2019 News Archive

5/23/2019

2019 STEP Advocate of the Year Awards Announced

STEP is thrilled to honor our 2019 STEP Advocates of the Year.

Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year

Dr. Cale Horne, along with his wife Adrianna, is the parent of a child with autism. Shortly after getting involved in special education for his own child, Dr. Horne identified several areas where the school system was not meeting the needs of other children with disabilities. After further investigation, he determined that the deficits were ingrained throughout the system. In response, Dr. Horne formed the Chattanooga Inclusive Ed Working Group, which includes parents of children with disabilities, local secondary and post-secondary educators, non-profits, and the Chattanooga 2.0 organization that was comprised of local business leaders as well as Hamilton County Department of Education decision-makers.

According to one of his nominations, “His work through this group has benefited children with disabilities, their parents and guardians, educators, service providers and a host of local nonprofits that work with students with disabilities. There have been many changes in the local school system and the systems of adjacent counties because of Dr. Horne’s efforts.” From the impetus of his own family situation, Dr. Horne has created a community initiative that has positively impacted inclusion rates in Hamilton County. According to another of his nominations, “More students are now educated in their home-zoned schools and general education classrooms, due to Dr. Horne’s quiet but persistent leadership."

Wesley Rice Youth Advocate of the Year

McKenzie Tuckson is a true shining star who doesn't let her disability hold her back. A 16-year-old with Rett Syndrome, McKenzie she doesn’t speak, but that doesn't mean she doesn't communicate. She uses her augmentative communication device, facial expressions, pictures, vocalizations, social media, and many other ways to get her message across. She advocates for equal and fair treatment for students with disabilities within her school system. Because of her advocacy, Metro Nashville Public Schools revised their policies to eliminate use of rifton belted chairs in classrooms. McKenzie understands the importance of being able to sit in age-appropriate chairs, just like her peers.

McKenzie was the first student with exceptional needs to be inducted to the National Honor Society at White's Creek High School, as well as being voted Vice President of her Sophomore class by her peers. She is a varsity cheerleader, the first ever nonverbal cheerleader at her school. She has been highlighted in the press and in a technology catalog, and presents annually to the Alternative and Augmentative Communication class for speech-language pathology graduate students at Vanderbilt. Most recently, she and her parents attended Disability Day on the Hill where they met with legislators to advocate for laws supporting individuals with disabilities.

McKenzie proves that everyone deserves the chance to engage in activities they love, regardless of their abilities. Her mission in life is to educate others and give a voice to all individuals with disabilities.

Scott Finney Self-Advocate of the Year

Scott Kramer is an autistic adult who is a very effective and committed self-advocate and advocate. He founded the GCA Centre for Adult Autism, Southeast USA in early 2011. Initially established as a local, adult-only support group for individuals on the spectrum, GCA has expanded to include social support groups from the Tri-Cities area of Northeast Tennessee to the Metro Atlanta, GA area. Despite his own challenges, Scott has enhanced the size and reputation of GCA’s Annual Southeast Adult Autism Symposium, which is now in its 3rd very successful year. It features adults with autism as presenters, session facilitators and exhibitors, along with numerous agency and organization representatives who provide services for this population.

Scott's impact on the adult autism community in Tennessee has been significant. With the vast majority of research programs and government services focusing on young children with autism, Scott has highlighted the need for supporting those who are living and working, and trying to live and work, in a society that is often not “autism-friendly”. When necessary, Scott has taken his message to state legislators and other policymakers to advocate for more acceptance for adults with autism, and positive change.

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5/1/2019

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

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5/1/2019

Support STEP, Inc. by Shopping at Kroger

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4/17/2019

Tools to Support Preschool Learning

New resources focus on technology integration, emergent bilingual learners.  

Early childhood educators looking for ways to develop a supportive learning environment for children who are emergent bilingual (or dual language) learners, while also seeking to meaningfully integrate technology tools into their programs, now have two new EDC resources. Both resources were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  

Supporting Emergent Bilingual Children in Early Learning and Integrating Technology into Early Learning draw on current research into how children learn, giving educators promising practices for supporting the diverse needs of young learners. These resources also provide easy-to-use classroom checklists to aid educators in effectively implementing these practices. The resources, available in Spanish, Chinese, and English, are applicable to all early childhood professionals, working in all types of learning environments, with young children from all backgrounds.

Want to know more? Click here or Follow the hashtag #EarlyEdTools on Twitter for ideas and to connect with other early childhood educators or contact Heather Sherwood.

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4/2/2019

What Is Early Childhood Development? A Guide to the Science

Healthy development in the early years of life provides the building blocks for lifelong health, educational achievement, and responsible adulthood. What can we do during this incredibly important period to ensure that children have a strong foundation for future development? 

This multi-part guide explains the science of how children develop in their earliest years. Using videos, research briefs, infographics, games, and other tools, this set of materials is organized in sections to respond to three questions: 1) Why is early childhood important? 2) How does early childhood development happen? And 3) What can we do to support child development?

Enjoy these online resources at https://developingchild.harvard.edu/guide/what-is-early-childhood-development-a-guide-to-the-science/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=march_2019

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3/29/2019

25+ Playful Learning Activities for Preschoolers

When it comes to planning playful learning activities for preschoolers, it isn’t one size fits all!   Preschoolers are naturally inquisitive and curious students who are dying to explore and find out answers in all areas of science learning. Preschool teachers and parents, like yourself, need to have preschool activities for lesson plans that are easy for young students to understand, many who are not yet reading, and gives them the opportunity to spend some time playing!

Click here to read more

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3/27/2019

Submit Your Nomination for 2019 STEP's Advocate of the Year Awards

STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) is accepting nominations for the 2019 Advocate of the Year Awards.

Each year STEP, Inc. recognizes extraordinary advocates across Tennessee who has made significant contributions to the lives of children and youth with disabilities.  Award winners will be honored at the 2019 TN Disability MegaConference Annual Awards Banquet on May 22th in Nashville.

Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award

This award is given 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. A person 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 online nomination form or Click here to download and print the nomination form.

Wesley Rice Youth Advocate of the Year Award

This award is given to a youth with a disability between the ages of 15 and 26 who is a strong self-advocate at school, home or in the community. Nominee must demonstrate leadership by speaking up for themselves and others and is positive role model for young people with disabilities.  

Click here for online nomination form or Click here to download and print the youth nomination form.

Scotty Finney Self-Advocate of the Year

This award honors a person who has embodied the positive character traits of being a strong self-advocate by accepting responsibility, speaking up for themselves and others, and above all, leading by example. The Scott Finney Self-Advocate of the Year Award is named after a man who has dedicated his life to leading by example.

Click here for online nomination form or Click Here to download and print the Self Advocate nomination form.

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

Include in the subject line:  Nominee for Advocate of the Year Award

  • Nomination form
  • Photo of nominee (jpg format)

Deadline for nominations is April 30, 2018.  

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3/19/2019

TN Special Education Directors Update

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

Highlights in this issue:

  • Draft IEP Waivers
  • Judge Vacates U.S. Department of Education's Delay of 2016 Rule on Significant Disporportionality
  • IDEA Part B Application for Federal Funds: Notice of Public Comment
  • Guidance and Models for Preschool Inclusion
  • Did You Know: Special Ed Connection®
  • Advisory Council for Children with Disabilities
  • More...

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3/18/2019

Annual Schools and Camps Issue of EP Magazine

The Annual Schools and Camps Issue of EP Magazine is out.Highlights include:

?? The Dignity of Risk: Going to College

?? Getting Your Child Un-Stuck from Anxiety

?? Life Skills from a Mobile Coffee Cart

Click here to read

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3/12/2019

TEIS (TN Early Intervention System) Update

The latest TEIS (TN Early Intervention System) Update is out from the Tennessee Education Association.

In this issue:

?? Parent Testimonial: What’s not to love about TEIS? by Stephanie Phillips

?? Updated Diagnosis List

?? Regional Resource Highlight: Isaiah 117 House

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3/1/2019

Empower TN, STEP, & The TN Council on Developmental Disabilities Announce Summer 2019 Youth Leadership Academy

Fermina is Proud!

Empower TN, STEP, and the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities invite young people between the ages of 16 and 24 to apply to participate in the "I Am More Than..." Youth Leadership Academy to be held in Nashville TN on July 17 and 18, 2019.

Participants will learn about:
  • Speaking up for Yourself
  • Getting Comfortable with Who You Are
  • Working Toward Independence
  • And more...

All while having fun!

This program will be offered at no cost to participants. 

Application deadline has been extended to May 15, 2019!

For online registration please click here.

For a paper application please click here to download a PDF copy or email information@tnstep.org or call Lisa Gosnell of STEP at 800.280.7837.

Questions about the program? Please call Paul Choquette of EMPOWER TN at 615.515.8612. 

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2/28/2019

Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Update

The latest update is out from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In this issue:

  • TN Disability MegaConference Registration Now Open
  • The Arc TN Special Education Community Conversation on March 5 in Nashville
  • Opportunities for Input
  • TennesseeWorks Blog Spotlights Partners in Policymaking

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2/4/2019

TNDOE Releases IEA (Individualized Education Account) Program Info Videos


Looking for more information about the IEA Program? Check out these short informational videos posted on the TNDOE IEA webpage

For more detailed information about the IEA Program, watch the IEA Parent Information Session Webinar, read answers to frequently asked questions, read the IEA Parent Handbook, or review the other resources on the TNDOE IEA webpage.

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1/31/2019

Your Voice is Needed: Perspective on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Survey

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is currently seeking families of individuals with complex communication needs to complete a survey on communication systems and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services.

The goal is to gather information that will help improve the awareness of AAC services, AAC implementation strategies, and barriers of accessibility of communication systems and services.

This survey will take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. However, because your participation is voluntary, you are free to withdraw from this survey at any time.

Copy the link below into your web browser:
https://redcap.vanderbilt.edu/surveys/?s=C3J3MH4MXT

At the end of this survey, you will have the option to be entered in a drawing to win one of several $20 gift cards.

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1/28/2019

Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Update

The latest update is out from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In this issue:

  • Apply to the Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute Class
  • 2/12-2/21 Family Information Exchange Events in Hamilton, Montgomery and Tipton Counties
  • 3/1 Applications Due - Lipscomb IDEAL Summer Academy
  • Participants Needed: Perspectives on Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC)

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1/21/2019

Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Update

The latest update is out from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In this issue:

  • TN DD Network hosts Administrator of U.S. Administration on Community Living
  • 2/11-12 - Disability Day on the Hill, Community Reception
  • New TennCare Employment & Community First CHOICES Video
  • Application deadlines for TN's Inclusive Higher Education Programs
  • 2/12-2/21 Family Information Exchange Events in Hamilton, Montgomery, & Tipton Counties

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1/18/2019

Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities Update

The latest update is out from the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.

In this issue:

  • Partners in Policymaking January Session Recap
  • 2/11-12 - Disability Day on the Hill, Community Reception
  • 2/12-2/21 Family Information Exchange Events in Hamilton, Montgomery and Tipton Counties

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1/17/2019

Effective Date: Amendment to Special Education Programs and Services- Parental Participation

TN DOE Rule Change on Draft IEPs goes into effect on March 12 2019

On October 19, 2018, the state board of education passed on final reading an amendment to Special Education Programs and Services - Parent Participation, Rule 0520-01-09-.15 that requires parents receive a copy of a draft Individualized Education Program (IEP) at least 48 hours before a scheduled IEP meeting, if the school or district creates such a draft.  Parents may decline their right to receive a copy of the draft IEP if one is developed. 

State rules and regulations are effective 90 days after submission to the secretary of state’s office.  Therefore, this rule will go into effect March 12, 2019 and updates to EasyIEP will be made at that time to reflect the changes outlined in the attached memo.  In order to prepare for these changes, it is advised that directors of special education share this information with applicable staff and begin making preparations for any necessary changes in practice.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to this amendment.

Click here to view memorandum on the amendment.

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1/15/2019

TN Special Education Directors Update

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

In this issue:

  • Revised IDEA Part B 611 and 619 Allocations
  • Easy Summer 2019 Updates 
  • Online Course Code Catalog
  • Work-Based Learning (WBL) Certification Update: Fall 2018 Certificates Posted
  • Work-Based Learning (WBL) Certification and Recertification Networking Event Registration Open
  • Application of Interest: AAD Instructional Practices PLCIDEA Discretionary Grant Opportunity
  • Next Steps Summer at Vanderbilt Institute 
  • TRIAD Professional Development and Training Opportunities
  • Middle Tennessee State University Professional Development Opportunities
  • Advisory Council for Children with Disabilities
  • Special Populations Professional Development Request

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1/15/2019

TN Special Education Directors Update

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

In this issue:

  • Draft IEP Waivers 
  • Judge Vacates U.S. Department of Education's Delay of 2016 Rule on Significant Disporportionality
  • IDEA Part B Application for Federal Funds: Notice of Public Comment
  • Guidance and Models for Preschool Inclusion
  • Did You Know: Special Ed Connection®
  • Advisory Council for Children with Disabilities


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1/7/2019

Dear Colleague Letter - Early Intervention Services (EIS)

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

OSEP has published a new policy letter (December 20, 2018), regarding screening and whether it should be included as part of an evaluation for an infant or toddler suspected of being deaf or hard of hearing, as well as, information on the applicable evaluation timelines and required protocols under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Additional OSEP Memos, Dear Colleague Letters and Policy Letters are publicly available online.

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1/7/2019

TEIS (TN Early Intervention System) Update

The latest TEIS (TN Early Intervention System) Update is out from the Tennessee Education Association.

In this issue:

? What Early Intervention Can and Should Look Like: Part 3

? Contract Update

? Building Best Practice Conference Sneak Peek

? Training for TEIS Eligibility Specialists

? Welcome Aboard

? Fiscal Services Team Updates

? Reminder to Agencies

? Upcoming Dates of Interest

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1/1/2019

Spring 2019 IEA Parent Information Session Registration

TDOE IEA Spring 2019 Parent Info Session Registration Deadline is January 4 2019


Parent Information Sessions

In January and February, the department will provide information sessions for parents on the IEA (Individualized Education Account) Program. Parent information sessions are designed to help parents who are interested in enrolling their student in the IEA Program learn more about what the IEA Program is, including student eligibility, amount of funding, approved expenses, and parent responsibilities. Parents will also learn how to complete the application process to enroll their child in the IEA Program. These sessions are not for parents of students already enrolled in the IEA Program.

During registration, parents will be asked to choose only one session to attend. All sessions are from 6 - 8 p.m. local time unless otherwise noted. These sessions are only open to parents of eligible students. The addresses for each information session will be emailed to registered parents.

Jan. 22, 2019 – Nashville
Jan. 28, 2019 – Knoxville
Feb. 5, 2019 – Memphis

To register, click here. Space is limited, and parents must pre-register to attend the in-person information sessions. Registration closes Jan. 4, 2019.

Please note: Childcare will not be provided at the information sessions. Children may attend the information sessions but must be under parent/guardian supervision at all times.

If you are unable to attend an in-person session, there will be a live webinar for parents on Feb. 13 from 6-8 p.m. CT. Instructions for how to access the webinar are available here. Pre-registration is not required for the webinar.

The session PowerPoint and a recording of the session webinar will also be posted on the department's IEA web page (here).

_______________________________

Private School Information Sessions

The department will conduct a live information session webinar on the IEA Program for private school principals interested in applying to participate in the IEA Program for the 2019-20 school year. Private school information sessions are designed to help private school principals learn more about what the IEA Program is, including school eligibility, school responsibilities, and approved expenses. Private school principals will also learn how to complete the application process to become a participating school in the IEA Program.

The webinar will be held on Feb. 15 from 9-11 a.m. CT. Instructions for how to access the webinar are available here. School principals do not need to pre-register for the webinar.

The recording of the live webinar will be posted on the department's IEA web page (here)

Schools principals can also submit a request for the IEA team to come and speak to their school by emailing IEA.Questions@tn.gov.

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