Exceptional Families of the Military, Recipient

Managing the care of a family member with special needs can be difficult, especially for military families that may live far away from family and friends. That’s just one reason Exceptional Families of the Military (EFM) was founded in 2020 and why staff members were excited to receive promotional notepads to spread the word about the organization. Executive director and lead researcher Jennifer Bittner got involved after policy changes impacted her two children who have autism.Person in military uniform with spouse and child. “I remember feeling alone when my children were first diagnosed,” Bittner said. “I turned to EFM for help and now want other military families to know we are here to help.” Across all branches of the military, there are 146,000 people who are part of the Exceptional Family Member Program run by the Department of Defense (DOD). The goal of that program is to coordinate the assignment process to ensure special needs families are not sent to locations that lack adequate medical or educational resources. It also provides families with information about and referrals to local services, but Bittner said it can be difficult to navigate the program. Spreading the word with promotional notepads There’s no easy way to connect with families in the program. So, EFM staff members are handing out promotional notepads at all events they attend for military families. “Everyone can use a notepad, and we knew the option with a spot to color in would get used more by neurodivergent populations, including some of the people we help,” Bittner said. Bittner pointed out that EFM does more than advocate for families by doing some of its own research and identifying areas of improvement. Its goal is to create long-lasting systematic changes in the laws and regulations that affect families in the DOD’s Exceptional Family Member Program. It also provides direct family support and military support groups through its website and social media channels.

For more information about Exceptional Families of the Military, please visit https://exceptionalmilitaryfam.com/ opens in new window