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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Military Parents of Special Needs Children is here to help

By Cpl. Brian Kester | | July 10, 2006

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Major Ray Ayer, pilot training officer-in-charge, VMFA-224, MCAS Beaufort, helps his son, Ray, sight in on his target at the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Training Building aboard the Depot during the Military Parents of Special Needs Children function in June.

Major Ray Ayer, pilot training officer-in-charge, VMFA-224, MCAS Beaufort, helps his son, Ray, sight in on his target at the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Training Building aboard the Depot during the Military Parents of Special Needs Children function in June. (Photo by Special to The Boot)


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MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- With more than 200 children in the Tri-Command area on the Exceptional Family Members list, groups have cropped up to give support for families with special needs in any way that they can.

One such group is the Military Parents of Special Needs Children, which is constantly evolving to garner more awareness and support for the families it helps.

The group, according to its bylaws, was created to support and promote the betterment of the families with special needs in the Tri-Command area, as well as to raise funds for the further advancement of activities benefiting those same families.

"This group was started by local military parents with our advice and guidance [in mind]," said Lesa Didas, Exceptional Family Member Coordinator. "We saw a need for an organization that helps support families dealing with a family member with special needs. Our goal is to promote good will, friendship and networking opportunities among families in the Tri-Command. We hope to help enhance family life and stability by providing support, training, advocacy and social activities in conjunction with monthly support group meetings."

The MPSNC was established and given its current name in September 2005, however, the coordinators are trying to revamp it to increase interest.

"The program is currently called Military Parents of Special Needs Children, but after realizing a more extensive need for services, the staff is in the process of renaming the group," said Jennifer Comford, a MPSNC volunteer. "It is the desire of the support group to make it known that you don't need to be a parent of an exceptional family member in order to take part.

"We recognize a need for spouses or the active duty member who may have had a recent diagnosis to receive support as well. The group is currently reviewing potential changes of the name that will reflect our goal of meeting the needs of any family who has a need for this type of support."

The group also wishes to emphasize the team 'special needs' is not limited to a diagnosis like autism, Down syndrome or other genetic disorders.

"It also refers to a diagnosis such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, depression, post-partum depression, organ failure, organ transplants or other medical types of diagnosis," Comford added.

According to Tiffany Patrick, a MPSNC volunteer, the program is open to anyone; however, the primary focus is our military families.

The group has several programs that are used in conjunction with local schools, added Didas.

For example, the Key Friendship Program is geared toward school age children. It was designed to help them develop understanding and sensitivity toward people with disabilities.

The group is always looking for volunteers to help out with the coordination or execution  of events.

"Anyone is welcome to participate through volunteering," Patrick said  in reference to providing childcare or helping with training. "In the past we have had great support from the Single Marine Program, that gave us some wonderful volunteers from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 273. These young Marines come out to provide child care and the kids just love them. They interact so well with the children without giving any thought to a child's disability. They simply see a kid who wants to play, and they are delighted to accommodate the children."

All of the MPSNC activities are in held in the evenings on the fourth Tuesday of every month and many times child care is provided.

"There is also an e-mail list that anyone can join to receive information about upcoming meetings and training opportunities," said Didas.

To be added to the e-mail list, send a request to Tiffany Patrick at ltpatrick@hargray.com, or for more information on becoming a Military Parents of Special Needs Children volunteer, please call Lesa Didas at 843-228-3188.


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