AF brings parents and community together for special needs training

Vicki Farnsworth, Specialized Training of Military Parents program assistant director, speaks at the STOMP program offered at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Aug. 26, 2014. The class makes parents of special needs children aware of the resources available on base.( U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

Vicki Farnsworth, Specialized Training of Military Parents program assistant director, speaks at the STOMP program offered at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Aug. 26, 2014. The class makes parents of special needs children aware of the resources available on base.( U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

Vicki Farnsworth, Specialized Training of Military Parents program assistant director, steps aside while she shows the class a video during the STOMP program offered at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Aug. 26, 2014. The program was a two day long event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that brought together parents and professionals to learn and share ideas to better communicate with one another.(U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

Vicki Farnsworth, Specialized Training of Military Parents program assistant director, steps aside while she shows the class a video during the STOMP program offered at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., Aug. 26, 2014. The program was a two day long event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. that brought together parents and professionals to learn and share ideas to better communicate with one another.(U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexa Culbert)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.-- -- The small fluorescent lit room was filled with chatter and the aroma of hot pizza. It was a lunch break at the Specialized Training of Military Parents program. The participating parents, grandparents, and guardians faces gleamed with pride as they shared stories and photos of their kids with one another. Everyone laughed and conversed like they were a part of a private club.

In a way they were, each attendee at the Maxwell Airman Family Readiness center's class held Aug. 25-26, had two things in common. They had some sort of tie to the military and they all had a child with special needs.

"We're one big military family and we want to help each other," said Vicki Farnsworth, STOMP program assistant director.

The class addressed subjects such as, parent's and children's rights and responsibilities, health care options, wills and guardianship, and how to better communicate with the school systems.

"There is no instruction manual to guide families to the resources they need. STOMP provides them the path they need to find the right resources available to them," said, Adrian Martinez, Stomp program training coordinator. The goal of the STOMP program is to inform parents of their rights and the service available and to be an advocate for them and their children."

The information provided is not only valuable, but it's provided by people who can speak from personal experience. All the instructors at the STOMP program were military spouses with special needs children of their own.

"There is so much information and resources out there that people can share here and not feel like they're all alone and the only one dealing with these issues," added Capt. Lisa Jones, 42 Medical Group nurse practitioner.

According to Jasmine Cravens, Elmore County school Special Education compliance facilitator, professionals from schools can also gain some insight on the parent's and child's perspectives, and bridge the gap between the school systems and parents. These perspectives also help the schools meet families' needs and expectations.

" All military parents with special needs children should attend this program, it provides parents with a tool kit to effectively engage with school systems to advocate for children's education," said Paula Flavell, Commanders' Professional Development School course director.