Thanks to Susanna for her knowledgeable guest post on being an EFMP family in Colorado. Susanna has a special needs child and lives in Colorado herself; because of this, she’s passionate about helping other families in similar situations.
Moving as an EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) family brings its challenges! However… congratulations! You are moving to Colorado, which in my opinion has one of the best grouping of special needs programs in the nation.
Since you might not always get the correct answers when you ask on base, here is a list of things that are good to know:
Colorado Springs has a “choice-in” system. This means that your child can apply and sign up with any school in Colorado Springs regardless of where you live. The open enrollment window varies from school district to school district. (You can find a list of Colorado school districts and BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) here.
We have public schools and many charter schools. If you opt your child into another school or district, remember that there will not be a school bus service. (By the way, there are no school buses in D-12 and in a school district on the north side, you’ll have to pay for the school bus if you want your child to use the bus.)
Remember, just because a school district has great test scores, does not mean that the special needs program is also outstanding.
Choosing a place to live
Of course, there are opportunities on post or base. In Colorado Springs, there are four options for you: Peterson AFB, Fort Carson, Shriever AFB, and the Air Force Academy. ADA housing is available on all installations; however, as the PCS season rolls around, they go quickly. The feedback I’ve heard from other families is that they were able to get into housing fairly quickly or they were able to move into quarters that could be modified for a certain need.
There are doctors and therapy places all over town; however, they become fewer the further south you go. From Fountain, you look at probably 20-25 minutes of travel time to certain services and doctors; Peyton and Falcon is located northeast but could also be in the same range as Fountain for certain appointments in town.
Where to start
The internet is great and you’ll find many resources online. Sometimes it’s just so much that it gets confusing. If you are already in town, go to The Resource Exchange. TRE will point you in the right direction, get you connected and will assist you in getting you enrolled in the services right for you and your exceptional family member–regardless of age. Connect with them early, even before you get here. They will come to your home or temporary quarters. Expect a 3-month enrollment time.
(If this sounds “bad,” take this into consideration. A few years ago our state “did away” with most of our waiting lists. My family wait 4 1/2 out of the 5 years we were here for services. It was so disappointing. That said, everything has changed and I think this organization will get you excited.)
Waivers and services
There are several waivers that your exceptional family member may qualify for, regardless of age. Again, TRE will be able to help you with that.
The most exciting waiver is the Medicaid waiver which will pay for a CNA to take care of your child. For many families, one parent has decided to become the CNA for their child and get paid for the care provided. While it’s not perfect, it’s certainly an exciting option for parents with special needs kids– it means that parents can be paid for the work they do taking care of their child.
How to connect
Facebook is probably your best bet. Here you can find groups specific to your child’s disability or maybe you are just looking to connect geographically. Here are some of them. Make sure you check out their “files” where great resources are often hiding.
- Colorado Springs Area Special Needs Families
- Colorado Springs Special Needs Parent Advocates For Change
- Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association
- Colorado Springs Autism Parents
Susanna Haynie is a veteran’s spouse and Realtor in the Colorado Springs area. She’s passionate about serving the military community–especially when it comes to making sure military families with special needs children are taken care of– and just “gets it.” Check out her website, Twitter, and Instagram to catch up with or reach out to her.