Strengthening Children – The Special Education Process

A guest post by Kimberly Wilkerson

Family is everything. Two months ago, at the end of a 12+ year stint in the Portland, OR area, I packed up a house, a speech pathology career and a t-shirt business and moved to Idaho with the sole purpose to be a constant, positive, and fun influence in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives. (And two months later – despite the craziness of “starting over” – it’s absolutely worth it!)

As co-owner of MyFreedom MyFamily T-Shirts ( and a speech-language pathologist who advocates for kids and their families, I recognize and praise the importance of family as the foundational unit of our society. Our communities need strong families and families are strengthened as each member is valued, loved and supported in the specific ways they individually need to grow and thrive.

Sometimes the younger members of our families need extra support on their path of development and education. U.S. schools provide opportunities for specialized instruction to students who need extra support to succeed in academic requirements. Some of you may have students already receiving special education services and others may be wondering if your child could benefit from such services.

What is special education and how do you know if your child needs it?

Your school provides a team of professionals specialized in areas that target academic learning needs, childhood psychology, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and in some schools – autism, deaf and hard of hearing and assistive technology.  Those of us who work with your children seek to create an environment that provides meaningful and fun opportunities for your child to learn, reach goals, and experience happiness.

If you have specific concerns about your child’s development and academic progress, you have a right to request review and assessment in the particular area(s) of concern. Often, school districts have established intervention processes that can be implemented immediately to provide tiered support for your child with progress monitoring at regular intervals to determine if more support/instruction is required. If “in-class” supports are not demonstrating adequate results, a referral is made to the special education team for a comprehensive evaluation in the area of concern (e.g., academics, speech-language, occupational therapy). Results of the evaluation help guide the team in determining the best plan to support your child at school.

How can you help your child in the special education process?

Parents may wonder if their concerns are relevant. Many assume the challenges they see at home are typical and their child will grow out of them or overcome them with further schooling. For families who frequently move – as is the case with military families – their child may have been referred for in-class supports and interventions and/or special education services, but did not qualify for those services based upon numerous factors. Keep in mind – districts’ criteria for special education services vary and criteria for many services is based up a child’s age at testing. So, if you’re child struggled with saying their “l” and “r” sounds at age 6 years and did not meet criteria for therapy services last year, they very well could be eligible for therapy services this school year.

When it comes to kids, all concerns are relevant, and bringing forward those concerns should always result in increased understanding and knowledge of how to help your child. Even if specialized instruction is not warranted, strategies and tools you can implement at home to help your child can always be provided by teachers and specialists. Though not comprehensive, the following is a list of academic, language, speech, and motor-based skills that are necessary for school success. If your child demonstrates challenges in these areas, it may be advantageous to talk to your school team about his/her progress and performance in class:

  • Reading fluency

  • Reading comprehension

  • Understanding vocabulary

  • Using vocabulary in the correct context

  • Formulating grammatically correct sentences (oral and written)

  • Expressing thoughts and ideas in a written format

  • Ability to retell a story or sequence information

  • Grade-level math concepts and problems

  • Using writing tools (e.g., crayons, pens, pencils) effectively

  • Using cutting and eating tools effectively

  • Ability to manipulate objects in self-care (e.g., buttoning, tying shoelaces)

  • Following multi-step directions

  • Understanding and using age-appropriate social cues in peer and adult interactions

  • Producing speech sounds correctly in conversation

What is best practice for communicating concerns and collaborating with your school team?

Transparency and clear communication is critical in helping your child receive the supports to meet challenges they’re facing. You should expect it from your school team and they should expect it from you as a parent.

Keep organized records of all screenings, testing, evaluation reports and provided at-home strategies and resources. This is particularly important when frequently relocating to different towns and school districts. Concise, clear information results in a smoother transition for your child and a new school team can easily step in and resume the necessary support more efficiently.

If a new concern arises or if you’re voicing a concern for the first time, take a few moments to document the specific challenges you’re observing, including how those challenges are impacting home and school tasks. If background information is relevant to the observed challenges (e.g., history of multiple ear infections, family history of stuttering, extended absences from school), please document and share that information with the team.

One final thought – I love working with parents who are willing to seek answers, find solutions and help and encourage their child in education-based goals at home. Collaboration between parents and school staff is always better for kids than independent objectives and plans. Kids succeed faster and better when we’re all working together in their behalf.

So, ask questions. Seek resources. Suggest ideas.

When we work collectively to support and strengthen one – we grow power in the family. And that power blesses us as a nation.

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Army Training Expands To Esports

The Army is expanding its expertise into the arena of Esports. No, modern war fighting hasn’t gone full AI, but the Army is seeking new ways to recruit new soldiers into its ranks. In 2018, during a time in which the Army aims to increase its numbers by about 25,000 to more than 500,000 over the next four years, it missed its recruiting goal for the first time since 2005.

As the mom of four sons, I am very familiar with the role of video games in young people’s lives, so the idea that the Army is looking at video games as a way toward recruitment makes perfect sense to me.  As a way to immerse itself among its target population, the Army is setting up teams of gamers to compete in gaming tournaments across the nation. What better way to reach America’s teens coming of age than to meet them in their own digital world? This effort originated some 15 years ago when the Army created its own First Person Shooter game, aimed at enlisting real world soldiers. The Army now hopes that by mixing with today’s youth, and showing that current soldiers can play video games competitively, they will encourage young people to join their ranks.

Soldiers will try out for the Esports teams which will then become part of the Army’s Marketing and Engagement Team. The video gamer team will operate similarly to the Golden Knights Parachute Team and Army Marksmanship Unit, traveling to special events around the country, and competing in the name of the Army, gaining much needed positive publicity.


The Army’s struggle to keep recruitment numbers up is partly because in our current economic climate there are low unemployment rates, as well as a shrinking pool of 17- to 24-year-old Americans who can meet the military’s entry requirements — about two-thirds are ineligible due to things like poor physical fitness or drug use. The members of the new Esports team will have to be physically fit, in addition to being digitally savvy.  By mixing with other competitors at the tournaments, team members can meet young people in their own environment, show the new side of the Army and encourage young people to sign up to be soldiers. Old recruiting methods are still available, but in order to remain successful in increasing their numbers in today’s economic climate, the Army is modernizing its approach. Meeting young people in their arena is a logical next step. Esports is growing exponentially, so the Army is looking to piggy back on its growth.

The Army’s Esports efforts are growing quickly. Soldiers interested in joining the esports team can apply via an online form.

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Target Offers 10% Discount To Military This Week

During the week leading up to Veteran’s Day, Military Families and Veterans can get a stackable 10% discount at our beloved Target!

Target Coupon

Visit the registration website now to get your personalized code. I did it today and it is very easy.  You just have to enter a few bits of information and upload a document to prove your affiliation to the military. They accept a number of documents, including a Leave and Earnings Statement (I used this but blocked out the ssn), current orders, Veterans ID card, and more. The verification process is quick and you’ll receive an email with a unique code to use online or in store.

Happy Shopping!


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New Tricare Vision Coverage

DOS_Phase2_Understanding_Moms_Half Page_TRICARE and FEDVIP

Anyone who has vision trouble or family members who do, knows how expensive it is to pay out of pocket for exams and contact/glasses.

In 2019, a brand new vision benefit will be available to eligible to active duty family members through Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP).

Eligible beneficiaries can enroll in one of FEDVIP’s four vision plans. Plans vary in coverage and cost, and may include routine eye exams, eyeglasses, and contact lenses.

Coverage is not automatic! You must enroll during Open Season, Nov. 12- Dec., 2018.

Visit to learn more and sign up for updates.

Don’t Forget, Save the Date! Federal Benefits Open Season Nov. 12- Dec., 2018



Visit Now



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Coalition Formed to Address Military Family Food Insecurity

Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) convenes top hunger- and food security-organizations to support military families facing food insecurity
A newly formed coalition of service, advocacy, and education organizations has made combating food insecurity among military families a top priority. This coalition will work together to understand the landscape, needs, and how the nuances of military life can impact a family’s ability to meet this fundamental need. According to MFAN’s Military Family Support Programming Survey, food insecurity is something experienced by 15% of military and veteran family respondents.

“Our research shows that not all military families have enough food to feed themselves and their families,” said Shelley Kimball, Ph.D., MFAN’s director of research. “This should not be a reality for families who are devoting their lives to service, but unfortunately, it is.”

Coalition members include: Feeding America, Food Research & Action Center, National WIC Association, and United Way.

The group will work together to address three key areas: education on the issue and the resources available, reduction of shame for those in need, and increased access to services.

“As an organization, we recognize that we are not the experts on food insecurity. However, we do know our community and know how to convene the right people and organizations to advance an issue,” said MFAN’s executive director, Shannon Razsadin. “We know that with these organizations involved, we will be able to help military families put food on the table—there’s not much that’s more important than that.”

Contact MFAN’s research director, Shelley Kimball, PhD for more information on this initiative and to get involved:


# # #

The Military Family Advisory Network is a nonprofit dedicated to building a community of military and veteran families at home and abroad who are well-informed about the resources designed to serve them, equipped with tools for success, connected to leaders who serve the military family community and embraced by the public. To learn more about MFAN, visit

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Space of Love- A Book About Living With Autism


Space of Love
Understanding the Power of Thought and Wisdom in Living with Autism

By Gayle Nobel

I was helping my son in the shower this morning. It was very early and I was feeling a bit grumpy about having to be awake and busy at 5 AM.

As I settled into the tasks, I found myself dropping into the present moment. The grumpy feelings began to pass as I remembered that moments very similar to these inspired my poem titled Space of Love. This poem eventually became the title of my third book on living with autism.

My son Kyle, an amazing soul who happens to have autism, still lives at home at the age of 34. He needs a lot of assistance with many things, hence our daily meet ups in the bathroom for shower, shave and grooming.

I wrote Space of Love when I realized I had something very important to share with the autism world. I had seen something deep and powerful that I couldn’t unsee.

In one of my stories I pose the question, “What if the stress and strain you feel isn’t coming from the condition of autism, your child’s behavior or challenges, or the obstacles in your life?”

At this point the reader might respond,“What? Of course it is. My stress comes directly from autism in the form of worry, fear, and exhaustion. It comes directly from my child in the form of behavior, learning challenges, extra parental demands, etc.”

I gently invite the reader to look in a different direction. To understand that there is a powerful force at play between a situation or condition such as autism and our personal feelings and experience of it.

This force is a formless energy called the gift of thought. Thought energy is a constant hum within us. We hear bits and pieces in the form of mind chatter or personal thinking but much of it is deep below the surface of our awareness.

Thought is the paint that creates our experience whether it be happy or sad, stressed or relaxed. It colors the lens through which we view life and literally paints our separate realities. We can’t have a feeling without thought because thought creates feeling.

So autism will be autism. My son may still need help in the shower every morning. And my experience of all of that will change as the energy of thought flows through me. I am crabby one moment and grateful the next. I might experience showering my son as an obligation or a Space of Love.

Thought is quick and slick. It shows up uninvited. Fortunately, it is also fluid. Therefore my feelings and my experiences are fluid. Thought needs something called consciousness to bring it to life and create the movie of our experience.

There is comfort in seeing my experience is created from the inside out, not the outside in. This means autism doesn’t need to be fixed for me to feel okay, even great. The implications of this are incredible and vast.

Simply getting a tiny glimpse of this understanding has the power to completely change our experience. As the outside world may appear static and unchanging, there is comfort in knowing “this too, shall pass”. While it might sound cliche, this is exactly the nature of thought. Like the water in a river, it is always in motion.

As thought begins to settle, we begin to settle too. From that space, there is room for wisdom to slip in. Wisdom comes in the form of insight which is brand new thought or a sense of knowing we may not have seen or known before.

For me, that might look like a bright idea on how to help Kyle be more independent in the shower. Or maybe an inkling that it might be time to get some help with this task. Something fresh and new occurs to me that couldn’t make its way to my awareness when my personal thinking was revved up like a marching band.

Similar to thought, the gift of wisdom or intuition is a powerful energy. It seems to spring from within yet at the same time, it is, in essence, the spiritual energy to which we are all connected. It is part of the same energy that grows a human in the womb or a flower in the garden. Wow!

In understanding the gift and power of thought and wisdom, we may start to sense resilience is part of us, as it is only one thought away. We strain less, and listen more.

In seeing this, we begin to know that peace and grace are available to us on the most challenging journeys, including the one with autism.



Space of Love consists of stories and poetry. Here’s a sample.


A child with Autism
When you tell people, they seem sad
a momentary gaze of pity crosses their face Beyond compassion, sympathy perhaps

Life gave you a lemon, say their eyes “He’s so handsome though”

A lemon
Something to deal with
An obstacle to happiness and a good life

Something to reframe
Put a new lens on the glasses
from which you gaze out into your world

Make the best of it if you can Squeeze that lemon, add sugar Make lemonade
The only way to make it okay

But what if …

the lemon-ness of autism is not real
 but made of thought?

And our experience does not come from our child, his behavior, his autism but from lemony thoughts.

They create our lemony experience.

What if we have the ability to allow the energy of thought to float through, knowing there is something new that will come along?

Something sweeter at any moment in time

Nothing to do but wait live
and love.

The transient nature of thought creates the transient nature of our experience

Yes, transient

We can see something new without effort
changing our child

No squeezing of lemons because lemons don’t exist

They are not solid like the ones on my tree They are made of the formless energy of thought

A relief to know I don’t have to fix my son, so handsome
or my experience,
so fluid

Or make a single glass of lemonade

Author bio: Gayle Nobel is an author, transformative life coach, parent mentor, blogger, and inspirational speaker. She has a lifelong connection to autism through her brother and son. Gayle has a BA in Special Education and Elementary Education from Arizona State University. She received life coach training through the International Coach Academy and Michael Neill’s Supercoach Academy. Space of Love is her third book on living with autism. Gayle resides in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and son. To learn more, visit:
Book Synopsis: For people living with a child or adult with autism, special needs, or any life situation that is emotionally difficult: If you feel like you have reached the end of your rope and have run out of solutions, Space of Love offers an energizing lifeline and a brand new perspective on how to approach many personal concerns.
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Transitioning to a Civilian Job? Four Tips for Veterans Facing a Career Change

Guest Post:

For many military service members, transitioning out of the armed forces does not mean immediate retirement from work. Veterans often choose to pursue a second career after leaving the service to continue to support their family and gain experience in a new field. There are many tools available to assist these individuals in finding new career opportunities, including newly announced Google search features that help veterans identify openings that match their unique skill set. While this is great news, a career transition can still be daunting. For men and women who are facing a move out of the military, here are four tips to help navigate the career change.

Register for Transition Assistance Program (TAP) classes and make use of all your resources

One of the many great resources offered to servicemembers is Transition Assistance Program (TAP) classes. These classes are designed to help servicemembers transition out of the service more easily and include seminars and workshops on helpful topics including resume writing, skill assessments, interview tips and Veterans’ Benefits. Once you’ve made the decision to retire from the service, you should register for TAP classes to become more informed and properly begin your transition.

In addition to TAP classes, you can research other online resources and seminars offered by organizations like the AAFMAA , the USO, and the VFW. And don’t forget to make use of your personal network! If you know someone who recently transitioned to a non-military career, consider reaching out and asking them to meet up for lunch or coffee to hear about their experiences.

Identify your career preferences before beginning a job search  

While you’re serving in the Armed Forces, your career path is usually well defined based on the amount of time you’ve served as well as your branch and rank. For veterans who are transitioning out of the service, especially those who entered at a young age, transition may be the first time your career path is completely wide-open. While the chance for a new start is very promising, it can also be daunting if you don’t know where to start. When you arrive at this crossroads, step back and ask yourself a few questions before diving into the job search. A few questions to consider include:

  • If you were involved in a specialized area of the service (i.e. engineering, technology or medicine), would you like to stay in that general field when working as a civilian?
  • Do you have a preference as to the type of company would you like to work for? For example, would you prefer services or manufacturing, and other similar criteria?
  • Are you looking to stay in the same geographical area or are you open to moving to a new location?
  • Do you require further education or training and is this something you’d need to undergo before starting the job or can it be done while you are working?

These questions are just the beginning and are by no means all-encompassing. It’s also important to discuss your career plan and ideas with your spouse and family, since they will be affected. These discussions can often lead to additional questions that pertain to your family’s unique situation.

Find ways to leverage your military experience for a new career

One of the greatest challenges for a veteran who is entering the civilian workforce can be finding ways to explain the qualifications they earned in the military to a potential new employer. Remember that it may be hard for a new employer to see the connections between military-specific skills and skills needed for their new hire, particularly if the job is in a completely different industry. To leverage your abilities within the context of a new position, it helps to identify the impact and results of your military work and identify the broader skills you used to achieve your outcomes. A civilian employer will not always understand the day-to-day duties of your work in the service, but things like leadership, organization and strategic thinking resonate well across all industries.

When you land an interview, prepare adequately

Conduct research on the company you are interviewing with and be prepared to share with the hiring manager some specific ways you can bring value to the company. It might be helpful to conduct a practice interview with a trusted friend or relative, preferably someone who hasn’t served in the military. When you practice responses, avoid jargon and technical language. If the person you’re practicing with doesn’t understand your responses, it’s likely the potential employer won’t either!

During an interview, it’s also important for you to come with questions of your own. I mentioned further education and training earlier. While this might not be a requirement for hiring, if it’s something you’re interested in, you may want to ask the employer if they have any programs for continued education and training. This demonstrates initiative and a desire to make you more valuable to the company. Another good question to ask might be “What are your goals for the company in the 30/60/90 days?” Pay attention to their answer and be prepared to explain how your unique skills can help them meet these goals.

Job transitions and interviews are stressful for everyone, no matter what your work history is. For the men and women of the Armed Forces, they can be especially daunting. However, there are plenty of tools out there designed to help veterans make the next move after retiring from the services and these tips are a great place to start!


Carlos Perez is the COO and Assistant Secretary of AAFMAA. Prior to joining AAFMAA, Perez served over twenty-six years of active duty Army leadership as an Engineer Officer in a variety of command and staff assignments, including battalion command in the United States and operational and combat deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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SMALLFOOT – Yeti Or Not Here We Come! GIVEAWAY

As a military family on a budget, living overseas has provided us with opportunities to explore the world in ways we would not if we were stationed Stateside.  We’ve been very lucky to have lived overseas for about half of Horatio’s Naval career.  We’ve traveled in Europe, Africa, Australia, and of course- Asia.  Given the opportunity, though, there are still many places I’d love to venture to with my family.  The world is huge and I want to continue exploring it.  I never know what wonderful places, sites and people we will discover when we travel.

The movie, Smallfoot, is about such exploration and discovery.

An animated adventure for all ages, with original music and an all-star cast, “Smallfoot” turns a myth upside down when a bright young yeti finds something he thought didn’t exist—a human.

News of this “smallfoot” throws the simple yeti community into an uproar over what else might be out there in the big world beyond their snowy village, in an all new story about friendship, courage and the joy of discovery.


“Smallfoot” stars Channing Tatum (“The LEGO® Batman Movie,” the “Jump Street” films),  Zendaya (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”), Common (“Selma”), LeBron James (upcoming “Space Jam 2”), Danny DeVito (“The Lorax,” Oscar nominee for “Erin Brockovich”), Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), and Yara Shahidi (TV’s “Black-ish”).  It debuts in theaters on September 28.

Smallfoot_(film) one sheet

Comment below on where you’d visit if you could and you will be entered to win a Smallfoot gift package that includes:

·         4 Fandango code cards for you and your family to enjoy this film when it releases in theaters.

·         Adorable stickers from the movie

·         Activity posters and sheets for the kids

·         A blue Smallfoot notebook

Share the post for an extra entry and leave a comment telling me you did so.

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8 Things You Need to Know When You Take an Overseas Posting

  1.  You may or may not be able to take your household goods.   Well, of course you can take your belongings, but you might be extremely limited in your weight allowance.  The good news is that if this is the case, your overseas housing will be furnished.  Make sure you find out what kind of housing you’ll have before you decide what to pack, and pack anything you feel will make your house feel like home.
  2.  You’ll make fast friends, if you are open to it.  Unlike other military posting locations, most of the people you’ll meet will be transplants there, just like you.  So, most people are open to making new friends.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you can make deep connections with new friends.
  3. You can live in a bubble on base, without exploring or getting to know your host country; but why would you want to?  Get out and see what’s beyond the post gates.  See sights, hike, eat new foods.
  4. You can always find someone to explore with you, you just need to ask. Find out how people in the community communicate, most likely a texting app, download it and get involved.
  5. You’ll be able to use the US mail system to shop at most of your favorite online stores.  Walmart, Target and Amazon will still be your go-to shops for your basic needs.
  6. You will have to ship your liquids in your hhg or buy locally.  You can only ship up to 16 ounces per box while you are overseas and using the FPO/APO mail system.
  7. You’ll go through stages of adjustment, starting with complete shock, but you will eventually adjust.  Your attitude can make you or break you, so try to keep a positive perspective.
  8. You’ll figure it all out and probably won’t want to leave at the end of your tour.


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First Look- Operation Finale- A film about the capture of Adolf Eichmann

Operation Finale, a major motion picture starring Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac, tells the true story of Israel’s Mossad operation to hunt down and capture Holocaust evil mastermind Adolf Eichmann in 1960. The film premiered in New York earlier this week and will be released to the general public next Wednesday, August 29.

OF - One sheet 2

The film starts fifteen years after the end of World War II, when, acting on irrefutable evidence, a top-secret team of Israeli Mossad agents travel to Argentina where Eichmann (Kingsley) has been in hiding together with his family under an alias Ricardo Klement and execute an extremely dangerous abduction. In attempting to sneak him out of Argentina to stand trial in Israel while being pursued by the country’s right-wing forces, agent Peter Malkin (Isaac) is forced to engage Eichmann in an intense and gripping game of cat-and-mouse with life-and-death stakes.

Watch the trailer:

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