Receiving orders for a transfer is an exciting time. There are many things to think about and plan, plus learning about your new assignment. If you have special needs children it is a time of trepidation and fear. What if they don’t have what your child needs to lead as full a life as they are capable of? What if there aren’t qualified doctors available? What about the school system? These are all valid concerns and must be addressed before you transfer.
A GAO Report to Congress: Education of Military Dependent Students dated March 2011, reports that 58 percent of school districts reported that meeting the “needs of military dependent students with disabilities was moderately, very or extremely challenging”. This is clearly a problem when all military children are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). To meet the needs of the military family with disable children a Bill was initiated and signed by Congress in 2011 to provide those military families with vouchers of $7500 per student for school costs. The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act mandated a military program to assist parents of special needs children and established an Office of Community Support for Military Famil9ies with Special Needs. Awareness has been raised and the concerns of parents are being addressed, but how is your child affected in the meantime?
Things parents need to be aware of with special needs children:
- Schools have to comply with FAPE. Your children have a right to special needs education and the school systems have a limited amount of time to comply with those rights.
- Grants are available to military families with a child with autism. (www.wrightslaw.com/info/dod.index.htm )
- The Army and the Marines are now providing case workers and legal aid to help parents negotiate for better resources for their special needs children. The Navy is working on bringing a program into action. The only service truly behind in taking advocacy action is the Air Force.
- A free 24 hour hotline has been established for all military families with special needs. That phone number is 1-800-324-9647. Consultants have been trained in providing information and making referrals. The hotline is called Military OneSource. It is also available online at www.militaryonesource.com . Numerous articles on special needs families are available to download at the site.
- A number of homes in military housing in each location have been designated for handicapped access.
A lot of progress has been accomplished and DOD is continually working on developing more resources for families with special needs but remain inadequate in certain areas. If transferred to a location where services would hinder the development of your child you can still apply for hardship consideration and cancellation of the transfer notice.