Supporting the families of children with special needs at Hill AFB

In the middle of a stormy spring here in Utah, there was a bright spot for nearly 300 families this past month at Hill Air Force Base. Military families of children with disabilities attended the second annual Families with Special Needs Summit.

The summit is part of the Military Family Support 360 project, a five-year federal grant that began two years ago through the Center for Persons with Disabilities. The CPD works in collaboration with Hill to help plan and implement one-stop centers for military families of children with special needs.

At last year's summit, families met with Hill personnel and the Military Family Support 360 staff for discovery sessions. They shared specific information on what military families who had children with disabilities needed and the challenges they were facing.

This year’s summit theme, “Delivering on the Promise,” showed the base’s commitment to following through with the action plan that resulted.

According to the 75th Medical Group commander, Col. Don Hickman, the families and support staff have worked hard this past year to complete 36 out of the 42 objectives listed from last year’s plan.

The overall mission of the Family Support 360 program is to build a strong network for military families of children with special needs across the nation. In the future, the project will focus on working with another military organization in Utah and begin replicating the success that they have found at Hill.

Holding the Family Special Needs Summit each year at Hill will help to “identify new and ongoing resources, new issues and concerns,” Hickman said.

The strong partnerships that families built with local community resources last year continued as, once again, families met with more than 80 local service providers who help children with disabilities. Gathering all those providers together in one place is vital in helping families find the services their children need.

Read more on the CPD website.

CPD by the numbers

The CPD provided direct services to 3,629 people in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Throughout its history it has also given rise to programs that now function independently of the CPD, including Utah Clicks, the Utah Center for Assistive Technology, the Access Utah Network, the Utah Assistive Technology Foundation and others.

Autism awareness--it's been a busy month.

The ASSERT classroom provides research-based services to preschool children with ASD.

In April, CPD blogger Connie Pehrson stepped up coverage for Autism Awareness Month. Many of you have already seen the results on our blog.

Along the way, people from the CPD have come in contact with others who want to raise ASD awareness. Faculty Fellow Tom Higbee was interviewed on KVNU Radio’s Cross Talk show, where he fielded questions from community members about ASD.

Other advocates organized an event that shone a blue light on autism awareness USU even lit its “A” blue in honor of the event. (The story is featured below.)

In case you missed them, here are some quick summaries of Connie’s posts. To read the entire story, click on its date.

April 1, 2011: Shine a blue light on autism

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 110 children were diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with diabetes, cancer, and AIDS combined. It is the fastest growing developmental disability in the world, with approximately 67 million people worldwide affected by it.

April 7, 2011: Diagnosing ASD: an interdisciplinary approach

Research now suggests that children as young as one year old can show signs of autism. For these reasons, frequent wellness exams are performed during infancy to make sure that development is progressing normally.

Pediatricians and family doctors continue to assess child development at each regular well-child checkup for the first few years. Further testing may be needed if there is concern on the part of the doctor or parents....

Service providers at the CPD have listened to the stories that parents have shared with them about the difficulty of taking their child to several different clinics to have further testing done. They have taken this problem to heart and designed an interdisciplinary clinic, the ASD Clinic, to bring together, under one roof, a team of professionals that parents can come to for the necessary evaluations.

April 18, 2011: Treating autism: the earlier the better

When a child is first diagnosed with autism, many families feel overwhelmed. They are at the beginning of a journey they weren’t prepared for.

Their pediatricians and family doctors will continue to be part of the medical support team the family will have as they begin their journey into the world of autism.

Each challenge must be addressed with the appropriate intervention. What works for one child may not work for another. Before parents choose an intervention, they will want to learn as much as they can about each therapy option so they can choose the one that will work best for their child.

At the CPD, services are provided through specialized early intervention and preschool programs.

April 25, 2011: Unlocking the mystery of ASDs

Most scientists agree that:

• Genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop an ASD;
• Children who have a sibling or parent with an ASD are at a higher risk of also having an ASD;
• The once common belief that poor parenting practices caused ASDs is NOT true;
• There is some evidence that the critical period for developing ASDs occurs before birth.

There is still a lot to learn about ASDs. Research has increased significantly in the last 10 years.

One genetic study under the CPD’s Dr. Anthony Torres’ direction, Early Markers for Autism (EMA), is investigating prenatal and newborn biologic markers for autism. According to Torres, director of the BioMedical Lab, “The genetic studies [of ASD] are not anywhere near as simple as people thought they would be.” The causes may be related to genes, the environment, or a relationship between the two.

The goal of the EMA study is to identify biologic factors that can be used to predict which children will have an ASD.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us gather and spread information on autism awareness.

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