Community Partnerships Autism Tennessee is proud to serve as the voice of the autism community in various educational, legislative, and community initiatives across the state. Below are some of the ways we are advocating for your needs. TennesseeWorks Partnership TennesseeWorks is an impressive collaboration of agencies and organizations working together to improve employment outcomes for young people with disabilities. Partners and allies include parent support organizations, disability nonprofits, employment-related agencies and state agencies. TennesseeWorks was formed in 2011 with the goal of strengthening state policies and systems to promote the employment of young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). In 2012, we received a Projects of National Significance: Partnerships in Employment Systems Change grant from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to support our efforts. These five-year systems change projects focus on prioritizing employment as the first and preferred option for youth and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center serves as the administrative lead for the grant, but it is the collective efforts of all of our partners that will ensure real change happens in our state. Tennessee Alliance for Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Autism Tennessee has been a member of this alliance since its formation in May of 2007. The Alliance works to increase awareness of the need for postsecondary education opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities in Tennessee. They also encourage the development of more programs in Tennessee university and college campuses that provide meaningful college experiences that may lead to a greater variety of career opportunities. The group meets quarterly and is comprised of representatives from state and local agencies, self-advocates, family members, representatives from colleges and universities in Tennessee, and business owners. Disability Coalition on Education The Disability Coalition on Education, DCE, is a statewide alliance of families, agencies, and advocacy organizations working together to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. DCE works to ensure that students in TN receive quality education while enjoying a fulfilling school life in all its aspects, and that rules, regulations, policies and practices are in place to provide for equal opportunities for all students. DCE has monthly meetings in Nashville, which are open to anyone who has an interest or stake in issues related to the education of Tennessee’s children. When there are particular educational concerns or happenings throughout the state with regard to students with disabilities, DCE is often among the first to bring these issues to the forefront for both policymakers and for the greater advocacy community. For more than a decade, DCE has worked collaboratively to build relationships with members of the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, the Tennessee Education Association, the District Special Education administrators and other key players within the area of education in Tennessee. Through these efforts, DCE has established itself as both a resource and a collaborative partner. DCE has been a driving force behind a variety of important legislative or policymaking issues for the disability community, including case load/class size, due process procedural reform, restraint and seclusion regulations, and many others. Autism Tennessee has been a proud member of DCE since its formation over a decade ago. Tennessee Disability Coalition The Tennessee Disability Coalition is an alliance of organizations and individuals who have joined to promote the full and equal participation of men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. They work together to advocate for public policy that ensures self-determination, independence, empowerment, and inclusion for people with disabilities in areas such as accessibility, education, healthcare, housing, and voting rights. Autism Tennessee has been a member of the Tennessee Disability Coalition since 1995. Vanderbilt LEND Advisory Council The Vanderbilt LEND is a training program for graduate-level health professionals in 13 disciplines. The program focuses on preparing health professionals to assume leadership roles and develop interdisciplinary team skills, advanced clinical skills, and research skills, in order to meet the complex needs of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and related disabilities (NDRD). The purpose of the Vanderbilt LEND is to reduce and prevent NDRD in children and to increase access to family-centered, community-based, culturally competent, interdisciplinary services. The Vanderbilt LEND works closely with a variety of university, family, and state agency partners to provide workshops, conferences and distance education at the community, state, regional and national levels. Autism Tennessee is a proud member of the Vanderbilt LEND Advisory Council. Tennessee Autism Summit Team In 2009 the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration/Maternal and Child Health Bureau (HRSA/MCHB) sponsored an Act Early Summit. This conference brought together key stakeholders from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky to discuss the current state of services for young children with or at risk for autism and related disabilities. Each state began work on a framework for developing family-centered coordinated services for children in their state. Since the 2009 Summit, Tennessee’s two University Center(s) for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and the University of TN Boling Center, as well as the LEND programs at both Vanderbilt and UT Memphis have provided leadership and support to continue the activities of the Tennessee team. The Tennessee Autism Summit Team meets quarterly to pursue objectives within the Tennessee plan. Autism Tennessee has been an integral and active member of the Tennessee Autism Summit Team from the beginning. Tennessee Autism Plan In 2011 the Tennessee Disability Coalition received a grant from HRSA/MCHB: “Tennessee Autism Planning Project: A State Planning Grant for Improving Services for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities.” The Coalition is working with the Tennessee Autism Summit Team to carry out the activities of this two-year planning process to improve access to comprehensive, coordinated health care and related services for children and youth with ASD. The Tennessee Autism Plan is working towards a comprehensive, coordinated system of health care and related services for Tennessee children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders and related Developmental Disabilities.