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EFMP families receive hands-on experience

Abraham Lemery, a U.S. Air Force family member, holds toys from a sensory box in his home outside Amherst, Mass., earlier this month. The Hanscom Exceptional Family Member Program sent the boxes to enrolled families to supplement therapy for children on the Autism Spectrum or with sensory processing needs. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Dave Lemery)

Abraham Lemery, a U.S. Air Force family member, holds toys from a sensory box in his home outside Amherst, Mass., earlier this month. The Hanscom Exceptional Family Member Program sent the boxes to enrolled families to supplement therapy for children on the Autism Spectrum or with sensory processing needs. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Dave Lemery)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Families enrolled in the Hanscom Exceptional Family Member Program have taken on the role of teachers, therapists and counselors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last few months, families with children on the Autism spectrum or with sensory processing needs, expressed concerns that virtual occupational therapy sessions were lacking, so officials from the Airmen and Family Readiness Center here sought a solution.

“Occupational therapy is about the tactile, physical experience,” said Sharon Noones, Hanscom EFMP family support coordinator. “It helps the children build and use the muscles in their hands, and differentiate between hot and cold, or soft and hard.”

Noones and her team found an answer in sensory boxes. The boxes are curated by a licensed occupational therapist and were age appropriate for children aged 5 to 13. Each box was mailed directly to families, and offered a variety of ways to supplement the therapy received virtually.

Lt. Col. Dave Lemery, University of Massachusetts Amherst Reserve Officers’ Training Corps commander and EFMP parent, said the sensory box has been a motivating new tool for his son, Abraham. 

“Abraham loves anything new,” said Lemery. “Incorporating the toys in the sensory box into his therapy has been really beneficial; they’re helping him focus and keeping him interested.”

In addition to the sensory boxes, EFMP officials have mailed out science, technology, engineering and math activity kits as well as paint set kits.

“I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to do these types of events and continue to take care of our families,” said Noones.

For information on EFMP or other AFRC events, email 66.fss.fsfr.cmb@us.af.mil.