The Army defines an exceptional family member as someone who has a “physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services.” Depending on the severity of the exceptional family member’s status, it can limit what duty stations are available to the service member(s).
My son has been enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program for almost three years. He is globally delayed and while many people may not think much of that diagnosis, it has definitely affected our lives. When my son was first diagnosed, he was not even two yet. I thought he may have been autistic just by the way he would walk, he was not talking, he would line his cars in a perfectly straight line and other behaviors he exhibited. His pediatrician examined him and gave us the reassurance that he was not autistic, but he was certainly behind in many areas.
We were then referred to EDIS (Educational and Developmental Intervention Services). After our referral went through, a speech therapist and a physical therapist came to evaluate my son. He was behind in most areas. His language and speech skills, motor skills, social and emotional skills, and his cognitive development all fell below where he should have been for a 20 month old.
After my son’s evaluation with EDIS, I spoke with his pediatrician again. I was informed that most children would outgrow their delays, but that it will take time and a lot of work. That gave me some relief, but at the time I did not know what kind of road was ahead of us.
After my son was enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, we found out we had a lot of resources to utilize. My son saw a speech therapist once a week until he turned three. When he turned three he was no longer eligible to have speech therapy done in our home, but he was able to be enrolled in the PSCD class at the elementary school on post. The elementary school has a physical therapist that works with the children in the PSCD class daily, and he would still see the speech therapist once a week.
On top of those resources, ACS (Army Community Service) has a program for family members enrolled in EFMP and it is called the Respite Care Program. The Respite Care Program hires people to work with the family members enrolled in Exceptional Family Member Program. Family members enrolled in the program, depending on the severity of their status, are able to receive respite care. Each family member is given a certain amount of hours per month they are able to receive care, and the hours are based upon the severity of the status.
It’s a natural thing for parents to be concerned with their child’s development. If you ever for a moment think your child may be delayed or have some sort of other issue- do not be afraid of having your pediatrician evaluate or have EDIS evaluate your child.
I am glad I noticed my son’s delay when I did and sought out help. It has been a tough road the last few years with meltdowns, not being able to communicate, and a lot of frustration from my son. He’s four now and he has outgrown most of his delays, but we still have a long road ahead of us. Sometimes I wonder where we would be now as a family and where my son would be now developmentally if I hadn’t pushed for an evaluation.