504 Plan Versus IEP Overview

Student working in classroom

School systems use both individualized education programs and 504 plans to meet the individual needs of students with special needs. The two documents have the same goal but take a different approach in helping students learn. One is not better than the other, just more appropriate for the student’s specific learning needs. Both the IEP and the 504 are legally binding documents created to ensure students with special needs receive the proper services or accommodations to reach their education goals.

Learning about the difference between IEP and 504 plans can be confusing for parents unfamiliar with special education laws and what they mean for their child. There are three federal laws that guarantee the rights of students with special needs: the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (special education law) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (civil rights law). Individual states set the guidelines on how they will provide IEP and 504 plan services and supports.

Individualized education program overview

To be eligible for an IEP, a student must meet criteria set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and have one of 13 specified conditions that are written in the law. However, having one of these conditions isn’t enough to ensure a student is eligible for special education and an IEP. The disability must also have an educational impact that negatively affects the student’s ability to learn. Lastly, it must be determined that the student requires specialized instruction to be academically successful. All three of these criteria 1) qualifying disability, 2) disability impacts learning and 3) student requires specialized instruction to achieve education goals, must be met for the student to be found eligible for special education. If all three of these criteria are met, an IEP will be developed to map out short- and long-term learning goals for the student and where and how these goals will be met.

Quick facts about IEPs

  • The parent or guardian is always an important member of the IEP team.
  • An IEP includes information on a student’s present levels of performance, annual goals, related services, possible changes to placement, accommodations and modifications.
  • Accommodations provide supports to access the curriculum (i.e. sitting at the front of the classroom to hear/see the teacher), where modifications might change the curriculum or the way a student accesses the curriculum.
  • School systems must review IEPs at least annually; parents must be notified in writing about the IEP meeting, the purpose of the meeting and be asked to attend.
  • A triennial review is conducted at least every three years to make sure the student continues to meet the eligibility criteria established by IDEA.
  • The IEP will be reviewed at each new school. It will be implemented as written or revised depending on the IEP, the school’s assessment of the student’s needs, and state/local policy on the IDEA and free and appropriate public education.
  • An IEP typically ends at the completion of high school, although it may go until age 21 if the student receives district services after high school, such as vocational and/or independent living instruction.

IEP review meetings

You have the right to prepare for your IEP meeting by asking for a draft copy of the IEP prior to the meeting. If you can’t get the draft, consider rescheduling until you receive it so you can arrive prepared for the meeting. Other tips to consider for your meeting include:

  • Remember you are the expert on your child and the one constant member of the IEP team from preschool to high school – you are there for the entire journey.
  • Write down your questions and ask for clarification. Involve a friend, EFMP Family Support provider, school liaison, teacher or community agency representative for a second set of eyes on the IEP draft before the meeting.
  • At the meeting, if you aren’t clear on the proposed recommendations, you have the right to ask your questions, disagree and make suggestions. You do not have to sign the IEP if you disagree, your child will still receive special education services while you consider options.

504 plan

If a student has a medical diagnosis or condition that impacts learning but doesn’t qualify for an IEP based on the three criteria, the student may qualify for a 504 plan instead. If the school recommends a 504 plan, ask questions like these for clarification:

  • Why do you believe a 504 plan is a better option for my child?
  • How can a 504 plan help my child in school?
  • How would the proposed 504 accommodations help remove learning barriers for my child?
  • How often can we meet about my child’s plan?
  • Who is on my child’s 504 plan team?

Remember, a 504 plan is a formal plan that schools develop to remove barriers to learning and give students with special needs or impairments the support they need. Typically, the changes or accommodations are made in the general education classroom and don’t require specialized instruction.  Because of this, a 504 plan is not special education and is not part of the IDEA. The 504 plan gets its name from section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and provides associated civil rights protections to the student.

One example of a student who may benefit from a 504 plan could be a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who needs extra time to take a test or complete homework. Perhaps the student also has a need for specific seating – maybe in the front of the class or next to the teacher to be less distracted by other students. These minor accommodations may be just what the student needs to thrive in the classroom.

A good 504 plan:

  • Is personalized for the student’s individual needs
  • Covers all the areas where help is needed
  • Describes specific services that the student needs. For example, the student may need assistive technology for reading – perhaps audiobooks – to hear as well as see what they are reading.

Check in with teachers on a regular basis to see how accommodations are working and if necessary, adjust the plan. You and the school should review and update the plan yearly to make sure it covers your child’s current challenges and eliminates unneeded accommodations.

There is no age limit on the 504 plan – so your child can take it to college or even to the workplace. The 504 plan doesn’t offer related services – like physical or occupational therapy, etc. Instead, the accommodations or supports even the playing field for your child so they can access learning the way their same-age peers do. There are no annual goals in a 504 plan – except the goal to make sure your child has what they need to be successful in the classroom.

Moving with an education plan

Since different school districts provide IEP and 504 plan services in different ways, military families may be concerned about continuity of services between PCS moves. However, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, a voluntary agreement between states and the military, helps to ease relocation issues. The compact calls for the temporary provision of IEP and 504 services comparable to the previous school’s until an IEP is created for the new school.

The Department of Defense State Liaison Office continues to work on the Advance Enrollment Initiative, which is now policy in many states. This initiative gives PCSing students the opportunity to register in a new/anticipated school district and begin coordinating their IEP or 504 plan requirements before they are physically located within the school district.

One of the most important steps military parents can take to pave the way when relocating is to involve their school liaison. School liaisons can also help with any other issues that arise with your child’s education, IEP or 504 plan.

Keep track of contacts, resources and your child’s progress and plan using the Special Care Organizational Record for Children with Special Health or Educational Needs. Visit EFMP & Me and review the education checklist to learn more about IEPs and 504 plans. And don’t hesitate to connect with an EFMP Family Support Provider, school liaison office or call to speak with a Military OneSource consultant at 800-342-9647 to get the information you need.

Students With Special Needs: Transitioning to Adulthood

Counselor and student working on computer

The transition to adulthood refers to activities to prepare students with special needs for adult life based on what is appropriate for the student given their interests, skills and needs.

  • Transition planning typically begins at age 14 and involves helping the student plan their course of study.
  • Transition services, or the planning for transitioning to adulthood for a student with an Individualized Education Program, must begin by age 16, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Students set measurable goals that they work towards until they finish high school. Once students graduate or leave the school system, there is no guaranteed program for them to enter.

Explore all options

During transition planning, students identify their education and career goals so they can work towards those goals through high school. If your teen is uncertain about their goals, they may want to talk to a career counselor and take career aptitude assessments to narrow their choice and focus. Depending on their interests and abilities, your teen may consider one of these options for transitioning to adulthood. By enrolling in targeted coursework, gaining work experience or learning trade skills through vocational rehabilitation, your student can clarify their ambitions for adulthood.

Start the planning conversation early and enlist others who know your child. This might be teachers, counselors, installation school liaisons, EFMP Family Support providers or Military OneSource special needs consultants. Work with your child and the team to create a plan to help your student achieve their goals.

Expand your support network

As your child continues through school, broaden your network of support and find additional ways to ease your child’s transition to adulthood. Learn more and make additional connections using these resources:

  • Reach out to your school liaison, who may be able to help you understand graduation requirements, enrollment dates, credit transfers and work with the district and your family to solve any problems that may arise.
  • Visit the Education Directory for Children With Special Needs: School-Age Directory (3-21). Locate your state or the state where you need services and find the secondary transition link to access information, contacts, resources and services on transitioning to adulthood for that state.
  • Locate your state’s Parent Training and Information Center, which is federally funded by the Department of Education, for information and resources available in your state.
  • Connect with the Office of Disability Services on campus if your child plans to go to a 2- or 4-year college or university. Typically, colleges provide the requirements and instructions for receiving disability services on their website. Follow the procedures and speak with the office to get registered properly to order to receive accommodations.
  • Learn about and establish secondary dependency of an adult family member to ensure your child can continue to receive military benefits and privileges, if eligible.

Learn to self-advocate

Another important step in the transition to adulthood is learning to self-advocate. Provide your teen suggestions and opportunities to build self-advocacy skills:

  • Educate your teen about their rights under IDEA and make sure they recognize those rights may change upon graduation. Invite them to attend IEP meetings and if appropriate, suggest they articulate their strengths and weaknesses and discuss the accommodations they need.
  • Encourage them to share information about their disability with friends, educators and potential employers if useful and if they feel comfortable. They may find it helpful if you practice that conversation with them beforehand.
  • Suggest they check into job programs at school to find a job or volunteer position to gain skills, experience and learn to work with others. If they earn a salary, it’s an excellent time to start the budget discussion.
  • Review Section 504: Eligibility and Employment Provisions and 504 Plan Versus IEP Overview so your teen will understand that schools and employers are required to supply reasonable accommodations to students and employees with special needs.
  • Support their independence as they begin working, volunteering or socializing. It may be tough to let go, but give them the freedom to grow, learn new skills and expand their perspective. Be interested and present if and when they want to discuss successes, frustrations or challenges.
  • Watch this video with your teen and talk about their reaction after hearing another teen reflect on how she learned to self-advocate, make decisions and prepare for transition to adulthood.

Every child is an individual with different needs, challenges and dreams. There is not a one size fits all solution for transition to adulthood. Use the EFMP & Me checklists for Adult and Continuing Education and Transitioning to Adulthood to stay on track and view the Post-Secondary Transition training module for ideas and information. Explore all options, build a support network and encourage self-advocacy as you work with your child to create the foundation for their successful transition.

Navigating Early Intervention Services

Smiling mother and child

Every child grows and learns at their own individual pace, but researchers agree that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical for learning. If you believe your child might have a developmental delay, providing early intervention services can help them learn and develop to their full potential. As a military family, there are services to help support you.

The Exceptional Family Member Program works with other community and military agencies to make sure you have the EIS support you and your infant or toddler need. Local school districts or health departments often provide these early intervention services.

Visit EFMP & Me.

Find tips and information on early intervention services and so much more.

EIS programs are called different names in different areas, but are often referred to as Part C because that is the section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that pertains to early intervention. Find a list of state Part C coordinators and programs by searching for your state in the Military OneSource Early Intervention Directory (Birth to 3).

Identifying the need for services

 Sometimes it’s hard to identify possible delays but reviewing milestone checklists and watching the short course on Childhood Development Milestones and Identifying Delays may be helpful. Consider downloading the CDC’s Milestone Tracker App.

Make a list of your concerns and questions and talk to your child’s pediatrician. Often, physicians will give you a referral for an early intervention evaluation and point you in the right direction. However, you don’t need to have a doctor’s referral to request an evaluation.

Finding services

Services under the early intervention program are available from birth through 36 months of age, in every state, and are typically provided in home and community settings. Your early intervention service coordinator oversees the services delivered by providers while your child is in early intervention.

CONUS families: The EFMP Family Support provider on your installation is a great point of contact to learn more about early intervention services in your location. The Early Intervention Directory (Birth to 3) is also a good resource, because the early intervention process is usually determined by where you live. Choose your state of residence (or where you are moving) to understand where to find services.

  • If your family lives on an installation with a Department of Defense Education Activity school, you must access early intervention screening and services through the Educational and Developmental Intervention Service at the installation military treatment facility.
  • If your installation does not have a DoDEA school, or you live off the installation, you must access Early Intervention Services for your child through local community services.

OCONUS families: Talk to the EFMP Family Support provider at your location to find out how to start the evaluation process or continue/transfer services. Use the Directory of Early Intervention, Special Education and Related Services in OCONUS Communities to find out which communities offer early intervention services and the types of services they provide.

Evaluation for early intervention

To learn more about the evaluation process, contact the or reach out to your state program. Discuss your concerns and request to have your child evaluated for eligibility for early intervention services. The goal of the evaluation, also called initial assessment or eligibility assessment, is to see if your child can use help with life skills such as talking, movement, learning, etc.

Evaluation steps typically include the following:

  • You will have a service coordinator/case manager assigned to answer your questions and oversee the process.
  • You must sign a written consent and agree to testing. You will then work out evaluation details with the service coordinator.
  • Evaluation location will typically be your home or another familiar location.
  • A team of two or more will conduct the evaluation: Developmental specialist, physical therapist, speech therapist, social worker/psychologist – all experienced with young children.
  • Evaluators may ask about child’s medical history. They could observe your child’s interactions with other family members, give standard tests to learn about skills and ask your child to complete play-based tasks.

Eligibility for services

After the evaluation, you’ll meet with the team to review the results and determine eligibility for services. Make sure you get all your questions answered and share if you have concerns or disagree with their findings.

Eligible: The team will write a plan that outlines the services and support your child will receive. Early intervention usually lasts until your child’s third birthday when your child may move to special education services under IDEA if needed.

Not eligible: If your child is not found eligible, and you disagree, you have the right to appeal the decision. You may also choose to research organizations with licensed professionals who can help you develop a plan and work with you and your child to overcome challenges.

Early intervention services

Early intervention focuses on improving skills in the following areas:

  • Physical (reaching, crawling, walking, drawing)
  • Cognitive (thinking, learning, problem solving)
  • Communication skills (talking, listening, understanding)
  • Self-help skills (eating, dressing)
  • Social or emotional skills (playing, interacting with others)

Services might include but are not limited to: Speech and language therapy, physical or occupational therapy, psychological services, hearing or vision services, social work services, transportation, assistive technology. Your service coordinator will support you in explaining the specific services your child needs.

Take advantage of all the resources and services available to you and your family through EFMP. Get started with the Early Intervention Fact Sheet and check out the Office of Special Needs EFMP & Me podcast series for information on enrollment, education, PCS, legal and long-term and financial planning and caregiving. And be sure to visit EFMP & Me, your 24/7 guide to everything EFMP.

Special Needs Considerations When You Separate or Retire From the Military

Mother with special needs child

As a military family with a family member with special needs, you probably have faced transition challenges like PCS moves, deployments and separations. The transition to civilian life will bring more change, but preparing ahead of time can help ease your family’s  shift to new support systems, resources and services.

Begin your separation journey by learning about transition assistance programs and resources. You can also schedule appointments with a Military OneSource consultant for transitioning veterans. Start early and contact your resources as often as needed to increase your post-transition success.

Build your plan.

Take these steps as part of your transition from the military to make sure you cover all the bases for your family member with special needs.

Capture and store necessary information.

Check out these tips to help you gather and keep information to have available when you need it.

  • Use EFMP & Me. Create customized checklists to guide you through planning for separation and retirement, transitioning your medical care, moving and so much more.
  • Contact the appropriate community agencies in your current or future location that provide services to support the disabled so you will have an understanding of available resources.
  • Keep a list of all important contacts you make as you prepare for transition. Take time to update the appropriate Special Care Organizational Record, and have copies of all necessary medical and education records ready to hand-carry to your new location.
  • Review the Transitioning From the Military With a Child With Special Needs fact sheet for an overview of support and resources available as you transition from the military.
  • Use the Plan My Move tool and the Transitioning/Moving checklist from your SCOR for ideas on transitioning with a special needs family member.

Ease the transition.

You and your family members may feel the stress of military transition to civilian life due to the unknown and to fears you don’t recognize. Some suggestions for easing transition stress when you separate or retire from the military include:

As you prepare for military separation, you may feel anxious about the new and unknown hurdles ahead. Every transition is different so the better prepared you are, the smoother your transition can be.

Use the wealth of available tools and resources to find the answers you need to create and execute your plan for a smooth, successful transition from military to civilian life. And remember, you have access to Military OneSource for 12 months after your military separation.

Know the Laws That Protect Your Child With Special Needs

Elementary age girl using a digital tablet

You want to be an effective advocate for your child with special needs. The first step is to understand the laws that are in place to protect children with special needs. Federal laws regulate special education services and make sure schools provide accommodations for children with disabilities. Almost all states now have anti-bullying laws on the books, as well. By understanding these laws and your child’s rights, you’ll know better how to ensure your child receives fair and equal access to their education.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Enacted in 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that all children with qualifying disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education. The law outlines the special education benefit, including individualized special education services. States have different procedures for implementing the law, but they all must be consistent with the IDEA. In accordance with the six basic principles outlined in Part B of the IDEA, schools must:

  • Provide free and appropriate public education. Schools are required to provide an education at public expense, under public supervision and direction.
  • Conduct an evaluation. Schools must gather the information necessary to help determine the child’s educational needs and guide decision making about appropriate educational programming.
  • Produce an individualized education program. To ensure that the child’s individual needs are met, schools must create a written statement of the educational program designed for the child.
  • Provide the least restrictive environment. Children with a disability are entitled by law to receive an appropriate education designed to meet their special needs. They must be educated with their nondisabled peers unless the nature of the disability is such that they cannot achieve in a general education classroom, even with supplementary aids and supports.
  • Offer opportunities for meaningful participation. Schools must provide opportunities for parents and students, when appropriate, to get involved throughout the special education process.
  • Implement procedural safeguards. Procedural safeguards ensure that children’s and parental rights are protected and establish clear steps to address disputes. Procedural safeguards guarantee that parents can participate in meetings, examine all educational records and obtain an individual educational evaluation.

The IDEA’s Part B also establishes the educational requirements for children with a disability from ages 3 to 21. To further explore how this legislation helps to safeguard your child’s rights, visit the IDEA website, which covers such topics as discipline, early intervention services, identification of specific learning disabilities, individualized education programs, dispute resolution and much more. To learn about due process in disputes about special education services, see the fact sheet, Resolving Concerns With a Child’s Special Education Services.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. The ADA defines an individual with a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Title II of the ADA “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, including public elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools, regardless of whether they receive federal financial assistance. Title II requires that qualified individuals with disabilities, including students, parents and other program participants, are not excluded from or denied the benefits of services, programs or activities of a public entity, or otherwise subjected to discrimination by a public entity, by reason of a disability.”

At the Department of Justice’s ADA website, you’ll find the full text of the ADA and additional information about the act, including lists of questions and answers about child care centers and the ADA and the Amendments Act of 2008 for Students with Disabilities Attending Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of people with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including federal funds. Public school districts, institutions of higher education and other state and local education agencies may all be recipients of these funds.

Section 504 helps children with disabilities access school services by requiring schools to provide accommodations and modifications. But, unlike IDEA, it does not provide for an individualized education program. Even if a child does not qualify for special education services under the IDEA, he or she may qualify for special accommodations under this law. For example, a child who must use a wheelchair but does not require special education services could receive accommodations under Section 504.

The regulations implementing Section 504 in the context of educational institutions appear at 34 C.F.R. Part 104. This comprehensive list of more than 40 common questions and answers about Section 504 and the education of children with disabilities further explain how this legislation protects your child’s rights.

Anti-bullying laws

The federal government’s anti-bullying website defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among youth that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is likely to repeat. Making threats, spreading rumors, physically or verbally attacking someone, and deliberately excluding another person from a group all constitute bullying. In recent years, bullying has become the subject of increased media attention, particularly as technology and social media websites have given rise to “cyberbullying,” occasionally with tragic consequences.

Every state in the nation addresses anti-bullying. Using an interactive map at the StopBullying website, you can research your own state’s laws and policies and find out more about the 13 key components of state anti-bullying legislation, including specification of prohibited conduct, development and implementation of local education agency policies, and training and preventive education.

The website also includes guidance prepared especially for kids, including “Facts about Bullying,” “What You Can Do,” and more than a dozen “webisodes” (cartoons that portray bullying situations and show kids how to address bullying) with accompanying quizzes.

School policies

Your school may have a policy related to discrimination, harassment or bullying. Familiarize yourself with your school’s policy by reading the parent handbook or policy manual. If you can’t find any information in the parent handbook, ask your school for a copy of its policy.

For more detailed information on the range of laws protecting children with disabilities, you may be interested in the Department Of Justice’s Guide to Disability Rights Laws.

What to do when you have concerns about school implementation

The Resolving Concerns With a Child’s Special Education Services fact sheet outlines the steps parents and guardians can take if they disagree with their children’s school on any issue involving the special education program.

You can find additional resources and answers to your questions about your child’s rights within special education by contacting your installation EFMP Family Support provider or your installation legal office.

Military OneSource special needs consultants can also answer your questions and concerns about the care and education of your child or adult family member with special needs. Call 800-342-9647.

Education Directory for Children With Special Needs

Father reading to son

The Education Directory for Children With Special Needs is a web-based tool that helps military families with special needs make informed decisions about education and early intervention services available on or near installations within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The directory has two components:

Both sections of the directory offer the following information (specific to the needs of each age group):

  • Services, contacts and resources each state offers
  • Profiles and contacts for service providers and school districts
  • Links to tools for a smooth transition
  • Links to national trends and resources
  • Definitions of related terms

Use the Education Directory for Children With Special Needs to help you prepare for the services your family needs.

Keeping Your Child Healthy and Engaged Over the Summer

Children running outside

A little leisure is much needed when school lets out; however, children with special needs thrive with a little structure. It’s beneficial to maintain a routine during the summer as a way to keep your child learning and developing healthy habits.

Here are a few ideas to help your child with special needs have a healthy and happy summer:

  • Seek out a summer program. Check your installation, local schools, recreation centers and other community-based organizations for programs on topics that might interest your child.
  • Consider child care services. Plan activities or outings for your child when you are tied up with work or other activities. The Department of Defense offers military parents the option to find expanded hourly child care services through free access to a national database of caregivers.
  • Crack open a book. Whether reading with your younger children or encouraging your older children to read on their own, summer reading can help keep brains engaged and study habits fresh .
  • Take a field trip. Visit parks, museums, zoos or nature centers for low-cost educational opportunities for your entire family.
  • Count, track and measure. Find fun ways to incorporate numbers into everyday tasks. Measure items around the house or track daily temperatures. Go to the grocery store and practice adding, subtracting or multiplying the prices of items.
  • Think ahead. Check with your child’s school to see if there are summer packets of math and reading skills activities to help prepare for the next school year.
  • Get moving. Don’t forget to schedule time for your child to play and burn off energy with some sunshine and exercise.
  • Snack HealthyA healthy diet is just as important in the summer as it is during the school year. Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand to encourage good snack habits.
  • Recharge. Keep a regular summer bedtime to make sure your child is getting enough sleep.

Helping your children stay engaged academically and physically throughout the summer helps set them up for success in the new school year. Contact your local Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support provider and look for a Parent Training and Information Center near you to see what types of summer programs are available to your family.

Back-to-School Planning During COVID-19

Two students with masks physically distancingImage source: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/african-descent-girl-on-school-campus-mask-for-royalty-free-image/1251048576?adppopup=true

Current as of April 9, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, parents and students may be facing new uncertainties. Conditions across the world differ widely and continue to change rapidly. In addition, school reopening policies vary and often include instruction and scheduling options. With so many unknowns and continued unexpected changes, making decisions as a parent can be difficult.

As you navigate a quickly changing world, it is also important to provide your child structure. Learn how to create and maintain routines for your entire family.

One resilience skill we have learned from life in the past year is to focus less on what we can’t control and more on what we can. And what can we control right now? We can continue to stay informed, practice proven safety measures and encourage our children to do the same. Evidence shows that safety measures like physical distancing, face coverings and improved hygiene such as frequent hand-washing and disinfecting commonly used surfaces reduce transmission of COVID-19.

Reach out for support.

Military OneSource education consultants can help you ease back-to-school transitions and continuously changing education challenges.

Educational resources

As your child wraps up the 2020-21 academic year, it’s not too late to take advantage of online educational resources. Help your kids retain a school mindset as they reinforce reading skills, learn stress-management practices, build a paper Mars helicopter or participate in youth programs online. These resources can add variety to your child’s education process:

  • The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library offers an amazing variety of education and entertainment resources for all ages. Programs include BookFlix, Explora Primary, Mango Languages and many more. The Teachables program offers printable activities for children pre-K through grade 6.
  • Tutor.com provides live, on-demand tutoring, test preparation and homework help in more than 100 subjects, for students in kindergarten through college.
  • Thrive is a free, online parenting-education program from a Department of Defense partnership with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. It offers evidence-based, positive-parenting practices for children from birth to age 18. Check out its downloadable resources for stress reduction, healthy eating and physical activities.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families offers a variety of resources including activities, games, videos and the Breathe, Think, Do wellness app.
  • Helping Your Child Become a Reader provides tips from the U.S. Department of Education for parents of young children.
  • NASA STEM has a wide variety of science, math, engineering and technology ideas for students in kindergarten through college to encourage the next generation of explorers.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America My Future currently offers 11 programs youths can participate in via the MyFuture virtual social platform. These programs support engagement and academic success and include Digital Literacy Essentials, Media Making, Computer Science, Visual Arts and more.
  • Making School Fun at Home offers helpful tips from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for supporting learning at home for children of all ages.

Talk with an education consultant

COVID-19 continues to create challenges, and Military OneSource is here to help. If you would like to talk to an expert about any of your educational concerns, Military OneSource offers free and confidential one-on-one sessions with professionals knowledgeable about education resources. Consultants are available 24/7 anywhere in the world to help you stay strong while you navigate military life. Call 800-342-9647, call OCONUS or start a live chat.

Understanding of COVID-19 continues to change, so check our Coronavirus Updates for Our Military Community page. Want to find the phone number for your installation’s housing office or Military and Family Support Center? Find those and more on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, an online information directory for military installations worldwide. For updates and information specific to your location, visit your installation’s official website. You can also follow your installation’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platforms.

For Department of Defense updates for the military community:

Spring Clean Your EFMP SCOR

Mom on computer beside special needs child

Set a date this spring to clean up and organize your Exceptional Family Member Program Special Care Organizational Records so your family’s medical and educational records are updated and accurate. This will be especially important if coronavirus precautions affected your plans and resources. If you’re creating your first EFMP SCOR, spring into action by capturing and organizing your information in a single location using the different sections to accommodate your specific needs.

Refresh your current EFMP SCOR

Keep the following tips in mind as you update your EFMP SCOR:

  • Download clean copies of forms, new pictures and covers. Note that the forms are fillable using your keyboard, so you can update information, print and insert into your current EFMP SCOR.
  • Review the In Case of Emergency section and make sure the information is correct and up to date.
  • Update all of the records as needed with your current health care providers, school and other contacts. You should also update the record each time you PCS, change doctors, schools, EFMP contacts, outside contacts, etc.
  • Choose only the important information and documents to keep in your EFMP SCOR. Create a separate file to store less critical or older information. Don’t clutter your SCOR with excess paperwork. Throw away paperwork or items you don’t need.
  • Consider keeping or adding these items to your EFMP SCOR:
    • Medical treatments that did or did not work
    • Time-stamped notes on who you spoke to and what was said
    • Official education reports on plans and progress
    • A hard copy of EFMP & Me checklists you might be working on

Set up a new EFMP SCOR

If this is your first EFMP SCOR, these tips can help you get started.

  • Download and complete forms including routines, likes and dislikes, contact information, emergency action plan, etc., so you will have all the information you need in one place. You can also order a hard copy EFMP SCOR if you prefer.
  • Save an updated copy of your SCOR on a thumbdrive so you can take it with you in an emergency.
  • Collect and add information to the EFMP SCOR. These may include medical documents,  including paperwork from recent doctor visits, immunization records, recent hospital stays, test results, etc. Individualized Education Programs for children and notes can also be added. Make sure to store less important information in a separate file to avoid cluttering your EFMP SCOR.
  • Keep a separate EFMP SCOR with individual information for each family member with special needs. This will help keep everything organized and will also be helpful when you update your EFMP enrollment.
  • Remember that your EFMP SCOR doesn’t replace official medical records and is not legally binding. It also includes personal information so be sure to keep it in a safe place.
  • Review the EFMP video on Special Care Organization Record on MilLife Learning.
  • Consider including a copy of your EFMP & Me checklist in your EFMP SCOR and track progress.

Reach out to your nearest installation EFMP Family Support provider or a Military OneSource special needs consultant if you need assistance or have questions about how to set up or manage your SCOR. Schedule appointments 24/7 by live chat or calling 800-342-9647, or check out OCONUS calling options.

Help Improve Support for Families with Special Needs

child with arm around soldier

The Department of Defense Office of Special Needs has created a new feedback tool to better understand families’ experiences with the Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support services.

The EFMP Family Support Feedback Tool is a voluntary and confidential online questionnaire that allows families to provide feedback about recent interactions with EFMP Family Support services. Responses will give the Office of Special Needs and military departments insight into what is working and what can be improved to help EFMP Family Support best meet families’ needs.

The responses will be used in program improvement and policy development.

How to access the EFMP Family Support Services Feedback Tool

EFMP Family Support logoThe feedback tool is available through local EFMP Family Support staff. After your next visit with EFMP Family Support services, whether it is virtual, by phone, email or in person, ask your provider for more information about the tool and how to access it online via Military OneSource.

If you had a great experience to share or have suggestions for improvement, the EFMP Family Support Services Feedback Tool is a great way to be heard.