Military life always poses a set of unique challenges, with military families constantly having to relocate. In addition to this, since 9/11, families in the military have begun experiencing much more frequent and longer deployments, during which time children can be faced with difficult issues such as having to leave behind friends and family and transferring in and out of schools, whilst simultaneously coping with their emotions over the fact that one of their parents is being sent to Afghanistan or Iraq.
This constant relocation is a tough fact of life in the military, and families tend to make adjustments to their lifestyle in order to take these changes into account. While deployments and having to move is likely to put stress on any family, a family that has a child with autism will find that matters are even more complicated. The needs of families in the military are not dissimilar to those of any family who has an autistic child – such as trying to help the child to become independent but also families in the military are also in the position of having to look for local support and services every time they relocate. In addition, when a member of the family is deployed then the remaining parent is left to cope alone.
The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) offers help by addressing the special needs of such families, including special mental health, medical, educational and developmental needs.