STOMP brings together parents, educators of special needs children

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte N. Brantley-Sisk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
When Tech. Sgt. Emily Smith and Staff Sgt. Todge Smith were blessed with a baby girl nearly six months ago, they immediately recognized signs of Down syndrome and epilepsy in her. With early intervention and physical therapy, their daughter Renee is now meeting all developmental milestones.

Sergeant Smith was able to share her experience during a Specialized Training of Military Parents workshop held for the first time at an Air Force base Jan. 26 and 27.

"We've been working to get the STOMP program at Moody (Air Force Base) for more than a year now," said Windy Scott, the 23rd Force Support Squadron exceptional family member program coordinator and parent of a special-needs child. "From experience, I know it's easy to feel frustrated and isolated when dealing with special-needs children. This training is designed to expose families to the resources they need to help lessen those emotional strains."

In addition to parents, there were also special education and counseling representatives from local and regional schools present to learn about STOMP.

"I heard about this training from the social worker and principal at my school and decided to come," said Margaret Finney, a counselor at a local middle school. "I have a special-needs granddaughter, and my niece has Asperger's syndrome, so it's helpful being able to relate to any parents who might need my help.

"I'm very glad I came because I've learned so much about special-needs children and the resources available on base to their families," she added. "I plan to take this information back to my school and continue being an advocate for the children in my school by sharing it with any parent who may need this information."

One Moody AFB leader has a personal reason he is glad the STOMP training is being offered to military and civilian partners.

"The military lifestyle can be hard on parents, but it's even tougher when you have a special needs child and one parent is deployed," said Col. William DeMaso, the 23rd Wing vice commander. "I can relate to the difficulties of having a special-needs child because my younger sister Sarah was born with Down syndrome and died of related health complications when she was five years old."

Sergeant Smith credits early intervention as having an extremely positive impact on her daughter's development. Although Renee is not old enough to go to school yet, the workshop also covered many topics for new parents. This included moving, federal and state laws, extended health care options and many ways to network.

"I heard about STOMP because I've been working closely with Ms. Scott to provide care for Renee," she said. "This training is an awesome opportunity to learn from other active-duty members who have gone through what I will soon go through. This will give me a step up in raising my daughter and I plan on using all the resources I can to help her."

Any parent or professional who deals with special needs children can get more information by contacting Ms. Scott at or Ann Lukens, the school liaison officer, at