Eric Flake, Col(s), USAF MC, Program Director of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Associate Professor Uniformed Services University
Dr. Flake, a Pediatrician at JBLM, is also a member of the MCEC Science Advisory Board.
Military families move frequently and have to respond to uncertainty and instability as they re-establish themselves in their new community. For families with special needs this can be particularly challenging. Finding a team of therapists, educational professionals, and medical and respite care staff, not to mention a supportive community, can often take years. This can make a military family feel as though they are always trying to establish a team of support for their child.
For decades, the military has been successful in helping families connect to their new location by assigning a sponsor to help them integrate into their new surroundings. To assist special needs families, the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) was established with the intent that families would only be assigned to locations that had readily available education and medical services. System Navigators, School Liaison Officers, and a myriad of online resources are also available to help families through transition and help families feel supported. Families who have a child with special needs, especially those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder requiring multiple military or community medical and educational systems, can experience high levels of stress, become frustrated with systems of care, or feel unsupported.
At Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), the Army Medical Command Developmental
Behavioral Pediatric Program, in conjunction with Armed Forces Community Services, have teamed together to launch the first Department of Defense Autism Center, JBLM Center for Autism Resources, Education and Services (CARES). JBLM CARES mission is to help support families with special needs, with an emphasis on those newly diagnosed with autism or those who have recently moved to the area. The Center provides direct ABA, SLP and OT services, then provides a warm handoff to continue their treatment. The CARES building is a renovated Child Development Center and is now an ideal location to welcome all families with children who have special needs to attend outreach activities and educational opportunities.
Since its opening in August 2017, hundreds of families per month have benefited from the services provided at JBLM CARES. On average, children are getting therapy within 14 days of a new diagnosis or arrival to JBLM and the responses from families and the community has been very positive!
For more information on the new JBLM CARES Center, visit:
Families of the Exceptional Family Member Program,
military families impacted by all disabilities, receive
opportunities to connect through joint efforts of JBLM
Directorate of Personnel & Family Readiness, JBLM
Directorate of Family & Morale Welfare & Recreation,
and Madigan Army Medical Center for Autism
Resources, Education and Services (JBLM CARES).
Tag Words: Military Families disabilities Morale Welfare & Recreation Exceptional Needs JBLM special needs autism Department of Defense Autism Center