EFMP & special needs resources for military families

Return to Military Children & Teens Resource Directory - LINK

Scroll down for more information on:
​Camps for military special needs youth
Critically ill, respite facilities
​Handicap accessibility for home
​Local programs
Online support groups
TriCare Extended Care Health Option (ECHO)

Autism resources for the military

Autism Care Today for Military Families
Autism Care Today is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness and provide treatment services to families that cannot afford the treatments and services their children require. Recognizing the extraordinary challenges military families experience (waging a battle on two fronts…one for their country and another for their children), Autism Care Today for Military Families was created and is a dedicated fund to assist military families impacted by autism.

Autism Care Today for Military Families works to improve awareness and delivery of effective autism services, and provides financial assistance to military families to help defray out-of-pocket costs associated with autism treatments and other quality of life programs.

American Military Families Autism Support
American Military Families Autism Support is by military families, for military families, providing news, information, contacts and options for military families dealing with autism spectrum disorder. Due to the nature of military life and the challenges of autism, these families often experience additional stressors over non-military families.

The site is currently being constructed to offer the first national support site comprehensively for our families. Your feedback and ideas are critical to ensure it meets your needs.

Unlike with traditional sites, you will be part of a living, breathing community of rich news and information. But as with serving in the military, the role you play will be instrumental in the success or failure of the objective.

Operation Autism
Operation Autism directly supports U.S. military families touched by autism and autism spectrum disorders. It serves as an introduction to autism, a guide for the life journey with autism, and a ready reference for available resources, services, and support.

Camps for military special needs youth

Armed Service YMCA (Camp Pendleton, CA)
Camp Flashhh - Each summer, the branch supports the Marine Corps’ Exceptional Family Members Program and special needs children at Camp Pendleton with Camp Flashhh (Families Laughing and Sharing Hugs, Hope, and Happiness). It provides field trip opportunities for the families from June through August.  

Military Teen Adventure Camps (awaiting 2022 info)
Would you like to spend time whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing, winter camping, backpacking, mountain biking, exploring the environment, running ropes courses, geo-caching, or practicing wilderness skills? What if you could do these activities with other military youth just like you?

Military teens (14-18 years old) will have an opportunity to participate in adventure camps. These high energy, high adventure, and high experience camps are planned across the United States from Alaska to Maine and from Colorado to Georgia as well as states in between. There are even opportunities for military teens in the Pacific Rim. This is the perfect chance for you to experience the outdoors as you never have before!

Each camp offers a unique outdoor experience that will allow you to build your leadership, self-confidence, and teamwork skills while participating in activities like camp cooking and archery. Camps have funding available to assist with transportation costs.

Camps for youth with special needs (mental, physical, and emotional) are also planned in Vermont and New Hampshire. There is something for everyone!

Critically ill, respite facilities

Believe in Tomorrow
You can help keep active military families who have a critically ill child strong, by supporting the Believe In Tomorrow Military Initiative. Since 2005, Believe In Tomorrow has helped U.S. Military families who are dealing with a pediatric medical crisis stay connected. We do this by prioritizing armed forces families into our pediatric respite and hospital housing programs, so that they can have time to be together, relax, and reconnect. These families have a unique set of challenges due to the frequent lengthy deployments of a parent, combined with the fact that their child is often being treated far from their extended family support base. Your support allows Believe In Tomorrow to serve as an essential resource to our nation’s military families when they need it most.

*The Johns Hopkins Hospital is a national Tri-Care Prime Partner for military families worldwide. All families travelling to the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the treatment of a child’s life-threatening illness are provided with priority access to stay at our Believe In Tomorrow House at Johns Hopkins, located across the street from the entrance of the hospital.

The Max Cure Foundation
The mission of The Max Cure Foundation, Inc., is to fund research for the development of pediatric cancer drug therapies including the discovery of less toxic treatments for children with cancer; to financially assist low-income, military and first-responder families battling cancer in their children; and pursue legislative and regulatory changes that seek to benefit children with cancer and at the same time, raise awareness to the needs of those fighting pediatric cancers.

Handicap accessibility for home

Military Missions in Action Operation Building Hope (North Carolina)
The Operation Building Hope program assists active duty service members and veterans who have children with special needs who require handicap accessibility into their home.​

Local programs

Air Warrior Courage Foundation - Therapeutic Riding Program
For several years the AWCF provided support for children, of military families, enabling them to participate in therapeutic riding programs in over fifteen states. To one degree or another, these children and their parents have found this opportunity helpful in dealing with a variety of childhood disabilities.

C.A.S.T. for Kids
Our mission is to provide disabled and disadvantaged children the opportunity to enjoy a quality outdoor recreational experience fishing on the water.

Young Life Capernaum
Young Life leaders have the privilege of knowing and sharing their lives with kids and young adults with disabilities. While all Young Life activities are open to every kid, many Young Life areas have dedicated programs for kids and young adults with disabilities, typically referred to as Young Life Capernaum Ministries.

Young Life Capernaum gives young people with mental and physical disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure, to develop fulfilling friendships and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem through club, camp and other exciting activities. Young Life staff and volunteers model Christ’s unconditional love and acceptance as they walk alongside these young adults — filling their lives with love and support.

Online support groups

Military Special Needs Network
The Military Special Needs Network strives to facilitate and coordinate community support for Military EFM families by providing information, education, support, social opportunities, referral, and advocacy.

The Military Special Needs Network believes that families often find their greatest support in other families who are in similar situations. We offer a place to find information, support, and services which can meet the individual needs of their families. We believe that parents can share, laugh, and learn from each other. Support through education and social opportunities help to empower parents to face the challenge of helping their dependant grow within their community.


EFMP Mobile
The Exceptional Family Program (EFMP) offers a mobile website for service members and families to conveniently access essential EFMP information from any mobile device. With the mobile site, EFMP families can quickly and easily access important information about programs and services through a smartphone, tablet, or any another mobile device with an Internet connection.

Exceptional Families of the Military
Exceptional Families of the Military’s mission is to connect military families with Disabilities, Special Healthcare Needs, or additional educational needs from all branches of the service in order to navigate within the Exceptional Family Member Programs and identify areas of improvement that affect the families we represent. Using the data we collect while simultaneously assisting our families, we endeavor to create long-lasting systematic changes in the laws and regulations that affect EFMP families. 

Military OneSource - EFMP & Me
Navigating military and community resources during major life events can be challenging as a military family. The EFMP & Me tool provides checklists, resources and referrals to guide you through each process and find support from the Exceptional Family Member Program.

Use this tool to maneuver through the Defense Department's network of services and supports for families with special needs. No sign-up is required for service members and family members, but you can choose to create an account to save your progress and preferences.

Military OneSource - Special Care Organizational Record
The Special Care Organizational Record, or SCOR, is intended to help track and organize information in one central location. Using the SCOR will make it easier for someone else to step into the role of caregiver, if that is ever needed. 

Military OneSource - Special Needs Parent Toolkit
The DoD Special Needs Parent Toolkit has comprehensive information and tools that are geared towards helping military families with special needs children navigate the maze of medical and special education services, community support and benefits and entitlements. The Toolkit is broken down into six colorful modules that can be easily downloaded and printed. We have included important facts, records, tools and sample letters.

Whether you need to learn about early intervention services or want to learn how to be a more effective advocate for your child, you will find the information you are searching for here!

Military OneSource - The Education Directory for Children with Special Needs
​The Education Directory for Children With Special Needs provides military families who have children with special needs the resources they need to make informed assignment decisions and experience easier transitions.

Military Special Needs Network
Our Network is a parent-managed, community-based organization founded to respond to the needs of all branches of the Military and of our Exceptional Family Members (EFM).  We focus on peer-support for our Special Families who have a dependent with special medical or educational needs, including:  Autism, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Chromosomal and Neurological Disorders, hearing and vision impairments, dyslexia, and everything else in between!

Military families have so many stresses in our lives.  When you add an Exceptional Family Member (EFM) to the mix, we often face many difficult challenges such as: 
  • Feelings of isolation and lack of proximate family support. 
  • Difficulty navigating disjointed services 
  • Inadequate information, resources and community support. 
  • Locating physicians, specialists and therapists who accept TRICARE (if not offered at a Military Hospital). 
  • Creating and maintaining relationships with medical and educational personnel. 
  • Establishing eligibility for community resources. 

We know just how hard it is to navigate the difficult waters of Special Needs within the Military.  We have been there!  Our commitment is to empower these Special Families in their vital role as advocates, by providing information, support, training opportunities, monthly meetings, an online community and so much more!

Visit this LINK for the Military Special Needs Network Holiday Guide - This online magazine is filled with helpful articles, supportive advice, and tips on topics related to surviving and thriving during the upcoming holiday season. It is our sincere hope that the 2013 MSNN Holiday Guide provides inspiration for all special military families for the busiest season of the year.

National Military Family Association
Website has links to branch-specific EFMP resources.

PAVE - Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP)
STOMP offers virtual workshops across multiple days, two-day in-person workshops, and 90-minute webinars on a variety of topics. STOMP’s hope is to enhance the connections and knowledge of our military families. Some of the topics include Parents Rights and Responsibilities in Achieving Education Services (IDEA, IFSP, IEP, IEP Teams, and 504), Advocacy, TRICARE/ECHO/ABA, PCS Tips (Home Files and FERPA), and Transition Planning (Post Secondary Education, Employment, Independent Living). You can bring in your child’s IEP to learn how they can best be supported!

All STOMP instructors are military affiliated with EFMP family members!

STOMP workshops and webinars are open to all military connected families! You do not need to be on active duty or located/stationed at the installation that is hosting.

The Branch, MPTAC (Military Parent Technical Assistance Center)
The Branch (MPTAC) will build the capacity of parent centers to provide effective services to military parents of children with disabilities and youth with disabilities in military families.

Universal Goal- Parent Centers will have access to high-quality, relevant, useful, and accurate information on topics that increase your effectiveness when working with military families.
Targeted Goal – Parent centers in the 10 States with the highest military representation will have sustained, effective relationships with the personnel on the military installations within their States.
Intensive Goal – Parent centers who request intensive technical assistance will increase their capacity to support military families and have sustained, effective relationships with the personnel on the military installations in their areas.


Easterseals Military Family Respite Program
Navy EFM Respite Care - Easterseals partners with Child Care Aware of America® and the U.S. Navy to offer a quality respite care program. This program assists active duty Navy families that have children with special needs. Our critical service helps families manage the day to day specialized care for their child(ren) in order for the service member to stay “mission ready.”

A goal of respite care is to help reduce potential burnout. With the program, parents can focus on themselves and each other, daily responsibilities and on other family members to keep families healthy and strong.

Families can receive up to 40 hours a month of respite care. All respite care providers must go through a vetting process prior to starting. Families receive potential respite care providers to interview that are hand-selected based on numerous factors (i.e. family profile, special needs experience, respite care needs, etc.).

TriCare Extended Care Health Option

TriCare - Extended Care Health Option
The Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) supplements the basic TRICARE program by providing financial assistance for an integrated set of services and supplies. To use ECHO, qualified beneficiaries must be enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) as provided by the sponsor's branch of service and register through ECHO case managers in each TRICARE region.

Books for military parents of special needs children

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Copyright 2008 - 2022 Benita Koeman, Operation We Are Here.  All rights reserved.
Operation We Are Here is a HUB of RESOURCES for the military community and military supporters.
Military support is not a concept to embrace; military support is sacrificial action. Visit our military support TOOLKIT.
Department of Defense Guide for Adults with Special Needs
Link to free download

Military OneSource has issued a publication, the Guide for Adults with Special Needs. The guide is divided into nine modules and provides information on a wide range of issues important to families with a special needs adult. It includes a list of resources available through the military, information about the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), and details about TRICARE benefits, including a comprehensive guide to benefits available through the Extended Health Care Option (ECHO). The guide also offers tips for families preparing for a deployment or planning a move with a special needs family member, as well as guidance on financial planning and end of life care. Information about community support services, educational resources, and options for independent or assisted living arrangements is also included. The guide is intended to help military families become more effective advocates for their special needs loved ones so they can enjoy the best possible quality of life.

Families can access the guide or learn more about helping special needs family members via Military OneSource.

Everything About ME (Military Personnel and Families Edition)
A guide for my future caregivers
Author: Dee Marrella, Copyright @ 2011

With the huge numbers of American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries requiring long-term care -- possibly life-long care, this book (print and electronic versions) provides individuals and their families with a way to create a true tool that can be used by any caregiver who ever works with this person. Since family members might not always be available to be the caregiver in a veterans life, this guide will provide even a total caring stranger with a lifetime of knowledge, information and guidance on what the individual desires in the way of caregiving. This book, when completed, will tell all who use it every important fact about them: how "I" feel about life support, my favorite foods, the TV programs I dislike, how I'd like to have my obituary read, and my funeral conducted. When the time comes that a once vibrant individual required round-the-clock caregiving, and may not have a "voice" left o speak with -- this book can be that "voice" tell all who use it everything you want known.

Special Needs Families in the Military
A resource guide
Authors: Janelle Hill, Don Philpott, Copyright @ 2011

The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is especially true for families with special needs children. It takes an "army" of therapists, doctors, nurses, counselors, and educators. Special needs families in the military often find the task even more daunting, compounded by the unique circumstances of military life today. Even though the challenges are often greater, there are many helpful resources for families in the military who are raising a special needs child. In Special Needs Families in the Military: A Resource Guide, authors Janelle Hill and Don Philpott provide advice on the many issues that arise, including diagnoses, financial support, education, medical care, case management, insurance, advocacy, and coping with the accompanying mental and emotional trials.

The book covers the basic challenges which all special needs families must face, and also pays special attention to those resources, programs, and aids available to special needs families in the military, where the added stresses of military life often make things seem overwhelming. This book guides special needs families through all the procedures and protocol they must face, and offers helpful tips for setbacks and unexpected challenges that may arise. It is essential reading for military families with special needs children and those who work with them.


A Different Dream for My Child
Meditations for parents of critically or chronically ill children
Author: Jolene Philo, Copyright @ 2009

For years, Jolene Philo’s son was hospitalized many times as he battled a life-threatening birth defect. Far from home, without friends and family to support them, Jolene and her husband felt utterly and completely alone. Today, support networks for parents of critically or chronically ill children have improved, but most only provide for urgent physical needs. The devotional meditations in this book address the spiritual needs of these parents as the author shares her own life lessons, as well as those of other parents who have walked this road. "No matter how difficult the road," Philo writes, "you do not have to lose hope."

Dancing with Max
A mother and son who broke free
Author: Emily Colson,  Copyright @ 2010

Meet a remarkable young man. Max doesn't communicate like we do. But he communicates better than we do about the most important things. Max doesn't think like we do. But his actions reflect deep spiritual truths. With candor and wit, Emily Colson shares about her personal battles and heartbreak when, as a suddenly single mother, she discovers her only child has autism. Emily illuminates the page with imagery---making you laugh, making you cry, inspiring you to face your own challenges. Chuck Colson, in his most personal writing since Born Again, speaks as a father and grandfather. It is a tender side Max brings out of his grandfather, a side some haven't seen. As Emily recalls her experiences, we discover that Max's disability does not so much define who he is, but reveals who we are. Dancing with Max is not a fairy tale with a magical ending. It's a real life story of grace and second chances and fresh starts in spite of life's hardest problems. And Max? Max will make you fall in love with life all over again, leaving you dancing with joy.

Parents of Children with Disabilities
A survival guide for fathers and mothers
Authors: Press Barnhill, Gena P. Barnhill, Copyright @ 2010

I simply could not put this book down! It is very well written and makes me feel like I am sitting in Press and Gena's living room talking about their experiences. I love the Chapter Take Aways and the stories from other families. Readers will feel inspired with new direction. I only wish this was available years ago as our family began our journey caring for our son with autism." Didi Zaryczny Chairperson, disAbility Resource Network "As a parent of a disabled child, I find this book to be an immensely valuable resource. The Barnhills offer practical help for navigating the emotional and relational pitfalls common to those in our situation. Their advice is concrete, realistic, and encouraging." Andrew Dunks Pastor and father of a teenage son with brittle-bone disease.

Spiritual nourishment for parents of children with special needs
Authors: Kimberly M. Drew and Jocelyn Green, Copyright @ 2016

More than one-fifth of US households with children have at least one child with special needs. Raising a child with special needs is spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging. Parents need encouragement to restore hope and a passion for God in their lives -but the realities of having to be parent, nurse, therapist, and caregiver make it difficult to find the time or initiative to seek encouragement.

Packed with encouragement from parents who understand this complicated balancing act, Refresh is designed to provide just what these parents need. The devotional guides parents to spiritual truths that can be applied to the demands they face every day. It offers perspective and hope through the varying stages and phases families experience, from diagnosis to loss and grief.

Each day's devotional includes a reading from Scripture, as well as stories and testimonies from parents who intimately know the struggle readers face. Their children represent a wide range of special needs, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, chronic illness, and more. Drew and Green show how the truths of God's Word are relevant, regardless of the diagnosis. Their devotional illuminates the unique lessons and perspectives to be gained as a result of raising a child with special needs. 

Insightful and powerful, Refresh will help weary parents grow spiritual roots and turn toward the Light that never fades.

Unlocking the Treasure
A Bible study for moms entrusted with special-needs children 
Author: Bev Roozeboom, Copyright @ 2011

Has your child been given a heart-wrenching diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, Down syndrome, autism, Asperger syndrome, ADHD, or reactive attachment disorder? Was your child born with physical or intellectual disabilities? Then you're not just the mother of a special-needs child, you're a special-needs mom!

If your child struggles with physical, emotional, mental, or behavioral difficulties and you find yourself disillusioned and disheartened, this study is for you. Written by a mom who is also walking this journey, "Unlocking the Treasure" offers hope and encouragement in the midst of daily battles and extraordinary challenges.

As the pages of Scripture are opened, you will uncover the treasure of a heavenly Father who deeply loves His children. This journey will bring you into the heart of Scripture where you will discover God's lavish love and gentle compassion. You will learn what it means to trust God with yourself and your child. You will discover the God of hope and uncover the promises of peace and contentment. Finally, you will bring to light the hope of an abundant and joy-filled life, even on this side of heaven!

Moms of children with special needs often feel alone, wondering if anyone understands their heart. As you complete this study, walls of isolation will crumble as you meet other women who share similar struggles. "Unlocking the Treasure" includes real-life stories from several moms who are also on this journey called "special needs"...a journey not of their choosing, but one uniquely designed for them by the Creator of all life.
Be sure to check out these ADDITIONAL resources:

Caregiver resources
EFMP & special needs resources for military families
Resources for supporters of military and veteran families
  • Practical insights in caring for
             Home front families
             Military personnel
             PTSD, wounded warriors
             Loved ones of the fallen

Military and veteran family resources
  • Christian encouragement
  Bibles, devotionals, studies
  Bible verses that offer hope
  Of grace and gratitude
             peer support, sexual assault,
             suicide prevention
  • Deployment support for
  Military personnel
  Military spouses
  Military children, teens
  • Downloads and printables
  Brat Town Bugle TM
  Coloring pages
  Flat Brat TM
  Military house ornament

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