WASHINGTON — A permanent-change-of-station move prompts its own challenges, but family members with special-needs children face another complexity when looking for the right schools at their new home, a Defense Department official said July 2.
Ed Tyner, acting deputy director of DOD’s special needs program, told DOD News that service members and their families can find a comprehensive tool in the newly updated Education Directory for Children with Special Needs, which addresses opportunities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Available on the Military OneSource website, the directory gives parents guidance to make informed decisions on new school districts, programs and services for special-needs children.
“DOD is supportive of all families with special needs,” Tyner emphasized.
The directory has been available for about four years. It initially covered 15 states with the largest military populations and certain special needs, such as autism, intellectual deficits and behavioral concerns, Tyner said.
In addition to those needs, the new directory includes “the whole gamut,” from speech and language to learning disabilities to physical impairments, he said.
The new directory, Tyner said, is “much more comprehensive.”
Tyner noted that the directory is an education resource that’s also useful to families without special-needs children.
Navigational tools provide family members with tips on transitioning between schools by providing questions to ask and offering forms to download.
“It’s organized in a way that makes it very [user-friendly]. The feedback we’ve gotten from families has been great,” Tyner said.
The directory comprises two components: one on early intervention for children up to age 2, and another for school-aged children and young adults up to age 22, and both provide a substantive guide of tools and resources to make education transitions easier during a PCS move.
While the directory on Military OneSource neither compares nor rates schools, it will walk family members through school districts near the new installation and lists what schools offer for special-needs education opportunities and services, as well as enrollment numbers, Tyner explained.
“Contacts are listed so family members know who to call for more information,” he said.
Other tools in the directory include a checklist to give family members questions to ask at the new school and tips for organizing school records and other advice to help in the transition.
A common theme is that families look for special-needs education opportunities that are comparable to the school resources from which they’re moving, Tyner said. Laws ensure that special-needs education must provide comparable services, he added.
“Parents need to be sure the individualized needs, goals and objectives for their child are being met,” he said, even though the new school might be organized differently.
“The directory has been designed to help parents make better decisions, and it gives them information and tools as they work with their family members’ special needs,” Tyner said. “It shows the commitment by DOD to really put resources where they need to be for these families.”