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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — More than 20 people took part in a two-day workshop here aimed at sharpening strategies for dealing with children who have special medical or educational needs.

In a forum sponsored by the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Special Education Initiative last week, representatives from the Washington state-based Specialized Training of Military Parents project, or STOMP, met with parents, health-care professionals and educators.

The group, which was in Germany two weeks ago and already has been to Okinawa and Camp Zama and Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, was scheduled to hit South Korea on Saturday for the final leg of a Pacific tour.

The presentations, free to attendees, are being conducted through base Family Advocacy programs.

“A lot of times, especially overseas, parents with special-needs children can feel isolated and alone,” said Hugh Clark, Yokota’s Family Advocacy outreach manager. “We did this workshop to let them know there are other people out there who have the same situations. This was a chance to bring some more resources into the community.”

According to STOMP’s Web site, www.stompproject.org, there are about 540,000 active-duty sponsors caring for a family member with special requirements.

Clark estimates there are 10 to 20 children at Yokota who fall into that category.

“There’s not a large number at Yokota but the kids that are here need the services,” he said.

STOMP staff members themselves are parents of children with disabilities, Clark said. Heather Hebdon, who led the Yokota workshop, founded the nonprofit organization in 1985.

It was set up to provide information about parental rights and responsibilities in attaining special-education services for military children. The project also assists families in accessing a wide range of educational and medical resources, both military and civilian.

Department of Defense Dependents Schools and an installation’s Educational and Developmental Intervention Services office are two vital agencies on the local level, Clark said.

“If you have kids with special needs, there’s a multidisciplinary team at schools who come up with goals and objectives for the students,” he said. “All special-needs children are required to have an Individualized Education Program. Goals have to be measurable. The team decides on specialized equipment and assistive technology. A disabled child has the same right to learn as someone who’s not.

“EDIS can provide the manpower. They also do a lot of assessing and provide the adequate services and treatment, depending on each case.”

The two-day seminar covered communication strategies, the IEP process, wills and guardianship, Tricare, the Program for People with Disabilities, Extended Health Care Options, Supplemental Security Income, DODDS regulations, records and home files, permanent-change-of-station moves, federal laws regarding education of students with disabilities and networking.

The session was mostly lecture-driven, but participants engaged in debate and various exercises.

“We got a ton of questions and a ton of answers,” Clark said.

STOMP classes in S. Korea

STOMP’s next stop is in South Korea. Classes will be held Monday and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in room 18 of the ACS Building, behind the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Garrison’s South Post.

Call Alexander Carter at DSN 738-5311 or e-mail carteral@korea.army.mil for more information.

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