MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the country was approximately 250 million in 1990, with 12,500 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Twenty years later, the population grew to 307 million, with the rate of autism in children jumping to more than 3 million.
With such a large jump in the number of infants children diagnosed with autism, the military is by no means impervious to such handicaps. That is why a number of military families with handicapped children seek the help of the Exceptional Family Member Program and the Educational and Developmental Intervention Services to assist them in treating their children.
“Out of the Navy and the Marine Corps, there are only three bases with these two programs,” said Navy Capt. Joseph McBreen, medical consultant for the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune EDIS. “The one here aboard Lejeune, Beaufort S.C., and Quantico, Va., are fully equipped to provide early intervention services.”
Specifically, these two programs assist family members in diagnosing their childrens’ possible handicap while also providing treatment and any medicine that may be necessary. Testing and treatment are at no expense to the family.
“The EFMP is a personal assignment program which assures family members are sent to bases where their child may be treated,” said McBreen. “The EDIS is where the children actually acquire the assistance they may need after a diagnosis.”
Enrolled children are broken into two age groups, zero to three and three to 21 years of age, geared toward a child’s school enrollment to help handicapped children in various ways. In their respective schools, children are given special care depending on their situation by EDIS personnel. At home, parents are taught any care procedures needed in the treatment of their child for however long is necessary.
“The overall purpose is to maximize a child’s development in whatever area that may be,” said McBreen. “It’s not so much curing a child as it is making them and their families accept who they are and help them to be successful.”
A disability does not mean a child is sick or injured in any way, only that he or she requires additional assistance in their developmental period to give them the tools for success. The EFMP and EDIS programs are here as a free service to military members, for the phrase “never leave a man behind” extends to our warriors’ families, as well.