Vanderbilt Kennedy Center at Tennessee Disability MegaConference

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center at Tennessee Disability MegaConference

By: Courtney Taylor

Many of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s researchers, faculty, staff, and students participated in the 12th Annual Tennessee Disability MegaConference held May 29-30, 2014. For more detailed information on Vanderbilt Kennedy Center representation at Tennessee Disability MegaConference, see the list below.*

*VKC presenters are bolded.

The Tennessee Disability MegaConference is an annual two-day event that brings a wealth of resources for Tennesseans with disabilities together under one roof. Organized by The Arc Tennessee with support from a number of community partners, sessions are held throughout the two days and are designed to inform and inspire not only people with disabilities, but also their families and professionals.

For more information about the 12th Annual Tennessee Disability MegaConference, including a full conference program visit:

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Representation:

Community Conversations: Expanding Employment Opportunities for Youth with Disabilities

Carly Blustein, Jennifer Rowan, and Erik Carter

In 2013, the Tennessee Works Partnership hosted community conversation events across six diverse communities in the state, each focusing on bringing community members together to generate solutions to improve opportunities for competitive employment for young people with disabilities. Presenters shared the findings from an analyses of data collected during and after each event from more than 400 participants.

Faith Matters: Encouraging Spiritual Expression of Youth with Intellectual Disabilities and/or Autism and Their Families

Erik Carter, Thomas Boehm, and Elizabeth Biggs

This presentation included information about the spirituality of youth and young adults with IDD and their families. Findings were shared from a 2013 study of 450 families in Tennessee, that includes experiences and perspectives regarding congre-gation inclusion, and practical ways faith communities, families, and service systems can support inclusion in this dimension of life. A conversation also took place to highlight issues participants face in their own communities.

Natural Support Strategies: Enhancing Relation-ships and Learning for Students with Significant Disabilities

Elizabeth Biggs, Erik Carter, Heartley Huber, Jenny Redding Gustafson

Supporting meaningful school inclusion for students with significant disabilities is challenging task. Presenters shared what they are learning from projects exploring the impact of involving peers without disabilities in supporting general education participation and social connections. Strategies for decreasing reliance on one-to-one adult supports and helping students access learning and social opportunities alongside their peers were shared.

Improving Access to Health Care for People with Disabilities with the E-Toolkit

Tom Cheetham, Janet Shouse, & Elise McMillan

People with disabilities often face difficulties in finding and accessing health care. A website,, has been created to help primary care doctors better serve adults with disabilities. The website offers information on reducing barriers to care, checklists of physical and behavioral issues that often are part of specific ge-netic disorders, and resources for providers, patients, and caregivers.

Tennessee Disability Pathfinder: Changes to Serve You Better

Megan Hart, Kimmie Jones & Tracy Beard

Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, a statewide clearinghouse of disability-related re-sources and multilingual helpline, is constantly making changes to create better ac-cess to information for its users. This session updated attendees on the newest means for obtaining helpful resources through the use of social media and various tools on Pathfinder's website including an Autism Resources Portal, Disability Re-sources Library, and Multicultural webpage. It also included updates on what has been learned about the state’s changing multicultural mix and how best to serve that population.

TennesseeWorks Family & Youth Efforts

Sarah Harvey, & Elizabeth Hill

The TennesseeWorks Partnership is an impressive collaboration of more than 35 agencies and organizations working together to improve employment outcomes for young people with disabilities. Engaging parents and young people with disabilities in all aspects of our ongoing efforts is an important part of our work. The Families and Youth Workgroup is a subgroup of the TennesseeWorks Partnership. Representatives from this group presented on advocacy efforts made by the Tennessee Parent Coalition, resources and trainings as well as the results of the Family Expectations Surveys and how that will be used to promote systems and policy change.

Postsecondary Education in Tennessee: Changing Lives

Kelly Wendel, Jeanne Gavigan, & Nicholas Pinter, Next Steps at Vanderbilt; Maurice Williams, Nicholas Copeland, & Jonathan Morgan Tiger-LIFE; Tom Beeson, Sara Rogers & Paige Troutman: UT FUTURE; Mallory Whitmore & A.T. Banks, IDEAL Program

Opportunities for postsecondary education (PSE) experiences for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have changed a lot over the last 5 years. As members of the Tennessee PSE Alliance, staff and students from each of Tennes-see's four programs offered a look into each program, highlighted how they benefit students and campuses, and offered information for candidates, including new opportunities for financial assistance.

Additional Participation

Awards Banquet

Elise McMillan, JD, co-director, VKC UCEDD and Bud Sugg, Next Steps at Vanderbilt alum, hosted the MegaConference Awards Banquet.

Planning Committees

· Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D., co-chaired the MegaConference Program Committee

· Courtney Taylor, MDiv, served on the Public Relations Committee

· Megan Hart, MEd, served on the Accessibility Committee

For more information on the programming listed above contact

Last Updated: 6/2/2014 8:43:43 AM

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