This guest post is by Karen Driscoll, who is a Marine wife, mother of three (one with autism) and ACT Today! For Military Families Campaign Director.
The expression “Warrior Mom” is often used throughout the autism community. It is a badge of honor describing the battles mothers have engaged in to help their children experience the opportunities in life every child deserves. As Warrior Moms, we put our dukes up to fight for care and treatment; we work diligently to educate and build awareness within our communities, and we mentor and support others along the journey. We are fierce. We are wise. We are compassionate. We are Mothers.
“Warrior Mom” takes on a whole new meaning when put in the context of the military family impacted by autism. The military family wages a battle on two fronts: one for our country and another for our children. As a Marine wife and a mother of a young child with autism, this is very personal. I understand all too well the challenges autism brings to the military family and I have become a vocal advocate for our children with special needs.
I work alongside several other military spouses (across all branches of service) who have children with autism, to raise awareness of the challenges that military families with special needs face. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for military families with disabilities and special healthcare needs by advocating for the medical necessity of evidence-based treatments and other much-needed family supports and assistance. Working toward comprehensive policy and legislative reform is never an easy task, especially when putting things in context of the Department of Defense or the Senate/House Armed Services Committee.
The statistics are staggering. One in 88 military children has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, and less than 10 percent of these special children are receiving recommended care and treatments. This is why First Lady Michelle Obama met with Marine Corps families at Camp Pendleton recently to discuss policy reform and to work toward improving services and supports for military children. I was fortunate to be part of this important meeting with the First Lady and witness what another Marine wife described as “the opportunity for parents of children with autism to break through the glass ceiling” and reach key individuals who are in a position to resolve many of the issues our families face.
Mrs. Obama listened as parents highlighted the challenges military families with special needs experience to access appropriate care and treatment services through TRICARE, the health insurance system for members of the U.S. military. Families impacted by autism discussed the tremendous emotional and financial strains caused by the limited services under existing TRICARE programs and emphasized the importance of improving TRICARE coverage of autism care.
“My goal is to help the rest of our country better understand and appreciate the incredible service of you and your families, and to make sure your voices are heard back in Washington and that your needs are met,” said Mrs. Obama. “I am launching a national challenge to Americans to find ways to rally support of the military family. One percent of America may be fighting our wars, but 100% of America needs to be supporting parents in that fight.”
I am humbled by the First Lady’s commitment to the military child. Military families shoulder significant responsibilities today and make tremendous sacrifices few can fully appreciate. Military families impacted by autism have additional stresses as they cope with extraordinary circumstances and limited treatments our precious children urgently need and deserve. Autism is treatable, and with treatment our children can make significant gains, but funding for these vital services is limited and often elusive for the military family. I echo the First Lady’s challenge to America to please support military families who have sacrificed so much and I ask for your particular attention to the unique needs of military children with autism.
In the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, “We’re working to be an America where more people not only understand the service and sacrifice that [military] families make, but where more Americans take action to help lighten your load.” Military families deserve the quality of care equal to their heroic service and sacrifice in defense of our nation, our people, and our freedom.
To learn more about legislation and policy initiatives for the military family affected by autism, please visit www.autismvotes.org/military.
ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing funding to families that cannot afford or access the treatments their children with autism need. It was founded by Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, a renowned expert in the field of autism and Applied Behavior Analysis. Through direct donation, corporate sponsorship, and community generosity, ACT Today! is changing the lives of children TODAY. Recognizing the extraordinary challenges military families impacted by autism experience, ACT Today! has launched ACT Today! for Military Families a fundraising campaign benefiting military children with autism to help defray out of pocket medical costs. For more information on how to help a military family impacted by autism, go to: www.acttodayformilitaryfamilies.org.