• June 25, 2013
  • Generation Rescue
  • 0
Military Life: Tips To Make Your Permanent Change of Station Successful

When it comes to living the life of a military spouse, things can be fun, crazy, and sometimes overwhelming. Before having children, the thought of moving around every three or so years sounded kind of exciting. Well, throw in a child with special needs and my idea of exciting took on a whole new understanding. My son was diagnosed with autism at age 3, and right smack in the middle of our PCS (Permanent Change Of Station) from the East Coast to the Midwest. It was a very hard, confusing, and frustrating move for everyone. After two years in Illinois we moved to Colorado to live near family while my husband was deployed; another tough move. In the summer of 2011 we received orders to PCS to Florida.  

Our PCS to Florida was by far the best one we have had. I did a lot of research and planning before the trip. Making sure that Jaxon knew what the plan was, and staying on schedule made things go as smoothly as possible. When you are traveling on military orders you can actually take your time getting to your next assignment and don’t push the limit every day. Military travel limits made it possible for us to travel at a pace that was healthy for Jaxon, yet still get my husband to his new duty station in a timely manner. 

There are definitely a few things that I learned before we headed out on our 1800 mile trip from Colorado to Florida, making a week long stop half way in between so my husband could “out-process.” The first tip I can give you is to map out your plan, and be as detailed as possible. Know where you are going to stop for meals (especially if you are following a special diet) and know where you are stopping each night. Our kids LOVE to swim and getting to our hotel (or military lodging) at a decent time allowed them to unwind before going to bed.  

Making sure you have PLENTY of snacks and “car-friendly” activities is a must. We bought a cooler that plugged into our cigarette outlet and were able to keep healthy snacks and drinks for the boys so that we didn’t have to make extra stops. We loaded up on coloring books, movies, had the boy’s hand held games accessible, and kept Jaxon’s weighted blanket and neck pillow handy so he could use it from time to time to give him a little extra deep pressure to settle his muscles. If you aren’t familiar with a weighted blanket you should talk to your occupational therapist about one.  

The last, and probably best piece of advice I can offer for anyone headed out on a PCS this summer is to make sure you know as much as possible about your final destination. When we got to Florida we knew that our house was going to be a 45 minute drive from the base. We also knew that our house was not going to be available for at least a week after arriving in Florida. I requested a note from Jaxon’s doctor simply stating that had autism, and required special accommodations and considerations whenever possible. I spoke with the supervisor at Billeting and arranged it (ahead of time) so that we would receive a Non-Availability form allowing us to stay in a hotel closer to his school. I knew that driving 45 minutes each morning (possibly more with traffic) would put him in a horrible mood right before starting a new school. Billeting was great about doing this, and it made our lives so much easier while we were waiting to move into our house. If you are planning on moving on base and waiting for your house to be ready you can do the opposite and request that TLF be guaranteed to you because staying in a hotel with a child with special needs can be very difficult. Getting into TLF is sometimes harder than getting a Non-Availability form, but they will try and do what they can to accommodate you, especially if you have a note from a doctor and speak to a supervisor before you actually arrive on base.  

I wish everyone the best with their travels this summer and hope that you will email me if you have any questions regarding making your PCS a little smoother when traveling with a child with autism.  

My name is Dr. Jill Tschikof. I am the mother of two, and a military spouse. We have had struggles and successes raising a child with autism while serving in the military and I hope that my future stories will act as a form of guidance for others navigating this same path. You can find my personal blog at www.autismdeal.com. I hope that you will email me if you have any questions. 

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