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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Jill Biden, Autism, and the Military

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families.  As many posts have discussed, the challenges are especially great for military families.

Abbie Shull at The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) reports that Dr. Jill Biden visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord on March 9., touting a relaunch of a military family outreach program she started during the Obama administration.
Biden toured the Children's Museum on JBLM with Gov. Jay Inslee and I Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Randy George. The museum is a joint effort between the base and Children's Museum of Tacoma and is set to formally open April 24.

The director of learning experiences at the museum, Alyssa Tongue, showed Biden the new water feature and a sensory exhibit and "calm room" designed for children on the autism spectrum.


Biden's visit is part of an ongoing effort to relaunch Joining Forces, a program she started with former first lady Michelle Obama during the Obama administration. Biden said Joining Forces focused on employment, education and wellness programs for military families, and she hopes to continue those efforts while listening to the evolving needs of the families.


Biden also met with representatives from the JBLM Center for Autism Resources and Education Services (CARES) program which supports families who have children or dependents on the spectrum. JBLM CARES is the only program of its kind in the Department of Defense, which has made the base home to the largest population of military dependents with autism.

62nd Airlift Wing Lt. Col. Rebecca Christi is a developmental behavioral pediatric fellow at Madigan Army Medical Center and the mother of two children with autism. Christi told Biden how JBLM's resources have made it easier for her children to receive specialized education that was unavailable at her previous duty stations.

Christi said she was glad Biden seems ready to focus on the needs of families with special needs children.

"We need to focus on sustaining the model that JBLM has provided," Christi said. "Getting appropriate classroom placement for my son has been essential."