FORT HOOD, Texas — For many parents of 5-year-old children,
getting suspended from pre-kindergarten isn't an expected
However, for Kandice Merrick's son, Khristen, in-
and out-of-school suspensions were regular occurrences.
his age, and at the rate things were going with him, if I didn't
have EFMP [Exceptional Family Members Program] and his behavioral
specialist, he'd be on the route to alternative school,” said
Merrick, a medical transcriptionist at the Carl R. Darnell Army
Medical Center on Fort Hood. “With EFMP, they actually work with the
kids on goals.”
Khristen Merrick begins his first day of pre-kindergarten Aug. 26,
2013, in Killeen, Texas. After enrolling in the Exceptional Family
Member Program, Khristen transferred schools to get a fresh start.
“He's been at Timber Ridge, which is his special transfer school,”
said Kandice Merrick, Khristen's mother. “He had a hard time with
the transition of being in school.” (Photo courtesy of the Merrick
With the assistance of EFMP, Khristen was able to receive
the support he needed to improve his education experience.
EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program that provides
medical, educational, housing, community support and
personnel services to families who have members with special
Department of the Army civilian workers are not required
to enroll their family members in EFMP, however, Khristen
must be enrolled because his father, 1st Lt. Korey Merrick,
is a service member stationed at Fort Hood.
children enrolled in EFMP, Khristen was diagnosed with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
one enrollment is asthma, and our number two is attention
deficit disorder,” said Stephania Williams, a social
services representative and advocate with EFMP on Fort Hood.
Although Khristen excelled academically, his ADHD caused
behavior problems at his school where the teachers utilize a
color scale designed to track the student's behavior. For
example, if a child received a blue color, the student was
excellent; however, a red color meant the child received a
referral and was sent to the office.
“Every day he
was on red,” said Merrick. “She [Khristen's teacher] wrote
why and it was: not listening, not following directions,
talking loud. And my whole thing was it's more to it, as to
why he is the way he is.”
In addition to his behavior
problems, the school suggested Merrick take Khristen out of
school after only being there for two hours a day.
“Instead of keeping him in school the whole day, they
suggested Khristen go to school from 8 to 10, I pick him up
at 10, and he does not have any school the rest of the day,”
said Merrick. “How do you expect him to learn for two hours?
How do you expect a kid to progress?”
To try and help
her son, Merrick began doing research about her possible
options and even considered moving to another school
After exhausting all other possible routes,
Merrick took Khristen to see a behavioral psychologist who
diagnosed Khristen with ADHD. Even though she presented
Khristen's diagnosis to the school, they were still
reluctant to work with her son, according to Merrick
After getting Khristen enrolled in EFMP, Merrick met with
Williams and together, along with Khristen's behavior
psychologist, they created a 504 Plan.
The 504 Plan
is a plan developed for children with a disability and
attends an elementary or secondary educational institution.
The plan ensures the children receive assistance with their
In addition to helping Merrick with
the 504 Plan, Williams pointed Merrick in the direction of
Khristen's new school, Timber Ridge Elementary.
changing schools, Khristen has become overly excited about
going to school, and he has had very few discipline
“He looks forward to going to school now,
versus before,” said Merrick. “He didn't have that drive,
and you could tell he knew they didn't have any hope in
Merrick said the school is more helpful when it
comes to handling Khristen's ADHD. For example, during the
day Khristen speaks with a counselor about his positive and
“I actually have to give thanks to
Ms. Stephania [Williams],” said Merrick. “I didn't know what
was offered and to what extent they would work with him
hand-in-hand on his behavior.”
With guidance from
Williams and the EFMP, Merrick was able to ensure her son
was given a chance to be educationally successful.
don't know how many people are aware of EFMP, but I think
they really should be,” said Merrick. “We have all types of
families, and they need to know what's available to them,
whether their child is autistic, ADHD or bi-polar.”
By U.S. Army Spc. Marcus Floyd
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