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Who is STOMP?

The Specialized Training of Military Parents, better known by many as STOMP, is a federally funded Parent Training and Information (PTI) center established to assist military families who have children with specialized education or health needs. STOMP exists to empower military parents, individuals with disabilities, and service providers with knowledge, skills, and resources so that they might access services to create a collaborative environment for family and professional partnerships without regard to geographic location.

Heather Hebdon founded STOMP in 1985. Heather is the spouse of a retired Soldier. She and her husband are parents to three young adults with different disabilities and two beautiful grandchildren, one of them with a disability. When Heather started STOMP, it was because she saw a need for her own family and many other families like hers. "When we were moving from Hawaii to Washington, it would have been fantastic to have someone to connect my family with the resources available in the installation where we were moving," says Heather. She goes on to say: "The vision for STOMP was to establish an organization that would provide support to military families of children with special educational and medical needs, as well as military and/or civilian professionals who work with them. " To this day no other organization has the array of services or training activities established to work with Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) family members. STOMP is a project of the Washington PAVE Organization and is funded though a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The staff members of the STOMP Project are parents of children who have disabilities. They have experience in raising their children in military communities and traveling with their sponsors to different locations. This makes the staff and the program uniquely qualified to support military parents who themselves have children with special needs.

Valerie Patterson is in the East Coast office. Valerie is the spouse of an active duty Soldier assigned to Fort Bragg. They are the parents of five beautiful children ranging in ages from eleven to nineteen. Of these, four have special needs. The East Coast region includes: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee. This is a total of 50 active duty military installations. Valerie has been with STOMP for three years. "I want families to know that we understand what they go through because we experience the same challenges. I want parents to know that they are not alone. I still have trials and tribulations with my own kids' Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). As much as I would like to say that we don't have any problems, we do." Valerie goes on to say: "I wish I could say that we have the perfect IEPs; there are no perfect IEPs because our children change and develop. The IEP is set up so that we can change it according to their growth, and if we see no growth, we can change the IEP to meet their needs."

Adriana Martinez is in the Central office. Adriana has been with STOMP since 1991 when she first attended the Parent Professional Teams Workshop and became a volunteer for STOMP. In 2001 she started working for STOMP as a Parent Education Coordinator and currently is the Assistant Program Director. Adriana and her military husband have two children, the oldest of which has Down syndrome, diabetes, and other medical needs. The Central region includes: Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, a total of 41 active duty installations.

Beautiful Tacoma, WA is the location of the STOMP headquarters. Working out of this office are Heather Hebdon, STOMPS founder mentioned earlier, and Karen Elliott. Karen and her husband are the proud parents of two beautiful girls. Both of their girls are enrolled in the EFMP program, the youngest with more significant needs. "I found STOMP while preparing for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to Germany. I attended a workshop at Fort Huachuca with Adriana Martinez, and during the introductions, I told Adriana that one of these days I would have her job. I now do." Karen has had some great experiences as a military spouse but in her eyes "finding STOMP was as if I had found my home." She goes on to say, "This is the place where everyone speaks and understands the same military and special needs acronyms. I left that workshop with my STOMP binder and finally understood what I had to do at my daughters' next IEP meeting."

The Headquarters office offers its services, not only to the rest of the country, but also to all the military installations overseas. This is what makes STOMP, truly, a global program.

Among the services that STOMP provides are workshops and materials on:

* How to work with the educational planning team to get services for your child who has a disability;

* How to access resources in both current duty stations and future duty assignments so that the child can begin receiving services quickly when the family transfers;

* How to make informed decisions with respect to overseas assignments and/or services within the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS) overseas and Domestic Dependant Elementary & Secondary Schools (DDESS) within the United States;

* Working effectively with military systems like TRICARE, Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) and the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) for a particular branch of service;

* How to access educational and medical records and develop a comprehensive home file.

In addition to this, STOMP offers a variety of services though the Internet. The STOMP website can be found at www.stompproject.org, and one can always send an email to stomp@washingtonpave.com. In addition to this, STOMP offers two email based discussion lists to further connect parents and professionals across the globe. The STOMP listserv exists to enable military families worldwide to stay informed and connected and to learn from each other. It provides them with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to access services and feel confident in their role as their child's best advocate. To subscribe, send an email to STOMPsubscribe@topica.com. The second list is called TRIFAT. The TRICARE Funding Autism Treatment list exists to enable families attempting to obtain funding through TRICARE for a variety of autism treatments (including but not limited to Applied Behavior Analysis, supplements, AIT, etc.) to connect with each other, sharing information and support. To subscribe to the lists, parents and professionals can send an email to TRI-FAT-subscribe@topica.com

Every year STOMP invites teams from installations around the world to apply to participate in the Parent Professional Teams Workshop (PPTW). STOMP invites installations to form teams of three, consisting of a military parent, a military professional, and a member of the State's Parent Training and Information centers. This is a four and a half day training established to strengthen teams so that they can return to their installations and assist families who have individuals with disabilities. "This is part of the dream for STOMP," says Heather, "to have a STOMP volunteer in every installation so that when a family is moving to that location, the Parent Professional Team Volunteer (PPTVN) will be there as a local resource providing them information before the family arrives at the new installation." There are currently PPTVNs in twenty-five states and overseas in Kaiserslautern and Mannheim, Germany and in Yongsan, Korea.

Additionally, STOMP provides materials to parents and other interested individuals about:

* A variety of disabilities;

* P.L. 108-446 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);

* Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act;

* Department of Defense Instruction 1342.12 Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services to Eligible DOD Dependents in Overseas Areas.

Most of these materials can be downloaded from the STOMP website free of charge.

With the changing environment of the military because of the war effort, it is important that families feel they have a source of information, support, and resources. While there may be resources within the community or schools, not all of them are aware of the unique difficulties that arise when your spouse is deployed. Because of personal experience, the STOMP staff understands these issues. They have faced the challenges that many families face when they are, not only working to secure effective services for the family member with disabilities, but also dealing with the realities of having family members deployed in high-risk areas. This provides a unique perspective that families appreciate when addressing concerns regarding services for the family member.

For more information on what is available in the installation you will be PCSing to, refer to How To Attend A STOMP Workshop. For a one-on-one consultation or to attend PPTW as part of a team, call any of the STOMP offices. The staff will be more than happy to assist you with your mission to be the best advocate you can be for your child.
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Title Annotation:United States Military Section; Specialized Training of Military Parents
Author:Martinez, Luz Adriana
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:1478
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