2012 News Archive


International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) Offers Free Digital Books for Kids In Multiple Languages

The ICDL has a goal of providing free online access to tens of thousands of great books for children who would not otherwise have such access. The ICDL collection currently includes books in 61 languages. Check out this great resource here.

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CHALLENGED ATHLETES PLAYING EQUALLY (C.A.P.E.) 2013 BASKETBALL SIGNUPS FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLINE at the following website! www.capetn.org Basketball leagues start Saturday, Jan. 5 and runs through Saturday, Feb. 23 with a tournament scheduled following on March 2. ALL games and practices are on Saturday (none during the week). All sessions are, typically, one hour. Players will receive a uniform shirt, trophy at the end of the year and weekly "gifts". This is similar to any other league you might see with team schedules. The game is slightly modified to fit those with special needs. There are 3 divisions all based on player ability (there is NO age OR skill limitation in CAPE): Beginner - this is for the smallest of players. They play half-court with 8 foot baskets. Two coaches are allowed on the floor at a time. One to direct the players and one stationed under the goal for those "dunks". Volunteers are stationed around the outside of the playing surface (unless pushing a wheelchair) for instruction and encouragement. There is NO scoring in this league. Intermediate - This is for those that are more advanced than the beginner level but not quite ready to advance to the older level. Players compete on half court with 10 ft. baskets. There is more instruction in this league than, probably, any other. One coach is allowed, per team, on the playing surface at a time. There is "occasional" scoring in this league. Advanced - This is for the player that is ready to play competitive basketball. They play full court with 10 ft. regulation baskets. No coaches are allowed on the floor. Score is kept and penalties ARE called! First week of basketball consists of getting their uniform, 45 minutes of instruction and 15 minutes of actual game time. In the following weeks instruction will decrease as game time increases. This all leads up to our BIG basketball tournament against teams of special needs children from Brentwood, Donelson and Bellevue at the end of the year! C.A.P.E. is a year round organization dedicated to providing sports and activities to children (and adults) with special needs. Organized sports in baseball, basketball, bowling, hockey, soccer and more are planned in order to increase social skills and improve self esteem. But don't take our word for it! Ask around! Check out the website (where you will find pictures and videos of what they do)! See for yourself how organized sports helps them to achieve goals as and individual and within a team! You will find NO pre-judgment here! Only FUN and OPPORTUNITIES! Contact Rick Ryan at Challenged Athletes Playing Equally (C.A.P.E.) P. O. Box 10986 Murfreesboro, TN 37129 (615) 238-7372 or visit the website at  www.capetn.org for more information.

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Toys "R" Us Differently Abled Toy Guide Available

For nearly two decades, Toys "R" Us has published the annual  Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, an easy-to-use resource featuring specially selected toys that encourage play for children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities.


During the past several years, Toys"R"Us has worked with various personalities who have served as the "face" of the Guide. Among the many celebrities are Eva Longoria, Holly Robinson Peete, Whoopi Goldberg, Meredith Vieira, Maria Shriver, Marlee Matlin and John Ritter. This year's cover features mom, TV host and philanthropist Nancy O'Dell. 


This complimentary, one-of-a-kind resource speaks to a child's individual needs and offers qualified toy recommendations based on research from the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization that evaluates all of the toys featured in the Guide.  En espanol tambien.

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15 Holiday Survival Tips from the National Center for Learning Disabilities

Have a second helping of stuffing, stay up past bedtime, shop 'til you drop and eat cookie dough right out of the bowl - it's the holiday season! For many of us, this is a time to focus on fun, friends, and family, flipping our schedules upside-down and filling our days with excitement. But for some children, including those with learning disabilities (LD), who depend upon daily routines and careful planning of activities, times of fun and excitement can dissolve into moments of anxiety and stress before the holiday decorations are even out of the box.

Sometimes we all think about throwing in the towel and just avoiding the things that make life harder. However, with careful planning and a little creativity, it can be "easy as pie" to help children with LD make the most of holiday traditions and cherished family events.  Read the 15 Tips here. 

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STEP Staff Gather for Planning Time at Haley Farm

Members of the STEP staff and Board of Directors gathered in November at the Children’s Defense Fund Haley Farm in Clinton TN for a time of planning , training, and renewal. We strive to design our services and supports to ensure a brighter future for children with disabilities. If your family or someone you know has been reached by the support, training, and information provided by STEP this year, would you consider making a contribution to help us continue to ensure a brighter future for children with disabilities? Your donations will go directly toward expanding our capacity to serve all families, including those whose first language is not English. Donate today by PayPal or credit card at www.tnstep.org (the donation button is in the upper right corner) or send a check to STEP, Inc. 712 Professional Plaza Drive; Greeneville, TN 37745. All donations are tax deductible. Thank you for enabling us to serve families who have children with disabilities in Tennessee.

Pictured Backrow: Larry Magnrum, Derek Flake, Bill Allen; Middle Row: Carol Lewis, Nancy Boyd, Bernadette Gray, Scott Finney, Sally Ottinger, Donna Jennings; Front Row: Ann Curl, Barbara Wagner, Joey Ellis, Patricia Valladares, Karen Harrison

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Just Care Family Network Parent Training Event

Just Care Family Network is hosting a parent training event featuring  presenter Dr. Altha Stewart, Shelby County/TN Government.

· Learn how to develop a plan of care
· Get strategies for behavioral interventions
· Learn how to connect with community resources

WHEN?   January 10, 2013 

WHERE?  Teaching & Learning Academy  (TLA)  
2485  Union Ave Memphis, TN  38112

For more information, please RSVP to Annette Vaughan with the Memphis City Schools Exceptional Children & Health Services at 901-416-0161.

 *Light Refreshments*

 View Flyer Here


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TN Virtual Academy Webinar

STEP will be hosting a webinar on the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) to share information about this free online public school. The TNVA has been authorized by the Union County School District to serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Randy Bretza, Local Development Manager for TNVA, will be our guest presenter for this webinar.  In addition to sharing what is available to students through this online academy and how it works, Randy will also open the session up to answer your questions.

The TN Virtual Academy is open for any student in TN to enroll during their open enrollment beginning in March. 

Many families have found TNVA to be a another option to meet the educational needs of their children. In situations such as,
   *child didn't  fit into the traditional classroom setting
   *wanted a small learning environment without the costs
   *had bullying issues
   *has learning disabilities
   *wanted to receive instruction on their level
   *wanted to move at a faster or slower pace,
TNVA has been a great alternative for their children.

Students socialize with each other through the virtual online academy as well as on field trips.

Participants may submit questions before and during the webinar to be addressed during the presentation, Submitted questions will be compiled into a FAQ sheet and posted on our website.

When: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Central Time
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Eastern Time 

To learn more about TNVA, Register Here Now for this Exciting Training!

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Parent Multicultural Leadership Conference Coming Soon!

STEP is working with Metro Nashville Public School to offer a Parent Multicultural Leadership Conference on November 17 at Glencilff High School in Antioch.

The attached flyer has been created in several languages, and folks will be available to register people on the phone who do not read or speak English. 

Para la información en español, llama por favor Patricia: 1-800-975-2919. For information in other languages, we are asking families to contact John Mann at 615.259.3282 x.858256 or email John.Mann@mnps.org.

Register here to attend the conference.

Vendor tables register here.                 

All other necessary information is included in the attached flyers.

English                Spanish             Arabic          Burmese

             Kurdish                Nepali                Somali         

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Johnson County Graduation Meeting for Parents

STEP (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) and Johnson County Schools invite parents and family members of children with special needs to attend an informational meeting about high school graduation, diplomas and post-secondary preparation. The guest speakers will include Karen Harrison, Executive Director of STEP in Greeneville and Brian Kennedy and Ruth Thomas from the TN Rehabilitation Center at Elizabethton. Representatives from DIDD (Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) have been invited to participate, along with representatives from the Johnson County Schools Special Education Department.

This is a great opportunity to get all your questions answered about what is available for your child in high school and post-secondary opportunities.

Children are welcomed to attend with their parents.
DATE: Monday, November 5, 2012        
TIME: 6:00-8:00 PM
PLACE: Johnson County Schools Central Office Conference Room

View Flyer Here.

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New IRIS Center Module on Secondary Reading Instruction

The IRIS Center is pleased to announce the posting of a new STAR Legacy Module: Secondary Reading Instruction: Teaching Vocabulary and Comprehension in the Content Areas. To view this resource, please go to http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/sec_rdng/chalcycle.htm

In Secondary Reading Instruction: Teaching Vocabulary and Comprehension in the Content Areas, you’ll learn more about adolescent literacy and the need for today’s students to be able to read across content areas like social studies and science, a vital part of achieving positive learning outcomes.

In addition to these components, the module contains:

•Information on some of the components of effective vocabulary and comprehension instruction
•Notes on how teachers can help students to activate their prior knowledge, including an audio interview with Paul Beavers, a content-area instructor
•Classroom videos showing vocabulary and comprehension instruction in action
•Details on the usefulness and effectiveness of graphic organizers, with additional thoughts from expert Cynthia Shanahan
•Audio interviews with experts such as Sharon Vaughn, Director of the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at the University of Texas, Austin; Deborah Reed of the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University; and Elfrieda Hiebert, Research Associate at the University of California, Santa Cruz

As always, the IRIS Center encourages you to share all of their materials (http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/) with your colleagues and students. If you have any questions concerning IRIS materials, please contact Kim Skow at 800-831-6134, kimberly.a.skow@vanderbilt.edu, or iris@vanderbilt.edu.

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Check It Out! STEP Has Added 2 New Packets!

You'll not want to miss these exciting new packets STEP has added to our site!

Conservatorship, Special Needs Trusts, and Wills Packet
Conservatorship in Tennessee is used to provide decision-making support for an adult individual who is unable to make decisions for their self. Rights pass to a person at the “Age of Majority”; in Tennessee that is age 18. Parents and caregivers who have children with disabilities who are nearing the age of majority, 18, often need to know the conservatorship process and receive answers to questions such as: How can I continue to be involved in the decision making process once my child turns eighteen?; Who determines if a person with a disability is able to make educational, medical, and legal decisions for themselves?; What levels of conservatorship are there?; Is conservatorship granted by the court?. To receive answers to these questions and learn more please download this packet.
Download Now.

Vocational Rehabilitation Packet
The state vocational rehabilitation services program ( VR ) is designed to assess, plan, develop and provide services to eligible individuals with disabilities, consistent with their strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interest and informed choice. By providing services in this way, the VR program enables individuals with disabilities to prepare for and engage in gainful employment. Please download this packet to see who is eligible, how to apply, and services that are provide.
Download Now

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ETTAC Presents Free Workshop on DynaVox Series V

ETTAC will be presenting a free workshop on the DynaVox Series V: Introduction and Implementation. This workshop is an Introduction to Series 5: Come learn about their new generation of augmentative communication devices. This session will combine an overview of features and a brief demonstration of pages, programming, and other new capabilities that make the Maestro, V & Vmax unique.

Presented by: Stacy Berry, DynaVox Western NC & Eastern TN AAC Sales Consultant

Date:  November 14, 2012

Time: 10:00 AM —12:00 PM   Introduction 
         1:00   PM ---  3:00 PM   Implementation

Location: East Tennessee Technology Access Center
              116 Childress Street 
               Knoxville, TN 37920

For More Information, View Flyer Here.

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Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA

The Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA (SEPTA) is excited to announce an inclusive, community-wide opportunity for parents, educators and other professionals with interest in children with special needs and their advancement. This new 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is designed to support, educate and enhance awareness of programs, legislation and the comprehensive needs of children with special needs and their families. Everyone who has an interest in the welfare of children with special needs is strongly encouraged to join this SEPTA group. As a member you will have the opportunity to attend meetings, make linkages to resources and supportive others, participate in educational programs and workshops and volunteer your time.

You are cordially invited to attend SEPTA's General Membership meeting where Gina Brady, Education Advocate with Disability Law and Advocacy Center will be speaking on Bullying in Our Schools: Helping students and families identify, prevent and legally respond to bullying in schools. This meeting will be on Tuesday, October 23 at 7:00pm at the Colonial Middle School located at 4778 Sea Isle Road, Memphis, TN 38117.  View the flyer here for more information on this event and other exciting news from SEPTA!

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Upcoming Webinar With Deputy Commissioner Kathleen M. Airhart, Ed.D.

Dr. Kathleen Airhart will present a webinar designed to inform families and students, and those who work with them, about current Department of Education initiatives.

Dr. Airhart was appointed as Deputy Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education in January 2012. Previously she has served in roles for the Putnam County School System, including teacher, Special Education Supervisor and for the past 6 years, Director of Schools. She holds a Doctorate from Tennessee State University in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelors, Masters, and Ed.S. from Tennessee Tech University.

She has authored numerous articles and received various awards related to education. She was named Superintendent of the Year by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents for 2011-2012. During the course of her career, Dr. Airhart has actively engaged and led education reform efforts to improve PK-12 educational results for all children in Tennessee.

Please join us for this opportunity to hear from the Deputy Commissioner!

Topics to be covered include:
. Education reform through Tennessee's First to the Top plan
. Review of the Department's structure including Field Service Centers
. Common core standards
. Changes to assessment that are on the horizon
. Elementary and Secondary Education Waiver (ESEA)
. Strategic priorities to reach 6% gap closure for students with

When: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Central Time
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Eastern Time

Space is limited.

Register Here Now to Reserve Your Place at the Webinar.

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Madison County Transition Fair Coming Soon!

There will be a Transition Fair held at Tigrett Middle School at 716 Westwood Avenue, in Jackson, TN, on October 27, 2012, from 9 AM to 1 PM. STEP's Middle TN Coordinator, Joey Ellis, will be presenting the workshop, "Taking the Mystery out of Transition Planning," at this event.  Make plans now to attend this exciting event! For more information, please contact Margaret Dougan at mhdougan@jmcss.org or call 731-410-6425.

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Early Intervention Family Alliance (EIFA) is Holding a Membership Drive

The Early Intervention Family Alliance (EIFA), is currently holding a membership drive to encourage family leaders, professionals and partner organizations from across the nation, who are interested in improving outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families, to join them in their mission. EIFA is a national organization of family members and supporters dedicated to sustaining and improving the national early intervention program for eligible infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. To learn more about the EIFA organization, including past and future activities, please visit their website and blog at http://www.eifamilyalliance.org.

EIFA has some exciting work ahead of them, especially the reauthorization of IDEA, and they aspire to have family representation from every area in our nation and territories. EIFA is seeking to identifying family members who are leaders, interested in joining EIFA in their initiatives. Please share this information with anyone you feel may be interested.

Attached is EIFA’s membership invite letter  that provides important details. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact EIFA at eifamilyalliance@aol.com and they will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

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TDRS Leadership Announces the Opening of Priority 2

Tennessee Division Rehabilitation Services Leadership Team Released the following memorandum:

Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.

It was with great enthusiasm that the TDRS Leadership announces the opening of Priority 2 for all consumers that have been deemed eligible for vocational rehabilitation services.

In the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Priority Category 2 is defined as those individuals who have significant disabilities. This category includes those individuals who are presumed eligible for services due to the fact that they are SSI/SSDI recipients. The other criteria for this category is the individual have limitations in one or more functional capacities, require multiple vocational rehabilitation services, and those services will last over an extended period time.

As of September 30, 2012, over 1900 cases were released from the waiting list and those consumers have been notified of the next steps needed to begin working on their individualized plan for employment.

The opening of this priority category will allow TDRS to provide more employment services and increased employment outcomes to Tennesseans with disabilities. View Memo Here.

For additional information about the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, click here.

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The Score Sheet - A Good Way For Parents to Learn About Common Core

The SCORE Sheet is the online conversation on public education reform in Tennessee, and is hosted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). Regardless of perspective, contributors share a common goal: that every child graduates from high school prepared for college or the workforce. Learn More.

Here is a good intro video to help parents understand the shift to common core: View Video Here. at www.tnscore.org  

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The National Center for Learning Disabilities is Spotlighting Dyslexia This Month

Did you know October is LD Awareness Month? This month, NCLD will spotlight dyslexia. LD Awareness Month gives all of us an opportunity to help raise awareness. NCLD has created a new animation video to help explain the emotional journey of a child with LD. View video here.

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STEP's Fall Newsletter Is Now Available for Viewing

Check Out STEP's Latest Newsletter here.  If you would like to sign up to receive STEP's Newsletter by email, please register on our homepage.

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STEP, Inc. Transition Information Made Easy (TIME)

STEP staff will provide training and professional development to families who have children with disabilities, transition age students with disabilities, teachers and related service providers who work with transition age youth.

Direct in-person training opportunities that can be requested by families, schools, and community sponsors include: Transition Institutes with Information Fairs, Dream Building Activity: Planning for Your Future at Institutes and workshops on “Taking the Mystery out of Transition Planning”, and transition focused person centered planning seminars which include both group instruction and individual work with students, and providing transition information to families whose first language is not English.

To extend the availability of information in this technology age, STEP will make our most sought information available through video, online training, and electronic documents. These training tools will include: short video vignettes that will be posted on the STEP YouTubechannel; an online transition training module with materials to download, interactive content, and video clips with a certificate of completion when finished; free webinars over the contract period on topics such as, Graduation requirements, Vocational Rehabilitation, Conservatorship and Special Needs Trusts, College Readiness: Tips from Disability Support staff, Strategies for serving at risk students, and Success Stories; Students and Employers Speak Up!; and Transition Guides in English and Spanish.

Read More Here About Transition Information Made Easy (TIME) - What We Do

For more information email karen.harrison@tnstep.org or call 1.800.280.7837

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Katie Beckett Waiver Meeting

Do you have a child with special health care needs? Is your income too high for your child to get TennCare?

The Tennessee Justice Center and Family Voices are working together to educate families about an option for children who have special health care needs!

The Katie Beckett waiver lets states offer Medicaid for children who have disabilities if it will keep them from going to an institution. The waiver does not count parent’s income.

Many states offer the Katie Beckett waiver but Tennessee does not. The Tennessee Justice Center and Family Voices want to make this option a reality for families in Tennessee! 

They want to hear your stories about how this could benefit your child and give you the tools you need to be a powerful voice! 

     Wednesday, September 19
     12:00 pm- 1:30 pm
      Bearden Branch Library
     100 Golf Club Rd 
      Knoxville TN 37919

If you are attending, please RSVP to Nikki at 615-255-0331 or nviverette@tnjustice.org by
September 14.

View Flyer Here. 

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Students with ASD Invited to Volunteer for Research

Leaving high school is a time of great change for youth with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development is seeking high school seniors, who have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, to participate in a research study that will examine stress response, behaviors, services, and the family environment. The study will involve 3 visits to Vanderbilt University over 2 years during the transition period from high school.

Vanderbilt invites students with ASD who are planning to leave high school within the next 12 months to take part.  View Flyer Here,  for more information on how to be a part of this exciting study.

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Longtime STEP Employee, Linda Burrows Announces Retirement

Linda Burrows, Family Educator for STEP in East TN, announced today that she will be retiring effective September 14, 2012.. Linda has worked for STEP over the years in different capacities and has a heart dedicated to meeting the needs of families who have children with disabilities. The middle of September marks Linda's fifth year as Family Educator working out of the Greeneville office in East TN. The news was met with much sadness from staff. In her notice of retirement Linda said, "I respect and love the work that STEP has continued through the years". She has used her expertise and experience, particularly in transition to adult life, to the benefit of many families and students. She will be greatly missed. You may send her your regards to linda.burrows@tnstep.org


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Autism Services Family/Parent Survey

The TN Autism Summit is interested in assessing the existing and needed resources for children with Autism-ASD throughout the state of Tennessee.  To this aim, they have developed a questionnaire, which should take 25-30 minutes to complete, is comprised of 4 sections:


(1) Demographic Information about You (the Respondent);

(2) Information about Your Child with ASD;

(3) Information about Existing and Needed Services, and Coordination of Services; and

(4) Your Thoughts-Reflections about Existing and Needed Services (and their Coordination) for Children with ASD.

Read more here.   https://redcap.vanderbilt.edu/surveys/?s=MogITG

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All children CAN Read...Come Explore how!

The NCDB’s (National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness) and partners have designed a website to give children with deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities and complex challenges expanded learning opportunities. The “All Children Can Read” website is built on a framework that incorporates stages of literacy development and key components of reading into instructional strategies for children with dual sensory challenges. Content is organized around evidence-based strategies identified as being effective in building emergent literacy skills and moving children along a continuum toward independent reading. The website has been designed to present these strategies in a user-friendly, interactive manner that utilizes existing resources and provides practical examples. 
View the flyer here.   Visit the website here. 

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Jason Horne: New Principal of Tennessee Online Public Schools

Horne’s non-traditional teaching path has led to his becoming the first principal of TennesseeOnlinePublic School, a ninth through 12th grade, virtual-learning high school that’s being funded by the Bristol City School System.   Read more....

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Parent Workshop Hosted by The Tennessee Center for the Treatment and Study of Dyslexia

The TN Center for Dyslexia is conducting a series of workshops for parents, beginning Saturday, September 8, 2012.  This first workshop is being presented by Aimee Holt, Ph.D., and will cover topics regarding social and emotional issues related to dyslexia. For more information View the flyer here.

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Shelby County Regional SEPTA Calendar of Events

The Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA (SEPTA) is a community wide Parent Teacher Association organized to provide an inclusive opportunity for parents and caregivers to come together and support, educate and enhance awareness of programs, legislation, legal processes and the overall needs of special needs children of all ages and families of Shelby County, Tennessee and surrounding areas. They welcome all families of children with special needs whether they attend public school, private school or are home schooled, as well as other family members, caregivers, educators, other school related personnel, and community professionals including but not limited to: medical, therapeutic and paraprofessionals. Click here to view SEPTA and Community Happenings. View the Events Calendar here.

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STEP’s Third Annual Community Awareness Event

STEP will host its Third Annual Community Awareness Event with a yard sale, including baked goods, at the Greeneville office on Friday, 
August 31, 2012, and Saturday, September 1, 2012. 

Time for both days is 7:30 AM – 2:30 PM. Our goal this year is to raise $1,000.00 to be used to improve education for children and youth with disabilities. If you would like to help but cannot come to Greeneville, feel free to send a donation via paypal here or you may mail a check made out to STEP to: STEP, Inc. 712 Professional Plaza, Greeneville, TN 37745.

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Invitation to a Recreational/Leisure Activities Training

The Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and Autism Society of East Tennessee (ASA-ETC) would like to invite YOU to our next Community Education Series featuring Recreational/Leisure Activities.

What: The following organizations will share information about the recreational/leisure programs they provide to individuals with disabilities: 
        • Tennessee Disability Pathfinder
        • Autism Society of East Tennessee (ASA-ETC) 
        • East Tennessee Technology Access Center (ETTAC) 
        • Open Doors Tennessee
        • Challenger Sports Program 
        • Camp Koinonia
Where: Knoxville-Knox County CAC 
           L.T. Ross Building, Community Room 
           2247 Western Avenue 
           Knoxville, Tennessee
When: Friday, September 28, 2012
             8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Cost: Free
RSVP: Please click here to register. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email.

Please see attached flyer for more details. If you have any questions, please contact Megan Hart at (615) 875-5082 or megan.hart@vanderbilt.edu  

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Meet the 2012 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year!

We are pleased to introduce you to Mr. Juan Cardona, the recipient of STEP’s Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award. He is pictured here receiving the award with his wife Anna, their daughter Jemima and STEP staff members Patricia Valladares and Joey Ellis.

Mr. Cardona was presented the Advocate of the Year award at the annual Tennessee Disability Megaconference in Nashville TN in May. Juan is the parent of Jemima, a spirited and loving daughter who has Autism. Juan attended at STEP workshop a couple of years ago and since that time has been not only used that information to help improve outcomes for Jemima, but has assisted many families on their journey to be effective advocates for their children with disabilities.

As a native Spanish speaker, his passion is to ensure that Hispanic families have information in their language. Mr. Cardona and his wife Anna have volunteered countless hours to translating materials to help families understand their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. As the Wayne Parker recipients before him, Juan is devoted to efforts to ensure a brighter future for children with disabilities. Congratulations Juan!

You can be a part of ensuring that success stories like that of the Cardona family continue to happen. Please make a contribution to STEP today so we can expand our reach to ensure a brighter future for children with disabilities.


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Restraint and Isolation Info Sheet

There is a law in Tennessee which gives protections about the use of restraint and isolation for students with disabilities. The law covers public schools, and private schools when the school system is paying for the student to be there.

Restraint means limiting a student’s freedom of movement by physical contact or holding.

Isolation, also called seclusion, means confining a student alone in a room, enclosed space or structure from which s/he is physically prevented from leaving. “Time-out” in an area from which the student is NOT physically prevented from leaving is not considered to be isolation. Read more here...


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The Puck Stops Here: A Legal Clinic to Address Bullying in Schools

DLAC will host three clinics across Middle Tennessee to help empower students and parents on how to identify, prevent, and intervene when bullying happens.

The first part of the clinics will present an interactive training for parents and students, followed by a panel presentation with members from community organizations that can share additional resources for families. Read more.  Access Flyer Here.

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Alexa Posny Resigns from OSERS

We wanted to share with you the news that Alexa Posny has resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) effective this Friday August 10. She has accepted a new position with Renaissance Learning in Wisconsin. Alexa has served as Assistant Secretary for 3 years and previously worked as Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Michael Yudin, who recently served as acting secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, was named acting Assistant Secretary for OSERS.

Following is a link to an EdWeek blog about Alexa’s resignation: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/08/alexa_posny_to_step_down_as_fe.html  

We wish Alexa well in her new work and thank her for all she has done on behalf of students with disabilities and their families!

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It’s not too late…End the Wait!

Fund the DIDD waiting list for people with intellectual disabilities who need

home and community based waiver services (HCBS)

The Arc Tennessee is launching a Waiting List Campaign for the 2013 legislative session called “It’s Not Too Late…End the Wait!” and we need your help. We need families and self-advocates statewide to join us in spreading the word that the waiting list must be addressed – that more money must be spent on supporting people with intellectual disabilities (ID). The Waiting List is now over 7,000 people and each year only a few hundred from that list may actually begin receiving Medicaid Waiver supports and services.

Please attend one of our “It’s Not Too Late…End the Wait!” informational meetings in a town near you. Learn more about the status of the waiting list, how you can help bring attention to the needs of people on the waiting list and their families, and about other resources that may be of help to you. Each meeting will last about ninety (90) minutes and snacks will be provided. All family members welcome.

Please Join The Arc Tennessee at a “Call to Action” Meeting at a Location Near You: 
Click here to find a location near you!

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U.S. Department of Education Has Added A New “Parent and Family Engagement” Page

We wanted to share that the U.S. Department of Education recently added a new “Parent and Family Engagement” page to its website. You can find the page at http://www.ed.gov/parent-and-family-engagement or go to the ed.gov homepage and click on “Parents & Families” on the right side of the page.

We hope this information is useful to you!


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Parent/Child Stress Intervention Project at Vanderbilt University

Are you and your child experiencing stress? Take part in the Parent/Child Stress Intervention Project at Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt is looking for parents of children with developmental disabilities and their children (ages 5 – adult) to participate in a research study that may lower stress. Read more....

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TCM to Examine Hollywood's Depiction of People with Disabilities in "The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film" in October

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will dedicate the month of October to exploring the ways people with disabilities have been portrayed in film. On behalf of Inclusion in the Arts, Lawrence Carter-Long will join TCM host Robert Osborne for The Projected Image: A History of Disability in Film. The special month-long exploration will air Tuesdays in October, beginning Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. (ET).  Read more here.   Download pdf announcement here. 

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Assistive Technology Webinar Now Archived

Our Assistive Technology Webinar is now archived and available for viewing on our You Tube Channel.  Click here to view it now!

Print out the powerpoint here.


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DIDD-Department of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities-Family Meetings in Middle TN

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities invites you to attend three informational meetings for families caring for individuals with disabilities. The topics benefit those with special or multiple disabilities. The first meeting, which will highlight behavior, is June 27th from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM at the TN School for the Blind. A second session will highlight therapy and a third will cover resources in Middle TN. For more information, click here.

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For Families Seeking Information About Waivers

Click here to read an inspiring story of how a committed parent can make a difference.

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Check Out Our New Assistive Technology Packet

STEP's Assistive Technology Packet is online and available for download.  This information is now available rapidly, no need to wait on the information in the mail!

The term 'assistive technology device' means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. Download this packet if you want to learn more about the definition, services, terms, evaluations, guidelines and resources to improve a student’s ability to learn, work, and interact with others through the use of assistive technology.
Check it out here.

Other Information Packets available for download include: ADHD, Autism, Modifications & Accommodations, and Literacy.

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TN TBI Services Directory and Resource Information Guide Now Available

The Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program was established by the Tennessee General Assembly to address the needs of those individuals who have sustained a brain injury, as well as their family members and primary caregivers.

The TBI Program is the central office for brain injury information in the state. Numerous materials including articles, books, videos, and pamphlets are available to survivors, family members and professionals. A comprehensive resource directory, The Traumatic Brain Injury Services Directory and Resource Guide is distributed statewide. A toll-free number (1-800-882-0611) is available to give immediate information regarding traumatic brain injury to individuals all across Tennessee.

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Healthcare Grants for Families to Cover Expenses Above Insurance Costs

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is seeking grant applications from families in need of financial assistance to help pay for their child’s health care treatments, services or equipment not covered, or not fully covered, by their commercial health insurance plan.

Qualifying families can receive up to $5,000 to help pay for medical services and equipment such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, counseling services, surgeries, prescriptions, wheelchairs, orthotics, eyeglasses and hearing aids.   

To be eligible for a grant, children must be 16 years of age or younger. Families must meet economic guidelines, reside in the United States and have a commercial health insurance plan. Grants are available for medical expenses families have incurred 60 days prior to the date of application as well as for ongoing and future medical needs. Parents or legal guardians may apply for grants at www.uhccf.org, and there is no application deadline. Organizations or private donors can make tax-deductible donations to the foundation at this website.

“The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is dedicated to improving a child’s health and quality of life by making it easier to access needed medical-related services. The grants enable families to focus on their children’s care instead of worrying about how they’ll pay their medical bills,” said Matt Peterson, president, UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation. “Eligible families in need are encouraged to apply online for a medical grant today and take advantage of this valuable resource.”

 In 2011, UHCCF awarded more than 1,200 grants to families across the United States for treatments associated with medical conditions such as cancer, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, hearing loss, autism, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, ADHD and cerebral palsy. As successful fund-raising efforts continue to grow, UHCCF is hoping to help more children and families in 2012.

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Restraint & Seclusion Resource Document Released


Today, the U.S. Department of Education issued a publication that outlines principles for educators, parents and other stakeholders to consider when developing or refining policies and procedures to support positive behavioral interventions and avoid the use of restraint and seclusion.

The goal of this resource document is to help ensure that schools are safe and healthy environments where all students can learn, develop and participate in instructional programs that promote high levels of academic achievement.

“As education leaders, our first responsibility must be to make sure that schools foster learning in a safe environment for all of our children and teachers,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “I believe this document is an important step toward this goal. I also want to salute leaders in Congress for their vigilance on this issue.”

The 15 principles that frame the document ultimately highlight how schoolwide behavioral interventions can significantly reduce or eliminate the use of restraint or seclusion. These guiding principles offer states, districts and other education leaders a framework for developing appropriate policies related to restraint and seclusion to ensure the safety of adults and children.

“Ultimately, the standard for educators should be the same standard that parents use for their own children,” Duncan added. “There is a difference between a brief time out in the corner of a classroom to help a child calm down and locking a child in an isolated room for hours. This really comes down to common sense.”

The document also provides a synopsis of ongoing efforts by federal agencies to address national concerns about using restraint and seclusion in schools, and includes links to state restraint and seclusion policies and procedures.

To access this document, click here.

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Truancy for Illness or Health Related Issues? Resources for Parents.

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Apply for Technical Assistance for Implementing Intensive Intervention

The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) is a new national technical assistance center funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). NCII’s mission is to help stakeholders across the country learn about and implement intensive interventions to enhance academic and behavioral outcomes for students with disabilities in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Apply for Intensive Technical Assistance
NCII will provide intensive technical assistance primarily targeted to local education agencies (LEAs) and schools. LEAs and schools participating in NCII’s intensive technical assistance will receive onsite and distance support from technical assistance providers who have experience delivering and researching components of intensive interventions. NCII will partner with state education agencies (SEAs) to identify potential LEA implementation sites and provide resources to support scale-up of intensive interventions over time.

NCII currently is accepting Letters of Interest for intensive technical assistance support.
Letters of Interest are due on May 30, 2012. Download the NCII National Technical Assistance Call for detailed information about the technical assistance NCII offers and how to submit a Letter of Interest.

Informational webinars about the National Technical Assistance Call will be held on April 19, 2012 at 3:00pm Eastern and May 8, 2012 at 4:00pm Eastern. To access the webinars, go to http://tadnet.adobeconnect.com/ncii/ on the day of the webinar you wish to attend. Sign in as a "Guest." Dial 1-800-591-2259 and enter the Participant Code, 992889.

Sign Up for NCII’s Newsletter to Access Resources
NCII will develop resources targeted towards schools and districts implementing intensive interventions for students with disabilities. Publications, webinars, videos, and tools will be disseminated through their newsletter and website. Resources will be developed and added over time, so sign up now for NCII’s newsletter to be notified of new resources. Sign up at www.intensiveintervention.org/communication.php.

Learn more about the National Center on Intensive Intervention at www.IntensiveIntervention.org or email NCII@air.org.

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The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Disabilities, Religion, and Spirituality Program New Research Study

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Disabilities, Religion, and Spirituality Program is launching a new research study focusing on the strengths, spirituality, and well-being of young people with disabilities in Tennessee. Parents or caregivers of young people with an intellectual disability or autism (ages 13-21) are eligible to participate. Their goal is to learn more about the things that help young people with disabilities flourish and live a good life. They are inviting hundreds of parents across Tennessee to share their views on a survey as part of this research project. Participating parents will receive a $20 gift card for their involvement. Based on what they learn, they will create a helpful and freely available guide for families, faith communities, disability organizations, and service providers across the state.

If you are interested in learning more about the study—or know of other families who may be interested—contact Erik Carter, Associate Professor of Special Education, at erik.carter@vanderbilt.edu or (615) 343-1438, or visit http://tinyurl.com/7nohlwx.

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Tennessee’s FFY ’12 State Application

Tennessee’s FFY ’12 State Application has been posted on the web at http://www.tennessee.gov/education/speced/announcements.shtml 


Before the State can adopt or revise any policies or procedures, the State must comply with the public participation requirements in the Part B regulations, which states that each State must publish the Application for at least sixty days and accept public comment for at least thirty days. Read more...

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Register Now for the TN Disability MegaConference

The Tenth Annual Tennessee Disability MegaConference will be held Thursday & Friday - May 31-June 1, 2012
- World-Class Speakers
- Interactive Workshops
- Educational Sessions
- Exhibits of Disability Products and Services
- Awards Banquet and Dance

The Tennessee Disability MegaConference is Tennessee’s largest disability-specific conference for individuals with disabilities, families, and professionals. At the conference, people share the latest information and innovations on many topics including housing, employment, education, health care, recreation and leisure, mental health, and others. Continuing education credits are offered in many categories. People attending make new friends and important connections as everyone works together to encourage the full participation of all people with disabilities in their own lives!
Register here now!     View Flyer    View Brochure  Sponsor Form

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§ 49-1-614. Each local board of education shall develop a policy by which
student scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program's grades
three through eight (3-8) achievement tests shall comprise a percentage of the
student's final grade for the spring semester in the subject areas of mathematics,
reading/language arts, science and social studies. Read more.

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NEW! A Parent’s Guide to Evidence-based Practice and Autism

Everywhere they turn, parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are bombarded with treatment choices—all of which claim to be effective. This manual is designed to support parents as they make decisions about their child’s treatment.
Read more and get your free download by clicking here.

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FY 2013 Title I State Plan updates and it's Title VI Supplement for the TDRS

The Rehabilitation Act, as amended, requires public hearings to be conducted on the proposed state plans for the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).  
To view the 2012 public hearings, please click here

"Your attendance would be greatly appreciated at a location most convenient for you. Here, you will have an opportunity to provide valuable feedback and suggestions on the Vocational Rehabilitation Program's annual state plan." 

"The plan will also be available on our website
http://tn.gov/humanserv/rehab/st_plan.html in mid-April, along with instructions on how comments can be submitted if you cannot attend one of the meetings. Your input to the proposed state plans is very important to us.   A draft copy of the plans will be available by April 15 in all DRS offices and on the DRS website http://tn.gov/humanserv/rehab/st_plan.html.  Alternative formats are available upon request from any DRS regional supervisor or through contacting us via the website." 

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10 States Win Waivers From No Child Left Behind Law

A little more than 10 years after it was first signed into law, 10 states won approval from the U.S. Department of Education to bypass key components of the federal No Child Left Behind education law.

“This is good news for our kids; it’s good news for our country,” said President Barack Obama, announcing the waivers Thursday (February 9) at the White House. Read more....

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The Facts on Charter Schools and Students with Disabilities (NICHCY)

Charter schools are fairly new in public education, and they’ve generated a lot of interest and inquiry. For many families and educators, charter schools offer more options for how students will be educated. For others, charter schools are confusing — Why, for example, are some charter schools not open for enrollment to students who live nearby? And what about students with disabilities? May they go to charter schools? If so, is special education available in charter schools?
Read More

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Questions Often Asked by Parents about Special Education Services (Preguntas Comunes de los Padres sobre la Educación Especial)

Read This Publication From Nichcy If You Want to Know…

  • How to have your child evaluated (at no cost to you) to see why he or she is having difficulty in school
  • What the evaluation process involves and how you can contribute to it
  • How special education can support your child’s learning, if he or she is found eligible for services
  • How your child’s eligibility is determined and your right to participate in making that decision
  • What happens next, if your child is found eligible......

    Lea esta publicación si usted quiere saber…
    • Cómo conseguir una evaluación gratuita de su niño para averiguar por qué él o ella está teniendo dificultades en la escuela
    • Qué implica el proceso de una evaluación y cómo usted puede contribuir
    • Cómo la educación especial puede apoyar el aprendizaje de su hijo, si él o ella es elegible para servicios
    • Cómo se determina la elegibilidad de su hijo y su derecho de participar en tomar la decisión
    • Cuáles son los pasos siguientes, si es determinado que su hijo sí califica para servicios
      Leer más....

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Developing Your Child's IEP (Desarrollandoel IEP de Su Hijo

Being a parent is the most wonderful—and hardest—job in the world. If you have a child with special needs, your job is no less wonderful, but it can be more complicated.

Ser padre es el más maravilloso—y más duro—trabajo del
mundo. Si tiene un hijo o hija con necesidades especiales, su trabajo no deja de ser maravilloso, pero puede ser más complicado.
Leer Más....


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A New, Improved Get Ready to Read! Website

The Get Ready to Read! website has a brand new look, fresh content, and streamlined navigation! Now, it’s even easier to find high-quality information and resources on early learning and literacy.
Click here to check out these exciting screening tools and information!

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New Literacy Website Available-“All Children Can Read” -NCDB’s (National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness)

Are you looking for literacy strategies for children with sensory losses? Children who do not use a formal language system? Children who have multiple disabilities and complex learning challenges? If the answer is YES then you are encouraged to visit a new literacy website developed by the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB 2.0). When you visit you will find strategies, examples and resources that build on communication as the foundation for early literacy and move children along a continuum toward ever-increasing skill levels. In addition, the website allows users to interact with each other as well as request technical assistance for their child or classroom. Click here to check out the website right away!

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Tips on Communicating with Your Child's School (Comunicándose con la Escuela de Su Hijo)

You want your child to be successful in school. Working as a partner with teachers and the school administration is a good way to make sure that our children have the support and learning opportunities to prepare them for the future. One of the biggest barriers to successful partnerships is communication—especially when it comes to concerns or problems that involve our children. We’ve gathered some tips that may help you when you are communicating with your child’s school.

Read More

Usted quiere que su hijo sea exitoso en la escuela. El trabajar como socio con los maestros y la administración de la escuela es una buena manera de asegurarnos de que nuestros hijos tienen el apoyo y las oportunidades de aprendizaje para prepararlos para el futuro. Una de las barreras más grandes para las asociaciones exitosas es la comunicación-especialmente cuando se refiere a preocupaciones o problemas que involucren a nuestros hijos. Hemos reunido algunos consejos que pueden ayudarlo cuando esté comunicándose con la escuela de su hijo. 

Lea Más         

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NAMI Multicultural All In The Family Summit 2012



A Cultural Community Conversation: Overcoming Challenges

NAMI TN and TN STEP would like to extend this special invitation to you as part of our mission to promote culturally competent care for diverse communities in Tennessee.  Our purpose of the day is to enhance services for culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Assessing attitudes, practices, policies and procedures of administrators and service providers is a necessary, effective and a systematic way to plan for culturally competent care within an organization.  Determining the needs, preferences and satisfaction of family members/consumers is an essential aspect of this process.

Mental illnesses are medical illnesses. One in four adults experiences a mental health problem in any given year. One in 17 lives with serious, chronic illness. 


“Many people in our community are directly affected by mental illness.  “The good news is that treatment does work and recovery is possible.”  Read more.   

Nami Multicultural 2012 Summit Agenda             
NAMI Multicultural 2012 Flyer


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Emergency Preparedness Conference in Nashville

Focusing on Emergency Preparedness for children with special health care needs. March 31, 2012 - Nashville Downtown Library
Complete Details > > >

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STEP received multiple end of year donations!

Thank you to each one who generously made contributions to STEP this year. We received gifts in excess of $3,200 this year which enabled us to complete several needed projects, invest in the completion of the Web site/LMS, and extend the reach of our programs and services.

The STEP Board of Directors challenged themselves to match all donations received! Board members organized events and individually contributed generously and matched all gifts that were given. STEP is truly blessed to have such a committed group of individuals on our Board.

Please help us make 2012 a record year for contributions! Plan your gifts now. Click on our "Get Involved" link on the top of the homepage and explore all the ways your can be a part of helping STEP meet our mission this year. Remember, gifts can be made in honor, in thanks, or in memory of someone special.

In addition to monetary gifts, we are pleased to report that parents, students, and teachers provided 265 volunteer hours to STEP. The committment to STEP shown by these dedicated volunteers is amazing! Thank you to each one who volunteered this year. If you would like to become part of the STEP Volunteer Force, visit the "Get Involved" section of the website. Thank you everyone for making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities in Tennessee!

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IDEA Partnership Collection Common Core Standards

The IDEA Partnership recently released its newest collection, Common Core State Standards. The collection includes numerous resources to assist stakeholders in understanding the common core state standards, including a PowerPoint presentation, glossary, dialogue guide, and resource list. MORE >>>

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Planning for Success After High School YouTube Video Handouts

Living the American Dream presentation

Transition Tool Kit

STEP Transition Toolkit links

Dude, Where's My Transition Plan Book

Dream Building Activity Cards Information Sheet

Community Transition Guide

Dropout Prevention Transition Guide

Employment Transition Guide

College Transition Guide

Further Education Transition Guide

Job Seeking Transition Guide

Parents Role Transition Guide

Self-Advocacy Transition Guide

Self-Directed IEP Transition Guide

Transition Matters Update

Work-Based Learning: FAQ for Special Education



Transition Assessment and Goal Generator (TAGG) Overview

Transition Assessment and Goal Generator (TAGG) Sample Pages

Getting Started: Help Your Child with a Learning Disability Be More Independent with Assistive Technology (AT)

Help Your Young Adult Learn About Accessing Accommodations After High School

Making the Move to High School: Tips for Parents of Students with Developmental or Intellectual Disabilities

Transition to Adulthood: Where Do We Start?

Documents to Keep for Youth Transitioning to Adult Life

A Guide to Assessing College Readiness for Parents of College-Bound Children with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD

Independent Living Postsecondary Goal - IEP Team Decision Assistance Form

The Guideposts for Success: A Framework for Families Preparing Youth for Adulthood

Differences Between High School and College Accommodation for Students with Disabilities

Diploma  Paths

College and Post-Secondary Options Presentation

Tennessee Promise Institutions

Occupational Diploma Information

TN Diploma and Postsecondary Options


Best Laid Plans

Transition - The Best Laid Plans Presentation

Focus Plan of Study

Transition Service Planning Sheet

Transition Goals Worksheet

Credit Acquisition Planning Grid

Credit Audit Workshop and Student Activities Worksheets

Class Registration List

Course of Study Evaluation

Community Outing Inclusion Data Sheet

Positive Transition Planning Practices Survey

STEP Transition Toolkit Links

Evaluation Form - Planning for Success After High School

Parental Permission Form

Pre-Employment Transition Services letter

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