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Support available for military families with special needs

  • Published
  • By Kate Blais
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
In the comfort of his own home, 4-year-old Caleb spends 15 hours per week dedicated to constructing puzzles, identifying numbers and letters and reinforcing communication as a means to get what he's after.

For two and a half hours per session, Caleb is engaged in an in-home therapy program with Wellspring, an autism treatment agency.

This type of in-home treatment is now available in the Antelope Valley and to Edwards families through TRICARE and other insurance options.

Wellspring uses applied behavioral analysis, a research-driven therapy aimed at changing a particular type of behavior. ABA works well for treating autistic individuals and is covered by most insurance plans including TRICARE's Extended Care Health Option for Uniformed Service members and their families, said Dr. Paula Santos, a board certified behavior analyst with Wellspring.

"When we came here we were told that it was going to be a challenge to find resources, so even though we moved here in August, I started looking for agencies in February," said Caleb's mother Susan Maki, a base housing resident whose husband works at Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Detachment 5. "We came out in May and didn't do a house hunting trip, we did a therapy hunting trip and met with Wellspring."

Wellspring, which specializes in autism spectrum disorder, is one of the many agencies that can be used by TRICARE families enrolled in the Air Force's Exceptional Family Member Program, said Jocelynn LaShier, work-life consultant at the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"Wellspring is not just limited to active duty, it's available to all families," said Elaine Estacio, outreach program manager for Family Advocacy. "But active duty benefit from their TRICARE coverage."

Mrs. Maki expressed her desire to reach out to parents and families experiencing the same frustrations and challenges of special needs children.

"I would love to meet families who move here with special needs," said Mrs. Maki. "Special needs, in addition to raising a child, can be very overwhelming at times and it'd be nice to have a sort of support group."

Spending the afternoon with Lisa Haynes, a board-certified behavioral therapist at Wellspring, Caleb worked through his specific programs, exercising certain techniques that will help him develop vocalization and other aspects of communication.

"The programs are laid out where you can see exactly where you started, where you are now and where you're going," said Mrs. Maki. "It's been amazing what it has enabled him [Caleb] to do, and to grow and to learn."

For more information on Wellspring contact their Antelope Valley office at 661-945-6761, or visit www.wellspring.com. For information on other EFMP support agencies contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 661-277-0723.