2015 News Archive


TennCare Needs Members’ Current Address

You may have seen fliers that were recently distributed encouraging TennCare members to contact Tennessee Health Connection (TNHC) to ensure individuals have updated their current mailing address. It is important we have members’ current mailing address on record so when important member materials such as newsletters, notices regarding benefits or services or requests for information is sent they are able to respond appropriately.

Members may contact TNHC by calling 1-855-259-0701.   Just a reminder to all TennCare members to open and read any mail from TennCare and follow all the directions.

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Changes to CoverKids Application Process

The process for submitting applications for CoverKids is changing. Effective December 16, 2015, ALL non-pregnant applicants should apply for CoverKids by visiting www.healthcare.gov or calling 1-800-318-2596. Only pregnant applicants may continue to apply directly through the state. Beginning January 1st, four different CoverKids application options will be available to pregnant women:

  • In-person application assistance will be available at local health departments (Note: by early in the year all local health departments will provide such assistance, but training may not be complete in a small number of the metropolitan health departments by January 1), or

  • A paper application with a signed cover page* may be mailed to CoverKids at P.O. Box 305230 Nashville, TN 37230-5230 or,

  • A paper application with a signed cover page* may be faxed to CoverKids at 1-866-913-1046 or,

  • An application may be filed online or by phone through the FFM at www.healthcare.gov or toll-free at 1-800-318-2596.

* You may find the paper application and cover page online at http://tn.gov/coverkids/topic/coverkids-application or by calling 1-866-620-8864.

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U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits New Record High

“The hard work of teachers, administrators, students and their families has made these gains possible and as a result many more students will have a better chance of going to college, getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family. We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.” 

– Secretary Arne Duncan

America’s students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, reaching 82 percent in 2013-14!

What’s more, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas continues to narrow, and traditionally underserved populations like English language learners and students with disabilities continue to make gains, the data show.

Check out the data for yourself on the NCES website.

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It's My Future!

It's My Future! A new app for iPad, is designed to support students and adults with developmental disabilities to become more self-determined and participate in their annual planning meetings. The app provides self-paced videos to enable people with developmental disabilities to learn more about planning and leading their meetings. Eight sections cover topics such as choice making, decision making, goal setting, community living, employment, fun and leisure, and communication skills. Narration, a written outline, and colorful graphics support people to understand more about self-determination and how to become engaged in their planning meetings.

Download the App from the iPad App Store >>

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Does your child's physician know the ins and outs of IDEA?

The American Academy of Pediatrics just issued a 13-page report urging Pediatricians to learn more about Special Education.

This link will take you to a short article about the initiative and links to the official report.

STEP is in the process of scheduling a Webinar about this initiative for early 2016 and is developing training for physicians that incorporates the AAP's guidance.

Original Article: https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2015/12/08/pediatricians-bone-up-idea/21657/

The 13-page report: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/6/e1650

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Parent and Educator Resources

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) recently shared resources for parents and educators aimed at helping students with disabilities succeed in school careers and life. We thought these were valuable resources to share because they are practical tools to help all of us live up to our strategic plan commitment that All Means All.
  • Website Featuring Best Practices from the Field - USED created a new website to house resources developed by its grantees on effective IEPs, instructional practices, assessments, student engagement, school climate, home and school partnerships, and post-school transition. 
  • Classroom Strategies for Teachers - USED compiled tips for teachers with evidence-based, positive, proactive and responsive classroom behavior intervention and support strategies. The techniques are aimed at helping capitalize on instructional time and decrease disruptions.
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) Implementation Blueprint for Educators - The National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports prepared a new two-part blueprint on teaching behavioral expectations throughout schools. 
  • Tip Sheets for Parent - The tip sheets developed by the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition in collaboration with the Center for Parent Information and Resources are meant to help children with disabilities successfully reach adulthood. The tip sheets include information on financial management, healthcare and independent living.

For more information about IDEA and the work of the USED’s Office of Special Education Programs, click here.

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Alignment of TN Special Education Framework with Content Standards

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) issued guidance (here) in an effort to ensure that children with disabilities are held to high expectations and have meaningful access to a state’s academic content standards. The new guidance states that an individualized education program (IEP) for an eligible child with a disability under IDEA must be aligned with the state’s academic content standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled.

In order to provide clarity on how Tennessee’s Special Education Framework aligns with content standards, per the guidance from USED, please see this document (here).

For questions or further information contact Tie Hodack tie.hodack@tn.gov

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No Child Left Behind Comes to an End with the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on December 9, 2015 by a vote of 85-12. The House of Representatives passed an identical bill on December 2, 2015 by a vote of 359-64.  President Obama signed the bill into law on December 10, 2015.

This new law gives states an even larger role in holding schools accountable for the success of students like yours who may have learning and attention issues. Plus, it includes the creation of a new national literacy center to support kids with dyslexia.  Click here to read more.

Preliminary Summary from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is available HERE.

The full progress report on elementary and secondary education is available HERE.

The fact sheet on ESSA issued last week after House passage is available HERE.

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Saying Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia in Schools: An Interview with Michael Yudin of the U.S. Department of Education

It’s always been OK to use the terms “dyslexia,” “dysgraphia” or “dyscalculia” in IEPs and evaluations. But now the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging states and school systems nationwide to use these terms.

What does this mean for your child? Watch an interview with Michael Yudin, the top official for special education at the Department of Education. Yudin was interviewed by Lindsay Jones, Esq., director of public policy and advocacy for Understood founding partner NCLD.

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Statement by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on House Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act

"It is good news for our nation's schools that the House has passed a serious bipartisan plan to fix the No Child Left Behind law. No Child Left Behind is the latest, now outmoded version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is, at its core, a civil rights law. Educators and leaders throughout this country have been clear in the need for an updated law, and we have joined them in that call for half a decade. Click here to read more

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Fact Sheet: Congress Acts to Fix No Child Left Behind

We are a place that believes every child, no matter where they come from, can grow up to be anything they want… And I’m confident that if we fix No Child Left Behind, if we continue to reform American education, continue to invest in our children’s future, that’s the America we will always be.”

—Remarks by the President on the No Child Left Behind Act, March 14, 2011

Kenmore Middle School, Arlington, Virginia

Click here to read more

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Latest information from Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education

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U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Release

Today, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released a policy statement highlighting the importance of making sure that all young children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the new policy statement in Kansas City, Missouri, during the first stop of his back-to-school bus tour.  

The policy statement sets a vision for States, local educational agencies, schools, and public and private early childhood programs to strengthen and increase the number of inclusive high-quality early childhood programs nationwide. As the country continues to move forward on the critical task of expanding access to high-quality early childhood programs for all young children, it is imperative that children with disabilities be included in these efforts.  

You can read information on the policy statement here.  

As we all work together so that children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, here's what you can to do help:

  • Spread the word!Share this information with your network, and be sure to retweet @usedgov and @hhsgov on the topic.  

  • Commit to working with States, early childhood programs, and families to advance the recommendations and expand inclusive early learning opportunities for all children. 

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Current Informatoin on the Individual Education Account (IEA)

Click here to download the IEA Information Sheet.

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TDOE Announces New Webpage for IEA Program

The Individualized Education Accounts (IEA) Program webpage on the Tennessee Department of Education website is now live: http://www.tn.gov/education/section/iea

It includes a subpage with answers to frequently asked questions: http://www.tn.gov/education/topic/iea-faq

The webpages will be updated as new information about the program becomes available.  

Any questions about the IEA program can be sent to: iea.questions@tn.gov

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STEP's NEW Transition to Adult Life Guides

Youth with disabilities and their families often have questions about life after high school.

It’s never too early to think about transition.

For youth with disabilities, additional planning is needed as they prepare to leave high school, move into adulthood, and meet their employment, educational, and/or independent living goals. This process is referred to as “transition.” 

Using these guides youth, family members, and teachers can work together to ensure students with disabilities have a smooth and effective "transition" after high school.

Click on each link below for additional information.


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Attendance Awareness Month - Represent Every Day

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Introducing Cloud901 in Memphis

Cloud901 is a state-of-the-art learning lab, free for teens ages 13-18. 

This "safe space" includes video and audio production labs, editing and mixing stations, formal and informal learning areas, digital and analog displays, a performance area, a Maker Space, and brainstorming, homework, and collaboration zones. Teens can make and edit video and audio, use hi-tech equipment such as 3D printers, perform and create art, practice entrepreneurial skills, brainstorm and collaborate on ideas, and much more! Teens will enjoy expert-led workshops and self-guided learning with other teens, mentors, and volunteers.  

Join us as we open the doors of #CLOUD901 for the first time, with the City of Memphis and Mayor A C Wharton, the Memphis Public Library, the Memphis Library Foundation, and others. 

Click here for more information.

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Local Walmart Distribution Center Awards $2,000 Community Grant to STEP, Inc.

Through the Walmart Foundation, Walmart Distribution Center 6039 located in Midway, TN, recently awarded STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) headquartered in Greeneville, TN with a Community Grant in the amount of $2,000.  STEP will utilize the funding to upgrade materials and their website platforms to provide information to youth with disabilities as they prepare for high school and adult life. Materials funded by this award will directly benefit parents, youth and teachers in our community.

About STEP, Inc. - www.tnstep.org 

STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) houses one of 109 Parent Centers across the U.S. funded by the U.S. Department of Education.   STEP is a statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions and support.  STEP services are FREE and available to any parent or family member of a child or youth with a disability, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or a student who may need special help in school (birth through age 26).  For over 25 years STEP has been serving Tennessee families who have children with disabilities, youth with disabilities and working collaboratively with schools and other organizations that also provide services and supports to families and youth.   STEP, Inc. has offices in East (Greeneville), Middle (Nashville) and West (Memphis) Tennessee.

For more information about services provided by STEP please visit our website at www.tnstep.org or contact us at 423-639-0125, toll free in TN at 800-280-7837 or via email at information@tnstep.org.   Services are also available in Spanish at 800-975-2919 (Española).  To make a tax deductible donation visit www.tnstep.org/donate.  To volunteer your services visit www.tnstep.org/involved.   We appreciate your support.

About Philanthropy at Walmart

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit www.foundation.walmart.com.

Walmart believes in operating globally and giving back locally – creating impact in the neighborhoods where we live and work. Through the Community Grant Program, Walmart associates are proud to support the needs of their communities by providing grants to local organizations. If you are interested in applying for funding through the Community Grant Program please visit the Walmart Foundation website at http://foundation.walmart.com/apply-for-grants/local-giving-guidelines.

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Deaf Family Literacy Program in Memphis

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Survey for Parents of Transition-Age Youth

You are invited to participate in a study being conducted by the University of Oregon’s College of Education. This study will explore parent involvement and transition planning with parents and caregivers who have a 14-25 year old student receiving special education services. You are being asked to participate in this survey because of the unique perspective that you have as a parent of a secondary-aged student with a disability.

In recognition of your contributions to research we would like to offer you the opportunity to be compensated by including your name in a drawing, which will be held at the close of the survey. The drawing will be for:

  • One (1) iPad mini and
  • Six (6) $20 gift cards to Amazon.com

You will be redirected to an entry form after completing the survey to be entered into the drawing. One entry per person.

Before you participate in this study, there are several things that you should know. Your participation is voluntary. You are also free to stop your involvement in the project at any time. You do not have to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable. Data from this survey is anonymous and will be stored in a password-protected on-line survey software account as well as the Project Directors’ password-protected laptop. All records of the survey will be destroyed within 5 years of the completion of the project. The research team will not share your information with anyone else. Although you may not benefit individually from completing the survey, it is important that you know that you are providing input that will impact the lives of transition age youth with disabilities and their families.

Click here to begin the survey

During this stage of the study, you will be asked to fill out an anonymous 15-25 minute online survey.   If you have any questions regarding this study, you may contact the project director Kara Hirano (541) 346-3585 at the University of Oregon If you have any questions about your rights to participate in the study, call Research Compliance Services at the University of Oregon, (541) 346-2510.

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Family Support Specialist Competency Course Scholarship

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Your Voice is Needed!

Perceptions of Adults with Cerebral Palsy Childhood Treatments and

Positive Outcomes in Adulthood?

We would like your opinions about possible links between orthopedic treatment as a child and success as an adult, for individuals with cerebral palsy. We will use the information you provide to help us improve our methods of care for children with cerebral palsy and to promote positive outcomes in adulthood.

Completing this survey is voluntary. The survey should take about 15-20 minutes to complete; however, it may take up to 30 minutes for those who may need assistance with reading and inputting answers due to visual and/or motor difficulties. 

Your opinions are important, even if they are different from the opinions of others. Participating in this survey will provide you with no direct benefits, but by sharing your opinions, you can help the people who provide care to children with cerebral palsy. There are no known risks to participating in this survey.

You can answer the questions in this survey at any time. You can choose to complete all or just some of the questions. The questions with asterisks next to the question number require answers before you can move on to the next page. If you do not want to answer, you may exit the survey at any time. There will be no penalty or loss of benefits if you decide to withdraw from the research.

Your answers will not be associated with your name or any other personal information. After the survey is completed, we will ask you if you would like be contacted for future studies. Your name and contact information will not be linked with your responses from this study. The researchers are the only people who will see your individual responses.

 Your answers will be combined with the answers of others in any write-ups, presentations, or publications.

Click the following link to begin the survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/K5KBWWY

If you have any questions about your rights as a research subject, please contact the University of Hartford Human Subjects Committee (HSC) at 860.768.4721. The HSC is a group of people that reviews research studies and protects the rights of people involved in research.

If you have any questions or concerns about this study, you may contact the principal investigator: 

Mary Gannotti, Ph.D. Phone: 860.768.5373    Email: gannotti@hartford.edu

Inquiries to:  sennett@hartford.edu

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Be Empowered: "How to Respond and Prevent Sexual Abuse"

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Public Input Survey for the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities State Plan

The Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities is in the process of developing their new five-year state plan.  This plan will be in effect from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2021.

The Council's State Plan is their strategic planning document for the next five years, and it will serve as a framework for planning, implementation and evaluation activities.

They are asking Tennesseans with disabilities, family members and professionals to tell them what is working and what is not working in regards to the quality of and access to services provided for citizens with disabilities in Tennessee. Your input will help determine where to direct Council resources and advocacy over the next five years!

Share your feedback with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities here.  (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5ZTY6JB)

When you start the survey, you will be asked to answer four demographic questions - we want to make sure we are hearing from a diverse group of people. The survey asks about the availability of disability services in your community, the availability of general community resources that are accessible to people with disabilities and their families, whether there are under-served groups in your community, and what issues you feel are priorities for Tennesseans with disabilities and their families.

Please feel free to distribute our survey to others so they can provide their valuable input about Tennessee services and supports for people with disabilities!

If you have any questions or if you need the survey in other formats, feel free to contact Alicia Cone at alicia.cone@tn.gov or 615-253-1105.

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Open Enrollment for the Tennessee Family Support Program

Effective July 1, 2015 the Tennessee Family Support Program will begin an open enrollment for eligible families. The Family Support Program general purpose is defined as followed:

The primary purpose of the program is to support

  • Families who have school-aged or younger children with severe disabilities

  • Adults with severe disabilities who choose to live with their families

  • Adults with severe disabilities not supported by other residential programs funded by state or federal funds

Services can include but are not limited to: Respite care, day care services, home modifications, equipment, supplies, personal assistance, transportation, homemaker services, housing costs, health-related needs, nursing and counseling.

Current participants receiving funds, as well as individuals on the wait list or new applicants must reapply annually. With this new procedure the door is now open for all eligible families to receive assistance, if funding is available. If you know families who might be eligible or are currently receiving services please ask them to contact the agencies that provide family support assistance in their particular area.

Click here for the guidelines for additional information.. Families may call the numbers listed for applications and more information.

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Intro to Person-Centered Planning in English & Spanish | FACT Oregon

It Starts with a Dream! is an 18-page booklet from FACT Oregon that introduces parents to person-centered planning and guides them through identifying their child's strengths and needs, what works and what doesn't work, and dreams for the future. Lots of spacious and useful checklists---and the booklet comes in English and Spanish.

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10 Things Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities Should Know

Check out the June newsletter from Disability.gov.  It is packed with information and connections.

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School Immunizations Available at the Shelby County Health Department

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Enroll Today and Earn Your High School Diploma

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IDEA Changes Lives: Forty Years of Parent Training and Support

2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the same year, the first center to help parents understand IDEA and how to advocate for their children with disabilities was born.  Read More

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9 Tips for Kids with Sensory Processing Issues at Theme Parks

There are lots of things you can do to manage the sensory challenges of theme parks.  Read more.

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STEP, Inc. Staff and Board Members Attend Regional Conference

Photo – Derek Flake, STEP West TN Regional Coordinator, Marcaren Christian, Self-Advocate and STEP’s first Ex Officio Youth Board Member, and Karen Jones, Parent and STEP Board Member leading a session during the “Shared Outcomes Technical Assistance Center Conference” in Charleston, South Carolina.

Several staff and board members of STEP attended the “Shared Outcomes Technical Assistance Center Conference” in Charleston, South Carolina on June 23-25, 2015.

This annual conference, required by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs for federally funded Parent Centers, provides an opportunity for Parent Center staff to increase their knowledge base and skill set to meet the training and information needs of families and youth.

We also made an emotional visit to pay our respects at Mother Emmanuel Church while in Charleston.

We shared our knowledge through presentations at the conference and came back with all sorts of great information that we'll be incorporating into workshops and other outlets this year.  Click here to read more. 

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U.S. Department of Labor Celebrates 25 Years of the ADA

Throughout the month of July, the U.S. Department of Labor will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by highlighting the legislation's impact on the employment of people with disabilities. On July 1, the Labor Department will officially launch its celebration with a historical timeline that marks key disability employment milestones leading up to and succeeding the passage of the ADA. The webpage that houses this timeline also features personal stories from workers and young people with disabilities discussing their experiences with employment and entering the world of work before and after the ADA's passage. Those interested in submitting their own personal stories are encouraged to do so and may see their story showcased on this page in the coming weeks.  

In addition, the Labor Department will continue to promote the employment of people with disabilities by featuring a new announcement or event each day leading up to the anniversary on July 26. These activities will demonstrate the many ways that the work of different agencies within the Labor Department supports the employment of people with disabilities, including, but not limited to the work of the Office of Disability Employment Policy. To stay up to date with each day's activities, connect with the Labor Department's social media pages at Twitter and Facebook.

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The Smart ID Card every special needs child should carry

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Tell Congress To Invest In Young Children With Special Needs

The House and Senate have started the annual process to decide funding levels for education programs, including special and gifted education. Budgets are tight and Congress is under extreme pressure to keep funding to a minimum. Tell Congress that education cannot absorb any more funding cuts!  

Children and youth with exceptionalities, their families, and the educators who work on their behalf rely on a healthy federal investment in special/gifted education to support positive outcomes!

Take Action Today and Send a Letter To Your U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative.

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The Life-Changing Impact of Autism Service Dogs

A boy walks through the crowded halls of his school tethered to a dog who helps him remain calm in the crowd, find the correct classroom, and get settled in his seat before class starts. A family enjoys dinner at a busy restaurant with a dog laying patiently at their child’s feet. A young woman sits in a chair with her head in her hands, rocking back and forth; her dog puts his front paws on her lap and applies deep pressure until her body releases tension and she is able to carry on with her day. These are autism assistance dogs in action.  Read more

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Connecting the Dots: Supporting Students with ASD

This in-depth story offers guidance for schools who are serving more students with ADS and are unsure where to start or how to provide high-quality services in the general education classroom. http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2015/odom_and_wong

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Protect Children From Summer's Heat.

The temperature inside an average vehicle can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, even in the shade. A child’s body can heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, causing heatstroke, brain damage and even death.  

It can happen to anyone, anywhere. That’s why it’s so important to never leave a child alone in a car. Ever.  Learn More.

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Five Soft Skills that Help Youth Succeed at Work

For a recent Child Trends report, Key Soft Skills that Foster Youth Workforce Success, researchers examined more than 380 international resources across multiple disciplines and held focus groups and interviews with stakeholders. The study looks at relationships between soft skills and four workplace outcomes:  getting a job or being employed, performance on the job, wages, and entrepreneurial success. There is strong evidence that the following five skills increase workforce success among youth ages 15 to 29.  Read more

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Call for Applications for YouthACT

The Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) is a national initiative to get more youth with disabilities and their allies involved as leaders and partners with adults and youth-serving organizations to improve youth transition outcomes.  Read more

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Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities 2016 Education Travel Fund Application is Now Available

What you need to know:


The Education Travel Fund


The purpose of this fund is to assist Tennesseans with disabilities and their families to attend meetings, conferences and workshops held around the country and in Tennessee. It also assists Tennessee conferences by providing stipends for people with disabilities and their families, and conference presenters.


Who can apply?


An individual with a disability; a parent, family member, or guardian of an individual with a disability; a representative of an organization seeking stipends for individuals with a disability to attend a conference; a representative of an advocacy organization seeking conference support for conference presenters presenting on a disability topic. Employees or compensated board members of a disability organization are not eligible for this fund. The applicant cannot work in the same field as the focus area of the conference being attended.


How much can I apply for?


In order to extend Education Grants to as many people as possible, the following limits apply to requests: $500 per person per year; $1000 per family per year; and $1000 - $1500 to an organization for conference support. All awards depend on the availability of funds.


How can the grant money be used?

The funds for this grant can be used for conference registration; attendant care; hotel/lodging; transportation; child care; respite care or meals.


When do I get my money?

The Education Grant reimburses you for actual expenses. When you are approved for the grant, an award letter will be sent to you. Included in that letter will be the details on how you will be reimbursed for your approved expenses. You need to save all your receipts (e.g., food, hotel, gas, transportation). You will complete and submit the reimbursement forms provided to you after you return from the activity.


For further information, visit www.tn.gov/cdd to read the full program description with requirements and to download an application, or contact Alicia Cone at alicia.cone@tn.gov, or 615.532.6615.


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Work Experience Program with WorkForce Essentials, Inc.

Paid Work Experience is an ongoing activity we are able to offer utilizing the WIA grant.  In addition, the state has awarded us a special contract ($$$) to provide paid work experience opportunities to Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) eligible out of school youth. Under the new act eligible out of school youth can be between the ages of 18-24 and if they are a TANF and/or food stamp recipient they are automatically eligible for the program.

We would pay the individual for this Work Experience Program for 30 hours per week for 8 weeks at $10/hour. This means the employer would get a FREE employee for up to 8 weeks.  Of course the overall objective would be that the youth would do an excellent job while in the paid work experience activity and at the conclusion of this project the employer would hire them. However, even if employer is unable to hire at that time the youth would have experience to add to their resume and would have made a little bit of money. 

If you would be interested in being a work site or have eligible Youth to refer or if you have questions contact: Bethany Sullivan, Director, Career Services, WorkForce Essentials, Inc. at 615-452-1964 Ext. 102 or via email at bsullivan@workforceessentials.com

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Feds call for greater inclusion in preschools

Disability Scoop

The Obama administration wants to see more kids with disabilities — no matter how significant — participating in classrooms alongside their typically-developing peers. The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are jointly seeking public comment this week on a draft policy statement encouraging greater inclusion for young children with disabilities. While the majority of preschoolers with disabilities attended general early childhood programs as of 2013, more than half of these children received their special education and related services in segregated environments, the Education Department said.  Click here to read more.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Head Start

Huffington Post

Fifty years ago, Head Start was launched across the nation. At the announcement in the White House Rose Garden, President Johnson called it “one of the most constructive, and one of the most sensible, and also one of the most exciting programs that this Nation has ever undertaken.”  Click here to read more.

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Revised On-line Guide for disabled students considering higher education

The transition from high school to college is a big one no matter who you are. If you’re a student with a disability, however, the additional stresses can be overwhelming. One of the largest changes that you will have to deal with is the substantial difference in scope between the special education services provided on the high school level and those at college.

Fortunately, if you are disabled and plan on attending a college or university, you most certainly are not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 11% of all postsecondary undergraduates reported having some form of disability. Nearly 22 million students are currently enrolled in American colleges and universities. That means there are over 2.4 million postsecondary students with a disability attending college in this country. These numbers also indicate a growing trend in the willingness of schools to provide quality facilities and services to disabled students of every kind.

Accredited Schools Online have put this guide together to help disabled students and their parents better understand their rights and responsibilities in regard to a postsecondary education. You will also find useful tips and information for locating the college or university program that best suits your needs.


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STEP, Inc. Announces the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Recipient

Photo:  Craig P. Barnes accepts the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year from Karen Harrison, Executive Director

STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) is pleased to announce Craig P. Barnes as the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Recipient.  He was presented the award during the recent Tennessee Disability Mega Conference in Nashville.

Mr. Barnes received his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1996, and he received his J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2000. He began his career with a small firm in Seattle, WA representing indigent prisoners in cases involving prison conditions, sentencing structure and federal civil rights violations. In 2005, Mr. Barnes moved with his family to Memphis, where he joined Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc. (MALS) as the NCLC Brooks Consumer Law Fellow.

Mr. Barnes is currently a Staff Attorney with the Consumer Unit of MALS. He handles a wide variety of cases in state and federal court, and represents children with disabilities and their parents in matters in and related to Special Education. Mr. Barnes was the recipient of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice Awards “special recognition” for extraordinary pro bono service in the wake of Gulf Coast Hurricane, Katrina, and was given the TALS New Advocate of the Year Award in 2009. He recently won an unprecedented case in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He currently serves on the board of Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) and resides in Memphis, Tennessee.

His award was engraved with the following caption:  For his efforts to ensure “a brighter future for children with disabilities”.  A champion for children and youth!  Extended with sincere appreciation for your tireless work and collaborative efforts to bring equality, inclusion, and justice to families of children with disabilities in your community.

STEP’s Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award is presented each year to a person who has exemplified using information to assist a child or youth with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education. STEP also seeks recipients who demonstrate teamwork and collaboration and the zeal to share the information they have learned with others.  Nominees may be a parent of a child with a disability, an advocate that works with families, a teacher who has been exemplary in the life of a student with a disability, or a service provider who has bridged the gap for a student or their family to assist in receiving a free appropriate public education.

The award is in memory of Wayne Parker, a former STEP team member, who was a zealous advocate for the rights of children and families. He worked tirelessly to ensure that families had the information they needed to speak up and advocate for the needs of their children with disabilities. Wayne was also a strong advocate for encouraging young people with disabilities to advocate for the life they wanted. Wayne was well respected by parents and professionals. Wayne was always quick to praise members of school teams when they went above and beyond in their advocacy efforts for students.

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Tennessee - Justice Department Secures Statewide Training for Law Enforcement on Interacting with Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities

On Tuesday, May 12, 2015, the Justice Department announced that, under a settlement agreement with the United States, the state of Tennessee is launching a training program available to all law enforcement personnel in Tennessee on effective interactions with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.  The training, developed by Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), helps law enforcement officers communicate effectively with people who have disabilities and their families in order to improve the safety and effectiveness of those interactions and to enhance community policing efforts.  DIDD has posted the training materials on its website and will present the materials at a statewide conference of law enforcement training officers later this month.

DIDD developed the training as part of a court-approved exit plan that resolves long running litigation between the United States and Tennessee concerning care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The lawsuit will continue during DIDD’s performance of other exit plan provisions.

“We applaud the state’s efforts to ensure that law enforcement officers engage safely and effectively with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “This initiative is good for those people, for officers who serve in communities across the state, and for effective law enforcement.  Tennessee joins a new national trend in recognizing and preparing for the intersection between law enforcement and people with disabilities.  We also recognize and appreciate the continued collaboration of important stakeholders in reaching agreement on this crucial training, including DIDD, People First of Tennessee and the Parent Guardian Associations of Clover Bottom and Greene Valley Developmental Centers.”

The United States brought suit against the state of Tennessee in 1996, concerning conditions of care and the right to care in integrated settings for residents of Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Greene Valley Developmental Center and Nat T. Winston Center.  The state and the United States, along with two interveners, settled the case in 1996 through an agreement that called for both improved conditions within the centers and the integration of residents into community settings.  Shortly after the initiation of the suit, the state closed Nat T. Winston Center.  The state is now closing Clover Bottom Center and Greene Valley Developmental Centers.  In 2015, the court approved an exit plan designed to resolve the litigation by bringing to fruition planned community improvements in respite care, individual support planning and other areas.  The exit plan also required that the state develop the law enforcement training discussed above. 

For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt.

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IDEA applies to "twice exceptional" students too

Disability Scoop

Students with disabilities are entitled to special education services, even if they are cognitively gifted, federal officials say. In a memorandum to state directors of special education, the U.S. Department of Education is reminding educators not to leave behind students considered "twice exceptional." This group includes individuals who have a disability who are also intellectually gifted.

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Comment on the Proposed Regulations Governing the Vocational Rehabilitation Program

Comments Due June 15th, 2015 on Regulations.gov

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) are inviting the public to make comments regarding the notice of proposed rulemaking Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) changes to the code of federal regulations to align with the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA). Now is the time to comment on the regulations that will govern the VR program for several years.

Click here for instructions and additional information.

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Advocacy Training for Parents of Youth with ASD

High school exit is a time of great change and uncertainty for youth with ASD and their parents. The purpose of this study is to create a program that teaches parents how to advocate for their son or daughter with an ASD as he or she transitions to adulthood. Parents will attend 12 weekly training sessions and complete questionnaires and follow-up phone interviews. 

Participant Criteria

Parents of a son or daughter with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who will be leaving high school in the next 2 years. Parents of youth with all levels of intellectual ability are eligible for this study. 

Participation involves: 

  • Preliminary psychological testing of son or daughter with ASD
  • Weekly parent advocacy training sessions for 12 weeks (immediately following psychological testing, or after a 12 month waiting period) in Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga
  • Optional participation of son or daughter with ASD in 2 sessions
  • Questionnaires before and after program
  • Observation of parent advocacy skills before and after program
  • 6- and 12-month follow-up interviews conducted over the phone


  • Total payment of $150-$200 for completing all parts of the study
  • Detailed report of youth’s psychological testing, which is often useful (and sometimes required) when applying for adult services

Travel Requirements: 

  • Visit to Vanderbilt for psychological testing of son or daughter with ASD
  • Attendance at 12 weekly training sessions at Vanderbilt or the UT-Boling Center in Memphis

If you are interested in participating in this study or have any questions, please contact Andrea Perkins: 615-322-2943 or via email at transitions@vanderbilt.edu

Click here for Middle and West TN flyer

Click here for East TN flyer

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Follow-up on the IEP Voucher

STEP, Inc. has an ongoing mission to provide 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 information was provided by Assistant Commissioner of Special Populations, Joey Hassell, Tennessee Department of Education.

Individualized Education Act Highlights include:  

  • Adopted by General Assembly
  • Permits students identified with certain disabilities (see next bullet) to use state and local BEP (Basic Education Program) funds (approximately $6600) to acquire educational services such as enrollment in a private school, tutoring, curriculum materials, transportation; educational therapies, services provided under contract with a public  school; assessments; computer hardware or technology if used for the student's educational needs, etc.
  • Funds will be remitted to an Individualized Education Account (IEA) on a quarterly basis for use by the parent for eligible services.
  • No federal funds included as parent waives services and obligations under IDEA and student would not be enrolled in a public school.
  • LEA (Local Education Agency) would retain any additional local funds on top of BEP (averages $1200).
  • Identified disabilities are:
    1. Autism;
    2. Deaf-blindness;
    3. Hearing impairments;
    4. Intellectual disability;
    5. Orthopedic impairments;
    6. Traumatic brain injury; or
    7. Visual impairments.
  • Estimated 18,000 students eligible with estimated 5 percent of eligible students participating.
  • Student must have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in effect at the time of the request to participate in the program.
  • Students must take either the TCAP tests or a nationally recognized norm-referenced test with results reported to the parent.
  • The IEP Vouchers will not start until the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Many of the details are to be established by the state board in consultation with the Department of Education and Department of Health including an application and approval process for schools and providers  

The process of developing rules and regulations has already begun.

Additional information regarding SB0027/HB0138 can be found at the following link:  http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0027

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Seeking Multicultural Parents of Children with Disabilities for a New Research Study

Erin Okumoto, a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at Washington State University is looking for multicultural parents to participate in a research study that she is conducting under the direction of Laurie “Lali” McCubbin, Ph.D. 

This study will explore the experiences of parents of children with special needs/disabilities from a multicultural perspective. She hopes that this study can help to raise awareness and inform positive change towards the design and use of culturally-sensitive services.

Participation in the study consists of taking a 20-minute online survey, that is completely confidential. Upon completion of the survey, participants will be eligible to enter a voluntary prize raffle for one of three $100 gift cards to Amazon.  

Eligibility Criteria:

  • You must be at least 18 years-old.
  • You are a parent/guardian of a child (0-21 years old) who is receiving special needs services and/or has a diagnosed or unspecified disability.

The survey will remain active for up to 1 week from the time you open it. So if you can't get it done in one sitting, you can go back and complete it within that time frame.

More than one parent of each child can participate and enter the raffle (as long as you each fill out your own survey).  

Link to survey: https://educationwsu.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9vsRufzk0YlAscZ

If you have any questions about the research study please contact: Erin Okumoto, M.A., Counseling Psychology, Doctoral Candidate, Washington State University at e.okumoto@email.wsu.edu

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Educational and Training Vouchers for Current and Former Foster Care Youth

Are you currently in or have been in foster care and need help paying for college or career school? If so,  you might be interested to know that the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program helps current and former foster care youth through the Educational and Training Vouchers (ETV) Program.


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Students With Disabilities Can Access Free On-Demand Children’s TV Programming

The potential of television as an educational tool has been widely recognized since the launch of “Sesame Street” in 1969, but popular programs are not always accessible to children with disabilities. Students with visual or hearing disabilities can now access free video-on-demand children’s programs such as “Magic School Bus,” “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” and “Ocean Mysteries.” The service is part of the Described and Captioned Media Program (dcmp.org) funded by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes content from major U.S. networks as well as PBS Kids, Sesame Workshop, Cartoon Network, and others. Learn more.

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Advocacy Training for Families in Memphis though Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is conducting a research program for its Volunteer Advocacy Training Program for Transitions to Adulthood with Autism Spectrum Disorder (VAP-T) at the UT Boling Center via webcast this fall.  This parent advocacy training program is aimed to provide parents with the knowledge and tools to best advocate for their son or daughter with ASD once they leave school based services.

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is currently recruiting families that reside in Memphis. If you are interested in participating in this program please contact Andrea Perkins at (615) 322-2943 or via email at transitions@vanderbilt.edu or Rebecca Johnston at (615) 322-1953 or via email at Rebecca.L.Johnston@vanderbilt.edu.

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Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA Accepting Nominations

The Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA Nominating Committee is conducting a search to find parents, community leaders, grandparents, other family members who would like to assume a leadership role on the SEPTA Executive Board and make a difference!

The Nominating Committee is interested in your suggestions for officer

candidates to serve for the 2015-2016 school year. This is a great way to make an invaluable contribution to students.

 There are many different positions, so please consider serving on the Board.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in serving in one of the officer positions listed below, please fill out the form and return it by April 30, 2015

The committee will contact nominees. Feel free to make as many nominations as you wish.

For more information contact Nancy Loggins at mossturtlesmom@aol.com or call 901-336-5920.

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Center on Technology and Disability - Family Training Opportunities


The Center on Technology and Disability is hosting on-line events that may be of interest to some families.  

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) - Basics for Educators and Families (Part 1 of 3-Part Series)

Led by national assistive technology expert Joy Zabala, Director of Technical Assistance for the Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Center, this webinar will provide foundational information about accessible materials and offer extensive resources on AEM, including state-specific contacts.

April 13th, 2015 4 p.m. - 5 p.m. EDT Click here for registration information>>>

Parenting a Child with Special Needs: How internet technology can help build your network of support and knowledge

Join Marianne Russo, founder of Special Needs Radio, and discover how to purposefully and ethically use social media, blogs and the web to build a network of support and parenting knowledge to enrich your child’s life and wellbeing. Tips and resources for growing your assistive technology networks will also be shared.  

May 18, 2015 6:00 P.M. - 7:30 P.M. EDT?Click here for registration information>>>

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Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) Reauthorization Bill

As Tennessee’s Parent Training and Information Center we want to take every opportunity to give families current information so they can make informed choices. There are often times when the laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities are revised and during those times there is opportunity for parents and family members to give input into the process.    

We encourage parents and family members to speak up about what is important for to their family and children. Therefore, we are providing this information from the Tennessee Disability Coalition regarding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA). STEP is not lobbying or trying to persuade you to take any specific action, but rather providing you with information so you can determine if you would like to provide input into this process.    

If you have any questions about the material contained in this email, please contact Sarah Sampson with the Tennessee Disability Coalition at sarah_s@tndisability.org


Dear Parents of Students with Disabilities,  

We need a bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill that sets high expectations and promotes meaningful state accountability for educating students with disabilities!   

The Senate ESEA bill is expected to be debated and voted on the week of April 13th by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Tennessee's Senator Lamar Alexander serves as the Chair of the HELP Committee and needs to hear from us.

Face to face meetings make a big impact. The Tennessee Disability Coalition would like to schedule meetings at Senator Alexander's local Tennessee offices for parents of students with disabilities to share their family's story and support for a strong ESEA bill.    

If you would consider joining a meeting at one of Senator Alexander's local Tennessee offices, please contact Sarah at the Tennessee Disability Coalition at: sarah_s@tndisability.org   

To ensure that students with disabilities exit school prepared for college and careers, we need a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill that is built on a framework of the following core components.   

The ESEA Bill must:

1)     Ensure that achievement for ALL students, for accountability purposes, will be measured against the state academic content standards on annual state assessments, NOT based on the Individualized Education Plan (IEP)   

2)     Ensure that parents are involved in the decision of whether their child will take an alternate assessment (this means that the expectations for achievement on the grade-level content will be different e.g. modifications to the difficulty of the content, in addition to accommodations, would be permitted)   

3)     Limit the use of alternate assessments to 1% of all students assessed (which corresponds to about 10% of students with disabilities)   

4)      Ensure that students with disabilities, including students who take an alternate assessment, participate in and have the opportunity to make progress in the grade-level general education curriculum, as well as have the opportunity to earn a regular diploma   

5)     Require states to develop challenging targets for student achievement and interventions to address achievement gaps between students with and without disabilities (e.g. the use of universal design for learning principles would address the gap while benefitting all students)   

An ESEA bill with high expectations that includes these core requirements will improve outcomes for students with disabilities. We need your help advocating for a bill that sets up Tennesseans for success!  

You can email Senator Alexander to express your support at this link: http://cqrcengage.com/actionnetwork/app/write-a-letter?4&engagementId=90473

Thank you for your support of this important issue.    

Tennessee Disability Coalition

Phone: 615-383-9442 

955 Woodland Street

Nashville, TN 37206 


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The Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience- Extended deadline. Don't let our youth/young adults miss this opportunity.

The new deadline for Tennessee Youth is April 15th. To register, click on the link below.  We had our Very own East TN youth leader, Tim Dennis attend last year. He had a blast.


The Shadow Experience is an all-expenses paid opportunity for youth aged 18-24 with personal experience in the foster care system to spend time with their Congressional representative, as well as White House officials, in Washington, D.C.  The dates of associated travel and events are Monday, May 18th through Thursday, May 21st, 2015. 

Participating in the Shadow Experience allows youth and policymakers to meet and learn from one another. Young people in and from foster care will be able to speak to and learn about Congress and the White House while gaining a “hands-on” understanding about how the U.S. government operates on a daily basis. Members of Congress are able to listen to the stories of young people and gain a well-rounded understanding of the experiences of youth in foster care, which will help them as they pursue policies that impact all foster youth.   

Before the Shadow Day on May 20, all participants will attend a mandatory two-day Young Leaders Training Academy (May 18 & 19) to prepare for their meetings with policymakers. This training will include an overview of federal foster care policy, practice in strategic sharing, and team building.

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National Survey about Siblings of Individuals with Disabilities, their Support Needs, and their Families

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Si gustaría contestar este cuestionario en español, por favor seleccione “Español” en el menú desplegable de arriba esta frase

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Help Teach Kids Online Safety

Help Teach Kids Online Safety 

Click to
Inform Kids Today About Online Dangers  

When it comes to educating children about danger, there is no such thing as being too careful. Beyond teaching them the importance of safely interacting on the Web, here are a few ways you can help children avoid danger: 

  1. Inform children about the importance of not giving out identifying information.

  2. Educate families to be aware of cyberbullying.

  3. Demonstrate to children how to appropriately use computers, cellphones, video games and other technology.

  4. Advise parents and guardians about other family activities to do with their child.

  5. Instruct children to let an adult know if they feel threatened, or if a stranger tries to befriend them.

Visit kidcentraltn.com for the full list of tips you can share with families. Also, below are related articles to stay informed:

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10 Ways to Prepare Kids for Life After High School

A group of statewide experts recommend 10 ways to put more kids on the path to being career and college ready (here). What local workforces need? How to improve and enhance student learning? How to help students get a head start on life after high school? These are the questions Tennessee Council for Career and Technical Education (TCCTE) dove into in a recently released report.

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Accessibility of Tourism Facilities Survey

The Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education (KSSPE) at the College at Brockport, State University of New York is conducting a study to determine the accessibility of hotels and accommodation facilities with the life experiences of people with disabilities.  

The questionnaire is available to people with disabilities and their families and traveling companions. It should take about 10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Results are expected to help improve the accessibility of accommodation facilities. 

The link is: http://www.gumus.com/survey/

For more information on this survey contact: 

Ozkan Tutuncu, Ph.D. Primary Investigator, State University of New York, College at Brockport, Department of KSSPE Phone: (585) 967-8740  Email: 

Lauren Lieberman, Ph.D. Research Supervisor, State University of New York, College at Brockport, Department of KSSPE Phone: (585) 395-5361  Email:llieberm@brockport.edu

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Tennessee Dept. of Education Seeks Input From Parents Of Students With Disabilities

The Tennessee Department of Education, Special Education Division, is seeking information from families pertaining to special education services provided to your child. The survey, accessible through this email, is an effort to measure families' involvement in the education of their children.

The questions should be answered from your own knowledge and experience with special education services in Tennessee.

Please complete the survey by clicking on the following web address:


Thank you in advance for providing this valuable information! Your feedback will be used for program improvement. If you have questions when completing this survey, please contact Sandy Countermine at (423) 439-7557 or counterm@etsu.edu.

The Special Education Advocacy Center (SEAC) encourages families they serve to participate in this important survey!

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CDC Stepping Up Autism Monitoring Efforts

As federal officials launch a new round of autism surveillance, they’re looking at more than prevalence alone, with plans to track diagnostic changes, younger kids and other disabilities.

Researchers at 10 sites across the country will comb data from 2014 to determine up-to-date autism rates in their communities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this month.  Read more

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The Growing Population of Adults with Autism

More than 50,000 individuals with autism transition into adulthood each year. Is the US prepared?

Autism is on the rise: More than 1.5 million people have the condition in the United States alone. But because the majority of these people are younger than 22, the country is on the verge of an “autism tsunami” that could leave thousands without the support they need as they become adults, according to Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization.  Read More

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Let's Get Every Kid in a Park!

In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) in 2016, President Barack Obama announced last week the Every Kid in a Park initiative – a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors.

America’s public lands and waters offer space for young people to get outside and get active and are living classrooms that provide opportunities to build critical skills through hands-on activities. To inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer, the Obama Administration will provide to all 4th grade students and their families free admission to all national parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, starting with the 2015-2016 school year.

The initiative will also distribute information to make it easy for teachers and families to identify nearby public lands and waters and to find programs that support youth outings. Itwill build on a wide range of educational programs and tools that the federal land management agencies already use. For example, NPS has re-launched a website with over 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans, and field trip guides. Furthermore, under this initiative, the U.S. Department of Education along with several other federal agencies and the NPS will participate in Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms and agency resources that connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers with public lands and waterways.

Additional Information

Information on the Every Kid in a Park initiative may be found here on the website of theNational Park Foundation – the congressionally chartered foundation of the NPS. More information will be rolled out in the coming weeks. A fact sheet may be found on the White House website here.

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Help Kids Prepare for Tests

This spring, students across Tennessee will take statewide tests as part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). Teachers and school administrators can use TCAP results to help them understand and address the learning needs of their students. 

Being involved in a student’s education before and after any test can help them achieve their goals in the classroom. A few quick tips are: encouraging the student, having them take practice exams and being vigilant with them. To see the full article with more tips on how you can help, visit kidcentral tn.


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Submit Your Nomination for STEP's Advocate of the Year Award

STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) is accepting nominations for the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award.  This award is given each year to a person who has exemplified using information to assist their own child or someone else’s child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education.

STEP seeks recipients who demonstrate teamwork and collaboration and the zeal to share the information they have learned with others.  Nominees may be a parent of a child with a disability, an advocate that works with families, a teacher who has been exemplary in the life of a student with a disability, or a service provider who has bridged the gap for a student or their family to assist in receiving a free appropriate public education.

Click here for nomination form. 

Please submit your nominations via email to: information@tnstep.org

  • Include in the subject line:  Nominee for Wayne Parker Award
  • Nomination form
  • Photo of nominee (jpg format)

All nominees will be considered and the recipient chosen to receive the award will be contacted for further information.

Deadline for nominations is May 1, 2015.

Winner of the award will be honored at the 2015 TN Disability Mega Conference Annual Awards Banquet on May 20th in Nashville.

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The Arc Tennessee is now a Benefits Enrollment Center!

Are you an Adult with a Disability (age 21 and up), or a Senior Citizen (age 65 or over) with financial need?


You may be eligible for one or more of the following benefits:

* Medicare Part D (Extra Help)

* Medicare Savings Programs

* Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

* Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

* Medicaid (TennCare)

* Supplemental Security Income (SSI)


The Arc Tennessee can help you with screening and applying for these benefits for FREE.


Walk-Ins Welcome, Appointments Preferred: 9:00 am - 12:00 Noon Monday-Friday

151 Athens Way in MetroCenter, Nashville, next to the Social Security building.


To make an appointment or for screening and assistance in applying over the phone, please contact Beth Thielman at 615-248-5878 x 327 or email bthielman@thearctn.org


Everyone screened by The Arc Tennessee will be entered into a drawing for a chance to receive a $50 Walmart gift card.  There will be two drawings, one in January and one in February.


If you live in Shelby, Fayette, Tipton or Lauderdale Counties, please contact Sandra Hawkins at The Arc Mid-South at 901-327-2473 or email shawkins@thearcmidsouth.org


If you live in Williamson County, contact Sharon Bottorff at The Arc Williamson County at 615-790-5815 or email sbbarc@thearcwc.org


Click here for more information

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Shelby County Schools Exceptional Parent News

News from the Shelby County School System.  Click here to read the Exceptional Parent Newsletter.

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Lekotek's Top Toys"R"Us Toy Guide Picks

The toys featured in the Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids have been selected and evaluated by the National Lekotek Center. This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Guide! 

The mission of the Guide is to create positive play experiences for ALL children to help foster inclusion, inspire children to reach new milestones and work toward developing critical skills while having fun with toys.

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Scholarships for Tennessee’s Gifted Students

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How to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If the cold, dreary days of winter have you feeling down, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder caused by lack of exposure to natural sunlight and other factors. SAD is more serious than the occasional blues, and can be accurately diagnosed by a mental health professional. Symptoms of SAD are often similar to those of other forms of depression.

More information can be found at www.kidcentraltn.com

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College Scholarship Opportunity

The 180 Medical College Scholarship Program is available for those with spinal cord injuries. Seven $1,000 college scholarships will be given this year.  Their founder, Todd Brown, was injured in a motocross accident over 20 years ago. Knowing the hardships young people go through after an injury, he wanted a way to be able to give back.

You can find all the details on their scholarship site: www.180medical.com/scholarships.

Click here for brochure.

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TCAP Assessment Read Aloud Accommodation Guidance

TCAP Read Aloud Accommodation Policy

The read aloud accommodation may only be provided to those students who are eligible as a student with a disability through IDEA or section 504. It is intended to provide access to text for students with a visual impairment, including blindness, and those students with a specific skill deficit that severely limits or prevents them from decoding text at any level of difficulty as determined by a diagnostic tool or instrument that was administered at the school level.  Click here to read more.

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FAFSA Event in Memphis on January 8, 2015 - County Mayor Luttrell, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Hopson, and City Mayor Wharton.

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Patient Services, Inc. (PSI)

A non-profit 501(c)(3) premium and copayment foundation 

Patient Services, Inc. (PSI) is the "ground breaking" 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable organization of its kind. Over two decades ago, we recognized the importance of providing a "safety net" for patients with chronic illnesses who were struggling to keep up with expensive premiums and copayments. Since 1989 we have led the charge to provide much needed patient assistance, soliciting donations to fund thousands of patients and their families in a myriad of disease areas.

The founder of PSI shaped the very first non-profit patient assistance model in 1989. Dr. Dana Kuhn knows the pain firsthand of watching a loved one fight-and-lose their battle against chronic illness; he knows, too, the crippling financial burden often carried by those left behind. Since our inception in 1989, Patient Services has been a pioneer leading the charge to find solutions to the challenges that face the chronically ill in the United States.  

We provide financial support and guidance for qualified patients with specific, rare chronic diseases. Our team is passionate about accessibility and affordability to treatment. That’s why we are committed to helping subsidize the costs of health insurance premiums and out of pocket costs (copayments/coinsurance). Furthermore, we offer a variety of legal services free of charge through the PSI-A.C.C.E.S.S. Program for specific rare disease communities. Through PSI assistance programs patients and their families rediscover hope and health. 


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