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Council News Updates

Updates from the TN Council on Developmental Disabilities

group photo of advocates presenting employment report to Governor HaslamExpect Employment: Report to the Governor from the Employment First Task Force


On September 16th, Governor Haslam announced the completion of the Employment First Task Force report. The report provides an overview of progress made in expanding integrated and competitive employment for people with disabilities over the past year while outlining a set of goals to pursue over the next year. The task force members include representatives from the Departments of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Human Services/Vocational Rehabilitation, Labor and Workforce Development, Education, Mental Health, TennCare, the Council on Developmental Disabilities, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Disability Law & Advocacy Center, service providers, family members and self advocates, and other disability advocacy groups.


Breaking Ground magazine cover; text reads "Breaking Ground - in this issue - planning for the unknown" picturing two Caucasian sisters, one of whom has Down Syndrome, and they are hugging



*Check out our new issue of Breaking Ground!

  • Articles include:
  • Planning for the Unknown
  • Learning with Laz
  • ACM Lifts Lives through music and Employment Skills Training
  • Come On Chattanooga and Knoxville - Let's Go Play!
  • Self-Advocates Telling their Stories, Becoming Empowered
  • TN Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute Graduates its 21st class; Introducing new class of Partners
  • Overview of 2014 Disability Policy Seminar and a chat with self-advocate Will McMillan
  • TN Spotlight
  • Autism TN: Fulfilling our Mission of Supporting Individuals and Families
  • In Memory of Sara Ezell, Council Chair 1999-2003
  • TN Council on Developmental Disabilities Welcomes Four New Members


Please also visit our Breaking Ground archive to view past issues of our publication


Supporting Families of People with Disabilities: Community of Practice


The TN Council and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) were selected in 2013 to participate along with 6 other states in a national ‘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.


Participating states/districts in the "Supporting Families Community of Practice:

  • Tennessee
  • Connecticut
  • Oklahoma
  • Washington state
  • Washington D.C.
  • Missouri - the project's "mentor" state

  • The goal of this 5 year grant and initiative is to build capacity 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.


As this project moves forward, the Council and DIDD will be working together to educate Tennesseans about this major intiative and priority in our state. It is a priority for us to hear from family members, individuals with disabilities, and other advocates to inform our activities and priorities of this project. We are asking families and self-advocates to help us learn about the following...

    • What type of assistance from the state of Tennessee would be most helpful to your family?
    • How might the disability service system best serve families throughout the lifespan of their loved one with a disability, from birth through old age?
    • What should the disability service system of the future look like? What supports should be offered?


The Council and DIDD distribute a monthly e-newsletter highlighting different core values and concepts of the "Supporting Families" framework each month - you can sign up for that e-newsletter here or email to be added to our mailing list. Supporting Families circle graphic


More tools, resources and information related to the Supporting Families project:


You can also stay updated by "liking" the Supporting Families Facebook page, visiting the project's homepage and the Tennessee state page at or contacting the Council at 615-532-5368 or for more information.


Tennessee Employment First Leadership Academy

group photo of adults with disabilities at TN Employment First Leadership Academy in Sept. 2014The Tennessee Employment First Leadership Academy was a 4-day training September 4 and 8, 2014, created by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. This training was designed to train people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities to be leaders in advocating for better employment options and outcomes for people with disabilities in Tennessee. We believe that people with disabilities should have real jobs with real pay, just like workers without disabilities.


Training included:

  • Ways to improve job options for workers with disabilities
  • Ways to work and advocate with employers, the legislature and other groups
  • Finding ways to shift from segregated to integrated work settings
  • Learning about benefits and services offered by Social Security and other programs

For more information, email or call 615.532.6556.


Project SEARCH Launch in TN

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. As of summer 2014, Metro Nashville/Davidson county and Memphis/Shelby County sites are set to begin enrolling students for job training in the fall of 2015. Plans for developing this program in Rutherford county and two additional sites across the state (to be determined) are also currently underway.


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 For more information about Project SEARCH in TN, contact Alicia Cone at or 615-253-1105.



Special Report to the Community


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