Special Needs Summit set for March 15

Brianna Heim gets assistance from her service dog, Emily, opening a pantry door March 3, 2018, at her residence. Brianna's parents attended the 2010 Special Needs Summit where they learned about an organization that breeds, raises and trains service dogs in order to provide them to veterans, adults and children with disabilities. Emily can also help Brianna pick things up, carry items and other everyday tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Brianna Heim gets assistance from her service dog, Emily, opening a pantry door March 3, 2018, at her residence. Brianna's parents attended the 2010 Special Needs Summit where they learned about an organization that breeds, raises and trains service dogs in order to provide them to veterans, adults and children with disabilities. Emily can also help Brianna pick things up, carry items and other everyday tasks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- The Hill AFB Airman and Family Readiness Center thrives on representing its military members in every aspect; ensuring its military members and families have smooth deployments, easy moves, and stress-free entry into new schools.

This is especially true for our special needs families.

They need smooth transitions, a supportive environment, coordination and communication with a key point of contact, relevant workshops, along with assistance and a continuity of knowledge within the area.

More than 80 resources throughout the local area will converge on base from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 15 to participate in the Families with Special Needs Summit at The Landing ballroom.

This remarkable program offers all Hill families the opportunity to not only learn about all the different programs available, but to speak with mental health, special education, early intervention specialists, recreation programs; to work directly with government agencies that provide assistance; to coordinate both directly with off base agencies; and to receive information to improve their overall quality of life. This incredible platform increases parents understanding of available resources while significantly reducing their burdens and stress.

Since 2010, Hill AFB exceptional family members have more than doubled from 250 families to more than 550 families.

This has prompted the base to add a second Exceptional Family Member Program-Family Support, or EFMP-FS, specialist to A&FRC staff.

Alysse Seligman has more than 14 years of experience working with children of military families.

She will work hand-in-hand with Tammy Custer, the founder of the Families with Special Needs Summit, who has been at Hill since 2010 and was the base’s first EFMP-FS specialist.

“It is our goal to offer our families the ability to streamline a process that usually takes months to achieve, in just one day,” Custer said. “In just one room our military parents find nearly everything they need in order to make connections, personally meet and network for all their child’s needs.”

One of the organizations represented at the Summit includes the Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that breeds, raises and trains service dogs in order to provide them to veterans, adults and children with disabilities.

The Heim family, who attended the summit in 2010 with their daughter Brianna, were captivated by the opportunity to have a canine companion for Brianna.

The Heim’s said Canine Companions left quite an impression on them.

After seeing their booth at the 2010 Summit they thought about it for the next couple years.

When Brianna was at an appropriate age, they felt she could really benefit from a companion dog and applied for one.

Brianna’s canine companion, Emily, has now been with their daughter for three years helping her open and close doors, picking up things, carrying items, and accompanying her to her doctor appointments and hospital visits.

As the newest arrival and second EFMP-FS on the A&FRC team, Seligman said she is thrilled to begin her work.

“It’s the ultimate opportunity to support our military families and their children – the best job ever – I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Seligman said.

The Families with Special Needs Summit is open to all Hill employees. Unit commanders and directors are encouraged to attend the event.

Appropriated and non-appropriated civilian employees who want to attend the event may be released pursuant to Title 5 authority for up to 60 minutes without charge to leave, in conjunction with their normal lunch period, as time and management-determined mission requirements permit.

Call 801-777-4681 for details.