignments. These components coordinate medical management and ensure children with ASD or other special needs go to an installation that can provide the appropriate medical, educational and community support.
Not only is enrollment in the program mandatory for those who qualify, but participating in EFMP can help children with ASD by providing early intervention.
"All the data and research out there shows the earlier children get treatment, the faster the rate of growth," said Likens. "If we wait, it's going to take a lot longer to get the same gain. With anything on the autism spectrum, early truly equals better."
For more information about autism spectrum disorder or the EFMP, go to: