Skip to main content

Educators Serving Military Students with Special Needs: Knowledge, Experiences and Challenges

| ,

Brief Background on Education Challenges for Military Students

Military families move three times more frequently than civilian families[i] and may move as many as nine times between when a child enters kindergarten and graduates from high school.[ii] Each time a military family relocates, they must re-establish their community connections, including medical, educational, therapeutic, and extracurricular.[iii] For military families with children with special needs, this may mean obtaining referrals, searching for providers, transferring paperwork, meeting with professionals, and working with insurance companies, all while transitioning their family and belongings to a new home. Further, military-connected students have stressors specific to the military lifestyle, possibly impacting their education, that civilian students do not generally encounter.[iv] Educators of military-connected students have reported that transitions and deployments impact students’ social-emotional health as well as academic performance. However, limited literature is available on the experiences of educators or military families with children with special needs related to educational settings. Given the challenges and support requirements documented in previous literature related to military-connected students in general education, research on the challenges and supports required for military-connected students with special needs is warranted. 

Surveying Educators About Knowledge, Experiences, and Challenges

Partners in PROMISE have surveyed the military family community for the past three years to understand better the experiences of military children enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) and those eligible for special education services and accommodations. We primarily focused on examining the experiences of these students’ military parents. We learned that many families experience challenges during military moves, with the average family waiting 5.75 months for special education services after a move.[xii] However, to better understand the broader education landscape, in 2022, we expanded our annual survey to capture the experiences of those who serve this population in various capacities. The purpose of this report is to explore the experiences, challenges, and needs of educational stakeholders—such as school administrators, general education teachers, special education teachers, and specialty service providers—in serving military-connected students with special needs.

Our Top Findings

  • A significant percentage of educators had worked with military support personnel like EFMP coordinators (43%) and military school liaison officers (60%). However, some remained unsure about their interaction with people in these roles.
  • Most educators (69%) expressed a desire to know which students were from military families, with 85% believing this information would help tailor support.
  • Educators demonstrated varying degrees of familiarity with support programs for military children with special needs and military-related programs at their school. 
  • School administrators cited challenges related to the differences between interstate and school policies.
  • General education teachers, special education teachers, and specialty service providers often cited issues with managing the social-emotional needs of military-connected students and differences in special education services across schools.

Read the Educators Report Below

Educators Report – Partners in PROMISE 2022 Research Findings by Jennifer Barnhill
Educator with special needs student



Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *