Month of the Military Child – Exceptional Family Member Program and Autism

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.  There are seven million. 
~Walt Streightiff

April is the Month of the Military Child. Deployments and serving in the military is tough on the servicemember and the spouse, but it’s equally as hard (if not harder) on the servicemember’s children. Military children often need more support than a civilian child, especially during deployments.

This month, to honor our military children, I’m dedicating each Monday to Month of the Military Child. Since we don’t have children, I’ve asked a few guests to blog about their experiences with military children and provide some insight into how we can help these children excel during what may be the toughest time of their young lives.

My last guest post is about something that you will never need… or something that you will rely on day in, and day out. It’s the military’s Exceptional Family Member program, but this post specifically highlight’s the Navy’s program and how it pertains to the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Your own branch may differ.

This guest post is by a good friend and Navy wife, who is known as minivangirl on Twitter. She and her husband, a submariner, deal with a lot. A LOT. And I’ll be making another post on how you can help them out specifically, hopefully later this week.


Chicky excited for cupcakes.

I am not a writer. I am not a blogger. I am mother of a child who has autism. I am also a Navy wife.

When you first hear the diagnosis of Autism, it can send you into a tailspin. Worries of “what if” and “what now”.

The very first thing you should know is, I am proud of you.

“What is this crazy lady talking about?? Why is she proud of me??” 

You paid attention to your child. You noticed something wasn’t quite right and you acted on it. You questioned, you read, you researched and you went to the doctor. Maybe even more than one doctor. You listened to the little voice inside of you and you sought answers. The answer was Autism or any one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Give your kiddo a hug. Nuzzle their head a bit. Pull back and take a look…..this is the same wonderful child that was right here yesterday, the only difference is that now you have a diagnosis of Autism.

There are a multitude of books, website and support groups to help you along the way. Read, search, and learn. That’s not why I am here today. Today I am focusing on what steps you need to take and what programs are available to you as a military family.

One of the best guides out there is Lisa Rupe’s “Guide for Military Families Affected By Autism.”

The very first thing you need to do once you have a diagnosis is enroll your child in the EFM (Exceptional Family Member) program. This program helps to make sure that you are sent only to bases that can support your child’s needs. Imagine if you were sent to a base in the middle of nowhere, without a Developmental Pediatrician for hundreds of miles! That is not a good situation and could even mean a second move to support your child’s needs. EFM Program monitors what services are available in each area and tries to match you with a base that can help.

In the Navy, once your child is enrolled, they will be assigned a “Category.”

There are six Navy EFMP enrollment categories:

A life-changing moment. For more information, check out

  • Category I – for monitoring purposes only
  • Category II – pinpoint to specific geographic locations
  • Category III – no overseas assignments
  • Category IV – major medical areas in CONUS
  • Category V – homesteading
  • Category VI – temporary enrollment – update required in 6-12 months

The next step would be to enroll in ECHO (Extended Care Health Option)

ECHO provides:

Princess Chicky getting ready to go on a walk.

  • Medical and rehabilitative services
  • Training to use assistive technology devices
  • Special education
  • Institutional care when a residential environment is required
  • Transportation for institutionalized beneficiaries to receive authorized ECHO benefits.
  • Assistive services, such as those from a qualified interpreter or translator
  • Durable equipment, including adaptation and maintenance
  • In-home medical services through ECHO Home Health Care (EHHC)
  • In-home respite care services

– ECHO respite care:  16 hours per month when receiving other authorized ECHO benefits
– EHHC respite care:  up to 40 hours per week (eight hours per day, five days per week) for those who qualify
– Only one can be used in the same calendar month, they cannot be used together.
– Only available in the 50 United States, The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I would also suggest you think about your child’s PCM. How do you feel about your relationship. Yes, I know it’s your child’s PCM, but you are your child’s voice. You need to feel comfortable talking to this person. Do you feel you can ask questions? Can you approach them? Do you know the easiest way to reach them? Is the PCM accessible? Your child’s doctor and you will be working together quite a bit, make sure it’s a good relationship.



6 thoughts on “Month of the Military Child – Exceptional Family Member Program and Autism

  1. I have been waiting for this post. I have concerns for my youngest (still not talking, waving at 20 months) plus I am the secondary care taker for my Autistic brother. Knowing what’s available just in case is fabulous. THANK YOU SO MUCH

  2. Great post! We are EFMP Cat V for our son’s medical disorder. I can’t reiterate ENOUGH that you get a diagnosis & apply for EFMP as soon as possible. We are homesteading in a major medical center (at least until Klaw is older). No naval hospital could have dealt with my son’s diagnosis & we are lucky to have been near a children’s hospital with a geneticist who is well known within fatty-acid oxidation disorders. It’s comforting knowing we can be here as long as we need to be and that the Navy will support us.

  3. This is such a great post! Many families, including military families, probably aren’t aware of these kinds of resources. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, minivangirl, and thanks for having a guest post, Wifey!

  4. I just thought this was a fantastic blog post. Very inspiring and great info. I am so glad to have found your blog 🙂 I am looking forward to continuing reading.

  5. Thank you for posting this information. I am amazed by everything that Chicky has survived and am glad to know that the Navy has such great programs to help.

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