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One thing I wish I’d known about IEPs and the Military

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

Having a child with special needs or who is involved in special education can be exhausting for the child and the parent because with age comes new hurdles and new things to learn for everyone involved. What worked at 4 may not work at 6. Now add to that the stress of being affiliated with the military. Whether you or the service member is Active Duty, Reserves, or National Guard each of them has their struggles and has an impact on the service member, spouse, and their children.

Some common stressors:
  1. Temporary Single Parenting [What I call it, lol] – When the service member is deployed, on a temporary duty assignment, in the field for training, working late nights

  2. Handling most if not all the disciplinarian situations – Receiving all the behavior phone calls or concerns, having to attend review and respond to behavior reports, having to “go up to … school/cdc”, attending the meetings alone

  3. Sick Days/Quarantine [COVID is still having an impact] – Being the one to take off, stay home, or pick up the child when sick or they must quarantine

  4. Inability to Communicate – In today’s world everyone thinks we have sixty thousand ways to communicate BUT being married to a service member spouses know that they are not always allowed to have their phone on their person, not always allowed to use their phone, and not always allowed to respond when the crisis/situation is occurring

  5. Lack of Understanding – Everyone doesn’t understand the stress that comes with being a military spouse and a parent and so when venting many may not be able to truly empathize the way we hope or need

  6. PCS (Permanent Change of Station) – Moving can have a huge impact. Different school, different state, new transitions for student and family, new adjustments, and sometimes the stress of preparing for the move then moving and getting settled can impact the parents thus impacting the child.

  7. Services – A big component is finding the necessary services for our children. Whenever we move that means a new PCM (Primary Care Manager or Primary Care Provider) which means a new referral, which means a new waitlist, which means a new time before services can be implemented. Are the services they were previously getting even available in the area, or will you have to travel? Do virtual? Does your child do better with in person?

  8. School Changes – Private school, public school, DODEA (Department of Defense Education Act) School. The location of the school and the type of school determines their IEP Process and determines the child’s eligibility for certain classifications and the availability of certain services.

Our oldest son is 6 years old, and he has already moved 4 times, experienced his dad deploying 2 times, attended 3 different child development centers (cdcs), and attended two separate elementary schools and he is only in 1st grade! That’s a lot.

So, what do I wish I had known through this process:

EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program):

  • If your child has an IEP, they must be enrolled in Educational EFMP. The base EFMP Coordinator can assist with this

  • If your child has what is qualified as a Medical Diagnosis, i.e., Autism then they need to be enrolled in Medical EFMP. The base EFMP Coordinator can assist with this

  • EFMP Family Support Coordinator can attend IEP meetings with you as a support! They are typically housed at your Community Service Center on base.


  • Each state has a classification system for IEP diagnosis and whether your child qualifies for an IEP based on that diagnosis, so it is important to know what the incoming states classification states

  • DODEA has its own process, its own classifications system and the website discusses that in detail

Military Interstate Children’s Compact

  • This was created to assist military families (active duty, reserves, and national guard) with key educational transitions

School Liaison

  • School Liaisons were specifically created to assist military service members and their families with navigating the school system, transitioning from one school to another, and communicating with the school system.

  • They have information on your child’s incoming school and can assist with navigating the state laws requiring the gap in school attendance due to pcs’ing specifically the military compact

Tricare Case Manager

  • If your child has a diagnosis such as Autism, they get a Case Manager via Tricare AND they provide you a list of providers in the area that provide the services your child needs

So are there things that you didn't know before that you have learned about? Is there anything you wish you had known or wish that you had done differently? Comment below, I loved to hear from you!


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