OAR’s ongoing efforts in support of military families recently reached another high point when Scientific Council Chairman, Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D., gave the keynote presentation for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Special Needs Forum at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps Base in Jacksonville, N.C., on February 13. As usual, Dr. Gerhardt’s depth of knowledge, passion, and unique presentation style informed, entertained, and lifted the spirits of all who attended.
One of more than 80 attendees, Angely Layton summed up what Dr. Gerhardt’s presentation, “Bridges to Adulthood,” meant to her and her family: “Dr. Gerhardt’s visit to Camp Lejeune was an amazing learning experience for me. As a mother with a five-year-old daughter with autism, it gave me tremendous insight on her future and what I need to do to prepare her for an independent adulthood. The things I learned during his presentation are life tools that I will implement for my daughter, and I am forever grateful to have been present for Dr. Gerhardt’s visit.”
In addition to his presentation, Dr. Gerhardt took on another special role for OAR, presenting an award to Navy Captain Joseph McBreen, EDIS, whom OAR recognized for his numerous and valuable contributions to both Life Journey through Autism: A Guide for Military Familiesand Operation Autism, OAR’s Web site for military families. Dr. Gerhardt presented him with a framed cover of the guidebook with a plate inscribed with the words “BRAVO ZULU,” which is military speak for “Well done!”
The two-hour forum also included an EFMP overview and a Q&A session for participants after Dr. Gerhardt’s presentation.
The audience was a mixture of families, Camp Lejeune base leadership, Marine Corps Community Services leadership, healthcare providers, and EFMP staff from Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, and New River. “It was far and away the most successful forum we’ve ever had and I’ve received compliment after compliment about Peter’s presentation; his tone and his message really resonated with our families and with our staff. In fact, I received an email from the director of Marine Corps Community Services for Camp Lejeune citing Peter’s presentation as ‘superb,’ noted Tracey Sosa, MA, EFMP program manager, Marine and Family Programs, Marine Corps Community Services.
Based upon the response to this initial visit, the EFMP staff at Camp Lejeune and Dr. Gerhardt are already planning an encore to “Bridges to Adulthood” later this year, when Dr. Gerhardt will conduct a sexuality workshop.