Special Ed Community Resource Roundup

By Cristina Villarreal Smith, DLC Engagement Specialist

It is well known that the job title “special education teacher” means much more than just that. As a teacher, you may often act as a social worker, advocate, guide, and more for your students and their families. The beginning of the school year can be especially overwhelming, as you realize the complex needs that your students have and want to help out beyond the classroom setting. The good news is, you don’t have to do it all. There are a variety of resources available in our community for families of children with disabilities. Check out a few of them we have highlighted here, and feel free to share the resources widely with your families!

Start Here: The Tennessee Disability Pathfinder / Camino Seguro

Pathfinder, as the resource is more widely known as, is an excellent place to direct families in their search for the right services. It is an online database and referral center for Tennesseans with disabilities and their families as well. You can access it online or via their toll-free, multilingual helpline, and the staff on the other end of the phone line is knowledgeable and helpful. Whether it is transition planning help, search for a mental health provider, or any other question, Pathfinder staff is ready to link families with the information they need. Website: http://www.familypathfinder.org Helpline: 1-800-640-4636

Camino Seguro is the Spanish version of Pathfinder. Through Camino Seguro, Spanish speaking families can be connected with Spanish-speaking service providers in a variety of settings as well. Website: https://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/CaminoSeguro/ Helpline 1-800-640-4636

For Parent Education Opportunities: STEP, TRIAD’s Families First, The Arc Tennessee

STEP, (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents), is another robust resource for families. Through this organization, families can receive education on the IEP process, support, and advocacy training. Tennessee STEP also has bilingual staff that can connect with families in Spanish. One particularly interesting resource that STEP offers is free workshops on their youtube channel on topics such as basic rights IDEA training and IEP meetings. If you have parents needing more information about navigating the IEP process, connect them with STEP, and they can work with a staff member who will empower them to be the best advocate possible for their child. Website: https://www.tnstep.org STEP YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/TNStep/playlists Phone: (800) 280-STEP (280-7837) Spanish: (800) 975-2919

Families First is a program through the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). They offer support for families of young children recently diagnosed with autism. One component of their support is free family workshops with childcare included, on topics such as addressing challenging behavior, building healthy sleep habits, and teaching basic communication skills. Website: https://vkc.vumc.org/vkc/triad/fam Phone: (877) ASD-VUMC (273-8862)

The ARC Tennessee is a nonprofit that supports families in a variety of ways, including employment preparation and transition services. If you have secondary students, The ARC may be able to answer questions their parents have about jobs and life after high school. Website: https://www.thearctn.org Phone: (800) 835-7077

For sensory-friendly community events your students can enjoy…

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s TRIAD partners with local organizations to provide sensory-friendly events in the city. Visit their community events page https://vkc.vumc.org/vkc/triad/community-organizations for more information.

And finally, don’t forget to look around you…

Sometimes we forget that there are team members in our own buildings who can help us support families. It can never hurt to ask your school interpreter, social worker, psychologist, or family resource center director if they can help you support your students’ families.

Here at the DLC, we are eager to support you as you keep growing in your practice. On our website calendar, you can find not only our events, but also professional development events led by other organizations throughout the community. Whether it is supporting your students through offering information on community resources, or figuring out how to improve as an educator, we’re here to support you!

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