2014 News Archive


Confused About the New Way of Writing Goals? Do You Understand Instructionally Appropriate IEP’s?

Components of Instructionally Appropriate Individualized Education Plans (IAIEP)

What are the Keys to Writing an Instructionally Appropriate Individualized Education Plan?

  • Parent Input through Parent Concerns
  • Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEP)
  • Measurable Annual Goals (MAGS)

Click on the links below to find downloadable resources that give Tennessee Department of Education guidance on how to write Parent Concerns into the IEP; how to write Present Levels into the IEP in such a way that a child’s functional level is clear to everyone who reads them; and how to write projected skills into the IEP in such way that a child’s goals are clear and measurable to everyone who needs to provide services to your child.

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Share Your Extra Supplies

Often families and even companies, churches, schools, and organizations find themselves with an abundance of durable medical, therapy, or other items for which they no longer have a use. We love being able to pass on items that will benefit other families who may have limited or no insurance coverage or financial access to things they need.  We also love to share things that will make the lives of other families easier.  Items are also needed as an organization to enable our day to day function in service to families.

Do you have extra medical equipment to share?  Do you need to request equipment or supplies?  http://lifelinefamilies.org/resources/equipment-exchange/

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What Family Caregivers of Children with Disabilities Need to Know about Wellness & Prevention

Families of children with disabilities may be overwhelmed with multiple appointments to specialists. It's difficult to remember about wellness and preventive care but this is important to overall health.

Dental Care: Oral health is essential for overall health.  Cavities can cause bacteria to spread to the bloodstream with serious complications.  Children with special needs may have difficulty with dental care due to poor motor skills or medications which affect their teeth.  Bright Futures has a Pocket Guide.  The AAP also has information for families in English and Spanish.  Tips for families of children with special needs can be found from Autism Speaks and also from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.  For families without insurance, Donated Dental Services has free dental care and Smile for a Lifetime has free orthodontics.

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Procedures Required When a Parent Requests an Evaluation: Regardless of Where the Student is in the RTI² Process

Update from Tennessee Department of Education with OSEP Memo Clarification

As LEAs begin implementation of Tennessee’s RTI² Framework, the department would like to remind districts of the procedures required when a parent requests an evaluation. As referenced in this memorandum issued through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), a Response to Intervention (RTI) process cannot be used to delay or deny an evaluation for eligibility under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 
A parent may request an evaluation at any time- regardless of where the student is in the RTI² process. Within 60 calendar days, the team will continue to collect intervention and progress monitoring data as well as achievement testing, systematic observations, and any other relevant assessments determined by the school team. Prior to the 60 day evaluation timeline, the IEP team will convene to review these assessments and determine the student’s eligibility for special education.  If the team does not have sufficient data to make an eligibility determination, the team could either determine that the student is not eligible at that time or may request an extension of the 60 day timeline until more data can be collected. If the team opts to request an extension, the parents must be in agreement with this decision. 
In addition, eligibility for special education must not be pre-determined. Therefore, if a referral is made for a student who is receiving interventions through RTI, it would not be appropriate to pre-determine that the student will not be eligible due to a lack of data. Rather, communication with the parent should include information regarding the intervention process, the student’s progress to date, and the process used to determine the need for special education. Moreover, the team may discuss the need for sufficient data to make this determination and the possibility that the team will not have the data needed to determine eligibility if sufficient data has not been collected.
Please contact Theresa Nicholls at
Theresa.Nicholls@tn.gov with additional questions.

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Bullying & the Educational Rights of Students - Office of Civil Rights Guidance Now Available

On October 22, the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights issued new guidance explaining that the bullying of a student with a disability on any basis (disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) can result in a denial of a free, appropriate public education under Section 504; and that this denial must be remedied by schools.  The guidance also reiterates schools' obligations to address conduct that may constitute disability-based harassment and explains that schools must also remedy the denial of FAPE resulting from disability-based harassment.  Read more.

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Fact Sheet on Educational Rights of Immigrant Children

A new fact sheet, Educational Services for Immigrant Children and Those Recently Arrived to the United States, from the U.S. Department of Education, provides information to help families, parent centers, advocates and education leaders better understand the responsibilities of States and local educational agencies (LEAs) in connection with immigrant students, and the existing resources available to help educate them - including children who recently arrived in the United States.


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AmazonSmile - You Shop. Amazon Gives to STEP, Inc.

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Swipe your Kroger Plus Card for STEP

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STEP, Inc. presents the 2014 East Tennessee Special Education Post-Secondary Transition Institute

There is something exciting happening in Northeast Tennessee for students and young adults with disabilities, their parents, teachers and the professionals who support them.

STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) along with the Tennessee Department of Education will host the 2014 East Tennessee Special Education Post-Secondary Transition Institute on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at Northeast State Community College in Blountville.   The Institute will be offered in two parts: a morning session (8:30 am – 1:00 pm) and an evening session (4:30 pm – 8:30 pm).  Guest are welcome to register for one session or to join us for both. 

This FREE event is open to the public and targets students and young adults with disabilities their families and service providers.  Attendees will learn about the adult services and issues related to transitioning out of high school and into the community to lead productive and independent adult lives.  Participants will find answers to their questions, make connections, and receive tools to use that will help ensure that their children who need access to special education and exit high school be prepared to live, work, and participate fully in their communities. 

The morning session will begin with the keynote address Living the American Dream by Joey Ellis, STEP Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator, followed by informational sessions, an exhibitor fair with disability organizations, lunch, and concert by the Tyler Williams Band.  The evening session will begin with a light dinner, exhibitor fair with disability organizations, followed by informational sessions, a panel discussion with state agencies and speakers, and a concert by the Tyler Williams Band.


Deadline for registration is Friday, October 24.  For more information call 1-800-280-7837.

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STEP, Inc. hosted Roundtable Discussion with Acting Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, U.S. Department of Education

Pictured left to right:  Juan Cardona, Parent (Davidson County); Belinda Martinez, Parent (Montgomery County); Tamatha Ward, Parent (Davidson County); Acting Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, US Dept. of Education; Belinda Hotchkiss, Executive Director, Tennessee Voices for Children; Bernadette Gray, STEP Board of Directors Chair and Parent (Shelby County)

STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents), Tennessee’s Parent Training and Information Center was honored to host a parent/family engagement roundtable with Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrapped up his fifth annual back-to-school bus tour on Wednesday, Sept. 10, with events in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee.  This year’s “Partners in Progress” bus tour had stops in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, highlighting the three states’ commitment to encourage reform and innovation in education and to help all students achieve success. Traveling through places that represent the cradle of America’s civil rights effort, the tour places a focus on important work that is closing gaps of opportunity many young Americans face. STEP staff members attended two of Secretary Duncan’s events in Nashville and Memphis.

As part of the “Partners in Progress” bus tour, senior Department officials held additional events on Wednesday, Sept. 10, highlighting the Obama administration’s work to increase access and opportunity for students. One of these events was a round table arranged at the request of Mr. Yudin to hear about the landscape of special education in Tennessee. STEP staff, led by Executive Director Karen Harrison, assembled a group of twenty stakeholders with a diversity of representation to dialogue openly with Mr. Yudin regarding the priorities of the US Department of Education and what is happening in education in Tennessee. He specifically wanted to hear from parents regarding their experiences in navigating special education services. Valuable parent perspectives were given by two past recipients of STEP’s Advocate of the Year Award, Juan Cardona and Belinda Martinez who spoke of the importance of good communication between schools and families and the need for the “high expectations” set by the US and TN Departments of Education to filter further to the building administration level as a means of improving outcomes for students and families. Other parents, including Bernadette Gray, Chair of the STEP Board, Barbara Wagner and Tamatha Ware highlighted the importance of families knowing their rights and how to effectively communicate with school personnel on issues related to ensuring a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities. Karen Harrison spoke of her personal experiences navigating systems from early intervention from birth to three, through the transition from high school to the adult world with her daughter and the need for families to be connected to disability organizations and community entities to ensure smooth transition to post school education, employment and independent living. Joey Ellis, Middle TN STEP Coordinator, provided insight from the perspective of a person who received services through an Individualized Education Plan in high school who learned how to advocate for needed services during his transition journey.

Perspectives were also provided from key leaders in the disability and education field including: Joey Hassell, Assistant Commissioner of Division of Special Populations, TN Department of Education and his colleagues Tie Hodack, Director of Instructional Programming and Suzanne Keefe, Director of Special Projects; Carol Westlake, Executive Director, Tennessee Disability Coalition; Marcus Hayes, Director of Compliance, Department of Exceptional Education, Metro Nashville Public Schools and his colleague Pamela Burgess; and Belinda Hotchkiss, Executive Director, Family Voices of Tennessee. Mr. Yudin’s description of the US Department of Education’s commitment to holding states accountable for outcomes, rather than simply checking boxes of compliance, resonated with the group. Participants were invited to continue collaborative discussions and have further dialogue with Mr. Yudin, specifically around areas that were noted as key priorities of the administration, including Early Learning in inclusive settings, expanding preschool programs and the Birth to 5 Watch Me Thrive initiative; Inclusive education and transition outcomes where students leave with a set of skills prepared for the 21st century; and Equity and Opportunity for all students, which is supported by the administrations My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

STEP, Inc. houses one of 109 Parent Centers funded by the US Department of Education. This forum provided an opportunity to showcase the work of Tennessee’s Parent Center, which is celebrating 25 years serving families who have children with disabilities age birth through 26, youth with disabilities and working collaboratively with schools and other organizations that also provide services and supports to families and youth. Agencies serving families expressed the importance of partnerships and the quality, relevance and usefulness of STEP training, materials and support services. STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) is a statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is funded in part by federal and state grants and relies on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions and support. STEP’s mission is to empower parents through information, training and support to become effective partners with professionals in planning appropriate educational programs for their children with disabilities. STEP services are FREE and available to any parent or family member of a student receiving special education services or who may need special help in school. STEP, Inc. was recently awarded a 5 year Parent Center grant by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to continue our work with families and youth. For more information about services provided by STEP and to view upcoming events visit www.tnstep.org or connect with a STEP team member in an office in your area of the state by calling 1.800.280.7837 (English) or 1.800.975.2919 (Española) .

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STEP, Inc. Presented the 2014 West Tennessee Multicultural Special Education & Post-Secondary Transition Institute Fair

Derek Flake, STEP, Inc. West Tennessee Regional Coordinator awards West Tennessee Youth with an I-pad at the conclusion of the West Tennessee Multicultural Special Education & Post-Secondary Transition Institute Fair

STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) along with the Tennessee Department of Education was host to the 2014 West Tennessee Multicultural Special Education & Post-Secondary Transition Institute on Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm in Bartlett, Tennessee, approximately 13 miles from Memphis.

This free public event reached students and young adults with disabilities, their families and service providers, as well as children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  Attendees learned about preparing students with disabilities to successfully transition from high school into the community to lead productive and independent adult lives.  Participants found answers to their questions, made connections, and received tools to use that will help ensure that their children who need access to special education receive services including families who have traditionally faced barriers to accessing education due to cultural and linguistic diversity.  Everyone received information to help children and youth be prepared to live, work, and participate fully in their communities. 

The event began with the keynote address from Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell followed by six breakout sessions, an information fair with exhibits from local and state disability organizations, luncheon, update from Assistant Commissioner Joey Hassell, Tennessee Department of Education Division of Special Populations followed by a panel discussion with state agencies. 

STEP, Executive Director, Karen Harrison, along with STEP staff facilitated the event and remarked, “The STEP team was excited to provide a day of training and networking that is sure to have lasting positive impact, creating a brighter future for children with disabilities in Tennessee.”

STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) is a statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions and support. STEP, Inc. is the Parent Training and Information Center for the state of Tennessee.  The purpose of STEP is to support families by providing FREE information, advocacy training, and support services to parents of children eligible to receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). STEP services are FREE and available to any parent or family member of a special education student or a student who may need special help in school (birth through age 26). STEP, Inc. has been serving families of children with disabilities and providing information to professionals in a variety of fields for 25 years. Headquartered in Greeneville, STEP, Inc. has offices in East (Greeneville), Middle (Nashville) and West (Memphis) Tennessee.

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Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of STEP, Inc. in West Tennessee

Pictured left to right:  Jenness Roth (Memphis), former Executive Director of STEP, Bernadette Gray, Board of Directors Chair (Collierville), Karen Harrison, STEP Executive Director (Greeneville) 

STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) houses one of 109 Parent Centers funded by the US Department of Education.  Celebrating 25 years of serving families who have children with disabilities age birth through 26, youth with disabilities and working collaboratively with schools and other organizations that also provide services and supports to families and youth. Agencies serving families expressed the importance of partnerships and the quality, relevance and usefulness of STEP training, materials and support services. 

STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) is a statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is funded in part by federal and state grants and relies on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions and support. STEP’s mission is to empower parents through information, training and support to become effective partners with professionals in planning appropriate educational programs for their children with disabilities. STEP services are FREE and available to any parent or family member of a student receiving special education services or who may need special help in school. 

STEP, Inc. was recently awarded a 5 year Parent Center grant by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to continue our work with families and youth. 

For more information about services provided by STEP and to view upcoming events visit www.tnstep.org or connect with a STEP team member in an office in your area of the state by calling 1-800-280-7837 (English) or 1-800-975-2919 (Española) .

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Farewell "Expressions" Contest

Just Care Family Network has announced a contest What Does Just Care Family Network Mean to You?  Farewell Expressions - Empowerment through Art contest will allow families, youth, and community partners involved with JCFN to express what the program means to them, whether it’s been 6 years, 6 months, 6 weeks, or 6 days. 
Expressions can be in any form of art, painting, poetry, photography, collage, or any combination of these examples so long as it fits the perimeters of the poster board. 

Click here to read the entry guidelines carefully and remember: there is a CASH PRIZE!

Click here for registration form.

For more information contact Gary Richmond, Lead Family Contact at 901-222-4517 or 901-277-8728 or via email grichm@comcast.net

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The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA)

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News from TN Dept. of Education: Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities

The following message is from Assistant Commissioner of Special Populations, Joey Hassell, Tennessee Department of Education regarding Alternate Assessment for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities.

Thank you for the feedback provided regarding our transition to a new alternate assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Upon review of the feedback, we have adjusted the transition schedule. For the 2014-15 school year, Tennessee will continue to use TCAP Alternate Portfolio Assessment (TCAP-Alt PA) for accountability purposes. Please review this memo (here) from Assistant Commissioner Hassell for additional information.

Please contact Lori.Nixon@tn.gov with any questions.

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Low Physical Activity Levels Among Individuals with Disabilities

According to a recent CDC survey half of individuals with a disability get no physical activity. This can lead to other health-related issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The Arc has a program to train caregivers in a health and fitness curriculum specifically designed for individuals with disabilities.

Click here to read The Arc blog on this topic.

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Dealing Effectively with Difficult Situations

By: Karen Childs & Meme Hieneman | Parenting Special Needs Online Magazine

Have you ever noticed that there are certain times of day or situations during which struggles with your children seem almost guaranteed?  Getting ready for school?  Family dinners?  Completing homework or chores?  Bedtime?  Even generally well-organized and positive families experience occasional problems with certain routines. Through a simple problem-solving process, you have the ability to stop dreading and start enjoying (or at least dealing effectively) with these typically difficult times.

Click here to read more.

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Finding Common Ground: Working Together to Resolve Behavioral Challenges

By: Viviana Gonzalez & Meme Hieneman | Parenting Special Needs Online Magazine

Amy is a bright, happy 4 year-old girl who lives at home with her parents and 12 year old sister.  She has developmental delays that make it difficult for Amy to understand social cues, independently complete daily activities, and express her needs clearly.  Amy attends an inclusive preschool program five full days per week, where she is under the care of a very experienced teacher who works well with children with special needs. 

Click here to read to read more.

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News from TN Dept. of Education: Read Aloud Accommodation Policy Guidance

The following message is from Assistant Commissioner of Special Populations, Joey Hassell, Tennessee Department of Education regarding Read Aloud Provisions. 

In response to recent questions from districts, the department wanted to share current guidance regarding read aloud accommodations.

Read Aloud Accommodation Policy
The read aloud accommodation is intended to provide access to text for students with a visual impairment, including blindness, and those students with a specific skills deficit that severely limits or prevents them from decoding text at any level of difficulty as determined by a diagnostic tool or instrument that the school administered. Students with disabilities who are simply having difficulty reading text and/or are reading below grade-level do not need the read aloud accommodation to access text.
Additional Considerations for IEP Teams
In making decisions about whether to provide the student with this accommodation, IEP and 504 teams are instructed to consider whether the student has either.

  1. Blindness or a visual impairment and has not learned, or is unable to use, Braille.
  2. A specific skills deficit in the area of reading decoding, reading fluency, or reading comprehension that severely limits or prevents him/her from accessing printed text.
  3. Additionally, the student must have:
    • an intervention provided at Tier III or Special Education in the identified area of deficit
    • the area of deficit identified in the present level of educational performance in the IEP
    • a Measurable Annual Goal that is written to address the specific area of deficit

The Division of Special Populations will provide trainings on the Special Education Framework which provides additional information regarding these considerations in June.
If you have additional questions, please email Lori.Nixon@tn.gov.

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Summer Grillin', Backyard BBQ Essentials and STEP

Grilling season is in full swing and the 4th of July holiday is right around the corner.  Whether you’re a fan of charcoal or gas, this is the time of year you’ve been waiting for.  Steaks, burgers, ribs, chicken, fish, fresh vegetables, even fruit — everything tastes better grilled. 
Escape the heat and stop by your local Kroger for cool low prices on all your favorite Backyard BBQ Essentials.  Don’t forget to swipe your Kroger Plus Card, and Kroger will make a donation to STEP, Inc.

All you have to do is register your Kroger Plus Card, and Kroger will donate a percentage of your total bill to STEP, Inc. every time you shop.

Click here to register your card and support STEP, Inc. at no cost to you.

Click "Sign In" if you already have an account or "Create Account" if you do not have one.

Click "Enroll Now" and then enter one of STEP’s organization numbers:

East Tennessee:
Enter: 43667 or type in: Support & Training for Exceptional Parents, Inc.   

Participating stores: Alcoa, Knoxville, Crossville, Fairfield Glade, Oak Ridge, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Maryville, Farragut, Harriman, and Seymour.  

West Tennessee:
Enter: 81534 or type in: Support & Training for Exceptional Parents, Inc.

Participating storesMemphis, Jackson, and Paris.

REMEMBER, your purchases will not count until after you register your Kroger Plus Card online.  

It's that EASY!

Your participation in this fundraising program with Kroger helps STEP's mission is to empower parents through information, training and support to become effective partners with professionals in planning appropriate educational programs for their children. 

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How Executive Dysfunction Can Cause Trouble Making Friends

Children are expected to mature cognitively and emotionally as well as physically. Generally, as children grow older, their executive function skills like planning, organizing, strategizing and self-monitoring improve. But many children with learning disabilities (LD) and ADHD lag behind their peers in these skills.

Executive dysfunction can lead to a variety of problems with academics and behavior. Everyday tasks like sharing, taking turns, picking up on subtle social cues and staying attentive in class can be very difficult for kids who struggle with executive skills. And when children and teens falter in these basic social interactions, it can hurt them socially—isolating them from peers and making it difficult for them to make and keep friends.  Click here to read more.

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Belinda Martinez Named STEP’s 2014 “Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award” Recipient

Belinda Martinez with STEP staff member Patricia Valladares.


STEP, Inc. would like to congratulate Belinda Martinez from Clarksville, TN who was selected as the recipient of STEP’s 2014 “Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award” during the Annual Tennessee Disability Mega Conference in Nashville last month.


Belinda is the mother of two children, a son who is 10 and a daughter who is 5 from Clarksville. Her journey started when she received the diagnosis from Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital of Autism for her son when he turned 3 years old. From that moment she began to look for information and resources. Belinda realized that, in the area she lived at that time in 2006, parents with children with special needs didn’t have a contact person to ask for information about resources and other programs, especially for those who were new in the area.


Belinda began to look for information; this was made difficult, with no English and no knowledge about the area of Clarksville (Montgomery County). At the same time, she states: “I started building inside myself the gift to help others, and not allow new parents to be lost without information, resources, support, and training.”


In 2009, Belinda began to contact different organizations, non-profits, and government agencies. Belinda shared, “All the organizations that contacted me are very important and special to me.  STEP, Inc. was the first organization that I contacted for information and resources of how to manage an IEP. STEP helped me with the tools and education that I needed to help my son to succeed in the school system, as well others families that I support in this area.”


Belinda is a volunteer “contact parent” for organizations like Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Autism Middle TN, STEP, Inc. and other agencies in the Montgomery County area and nearby counties for families with children and youth with autism and other disabilities. She now has a website and Facebook page to provide information to families called Focus Autism Now TN.


Belinda has dedicated countless hours to provide families with information, resources, leadership, and advocacy services for IEP's or any other type of service for the benefit of the individual. In addition, Middle Tennessee organizations contact me to update parents and provide new services for them. All the work that she does is done because she is passionate about helping families; her service to her community is completely free and voluntary. She is an amazing example of using your gifts to “create a brighter future for children with disabilities.

Click here to view previous winners

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STEP Seeking Donations for Annual Fundraiser

Clearing out your closet? Downsizing your house? Are the kids heading off to college? Want to get organized?

Whatever your reason might be, if you have too much stuff, consider donating it to STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exception Parents).  STEP will host its Annual Community Awareness Event and Yard Sale on Friday, July 25 and Saturday, July 26 at the Greeneville Office from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm each day.  Home baked goodies and concessions will also be available. 

Our fundraising goal this year is to raise $1,000.00 to be used to improve education for children and youth with disabilities. 

Your donations will help make this event a success.  If you have gently used and cleaned clothing, books, movies, house-hold items, glassware, collectibles, kitchen items, furniture, toys, or other items to donate for this sale, you can deliver them to 712 Professional Plaza Drive in Greeneville Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or call 423-639-0125 or toll free at 1-800-280-7837 and our staff will make every effort to pick up donated items. 

If you are unable to donate items and would like to make a monetary donation you can do so through the STEP’s website www.tnstep.org by PayPal or credit card or via mail.  Make checks payable to: STEP, Inc. at 712 Professional Plaza, Greeneville, TN 37745. Your tax-deductible donation will be used for programs and services that assist children with disabilities and their families.

For 25 years STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) has provided FREE information, advocacy training, and support services to parents of children (birth through age 22) that are eligible to receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  

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Tennessee Employment First Leadership Academy

We are looking for the next generation of leaders!

The Tennessee Employment First Leadership Academy is a 4-day training between September 4 and 8, 2014, created by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities (TCDD). This training prepares people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to advocate for better jobs and services options in Tennessee. We believe that people with disabilities should have real jobs with real pay, just like workers without disabilities.

Training includes:

  • Ways to improve job options for workers with disabilities
  • Ways to work and advocate with employers, the legislature and other groups
  • Finding ways to shift from segregated to integrated work settings
  • Learning about benefits and services offered by Social Security and other programs

The training will take place at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville.  Travel and lodging are fully covered for participants.

Participants must be 18 years of age.

The attached application must be completed in full, and returned by end of day, June 19, 2014.

All other information is available on the attached application.

If you have any questions, contact Ned Andrew Solomon at 615-532-6556, or at ned.solomon@tn.gov

Click here for application.

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Ask Congress to Support Bill to Prevent Dangerous Restraint & Seclusion National Call-In Day, Thursday, June 12th



Ask Congress to Support Bill to Prevent Dangerous Restraint & Seclusion

National Call-In Day, Thursday, June 12th

Restraint and Seclusion are practices used in public schools that have killed, injured, and traumatized students. More than 20 children have died, according to a Congressional agency report.  At least 107,000 students were subjected to restraint and seclusion in isolation rooms, according to data from the 2011-12 school year. To prevent these practices and protect students and staff, Senators Tom Harkin and Chris Murphy have introduced the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the Senate (S. 2036) and Representatives George Miller and Gregg Harper have introduced the House bill (H.R. 1893). 


Mark Your Calendars and On June 12
(or during that week---)

  • Call your Senators —US capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121—and urge them to co-sponsor the KEEPING ALL STUDENTS SAFE ACT, S. 2036.  (Leave a voicemail if no one answers). 

Sample Message: “Please cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S.2036, and protect all American students nationwide from restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools.”   

  • Call your Representative (202-224-3121) and ask him/her to COSPONSOR the KEEPING ALL STUDENTS SAFE ACT, HR 1893. (Leave a voicemail if no one answers).

Sample Message: “Please cosponsor the Keeping All Students Safe Act, S.2036, and protect all American students nationwide from restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools.”    


Ask your friends and family to do the same.  Send out to all of your networks at the state and national level.


Or email:         Senate: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

                        House: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/


Make sure Congress hears from thousands of parents, people with disabilities, students, advocates, professionals, friends, families, and neighbors so they will ACT!

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Parent Leadership Recruitment

The Parent Leadership Team provides feedback and information to child abuse prevention agencies and other organizations that serve parents. The combined experience and expertise of the Parent Leadership Team strengthens families by hosting training, developing, and reviewing written materials, and advising practitioners on program improvements.

Click here for more information on the program

Click here for a nomination form

If you have any questions please contact:

Nakisha Lewis, Prevention Specialist
Prevent Child Abuse TN
615-804-4862 cell

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Skills Like Walking, Talking Don't Come Easily for Minority Kids With Autism

Phenomenon occurs twice as often in black children, 1.5 times more in Hispanics than in whites: study.

TUESDAY, May 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Minority children with autism are more likely to have lost critical developmental skills, such as walking or talking, than are white children, according to a new study.

The phenomenon, called developmental regression, occurs when children have reached milestones such as saying words and walking, and then those skills suddenly vanish. The new research found that the odds of developmental regression were twice as high for black children and 1.5 times higher for Hispanic children than they were for white youngsters.

It's estimated that one-third of children with autism go through developmental regression, said lead researcher Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Click here to read more.

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Making a Difference

Meet Sarah – She is a mother of a child who is medically fragile and has an intellectual and physical disability. They are refugees from Burma. Sarah expressed having various needs for her child including respite care for her to be able to attend English classes. Although Tennessee Disability Pathfinder staff assisted her in applying for Family Support funding to cover the cost associated with respite care, the mother declined because she preferred to take care of her daughter herself. After explaining the situation to staff at Tennessee Foreign Language Institute, they made arrangements to create a classroom in Sarah’s apartment complex for her and other Burmese women to take English classes. The family was also experiencing trouble getting the child to school because the bus driver refused to enter the apartment complex located on a steep incline. Pathfinder helped resolve this issue, too, with the help of an educational advocacy organization, STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exception Parents). Ultimately, the apartment complex decided to move the family to an apartment near the bus stop.

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Six useful tips for coaching children with ADHD

by Jacob Greenbaum, M.A. and Jill Fleisher, M.A., M.S.Ed -

For children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), participation in sports can be a great way to practice many of the skills that are impacted by their disorder. In addition, playing sports may allow these children to develop self-confidence that they may lack due to difficulties at home or at school.  Click here to read more.

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How good nutrition improves learning

By Francis Koster

It takes a lot of nutrition for a pregnant woman to grow a new living human being. If the right amounts of nutrition is not present in a pregnant woman’s body, the baby often arrives with a brain that does not work right.

The number of broken brains in America’s children is huge and growing.

There are 62 million kids between the ages of 3 and 17 in the United States. Somewhere around 1 in 10 have mild to serious ADHD, another 1 in 10 have some form of dyslexia, and another 1 in 26 have a diagnosis of other learning disabilities. Additionally, 1 in 68 is affected by autismClick here to read more.

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Response to Intervention (RTI²) Statewide Parent Training Scheduled

As of July 1, 2014, RTI² (Response to Intervention) will be the problem solving model used in Tennessee schools to help identify a student with a Specific Learning Disability.

The Disability Coalition on Education (DCE) is hosting trainings for parents and community members in each of the 8 Department of Education regions across Tennessee, in partnership with the Dept. of Education’s RTI consultants in each region.

These sessions will provide an overview of Tennessee’s RTI² framework; explain how this new model will be used to identify the need for special education intervention, and how this transition will ultimately impact students in special education services after July 1.

Mark your calendar to attend a parent training session near you.

May 22, 6-8 p.m.
Camden Central High School
115 Schools Dr.
Camden, TN 38320

May 22, Time to be determined
Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School
7216 Tyner Road
Chattanooga TN 37421

Please call or email for details

May 22, 6-8 p.m.
Skills Development Center
704 South Washington St.
Tullahoma, TN 37388

May 22, 6-7:45 p.m.
Hendersonville Public Library
140 Saundersville Road
Hendersonville, TN  37075

May 27, 6-8 p.m.
Professional Development Center
305 College Street
Dyersburg, TN 38024

May 27, 6-8 p.m.
Carson Newman Univ.,
Ted Russell Hall-Room 150
744 W. College Street
Jefferson City, TN 37760

June 5, 6-9 p.m.
V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex
301 Louis Street
Kingsport, TN 37660

June 7, 1-3 p.m.
Putnam County Library
50 E Broad St.
Cookeville, TN 38501

June 21, 1-3 p.m.
Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities
711 Jefferson Ave.
Memphis 38105


Click here for scheduled

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Request for Shelby County Regional SEPTA Board Nominees

SEPTA is in urgent need for nominees to the board for 2014-15 school year by May 31, 2014. Anyone interested can go to the website www.shelbycountysepta.org for information on how to apply.

Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA, a local community unit affiliated with the National and state of TN PTA’s. SEPTA is a nonprofit, 501c(3) chartered in April 2012 and are proud to be the first Regional Special Education PTA Regional Special Education PTA in the state as well as the Memphis/Delta Region. SEPTA is comprised of parents, caregivers, teachers, and others from Shelby County and the surrounding areas who believe in helping special needs populations in any way they can.

The purpose of SEPTA is to collaborate, educate, and advocate for children with special needs in our community and provide information regarding training and valuable resources.

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News from TN Dept. of Education: Clarification about Social Studies Graduation Requirements

Clarification about Social Studies Graduation Requirements 


As previously announced, in July 2013, the State Board of Education approved new social studies standards for the 2014-15 school year that change both the content and structure of middle school and high school social studies courses. The department has received numerous questions about how the changes effect graduation requirements, and we would like to provide the following information to clarify.


Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, the following social studies courses, or approved substitutions, will be required for graduation:

  1. World History and Geography: 1750 to Present (1 credit)
  2. U.S. History and Geography: Post-Reconstruction to the Present (1 credit)
  3. U.S. Government and Civics (1/2 credit)
  4. Economics (1/2 credit)

  **Personal Finance (1/2 credit is required and is in addition to the 3 social studies credits)


Any student in grades 10-12 who has already had the World History or Geography course has satisfied their graduation requirement for the World History and Geography Course.  


Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, any student in grades 9-12 who has not already taken World History or Geography will need to take the revised World History and Geography course (or an approved substitution) to satisfy their graduation requirement. Districts are welcome to continue offering the dedicated Geography course as an elective course.  


A complete list of social studies standards for grades K-12 is located here .


For questions concerning course codes for social studies classes and to access the Correlation of Course Codes document, click here


Additional questions may be sent to TNCore.Questions@tn.gov.

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Learning from Tennessee Families Impacted by Disability: A Statewide Survey

Are you a parent of a son or daughter with intellectual disability or autism? 

We are asking parents across Tennessee to participate in a survey focused on their expectations and support needs related to their sons or daughters with intellectual disability, autism, or other developmental disabilities. The survey should take about 20 minutes to complete.

A full description of the study and a link to the online survey can be found at www.tennesseeworks.org/survey. We will randomly select 50 parents who complete the survey to receive a $25 gift card for participating [You can also request print copies by contacting Carly Blustein at carly.l.blustein@vanderbilt.edu or 615-322-3591].

This information will be used to develop free resources and trainings for families as well as inform policy and legislative changes to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Tennessee.

We have heard from 650 parents so far…but we need your help to reach our goal of hearing from 2,000 families living in every county and community across the state of Tennessee! The deadline is May 30.

This collaboration between Vanderbilt University and more than 30 state agencies and disability organizations is striving to improve outcomes for people with disabilities across the state. For more information, visit www.tennesseeworks.org

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Celebrate a Mom’s Love and Inspiration this Mother’s Day!

STEP knows that moms are the real heroes - facing every day challenges to make sure their children exceed in school and transition into adult life effortlessly.

Join us in celebrating Tennessee MOMS - because even empowered superheroes need the support STEP provides.

Make a $25 gift today to honor the thousands of moms, grandmothers and caregivers who have used STEP services over the past 25 years to ensure "a brighter future for children with disabilities."

Your gift will ensure that more moms become "empowered" through STEP services as these  moms have! 

“STEP has been an invaluable stepping stone to help me advocate for my son. Without STEP I would not have known what to say or do when I did not feel like the school had my son’s best interests at heart.  I believe that without out the training that I received through STEP, my son would not be receiving the supports and aids he has needed to make the great progress he has made these past few years.” 
Tara Mohundro, Memphis

"STEP has saved me and my son’s life.  He graduated with a regular diploma last year...is driving ...and working!  I could not have maneuvered the IEP system without my "Blue Book."" 
- Parent East TN

“I attended every available STEP workshop before my son entered kindergarten.  This was 12 years ago!  At my first school meeting I was told he would never qualify for an IEP.  I followed the training I had received from STEP, called another meeting, and left with an IEP for my son.  He has had an IEP for the past 12 years.  STEP was a Godsend when I needed help, knowledge and empowerment!  Thank you STEP!”
- Ann Curl, Franklin

“Without STEP, I would feel lost, confused, and much less willing to stand up for my child and their rights.  Thanks to STEP, I feel more confident and know that I can turn to them for help.”
Amy Riemann, Clarksville

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Kindergarten Readiness Is More Than Academic

A recent newspaper headline heralded budget meetings between the Shelby County Board of Commissioners and Shelby County Schools officials, but the real headline for us was at the bottom of the story: Board Chairman Kevin Woods said “67% of our children entering kindergarten are not performing at grade level.” He also said 60% of third graders cannot read on grade level and 62% of seventh graders perform poorly in math. 

It was a compelling reminder about how a child’s early experiences – beginning long before school entry – play a role in preparing him for kindergarten. Woods’ comment also underlined the fact that once children fall behind, it’s likely they may not catch up.  Read more.

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Kids Learn About Emotions Through Experience

Your child’s first years are a crucial time for social and emotional development. Children are not born with the ability to recognize their emotions, control their behavior, or understand the social world around them. These fundamental social and emotional skills — like most others — must be learned through experience.

Books Can Help

Here are 10 popular books that help kids understand and learn to talk about their emotions and different moods. You can promote your child’s emotional and social skills by including some of them in your shared reading activities. A strong foundation of these skills supports learning and exploration and helps children reach their full potential.

Check out the list

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Announcement on PARCC Assessments

STEP, Inc.
has an ongoing mission to provide accurate timely and accurate information to families to build their knowledge and skill base. As part of this effort, STEP has been working with the Tennessee Department of Education to ensure that families have multiple opportunities to learn about changes that may affect their children with disabilities.

The following message is from Assistant Commissioner of Special Populations, Joey Hassell, Tennessee Department of Education.

After much discussion, the Common Core state standards in language arts and math will remain in place, which is great news for our students. However, the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment has been tabled for the 2014-15 school year. We will give TCAP and EOC (end of course) assessments in reading, writing and math. We will also run a clean and transparent RFP (request for proposal) process to select our assessment for 2015-16 and beyond.

The Tennessee Department of Education is in the process of looking at all of the issues implicated by the recent legislation.  Within the next few weeks, the Department of Education will communicate more information related to assessments and accommodations for 2014-2015. 

STEP will keep you posted on further communications related to assessments and accommodations. 

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Summer Reading List

Kids aren't born understanding their emotions, and teaching these skills isn't easy. These books can help your toddler understand their emotions.  More.

Los niños no nacen con la habilidad de poder entender sus emociones. El enseñarles esta destreza no es algo fácil. Los libros mencionados en el mensaje que sigue (en inglés) pueden ayudar a los niños pequeños a entender sus emociones.  Más

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Developmental Disabilities Health Care Website Launched

By Janet Shouse, former Program Coordinator of Developmental Disabilities Healthcare E-Toolkit, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

The IDD Toolkit, www.iddtoolkit.org, a website devoted to information for the primary care of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is now available online.

The toolkit offers health care providers best-practice tools and information regarding specific medical and behavioral concerns of adults with IDD. The website’s information is an adaptation for U.S. use of a Canadian book, Tools for the Primary Care of People with Developmental Disabilities, (Surrey Place Centre, 2011). The tools in the original book were developed to assist primary care providers in caring for adults with DD in Canada by helping them to implement recommendations in Primary care of adults with developmental disabilities: Canadian consensus guidelines (DD Guidelines).  Read More

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Aging Resources for Developmental Disabilities

Alzheimer's Association

The go-to resource for general information, connects families with local chapters for support, and has an abundance of helpful information and resources.
The National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices

The ‘NTG’ is a coalition working toward ensuring that the needs and interests of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia – as well as their families and friends – are taken into account as part of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. This page has screening tools and other resources specific to IDD and Dementia. 
The National Down Syndrome Society
Aims to support family caregivers by providing tools and strategies.
Down Syndrome Scotland

Provides information for families in a section called “Growing Older, Dementia.”

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Concerns Aging Parents Face

By Carrie Guiden, Excecutive Director of The Arc Tennessee, and Doria Panvini, Advocate & Parent

As parents age, their primary concern is often what will happen to their son or daughter when they are no longer able to adequately provide needed support and care.  They often find themselves asking, “What will happen if I suddenly become ill or disabled?  Who will take care of my son/daughter?” Read More

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Online Magazine "Special Miracles"

Click here
to read a new online magazine "Special Miracles," featuring the stories of children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. 

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Early Childhood TRIAD Webinars Available Online

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD), in partnership with Tennessee Department of Education, recently presented web-based training with a focus on preschool children, ages 3 through 5, with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The first session covered teaching basic strategies for increasing independence in the classroom, and the second session offered basic strategies to increase independence in the community.

These sessions were recorded and have been archived so that teachers, paraprofessionals, and others who were unable to attend the sessions may still benefit from this valuable information. Please provide the following links to members of your staff who work with preschool students:

Session One: Basic Strategies for Increasing Independence in the Classroom

  • View the recording here.
  • Print certificate of completion here.

Session Two: Basic strategies to Increase Independence in the Community

  • View the recording here.
  • Print certificate of completion here.

Another way to access other early childhood webinars by TRIAD is to go to TRIAD’s Basic Online Training Sessions here.

If you have questions about the TRIAD early childhood webinars, TRIAD’s LaTamara Garrett is available to help. She may be reached at (615) 343-2226.

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Audio & Braille Books through the Imagination Library


Did you know that resources are available for young blind and visually impaired children through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL)?   The Imagination Library has partnered with the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) to make many of the books in this program, available in braille and audio format. The goal of this initiative is to ensure that young blind and visually impaired children can also benefit from these wonderful children's books.

As of now, thanks to a collaborative effort between DPIL, APH and Penguin Group, USA, an ever expanding collection of titles will be available as free downloadable children's audio books and for those who prefer, there will be many titles available in braille from APH. These will be offered free-of-charge to eligible families and may be purchased at a low cost by all others. 

Through this partnership, the following resources are currently available: 

  • Audio Books

Thanks to the APH/Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Partnership and the support of Penguin Group USA, the Accessible Books website offers a growing collection of audio files of Imagination Library books available as free downloads. (Note: These downloads require a NLS digital player.)

  • Print/Braille Books

Selected Imagination Library books are also available free-of-charge in print/braille format. By enrolling in the Partners Print/Braille Book Program, participating families receive six free print/braille books each year until the child reaches his/her 6th birthday. To be eligible for the program, you or your child must meet the definition of blindness.

At the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, we support and strengthen Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in Tennessee through fundraising, partnerships, & resource development. As a part of our work to ensure that all children ages 0 to 5 in Tennessee receive high quality, age appropriate books in their homes, we are committed to spreading the word about this new initiative for blind and visually impaired children. We see this partnership as an integral part of our program and want to make sure that all eligible children receive these resources. 

To learn more about this partnership and the resources available, please visit http://www.aph.org/dolly-partons-imagination-library/.   Should you have any questions, please contact Sydney K. Shearer at Sydney.shearer@tn.gov.

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NAMI Sumner County Launches Second Support Group April 7, 2014 To Provide Caring, Sharing, And Education For Caregivers

NAMI Sumner County is happy to announce that two support groups are now meeting in Hendersonville.  A new group will begin meeting the first Monday of each month beginning April 7 at 7:00 PM at the Trinity Baptist Church (840 Forest Retreat Road (entrance and parking in back).  The other original support group meets the third Tuesday of each month at St. Joseph of Armathea Episcopal Church (103 Country Club Dr. (basement entrance and parking in back).

Jim Briggs, NAMI member, explains, “My wife and I answered a newspaper ad about a year ago regarding With Hope in Mind a eight-class workshop for families dealing with loved ones with mental illness.   The workshop was very helpful and informative but it lasted only eight weeks.   We started going to NAMI’s monthly support/educational meetings which was invaluable, but it was just once a month and we needed more.  I am so glad that NAMI Sumner County is now sponsoring a second group which will give us more opportunities for the support and education needed to help our loved one.”

NAMI Sumner County is made up of friends and family of people with long-term mental illness.  For over twenty years volunteers of NAMI Sumner County have served area residents in times of mental health crisis offering caring, sharing, and education every month.  For those who have loved ones suffering from chronic sadness, anger outbursts, delusions, and other symptoms of mental illness, the support group sponsored by NAMI Sumner County has brought hope through education and understanding. The group also serves Individuals who manage a chronic mental illness. 

To learn more about NAMI Sumner County;s support groups and other programs, please call (615) 594-4070 or email namisumner@namitn.org or visit www.namitn.org .

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Autism Society of Mid-South (ASMS) Announces a New App

The Autism Society of the Mid-South (ASMS) is pleased to announce a new App.  It was officially launched on March 24th, just in time for April and Autism Awareness Month!

Families will able access our calendar of events and register through this app.  They will also be able to contact us, find basic information about Autism, and connect to us through social media, and our newsletter all through one simple app.

You can download it using the QR Code attached or by using the links below.





Remember to share this exciting information. 

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Kroger Community Rewards Supporting STEP, Inc.

Did you know you can support STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exception Parents) just by shopping at your local Kroger
Kroger is committed to helping communities grow and prosper. Year after year, local non-profit organizations have the opportunity to earn funds through Kroger’s Community Rewards Program®, simply by using your Kroger Plus Card.

By swiping your Kroger Plus Card, you can help Kroger make a donation to STEP, Inc. with almost every transaction.

How can I participate?

  • Click here to register your Kroger Plus Card and enter one of the following codes below for STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents).  Just pick the area where you shop the most.

East Tennessee:

Enter: 43667 or type in: Support & Training for Exceptional Parents, Inc.   

Participating stores: Alcoa, Knoxville, Crossville, Fairfield Glade, Oak Ridge, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Maryville, Farragut, Harriman, and Seymour.  

West Tennessee:

Enter: 81534 or type in: Support & Training for Exceptional Parents, Inc.

Participating stores:  Memphis, Jackson, and Paris.

I don’t have a Kroger Plus Card.

REMEMBER, your purchases will not count until after you register your Kroger Plus Card online.

That's it - it's that EASY!

Every time you shop for groceries at Kroger and swipe your rewards card, STEP, Inc. automatically starts earning a rebate.

Your participation in this fundraising program with Kroger helps STEP's mission is to empower parents through information, training and support to become effective partners with professionals in planning appropriate educational programs for their children.  Who knew that helping to make a difference could be so easy!  

Shop - Swipe - Earn!

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"Self-Determination Curriculum and Transition Resource" Archived Webinar Now Available

STEP's Lunchtime Leader's - “Self-Determination Curriculum and Transition Resource” Webinar has now been archived and is posted on the STEP website. 

Click here to view

Special thanks to Crystal Godwin, Self-Determination Trainer/Transition Consultant with the University of Tennessee, Center for Literacy, Education and Employment for presenting this webinar on March 25, 2014.

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Help Us Learn More About the Lower Rates of Autism in Hispanic Children



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It's Time To Plan for Summer Camp

Looking for a summer camp? Check out this directory for camps with resources for people with disabilities.  Summer Camps are broken into the three regions of the state: East Middle and West Tennessee.  Click here for more information.

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Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee Organization Announces the 2014 Winners

The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization announces the 2014 winners from March 22, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee. These young ladies competed for the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee, Junior Miss Wheelchair Tennessee, and Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee 2014.

Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2014 – Amanda Szidiropulosz

Junior Miss Wheelchair Tennessee 2014 – Kaylee Arrowood

Little Miss Wheelchair Tennessee 2014 – Skylar Vaughn-Hisey

Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is a non-profit organization founded in 1996, which advocates for Tennesseans with disabilities, educates the public regarding the dignity, productiveness, and basic values of people with disabilities; while recognizing the achievements of women who use wheelchairs for daily mobility. Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is not a beauty contest, although contestants are showcased in a pageant format. It is a competition to select the most accomplished and articulate spokesperson for persons with disabilities across the state of Tennessee.

For more information on this competition visit www.mswheelchairtn.org

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Reviewing the Definition of SED (Serious Emotional Disturbance): An Interactive Dialogue & Listening Session

Important opportunity for parents to participate in a webinar listening session as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) begins to review the federal definition of Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED).  This webinar session on March 31, 2014 is the opportunity for families to be part of the process. 

Registration is required to join this event. If you have not registered, please click here and register now. 

Date and time:    Monday, March 31, 2014

Time:                  2:30 pm - Eastern Daylight Time

Duration:             1 hour

Description:  Dr. Gary Blau will introduce an effort by SAMHSA to review the current definition of Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED). The goal of the review is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the definition and the implications if the definition is revised. This Interactive Dialogue & Listening Session will provide an opportunity for constituents to provide thoughtful feedback on this topic.

The event password for this webinar is:  samhsa.

To see invitation click here.

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Prevention Week 2014

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Prevention Week 2014 will take place May 18-24. This year’s theme is "Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future." Check out SAMHSA’s National Prevention Week 2014 video to learn more. http://bit.ly/1pSSrrP


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4th Annual Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice

The 4th Annual Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice will be held on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Daymar Institute, Clarksville, TN.  The conference will take place from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  The purpose of the conference is to increase the awareness of issues, programs and resources available to youth, parents, teachers, college students, advocates, religious leaders, officers of the court (e.g. probation officers, judges, lawyers, youth service officers, and others), law enforcement officers, community activist and the public to help prevent juvenile delinquency.

The conference is sponsored by the Montgomery County Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Task Force, the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the Merry in GOD Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Grant. The conference, including lunch, is free and open to the public. A drawing will be held and several e-Tablets will be given to students. 

There will be an Opening Session, several sessions in the morning, Round Table Discussions during lunch, several sessions in the afternoon and a Closing Session. Some of the speakers and sessions leaders include Dr. Helen Long, Pastor Tommy Vallejos, Ms. Monica Causey, and  Ms. Sharon Edwards,  The topics are varied and include Gangs, Cyberbullying/Bullying, Suicide Prevention, Parenting Teenagers, Parenting Skills for Single Parents,  and Inequities in the Juvenile Justice System. The Luncheon Keynote speaker is Attorney Dr. Merriel Bullock Neal. She is a licensed attorney, school psychologist and special educator.  She will address the School-to-Prison Pipeline that is having a devastating impact on juveniles. Exhibitors and Service providers (e.g. Big Brother Big Sisters, LEAP, TENNderCare, Parks and Recreation and others) will be available to answer questions and distribute literature.

For more information, pre-registration forms, and/or donation forms for the 4th Annual Joint Conference on Juvenile Justice, please contact Dr. Merriel Bullock-Neal at 931-551-8300 or email montgomerycodmctaskforce@hotmail.com

Click here for flyer

Click here for registration form

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STEP, Inc. to Participate in the “150 Days of Giving” - Cast Your Vote Now!

First Tennessee will be 150 years old on March 25, 2014! To celebrate our long tradition of serving our communities, the First Tennessee Foundation will give away $5,000 to a different Nonprofit Organization every day for 150 days. We call it our 150 Days of Giving. The giving starts on our 150th birthday.

STEP, Inc., Tennessee’s Parent Training and Information Center, has been selected as one of the nonprofit organizations to participate in this great give away.  But we will need your help.  Please visit www.150DaysofGiving.com and in the “Search Box” type in: STEP, Inc. and VOTE for us!

  • No registration required and anyone can vote once a day from each device (PC, laptop, i-pad, smartphone, etc.).
  • Votes will continue to count throughout the 150 Days of Giving.
  • On March 25, 2014 at midnight First Tennessee will select the first winner. And the winning will continue for 150 days.
  • Winners will be determined by the organization that receives the highest number of cumulative votes by midnight of each day.
  • Each organization can win only once during the 150 Days of Giving. So let's make today STEP'S Winning DAY.
  • First Tennessee post on their website which organizations have won and those organizations will no longer be eligible for voting.
A $5,000 gift would enable STEP staff to provide services to more families, to create additional materials and trainings, improve outreach through technology, cover the needs in urban and rural areas in our state, and much more!

Remember to vote on all your devices each day.

We appreciate your VOTE and SUPPORT!

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Is Your Mom "Mother of the Year?"

Help Tennessee Justice Center honor moms across the state for working tirelessly to get health care for their children. Do you know a mother who works hard, speaks up, and keeps asking until her children receive the health care they need? If so, the Tennessee Justice Center invites you to nominate her as a "Mother of the Year." Any mother, father, foster mother or father, or grandparent can be nominated. It can be your own mom, neighbor, friend, or other mother you know. Mothers from across Tennessee will be selected for recognition as a "Mother of the Year." The mothers named "Mother of the Year" will receive a framed certificate of recognition and appear on the Tennessee Justice Center's website and blog.


It is easy to nominate someone as "Mother of the Year." Kids ages 3-9 can submit a picture that shows why your nominee is your health care hero. If you are over age 10, you can submit an essay (300 words or less) saying why your nominee is your special health care hero. If you are not able to submit a nomination for yourself, we will take nominations from others who can tell your story in a way that includes you.


Submissions should also include a photo of the child and their nominee with the nominee's name, the child's name, phone number, and address. (We apologize; photos cannot be returned.) Submissions should be mailed to Tennessee Justice Center, 301 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37201. You can also email your nominations to info@tnjustice.org and include a digital picture of the child and the nominee!

Nominations must be received by April 11, 2014.  


Click here for flyer


Michele Johnson, Executive Director at the Tennessee Justice Center, a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm based in Nashville said, "Our annual 'Mother of the Year' recognition acknowledges the struggles, sacrifices and devotion of mothers across Tennessee. These women are inspiring examples of how Tennessee parents bravely persist and overcome obstacles to obtain care that their children need and should receive."


The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving Tennessee's families. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.  TJC was established in 1996 and is located at 301 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, visit www.tnjustice.org or call 615-255-0331.

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Project LifeSaver Research by Johnson City Police Department

David Smith, an officer with Johnson City Police Department along with the Johnson City Police Department is researching the Project Lifesaver grant. This grant will allow for children/adult with special needs to have a "bracelet" that can be tracked by the police. Sort of like a GPS device. However, the cost for this program and training is very expensive. It can only be funded if the need is proven.

If you know of someone that could benefit from this service please send the follow info to my email: traffic532501@yahoo.com. Send name, all contact information (phone, address and email, and the city and county in which the child/adult resides.

This service could bring many families such a peace of mind. Please respond as soon as possible.

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Celebrate National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Since Ronald Reagan’s 1987 presidential proclamation, the U.S. has celebrated March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Over 6 million individuals in the United States have developmental disabilities.  Read More

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PSAs Challenge Assumptions About People With Disabilities

It’s a simple, yet powerful message: People are not defined by their disability.  Click here to read more.

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Early Childhood Transition Workshop scheduled for March 3rd has been CANCELLED

Early Childhood Transition Workshop - CANCELLED

The Early Childhood Transition Workshop scheduled for March 3 at the Bedford County Child Development Center in Bedford has been CANCELLED for tonight due to weather conditions.  We will reschedule at a later date. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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College Affordability: A Guide for Students with Disabilities

Affordable Colleges Online, an organization dedicated to providing free higher education tools and information for current and future college students and their families, has recently published a new resource for students with disabilities, titled “Making College Affordable: A Guide for Students with Disabilities.”  Multiple experts in the field with experience in academia, financial aid, and law contributed to the content in this resource guide, including:

  • Advice and resources for loans and scholarships available specifically for students with disabilities
  • A comprehensive list of the best schools for disabled students, evaluated by each institution’s disability services
  • Distance learning tips for students with disabilities
  • Job resources for students with disabilities
  • Additional helpful resources

Click here for the free College Affordability: A Guide for Students with Disabilities.


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Calling All Local Heroes! - Local Heroes Contact Starts Now

This year’s Local Hero contest starts now and you could win a wheelchair accessible vehicle! It’s time to get the word out about all of the awesome mobility solutions available to the adaptive community as we kick-off another year of unprecedented success during National Mobility Awareness Month.


Local Heroes can be Defined as People who Volunteer, Educate, Advocate, Achieve, and Persevere.  Those who continue to triumph over living with mobility challenges can now be nominated to share their stories and promote mobility awareness throughout the community.

Stories will be shared and voted on. Voting is open to the public.  Voting begins on March 11th and winners of this year’s Local Hero contest will receive one of three new, customized wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Over 18 million people in North America are living with restrictive mobility issues. This is your chance to change the lives of just a few of those triumphing in the face of adversity.

Click here for Contest Entry Form


Using the dealer locator, contact your local NMEDA dealer for a special promotional code to use during the entry process and get 10 extra votes for your Local Hero.


Chrysler, Toyota and MV-1 are providing the vehicles for the 2014 contest that will be customized by NMEDA members BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility International (VMI).

Mark Your Calendar: Special Dates

FEBRUARY 25, 2014
..Story submission period begins

MARCH 11, 2014
..Voting begins

MAY 9, 2014
..Story submission and voting closes

MAY 30, 2014
..Winners Contacted

JUNE 2014
..Winners Announced

..Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Deliveries

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Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Will Be Televised

It's a groundbreaking day! The International Paralympic Committee announced that upcoming Paralympics Games will air on the NBC networks, marking the first time that the Games have gotten daily television coverage in the U.S. Our kids can finally see in the media the level of sports and independence that they aspire to reach. Opening Ceremony begins March 7.  Click here to read about it.

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Building Self-Confident Youths One Life Skill at a Time

ABLE Youth
is the only organization of its kind, located in Nashville, Tennessee, to provide opportunities for youth,
ages 3-12 and young adults 13-22, who use wheelchairs in learning independence, skills and sports. Above all else, we strive for our participants to learn the importance of complete independence in all activities of daily living, which in turn, leads to self-esteem, motivation and a desire to excel. The children are taught The ABLE Way – to Adapt, Believe, Love and Enjoy life.

Super Sports Saturdays, held once a month at the Williamson County Recreation Center, is the cornerstone of ABLE Youth. Our youngest preschool Tiny Tots start with learning wheelchair mobility, transfers, how to dress, bathe and perform other self-care routines. Older children are introduced to advanced chair skills, problem-solving skills as it pertains to independent living, and driving a car with hand controls.

Super Sports Saturdays also introduces children to sports, such as basketball, tennis, rugby and wheelchair racing. Not all of our participants are full-time wheelchair users, but all have lower limb disabilities that make instruction in independence skills beneficial and effect their participation in community sports leagues.

Older children are also invited to our yearly weekend-long Independence Camp and to meet for one-on-one home and community based independence training.

As a child shows signs of independence, he/she is invited to join our sports teams and instructional clinic opportunities. Through the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (nwba.org), ABLE Youth fields a Prep and Varsity wheelchair basketball team that practices from August through April and travels to tournaments throughout the region. ABLE Youth also has a wheelchair track program that participates in local races and regional meets. Other sports opportunities include tennis, waterskiing, snow skiing and golf.

ABLE Youth promotes not only physical fitness, but also emotional and mental well-being and self-esteem. All children are not going to be competitive in sports, but all ABLE Youth participants are athletes in a bigger and more important game, the game of life. The children are given instruction on life skills to improve their odds of success as they grow into adulthood. Our goal is for all participants to graduate high school and to go on to college or to enter the workforce, while living as independently as possible.

The ABLE Youth program has impacted the lives of over 200 children and families since we began in 1997, and currently serves 30-35 children helping to improve their quality of life. We pride ourselves on showing the children and parents just what CAN be accomplished from a wheelchair.

ABLE Youth, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and is funded through private contributions, corporate gifts, grants and events.

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Learning from Tennessee Families Impacted by Disability: A Statewide Survey

YOU’RE VOICE IS NEEDED! We are inviting parents and caregivers across Tennessee to participate in a short survey focused on their expectations and resource needs related to their son or daughter with intellectual disability, autism, or other developmental disabilities.

A full description of the study and a link to the online survey can be found at www.tennesseeworks.org/survey. We will randomly select 50 parents to receive a $25 gift card for participating. You can also request a print copy by contacting us at tennesseeworks@vanderbilt.edu or 615-343-2375.

We need to hear from parents in every county and community across the state of Tennessee! We hope you will participate and share this information with others.

Thank you!

Click here for flier

The TennesseeWorks Partnership

This collaboration between Vanderbilt University and more than 30 state agencies and disability organizations is striving to improve outcomes for people with disabilities across the state. For more information, visit www.tennesseeworks.org

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Moving Out of State with a Persons Who Has a Developmental Disability

What happens when you move out of state and bring with you a loved one who has a developmental disability?  More often than not, you lose most, if not all, of the services that make it possible for that person to live a healthy, safe, and quality life in the community.  In most cases, there will be no funding available for group homes, personal care support, adult day training, respite, diapers, or adaptive equipment.  Although most states have home and community based waiver programs, most of these states have very long waiting lists.  It could take years before your loved one receives services.  We interviewed all 50 states about their programs for persons with developmental disabilities. 



All Fifty States Were Interviewed


We interviewed all 50 states, and asked the same 10 questions:

1)  What Programs Are Available to Assist People with Disabilities in your state?
2)  What number do you call to start getting services?
3)  Who Qualifies For Assistance?  (disability, age, and financial requirements)
4) How many people are currently waiting for services, and how many years should they expect to wait?  
5) How many people are currently receiving services?
6)  What assistance is available while you wait?
7)  Does the state offer group homes and supported living?  
8)  Are there still state owned institutions? How many people are living in institutions
9) Do you have choice in providers?    
10) What is the process to become a provider?


For more information visit MedicaidWaiver.org or call (727) 841-8943. 


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Meet Tennessee Voices for Children’s newly named CFO/COO - Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor was named the CFO/COO for Tennessee Voices for Children this month after serving as the Interim Executive Director. Prior to filling the CFO/COO role, Brian was the Assistant Director of Operations, a post he has held since 2006. In that capacity he oversaw Information Technology, personnel, benefits administration, and management of the Finance Department. 

Please join us at our Nashville office for a Meet and Greet for Brian Taylor and Tennessee Voices for Children’s new CEO, Rikki Harris.

Located at:    701 Bradford Avenue, Nashville

Date:              February 26, 2014

Time:             3:30 pm to 5:30 pm

Contact Kelsea LaCroix with any questions or for more information at klacroix@tnvoices.org or 615-269-775.

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EDUCATE-ABLE: A History of Educating Children with Disabilities in America

You may recognize the Krediches -- they live in East Tennessee -- and a certain website that is featured near the middle.

Miles and Ben Kredich are freshmen in high school. Miles made this documentary -- including composing and playing the music -- for National History Day in honor of his twin brother Ben, who has autism.


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Introducing kidcentraltn.com: Tennessee's One Stop Shop for Families to Raise Healthy and Happy Kids of All Ages

Led by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam, the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet has launched a new website, www.kidcentraltn.com: Tennessee’s one-stop shop for families to connect with important state information and resources.

This new website provides information on health, education, development and support to Tennessee families, as well as a searchable State Services Directory. In the My Profile section, families can use enhanced features of the website including: the ability to tag articles that are important for their child and to explore unique developmental milestones based on their child’s age. Parents can also receive recommendations for articles and services that might fit their family.  

The kidcentral tn mobile app allows families to receive updates, search hundreds of state services, store their child's emergency contacts, school and/or child care information at their fingertips, and share data with relatives, babysitters, or other caregivers, as they see fit.  Families and professionals can also join the conversation on the kidcentral tn Facebook page. 

Visit www.kidcentraltn.com today to learn more!

Click here for flyer

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Shelby County Regional SEPTA Meeting Rescheduled

Shelby County Regional SEPTA is rescheduling the General Membership Meeting that was originally scheduled for February 24, 2014.  The new date is yet to be determined.

Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA (SEPTA) is planning on having multiple speakers and topics at the next General Membership Meeting so that you can select which breakout session most interests you. 

Please stay tuned for the new date and agenda for our next meeting.

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Transición a la vida adulta

This resource page connects Spanish-speaking youth (and their families and service providers) with information in Spanish about the transition process, their rights under federal law, the systems of help that are available, postsecondary education, and the world of work.

La vida está llena de transiciones, y una de las más notables ocurre cuando los estudiantes se preparan para salir de la escuela secundaria y entrar al mundo como adultos jóvenes. Cuando el estudiante tiene una discapacidad, la planificación para el futuro es especialmente importante. De hecho, la ley IDEA lo requiere.

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2nd Edition of the Office of Special Education (OSEP) English-to-Spanish Translation Glossary. Glosario de terminos comunes de IDEA traducidos en Español

The Glossary of Spanish Translations of Common IDEA Terms.  

Hot off the press, the 2nd edition of the OSEP Glossary includes over 400 terms related to IDEA Parts B and C. These terms were selected by experienced translators from Parent Centers who work with families with children with disabilities representing the majority of Spanish-speaking cultures in Latin America and Spain. Courtesy of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and Region 1 PTAC, download your copy today!

Glosario de terminos comunes de IDEA traducidos en Español 

Ultima informacion, la 2da edicion del Glosario de OSEP incluye mas de 400 terminos relacionados a IDEA Partes B y C. Estos terminos fueron seleccionados por traductores experimentados de Centros de Padres que trabajan con familias de niños con discapacidades representando la mayoria de culturas de habla en Español en America Latina y España. Courtesia de la Red de Defensoria de Padres de todo el Estado (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network) y la Region 1 PTAC, descargue su copia hoy!

Para un enlace (link) al glosario, por favor visite esta pagina en el sitio web de STEP.

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iTransition: It's all about me! (deaf or hard of hearing)

iTransition is a free, online transition curriculum to help students who are deaf or hard of hearing prepare for life after high school. There are three separate trainings with activities to help students learn about themselves, their career goals, and the skills they need to be successful in the future. 

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Neuroscience and Education: The Connection - June 5 & 6

Registration is open now through May 1, or until capacity is reached!

This is a one-stop symposium for educators and other professionals to hear about the latest brain research as it relates to education and to learn the latest evidence-based strategies for implementing this research in the classroom. Other topics covered will include, but are not limited to, ADHD, Sensory Integration, Technology, Anxiety, Reading, Sleep, and Executive Functioning.

Nationally Renowned Plenary Speakers

  • Robert Brooks, Ph.D., a leading speaker and author on themes of resilience, motivation, school climate, and family relationships. Dr. Brooks is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has authored or co-authored 15 books. For more information on Dr. Brooks, click here.
  • Laurie Cutting, Ph.D., Patricia and Rodes Hart Associate Professor of Special Education, Psychology, Radiology and Pediatrics, and Faculty Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic 

Registration fee: $175

Registration is confirmed upon receipt of payment. Breakfast is included both mornings. Participants will receive a professional development certificate as well. If choosing the payment by check option, registration is not complete until a check is received. Please note, there are no discounts for partial or one-day registration. Each person attending the symposium is required to fill out an individual registration form.

This course is offered for 1.2 ASHA CEU’s (intermediate level; professional area). ASHA CEUs and a Certificate of Attendance are provided upon request.

Click here to register now!

Holly McCathren at holly.mccathren@curreyingram.org or Kathy Boles at kathy.boles@curreyingram.org or by calling (615) 777-4816.  

Click here to for a printable flyer.

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Congratulations To STEP's District Parent Trainer, Deborah Y. McBride Who Was Appointed By Governor Haslam To The Tennessee Council On Developmental Disabilities

"I am very excited to be associated with such a prestigious group of individuals who share the same vision as I regarding the futures of individuals with developmental disabilities," McBride said.

Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday announced the appointments of 91 Tennesseans to 45 boards and commissions. 

“Tennessee will be well-represented on these boards and commissions, and I want to thank these men and women for their commitment to serve their fellow Tennesseans,” Haslam said. 

The governor continues his evaluation of the state’s complete range of boards and commissions to ensure Tennesseans have a government that is responsive, effective and efficient.

Appointment terms are varied due to differing statutory requirements or term limits determined by specific qualifications.  Click here to read more.

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Continuing Education Units (CEU) Approved - EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION Extended for Annual Education Conference

ASA-ETC’s 3rd Annual Education Conference features autism-specific workshops including: Effective Instruction Design, Behavior Interventions, Problem Behavior workshop, Maximizing Communication with Visual Supports, Puberty and Autism, Sensory Trouble-shooting, Daily Routines for Independence, Potty Training, Impact of Common Core Standards for those with Disabilities, and Special Needs Trusts.


Conference will be held on March 15, 2014 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, 201 Market Street, Johnson City, TN 37601. Cost is $10 for parent, teacher or student and $20 for professional, with Early Bird Discount extended through February 16, 2014.


Conference has been approved for 0.6 Continuing Education Units (CEU) by the Office of Professional Development at East TN State University. CEU fee is $20, to be paid on site at the conference. 


To register, print form below and mail in with payment. Online registration via website & PayPal is at: www.asaetc.org. For more information email: info@asaetc.org or call: (865) 247-5082.

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United Way After School Survey

Tennessee is building a broad, collaborative after and out-of-school network to improve access, affordability and quality of programming for our kids.  As we plan and organize, we are seeking input from a wide range of stakeholders—after school programs, parents, advocates, mayors, non profits, employers, teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, volunteers, and beyond!    While not a “scientific study,” your opinions are very important and  will give us a good snapshot as we launch the network’s initial work.  Thank you in advance for sharing your opinions with us!


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Blog and Facebook Page for Cerebral Palsy Patients and their Family

A new “blog” and "Facebook page" has been created for families with cerebral palsy.  This is a place for families to share information and resources about CP (
cerebral palsy).

The United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is heading to Dallas for strategic planning. Before they go, we would like to get as many families as possible to answer the question: What does your family need and how can UCP Delaware meet your needs

Blog: cpfamilyforum.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CP-Family-Forum/371496799663193

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Free Educational Activities for Young Children

For much of the country, it’s been a tough winter.  Thermometers have recorded record-low temperatures and snow has blanketed areas that typically have mild winters. All of these icy mornings mean one thing: school cancellations. Snow days can be a great opportunity for outdoor play, but can also lead to bored kids stuck inside the house. It can be hard to come up with educational, engaging indoor activities for young children—but we have your back. Get Ready to Read! has a variety of free educational activities that will help children build literacy skills while having fun. These activities were created with both parents and educators in mind, and are perfect for at-home learning when school is out. (And for those of you in warmer climates, you don’t need snow to appreciate these activities—they’re perfect for any indoor fun or classroom learning.)

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How to Tailor Accommodations for Test-Takers with Learning Disabilities

Many talented, bright high school students have diagnosed — or undiagnosed — learning disabilities.  Click here to read more.

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National Child Traumatic Stress Network Resources

In any given year, approximately one million children come to the attention of the US child welfare system. Many are victims of abuse or neglect, live with caregivers who are impaired, and/or deal with school and community violence as a fact of life. Identifying these traumas and providing early intervention are crucial to assisting children traumatized by maltreatment and other stressors. 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has developed tools and materials for building skills and increasing knowledge about childhood trauma to help child welfare administrators, caseworkers, frontline staff, other mental health personnel, and caregivers understand and respond to the needs of traumatized children. Click here for great resources.

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New Special Education Mobile Technology App Released (SpEd Terms)

This app puts the special education vocabulary at your fingertips. This efficient, practical app includes hundreds of special education acronyms and terms. Never attend another meeting without it!  SpEd Terms is the perfect app for anyone with an interest in Special Education. 

The app can be purchased for .99 cents through the Apple App Store or for Android users through the Google Play Store.

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Feeding Tube Awareness Week

February 9-15, 2014 

The theme for 2014 is "Nothing Can Hold Us Back." It will highlight the resilience in overcoming challenges.

Tube feeding doesn't have to stop you from living life. Nutritional support can make life possible. We will ask participants to share what they love to do and positive stories about how tube feeding works into their lives, not controls it.

Click here for the flyer

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February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month

February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month. JFNA is proud to join the Consortium of Jewish Special Educators in recognizing and increasing the awareness of the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges of people with disabilities in our Jewish communities throughout North America. We are asking each federation to join us in observing Jewish Disability Awareness Month.  JFNA has created this website to facilitate program ideas, as well as professional contacts, to assist your community in planning activities during the month of February and throughout the entire year.  This website was created and will be updated by JFNA’s Human Services and Public Policy Disability Committee, which is composed of lay and professional leaders from across the continental federation movement and provides guidance and direction on policy/advocacy issues related to physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities.   Click here to read more.

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GED Replaced in Some States

January 30, 2014 - Homeschool students who have successfully completed their home education curriculum do not need the GED or other high school equivalency tests. These tests still carry the stigma associated with high school drop-outs, which both undermines the equivalency of a homeschool diploma and can cause confusion regarding whether the student actually completed high school. If a college, employer, or military recruitment officer tells your child that he or she needs a GED or other equivalency test, members should contact HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) for advice.

Please be aware that 14 states (Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have changed their options for the high school equivalency test. Some states have chosen to change from the GED to other tests, while others have opted to add new tests in addition to the GED.

States now have three tests to choose from:

  • GED
  • HiSET (developed by Educational Testing Service)
  • TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion, developed by McGraw-Hill)

We understand that 16 other states are currently re-evaluating their use of the GED test so this list may continue to change over the coming months.

For more information on which high school equivalency test is used by your state, click here.

For more details on whether your state is involved in these changes, click here.

Information provided by the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association).

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3 Signs It's Time to Talk to Your Child's Teacher

Children thrive when the adults in their lives communicate with each other. Your relationship with your child’s teacher is key. Unsure when to reach out?  Click here to read about the three signs that warrant a chat with the teacher.

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Proposed Rule Makes it Easier to Establish ADA Protection

New rules proposed by the Justice Department intend to revise regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure easier access for individuals with disabilities seeking the protection of the ADA. The comment period for the proposed rule closes on March 31, 2014.

Click here to read the proposed rule document and comment.

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Lifestyle Easy Cookbook Now Available

The Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis has published an exciting new cookbook that is designed especially for individuals who are in independent living skills training. Unique features of the Lifestyle Easy Cookbook - You simply look and cook!

  • The Lifestyle Easy Cookbook is printed on extra heavy laminated paper, making page turning easy and cleanup of spills a breeze.
  • Each nutritious and tasty recipe is divided into 6 or 8 easy to follow picture steps – you just look and cook.
  • Each recipe has an individualized picture shopping card – shopping is simply match to sample.
  • The recipes and picture steps are color-coded making them easy to follow.
  • There are 27 healthy and delicious recipes ranging from microwave to stovetop to oven to no-cook.
  • Every recipe has a picture shopping card, listing all of the ingredients that you need to purchase at your local store – just match-to-sample!
  • To view an online preview of the Lifestyle Easy Cookbook click here.
  • To order visit Click on the Order Now button or call 1-800-457-5575.

The cost of the Lifestyle Easy Cookbook is $29.95, plus shipping.

To order or preview, visit www.iaba.com/cookbook or call (800) 457-5575.

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Tennessee Voices for Children (TVC) Names New Executive Director

Tennessee Voices for Children (TVC) Board of Director’s, is pleased to announce that Rikki Harris will become the organization's third Executive Director as of February 3, 2014. The Search Committee presented its recommendation last week and it was unanimously endorsed by the TVC Executive Committee. While Rikki has served TVC well in the position of Director of Development and Marketing, it is her prior six-year experience in management as Director of Child and Adolescent Services at a community mental health center in Ft. Worth, Texas that provides her with a solid foundation to lead the organization in today's fast-changing healthcare environment. 

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Ten Disability Awareness Lessons Learned From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Human rights are for everyone, and we still have a long way to go on our journey.  Here are 10 quotes from Dr. King that are relevant to human rights and disability awareness.  Click here to read more:

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LUCES (Latinos United for Children’s Educational Services) Has a Permanent Meeting Location

A little over a year ago, a few like-minded folks from the Memphis Center for Independent Living, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, UT Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities, the Harwood Center, and STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) got together to talk about the need for interaction and support that Latino families of children with disabilities in the Memphis area have.  Navigating systems that provide services to children with exceptional educational and medical needs is complicated—even for families that are native English speakers!  To help to address those needs, this group began planning for monthly meetings, to be conducted in Spanish, on a variety of topics relevant to the group.  A first meeting was planned; a location was found, food was purchased, and a topic was chosen.  The word was spread—and families came!  Latino Memphis provided a place to meet and help with tending children.  A needs assessment was given to attending families, and we were on our way. 

A year later, our group, now known as LUCES (Latinos United for Children’s Educational Services) has a consistent meeting place, generously provided by Bartlett United Methodist Church, and a consistent meeting time (6:30 pm– 8:00 pm on the second Friday of the month).  25 or more adults usually attend and bring their children, which are supervised and provided snacks and activities.  Programs have been put on about behavioral interventions, special education advocacy, child safety, organizing a child’s records, and on the emotional/familial impact of disabilities.  Recreational meetings have also been held—centered around good food and conversation!  The parent support group for Latino families in the Nashville area has provided technical assistance to our group over the past year as we got started.  LUCES’ planning group has lots of good ideas for the meetings ahead, and hopes to find funding for expenses incurred that have been covered over the year by the supporting agencies.  LUCES is going full speed ahead, and looks forward to the group becoming larger and nurturing leaders from within.  

¡Vamos adelante! 

For more information contact Martha Lopez, Bilingual Family Educator and Project Assistant with STEP, Inc. at (901) 726-4334 or via email at martha.lopez@tnstep.org

Click here for flyer

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Feds To Fund Tracking Devices For Kids With Autism

The Justice Department will make funding available immediately to provide free electronic tracking devices for kids with autism who are at risk of wandering.  View article...

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Help families prepare their kids for college

It's never too early for families to start thinking about their children's college education. Whether it's financial planning or test prep, you can help the families you serve by providing information about Tennessee and federal programs and services designed to set them up for success. Here are some of the resources from kidcentral tn.

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Governor’s Children’s Cabinet has Launched a New Website

Led by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam, the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet has launched a new website, www.kidcentraltn.com: Tennessee’s one-stop shop for families to connect with important state information and resources.

This new website provides information on health, education, development and support to Tennessee families, as well as a searchable State Services Directory. In the My Profile section, families can use enhanced features of the website including: the ability to tag articles that are important for their child and to explore unique developmental milestones based on their child’s age. Parents can also receive recommendations for articles and services that might fit their family.   

The kidcentral tn mobile app allows families to receive updates, search hundreds of state services, store their child's emergency contacts, school and/or child care information at their fingertips, and share data with relatives, babysitters, or other caregivers, as they see fit.  Families and professionals can also join the conversation on the kidcentral tn Facebook page. 

Visit www.kidcentraltn.com today to learn more!


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Nurses for Newborns of Tennessee

Nurses for Newborns of Tennessee exists to provide a safety net for families most at-risk in order to prevent infant mortality, child abuse and neglect by providing in-home nursing visits which promote healthcare, education, and positive parenting skills.

Nurses for Newborns provides services to babies who are born with medical problems, born to teen moms or born to mothers with disabilities/ mental health concerns, or who are born into families who do not have money for even basic necessities.  

In addition to medical care, we assist families whenever possible with donated materials needed for safe care, such as diapers, formula, baby food, clothing, and bedding. We welcome hundreds of volunteers each year who help us manage the logistics of this work. 

For more information visit www.nfnf.org/tennessee/ 

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Do you have a visually impaired child? Hadley can help.

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The importance of including your child in the IEP meeting

For those of you who have children in middle school, now is the time to think about the prospect of someday having your child attend his or her own IEP meeting and learn more about self-advocacy.  Read more


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Supporting the Common Core Writing Standards

Are schools in your area using the new Common Core standards for writing? This is a big change for students-and their parents. This resource will help parents get to know the four "anchors" of the Common Core writing standards and simple things they can do at home to help their child build skills in all of these areas.

The article is available in English and in Spanish.    


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Museum: Please Touch Our Artifacts

By Kathy Matheson |  Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013  |  Updated 11:16 AM EST

At the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, blind and visually impaired students are given a chance to learn about ancient civilizations through the sense of touch.

Angel Ayala has never been a big fan of museums. Blind since birth, the high school student says the exhibits are so sight-dependent that he can't enjoy them.

But he's making an exception for the Penn Museum, an archaeology and anthropology center that offers touch tours for the blind and visually impaired. Ayala can now feel the eroded limestone of an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus and the intricate hieroglyphs on the statue of a pharaoh.

“When I touch things, it's my version of a sighted person's eyes. It tells me way more than a person describing it would ever,” Ayala said.  Click here to read more.

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Six Steps for Fighting the Flu

Flu can be serious
: Even though they share some of the same symptoms, flu is no common cold. Each year within the U.S., hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized by flu and thousands die from it. Certain people are at a higher risk. These include young children, adults over 50 and people with chronic illness, such as diabetes, HIV, heart, kidney or lung disease.

The flu virus spreads easily: When a person with the flu sneezes, coughs, talks or laughs, "droplets" of the flu virus can spread into the air and surfaces up to six feet away. The flu virus can live on these surfaces up to 48 hours, and can be transferred to your hands if you touch them. If you then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you can become infected.  Click here to read more:

Click here to read more about how to Prevent the Flu

Click here to read more about the Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine

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Camp Conquest is Currently Seeking Volunteers

As we begin a new year at Camp Conquest, we have a variety of opportunities where we need help. 

We are looking to grow and add more campers for this summer so that we can provide respite for many more families and an overnight camp experience for children and adults with special needs and disabilities. By 2015, we hope to have 2 weeks of camp throughout the summer and 2-3 overnight weekend camps throughout the year. 

With the addition of campers, we need dedicated servant leaders who want to see the lives of these children and young adults changed. Camp Conquest is currently seeking the following volunteer positions: 

  • Volunteer Coordinator to recruit individuals with a love for God and heart for those with special needs to serve during the week of camp. This volunteer role includes sharing the vision of Camp Conquest with local churches and schools and providing them with information about how they can participate.
  • Fifty Camp Counselors (between the ages of 16-30)
  • Five Cabin Moms and Dads (ages 30 to 60)  

One more servant leader could mean supporting one more camper and providing much needed support to one more family. Previous servant leaders can testify to how Camp Conquest has also transformed their lives. We have seen countless young lives changed, college students changing their majors to special education, and a family adopted a child with special needs after serving at Camp Conquest! You will find that you are abundantly blessed while also blessing the lives of these children and young adults.  

Prayerfully consider whether God is calling you to serve as a Volunteer Coordinator, Counselor or Cabin parent. If not, please spread the word or pass along this email if you know someone that would be ideal for any of these positions. Feel free to call me at (901) 490-7164 if you have any questions. 

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How to Deal With Relatives Who Don't "Believe" in Learning and Attention Issues

"Oh, it's only a stage. He'll grow out of it." Have you heard that line before? Or maybe you've heard a relative whisper to someone about you, "She has such a hard time controlling that child." These comments or any form or disapproval or disbelief from another parent-let alone from a family member-may feel quite disheartening, particularly when you know the facts about learning and attention issues and the other person may not.  Click here to read more:

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Three Tips for Creating a Budget Friendly Sensory Corner

Sensory rooms have come a long way. Some may even be of the opinion that what we see today are not even really sensory environments, but more play environments. The up side is that you can determine what you'd like to do with your space and personalize it to fit your own child, classroom or clinic. It does not need to be an all or none experience.  Click here to read more: 

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10 Strategies for Helping Kids with ADHD Build Self-Confidence

It’s common for kids with ADHD to feel bad about themselves. ADHD creates challenges in all areas of their lives, from home to school.

It also doesn’t help that they often get negative feedback from all sides. Parents scold them for acting out. Teachers reprimand them for not turning in their homework. Peers tease them if they don’t fit in.  Read more


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Tips to Make Mornings Easier

Are mornings haphazard in your household? It’s a common problem when kids (and parents!) have learning and attention issues. Here are eight tips to streamline your morning routineRead more



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10 Tips to Help Your Child Get Organized

Being organized makes life run smoothly, but organization may not come easy to your child with learning or attention issues. Try these tips to help your child get organized at home, school and beyond.  Read more



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"Special Needs Kid: 10 Simple Solutions for Health Teeth"

Children with special needs can have severe dental problems if they are unable to physically or mentally adhere to their dental hygiene. This article includes ten tips for improving your child’s dental habits including making brushing easy, keeping it fun, starting early, and finding a good pediatric dentist with experience in working with special needs children if possible. Read more

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