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Council News Updates

cover image for 2013 Breaking Ground annual arts issue - image of hummingbird hovering over tropical colorful flowersBreaking Ground Annual Arts Issue

Check out our 2013 Breaking Ground Annual Arts Issue featuring art and writing by and about Tennesseans with disabilities!


Articles include:

  • Tennessee's Oldest Town Cultivates the Arts
  • Young Author with Autism Publishes First Book
  • Forging a Connection Through Dance and Movement
  • Drawing on Strengths: An Art Therapist's Role
  • ... Plus plenty of beautiful artwork, poetry, and photography!




Supporting Families Community of Practice State Team Kick-Off

The TN Council and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) were selected to participate in a 5 state ‘Community of Practice’  to think, learn and strategize about the next generation of services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Meeting to kick off the state team for the Supporting Families Community of PracticeThe goal of the 5 year project is to build capacity through a Community of Practice across and within states to create policies, practices and systems to better assist and support families that include a member with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan.


Participants including Council staff, DIDD staff, providers and family members in Oct. 2013 to begin discussing the core concepts of the Supporting Families framework and how to implement these concepts and changes in Tennessee.


As this project moves forward, the Council and DIDD will be working together to educate Tennesseans about the Supporting Families Community of Practice. In the meantime, you can stay updated by "liking" the Supporting Families Facebook page, visit the project's homepage at or contact the Council at 615-532-6615 or


50th Anniversary of the DD Act!

"Fifty years after the signing of the first iteration of the DD Act, we honor the work of self-advocates, families, advocacy groups, policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders that has resulted in dramatically and positively changing the opportunities in this country for Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

We can only imagine what fifty more years of effort will bring, as we continue to work towards the day that every American with a disability is a respected, beloved, contributing member of our society."

 Sharon Lewis, Commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 
Read the rest of her blog celebrating the 50th anniversary of the law that evolved into the DD Act, which created Councils on Developmental Disabilities and the DD Network here.


New Grant for Summer Leadership Academy

The Council is excited to announce that due to a grant offered by Mitsubishi Electric American Foundation, the Council will be partnering with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in the first state-based Summer Leadership Academy for emerging young leaders with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The focus of the Academy will be on preparing youth to become effective advocates for themselves and others with disabilities, with an added emphasis on successful employment outcomes.

The Council and ASAN recently began the first year of the grant, a planning year to develop curricula, program design and participant criteria, and application and selection process, for the first Leadership Academy to be held in 2014.

For more information, email


Community Development Grant

The Council proudly announces the newly available Community Development Grant. This new fund, similar to our Education Travel Fund, is available to Tennesseans with disabilities and their family members. It provides assistance to visit and research innovative programs in other states. Upon their return, recipients may receive a small stipend to implement a Plan of Action for replicating and sustaining a similar program in their community here in Tennessee.

Click here to read the full program description with requirements and download an application. Please spread the word in your community about this new opportunity!


Project SEARCH Launch Project SEARCH kickoff meeting - photo of several people in a meeting room


The Council is launching 9 new Project SEARCH sites in each of the state's development districts over the next few years to promote early employment experiences for students with disabilities. The state kickoff event was held in November 2013 in Murfreesboro with Vocational Rehabilitation staff, Local Education Agency staff and DIDD provider staff from each region proposed for the first year of this new program (Davidson, Williamson, Sumner, Montgomery and Rutherford counties, as well as Shelby county).


The Council’s Project SEARCH initiative targets students with intellectual & developmental disabilities in their last year of high school. Between 90 and 100% of the participants complete the program and are offered a job. The investment in students as they finish high school makes the most efficient and effective use of the student’s education and fulfills a business need in our communities.


To learn more about Project SEARCH or to view videos of students participating in Project SEARCH job sites, visit


Governor Haslam's Executive Order on Employment for People with Disabilities

Read Governor Haslam exciting new Executive Order encouraging the expansion of community employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in Tennessee here!

The order established an Employment First Task Force involving a variety of stakeholders, including the Council, to determine ways our state can begin to increase competitive and integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The task force has begun meeting as of August 2013.



Expansion of the Next Chapter Book Club project

The Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) is an innovative project that provides adolescents and adults with disabilities an opportunity to read and socialize with friends. The NCBC model actively promotes literacy learning and social connectedness. The model provides many opportunities for self-advocacy as members decide which book they want to read, how they want to read the book, and how they want to structure or organize their weekly club meetings.


The Council is actively working towards expanding the NCBC model beyond our current 4 demonstration sites (which are listed here). If you know of anyone or any agency interested in becoming a site to begin more Next Chapter Book Clubs or an alternative but similar model of writing club called Jot It Down that features creative writing opportunities for individuals with disabilities, please contact our office or one of the 4 current demonstration sites.


The Council is eager to have more book and writing clubs in communities across Tennessee!



Special Report to the Community


View the Council's 2011-2012 Special Report, which describes the purpose of the Council and the work that it does throughout Tennessee. Click here to view it as a PDF.