Recent News


Prime Day is July 15 & 16 - Shop and Support STEP

You can make a difference while you shop Amazon Prime Day deals on July 15 & 16.  Simply shop at and AmazonSmile donates to Support and Training for Exceptional Parents Inc. 

It's Super Easy to shop on-line with AmazonSmile and it works exactly like its sister site,

  1. Simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device.
  2. Select Support And Training For Exceptional Parents Inc. from the list of charitable organizations before you start to shop or use this direct link
  3. Make your purchases and feel great knowing you just helped STEP earn cash!
  4. Bookmark to support STEP each time you shop anytime during the year.
  5. Attention iPhone or iPad Users - You cannot use AmazonSmile with the Amazon App on the iPhone or iPad. However, you can set up a shortcut that will work like the app.
    • Open Safari and type in the web address field at the top. AmazonSmile will open.
    • Touch the share button (looks like a box with an arrow) to the left of the website address.
    • Touch Add to Home Screen
    • Touch Add
    • You're ready to shop!
  6. Attention Android Users - As of July 5, 2019 AmazonSmile is now available in the Amazon Shopping App to all AmazonSmile customers using supported Android devices. Click here for instructions to turn on AmazonSmile in the Amazon Shopping App for your Android device.

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Math Is Everywhere! Supporting Math Skills in Infants and Toddlers

Early math skills are essential to children’s school readiness and later learning. The National Center on Early ChildhoodDevelopment, Teaching, and Learning, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is hosting “Math is Everywhere: SupportingMath Skills in Infants and Toddlers” on July 11 from 3–4 p.m. EDT. The webinar will explore research on infants and toddlers’ early understanding of math concepts and discuss ways to support children's early math skills during the activities they do every day. Sign up for the webinar here.

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10 Tips For Planning a Magical Disney Vacation With a Special Needs Child

If you're a family with special needs children, planning a trip to Disney can be a little scary. While there are parks, transportation, and long lines to consider, the most magical place on earth is actually extremely accommodating when it comes to making your trip as seamless as possible.  Click here to read more.

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Travel Tips for Children With Autism

Kids with autism thrive on set schedules, and vacations in new places far from home can cause discomfort and disrupt routines. With proper planning and organizing, you can help your child adjust so everyone in the family can travel together. Click here to read more.

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How to Create a Backyard Sanctuary for Kids with Disabilities

Children of all abilities and needs should have room to play and explore their world. In fact, play is so important for a child’s development that the United Nations declared play is a human right for children. Making your home a place where a child with special needs can be active takes more than a look around. You’ll want to brainstorm ways the outside can be an inclusive sanctuary for children of all abilities, too. Click here to read more.

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TN Special Education Directors Update

The latest Special Education Directors Update is out from the Tennessee Department of Education.

In this issue:

  • Did you Know: RTI2 Pitfalls
  • Speech-Language Communities of Practice
  • High Cost Reimbursement Requests
  • End of Year Report Packet
  • IDEA IEP Self-Monitoring for School Year 2019-20

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Did you Know? RTI2 and Special Education: Potential Pitfalls

In Tennessee, RTI (Response to Intervention) is a program for ALL students in the areas of reading and math. Throughout the school year, teachers use RTI assessments to find out how students are doing and to check on student progress. If a student is performing behind their peers in reading, math or both subjects, the student will participate in intervention programs to work to improve their performance.

Parents should feel free to talk with the teacher about your child’s progress and ask what can be done at home to help your child. If you think your child is not making progress using RTI interventions, you may request, in writing, an evaluation for special education, and the school must respond to your request.

Tennessee’s special education category of Specific Learning Disability uses RTI assessment/progress data to determine special education eligibility.

Special education law provides what is called “Procedural Safeguards” to protect parent and student rights, including the area of special education eligibility. 

The Tennessee Department of Education has created a one-page document and PowerPoint that outlines five tips for school districts to review and follow to avoid violating student and parent safeguards in the area of RTI services.

For more information about RTI, please refer to STEP’s RTI one page guide and Tennessee Department of Education RTI manual.

The new one-page document about RTI from the TN Department of Education reads:

Five Tips for Avoiding Procedural Violations within RTI 2 

RTI2 Pitfalls 

1. Focus on the Data 

  • Focus on the progress; do not get caught up in the process.
  • Language matters. Talk about the student and his/her learning, not about the RTI2 process.
  • Data points are not the point; progress is. Data points help us understand trends in progress and inform instructional decisions.

2. Respond to the Data 

  • If it is not working, change it! 
  • Do not collect data for the sake of collecting data. 
  • Use your data to drive instructional decisions.  
3. Respond Appropriately to Requests for Evaluation 
  • RTI2 cannot be used to deny/delay a request for evaluation [OSEP Memo 07-11]. 
  • Common language pitfalls: “He/She has to go through RTI2 first,” or “We don’t have enough data points.” These statements are focused on the process, not the student. 
4. Avoid Predetermination 
  • All decisions regarding eligibility and placement must be made by the IEP team. 
  • Common language pitfall: “He/She has not been in RTI2 long enough. If we test him/her now, he/she won’t be eligible.” This statement predetermines eligibility before an evaluation has been completed. 
5. Refer Anytime a Disability is Suspected 
  • Ensure you have a clearly communicated process for referrals from parents and teachers (i.e., clear child find procedures) for all disabilities, including specific learning disability. 
  • School teams must consider all data, including medical diagnoses and/or outside evaluations. 

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Evaluating the Implementation of Evidence-based Practices—Tip Sheet Series

This series of short tip sheets were developed jointly by ECTA (Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center) and Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy), to provide concise guidance for collecting and analyzing high-quality data on the implementation of evidence-based practices. The tip sheets address four key topics: What to Measure, Characteristics of a High-Quality Measurement Tool, Establishing a Fidelity Threshold, and Summarizing Data for Decision-making.

Read more:

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Parent Like a Pro: Slowing the Summer Slide

Learning doesn’t have to fall by the wayside just because school is out. Use these five parent pro tips to keep your child learning and having fun over the summer months.

Click here to read more

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Pathways Internship Positions

Pathways Internships Pathways Internships provide students with paid work opportunities in agencies to explore Federal careers over the summer. Read for more information. To apply for positions at the U.S. Department of Education, click here

APPLICATION LIMIT: This vacancy announcement is limited to the first 100 applications received and will close at 11:59PM Eastern Time on the day that we receive the 100th application. 

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