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  • Thursday, August 29, 2019 2:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Content from US Department of Labor letter


    This letter responds to your request for an opinion on whether an employee may take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to attend a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting to discuss the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of the employee’s son or daughter.1 This opinion is based exclusively on the facts you have presented. You represent that you do not seek this opinion for any party that the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is currently investigating or for use in any litigation that commenced prior to your request.
    BACKGROUND You represent that your two children have qualifying serious health conditions under the FMLA. 2 You state that your wife has received a certification from your children’s doctors supporting your wife’s need to take intermittent leave to care for your children and that her employer has approved her taking FMLA leave intermittently to bring the children to medical appointments. You state that your wife’s employer has not, however, approved her request to take FMLA leave intermittently to attend CSE/IEP meetings. You explain that your children receive pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy provided by their school district, and that four times a year their school holds CSE/IEP meetings to review their educational and medical needs, well-being, and progress.3 You explain that these meetings include participation by “a speech pathologist, school psychologist, occupational therapist and/or physical therapist employed or contracted by the school district to provide services to the … child under the child’s IEP,” as well as teachers and school administrators. These participants provide updates regarding your children’s progress and areas of concern; review recommendations made by your children’s doctors; review any new test 1 The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to develop an IEP for a son or daughter who receives special education and related services with input from the child and the child’s parents, teachers, school administrators, and related services personnel. Under the IDEA, “related services” include such services as audiology services, counseling services, medical services, physical therapy, psychological services, speech-language pathology services, rehabilitation counseling services, among others. See A Guide to the Individualized Education Program, U.S. Department of Education (July 2000), available at https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html; see also 34 C.F.R. § 300.320 (defining an IEP). 2 See 29 U.S.C. § 2611(11) (defining serious health condition). 3 Your letter refers to these meetings as “Committee on Special Education (CSE)” meetings, but the analysis and conclusion in this opinion letter apply to any meetings held pursuant to the IDEA, and any applicable state or local law, regardless of the term used for such meetings. 2 results; and may make recommendations for additional therapy. You ask if your wife may use intermittent FMLA leave for the care of a child to attend these meetings.
    GENERAL LEGAL PRINCIPLES The FMLA defines a “serious health condition” as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider and provides, in relevant part, that an eligible employee of a covered employer may take up to twelve weeks of job-protected, unpaid FMLA leave per year “to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.” 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C); see also 29 U.S.C. § 2611(11) (defining serious health condition); 29 C.F.R. § 825.112–.115. Care for a family member includes “both physical and psychological care” and “mak[ing] arrangements for changes in care ….” 29 C.F.R. § 825.124(a)–(b). An employee may use FMLA leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary because of a family member’s serious health condition. See 29 U.S.C. § 2612(b)(1); 29 C.F.R. § 825.202. However, an employer may require an employee to timely provide a copy of a certification—issued by a health care provider and meeting certain criteria— supporting his or her request to take such leave. See 29 U.S.C. § 2613(a)–(b); 29 C.F.R. § 825.305–.306.
    OPINION Based on the facts you provided, your wife’s need to attend CSE/IEP meetings addressing the educational and special medical needs of your children—who have serious health conditions as certified by a health care provider—is a qualifying reason for taking intermittent FMLA leave. Your wife’s attendance at these CSE/IEP meetings is “care for a family member … with a serious health condition.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.100(a); see also 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C); 29 C.F.R. § 825.112(a)(3). As noted above, “to care for” a family member with a serious health condition includes “to make arrangements for changes in care.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.124(b). This includes taking leave to help make medical decisions on behalf of a hospitalized parent or to make arrangements to find suitable childcare for a child with a disability. See Romans v. Michigan Dep’t of Human Servs., 668 F.3d 826, 840–41 (6th Cir. 2012) (holding that an employee was entitled to take FMLA leave to join his sister at a hospital to make decision regarding whether to keep their mother on life support); Wegelin v. Reading Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 909 F. Supp. 2d 421, 429–30 (E.D. Pa. 2012) (holding that an employee was entitled to take FMLA leave to find a daycare to care for her daughter with an autism spectrum disorder and a visual impairment); see also Ballard v. Chicago Park Dist., 741 F.3d 838, 840 (7th Cir. 2014) (noting that the FMLA “speaks in terms of ‘care,’ not ‘treatment’”). Additionally, an employee may “make arrangements for changes in care,” even if that care does not involve a facility that provides medical treatment. Wegelin, 909 F. Supp. 2d at 430 (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 825.124). This conclusion is consistent with existing WHD policy. In a previous opinion letter, WHD stated that an employee was entitled to take FMLA leave to attend “[c]are [c]onferences related to her mother’s health condition,” because her attendance at these conferences was “clearly 3 essential to the employee’s ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care” to her mother. WHD Opinion Letter FMLA-94, 1998 WL 1147751, at *1 (Feb. 27, 1998). Similarly here, it appears that your wife’s attendance at IEP meetings is “essential to [her] ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care” to your children. Id. Your wife attends these meetings to help participants make medical decisions concerning your children’s medically-prescribed speech, physical, and occupational therapy; to discuss your children’s wellbeing and progress with the providers of such services; and to ensure that your children’s school environment is suitable to their medical, social, and academic needs. Your child’s doctor need not be present at CSE/IEP meetings in order for your spouse’s leave to qualify for intermittent FMLA leave. We trust that this letter is responsive to your inquiry.

    Sincerely, Cheryl M. Stanton Administrator

    *Note: The actual name(s) was removed to protect privacy in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6).

  • Tuesday, August 27, 2019 12:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As I write this, my older daughter, Allison, is preparing to teach her first college course in behavior.  She’s had years under her belt as a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), and countless observation hours as a sibling.  I have no doubt she will have valuable lessons to share with her students.  I’m grateful for passionate teachers, and I’m especially proud of this one.  

    “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born of one’s youth.” Psalm 127: 3, 4


    When it comes to Allison’s sister, Morgan, I wonder who’s teaching who.  I am forever learning.  I’m learning not to compare her to anyone else, because it’s a precious waste of time and mental energy.  I’m learning not to limit her to what I know she can do now.  I’m looking at the rest as “things she can’t do yet”.  Together, we are working on our personal bests.  As I continue to challenge her, I’m learning she is very skilled at challenging me. 

    There is a line I struggle to define all the time;  What behaviors are due to her disability, and what behaviors are within her ability to correct.  And That Line is Drawn in Shifting Sands, because Every New Person, Place, or Thing can change the equation.

    Lines get blurred and meltdowns happen.  When Morgan is coming back down from a meltdown, she will often say “I was just trying to fix it”.   Me too, Morgan. Me too.  When I see her stressing and I don’t see the reason, I’ve learned to ask, “What are you trying to fix?”.  Using her language helps her find her words.

    For Morgan’s sake, for her independence and quality of life, we have to keep pushing that line.  We have to continue to do the hard things until they become the no big deal things.  When we come to an impasse, I remind her (and myself) to take a deep breath.  I remind her that I love her, and we can always try again.  Each time we succeed, it’s worth all the lessons we’ve both learned.

    Back to Allison.  It was clear from the beginning that she was going to keep me on my toes.  I can still see her at four years old, with her hands on her hips, explaining her point of view.  We definitely bumped heads and hearts along the way.  Despite my first time parent blunders, she’s become a pretty amazing young woman.

    And all this time I thought I was their teacher.  Turns out, they are mine.

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!


    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Autism Tennessee. The author and the blog are not be held responsible for any misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others.

  • Monday, August 26, 2019 2:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Recently, we brought on a new (amazing) part-time staff member, Amy Correia, as well as an intern from Benton Hall Academy, Michael Sarmento.. 

    New people in the office are wonderful because they allow us to reevaluate what we are doing and why. New people bring new ideas, insight, and inspiration. 

    As we hashed out all the logistics for 14 different upcoming events during a staff meeting, and discussed new policy issues around ABA and FMLA, our new staff member stopped us in our tracks. 

    She has been working on our HELPline, helping families with issues on the individual level. As she sat in the meeting she was blown away by the work we are doing at every level to enrich the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. While she heard about the individual struggles over her first two weeks, now she was hearing about the community partnerships, community education, family fun events, teen groups, adult social clubs, trainings, consulting projects, legislative and policy efforts, and more. 

    As she reflected on the amazing work we do, I was re-energized. I was reminded how every single day the team at Autism TN makes a big difference.   

    I hope you will all join us for the Autism Awareness Pajama Walk, September 28th, so we can celebrate what autism can do. 

    See you there!

  • Tuesday, August 06, 2019 11:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Workplace Readiness Workshop, Weekend Edition is coming up this weekend!!

    You have questions, we have answers!!

    Hayley J. Shelton, Founder of Park Avenue Consulting Services, LLCPark Avenue Career Services (501c3), and Leader of The Iris Club Nashville.

  • Friday, August 02, 2019 2:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    To determine how this information impacts your coverage, call the number on the back of your insurance card.
    Insurance coverage benefits vary widely.

    From our friends at Autism Resources of the Mid-South

    The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance issued a bulletin on 8-1-2019. 8-1-19-Bulletin.pdf

    In short, the bulletin clarifies that all fully insured health benefit plans subject to regulation by TN DC&I (including all individual, small group and large group health benefit plans) must provide coverage for mental health conditions, including autism as defined by the DSM covered services must comply with federal mental health parity law (Paul Wellstone and Pete Dominici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act; MHPAEA); which prohibits plans from imposing a financial requirement or treatment limit restriction that is more restrictive than the predominant financial requirement or treatment limit restriction that applies to substantially all medical/surgical benefits.

    The bulletin also clarifies that ABA is NOT experimental and must be covered at parity as outlined by MHPAEA

    In addition to clarifying that ABA must be a covered service in all fully insured plans, it is our opinion that this bulletin will prohibit plans from imposing restrictive hour limits (e.g., 20 hours ABA/month) that currently exist in some Tennessee plans.

    There will be follow up meetings scheduled with Commerce and Insurance later this month to discuss the implications of the bulletin in further detail and ARMS will keep you posted with any additional information

    Please note that self-funded plans are NOT regulated by the DC&I and therefore not subject to this bulletin.

    To determine how this information impacts your coverage, call the number on the back of your insurance card. Insurance coverage limits vary widely. 

  • Thursday, July 25, 2019 9:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "I am brave. I am bruised.  I am who I'm meant to be.  This is me." - Lettie Lutz in The Greatest Showman

    Reconnecting with family can be very joyful; going over old memories, catching up on hugs, sharing what's new,...  but for Morgan, it can also bring a lot of anxiety.  A couple of the hallmarks of autism are the difficulties with social interaction and communication.  This is partly due to the inability to understand other people's thoughts and feelings.

    Not saying family is scary, but whenever any large group of relatives come together, there are numerous opportunities for things to go awry for the best of us.  For Morgan, "too many friends" for "too long", with no understanding of when the shindig is going to wrap up,  can make her "all done" much earlier than the rest of us.  For this reason, in the early years, I became more and more weary of family gatherings.  Little by little, I backed off, encouraging everyone else to carry on without Morgan and Mom.

    Now Morgan is 25.  Her cousins are grown and married, with kids of their own.  We've missed a lot of years.  Since her dad and his sisters all have summer birthdays, we decided to gather to celebrate.  This time, to relieve my anxiety, we called ahead with a game plan.  We had the conversation with family, letting them know that Morgan may have to come for a short time, and then take a break.  And It wouldn't be because anyone did anything wrong.  It would just be the best way for everyone to have a good time.

       Peggy Jackie and Rudy.JPG Rudy and his sisters

    Morgan meeting her new cousin, who lives in Canada now

    We booked a hotel nearby, where Morgan and I could retreat when needed.  We really enjoyed seeing family again.  When she was "all done", we left dad to relax and continue catching up with everyone.  We went for a swim, took walks, rides, and naps, and came back ready to visit some more.  She told me twice that weekend, "I doing a good job.  I'm trying to be brave."   She did do well.  I'm thankful for how far she's come.  I'm thankful for learning to drop the veal, and be brave enough to have the conversation, so we can just be ourselves.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable visit.

    Hotel SmilesBreak Time with Dad


    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!

    Tammy Vice and Family

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Autism Tennessee. The author and the blog are not be held responsible for any misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others.

  • Tuesday, June 25, 2019 11:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We are a group of researchers at Vanderbilt University, and we are currently trying to understand how children with Autism process language and how this ability relates to communication and social skills.

    You will fill out some questionnaires. We will conduct some cognitive and language assessments with your child. Your child will also watch pictures on a computer screen that records where he/she looks while listening to some sentences and complete some simple computer games. Total participation time will be about 4 hours with short breaks between games/tasks. 

    We are looking for children between 8 and 15 years old, with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis (including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or related diagnoses) with normal or corrected to normal hearing and vision. Verbal ability is required for this study.

    You will receive $40 for full study completion and a report on your child’s language and cognitive development at no cost to you. On-site parking is complimentary as well. 

    This study was approved by the Behavioral and Social Sciences IRB at Vanderbilt University (IRB #180227) on 04/17/2018.

  • Wednesday, June 05, 2019 9:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How My Best Friend Helped Me See Myself For Me- Not My Autism

    By Chloe Sybert

    Hi! I’m Chloe, and I am convinced if you met my best friend Jasmyn and asked her to describe me, the fact that I am autistic wouldn’t even pop up in your conversation. This isn’t because she denies I have challenges, she acknowledges them- and has helped me through many, she simply sees me for who I really am and my deficits aren’t it. For years before I met her, I struggled to have this mindset. I hated who I was because all I saw was everything I couldn’t do, or rather everything statistics or websites said I couldn’t do. I would read that many autistics don’t find employment and I would take that opinion as a fact (which is a foolish because what do they know about my future?) I tried passing which is a term used to describe surpassing your autistic symptoms and coping skills in order to pass as neurotypical (I was miserable) I even prayed my autism away. So, when I met Jasmyn, I almost didn’t expect her to be so accepting and kind to me. This was a far cry from how I was bullied through grade school. Throughout the years of being friends with her, I have slowly learned that I deserve to be respected, I should treat myself like a friend, and I am more than a diagnosis. So, in honor of best friend’s day on June 8th, please allow me to gush about mine.

    How Jasmyn helped me embrace my autism:

    1. Shortly before I met her, I had ended a toxic relationship that I had only thought was good for me. I couldn’t see the red flags until after it ended. But looking back I learned that when this person used my autism as an excuse to invalidate my feelings and hurt me, that was wrong! Jasmyn never made me feel bad for crying more than others might find necessary, she never mocked me for getting too sentimental ( she was sentimental too ), and she was sincerely sorry if she hurt me. She didn’t use my disability as an excuse to hurt me or be rude. She appreciated me, never took me for granted, and she reminded me my feelings are valid.

    2. She encouraged me to talk positively about myself. This was hard for me at times, but she never got impatient or rude. She reminded me about my strengths and all I loved about myself during a time of great stress. I was battling OCD, and to get me through that time I wrote in journals called encouragement books. When we were hanging out once, and I was upset, I told her I couldn’t find anything to love about myself. She was very kind and responded with, “Of course you do” and she grabbed my book and read my own words aloud with no judgment at all.

    3. Jasmyn is very encouraging and is always reminding me to remember who I am. She never brings up my autism unless I’m insecure about it and she is telling me that she sees me for me and not my disability. She is very kind and has said things to me that I have kept with me because it has greatly improved my confidence. Over time I’ve caught myself being mean to me and I would stop myself because friends like Jasmyn wouldn’t treat me like that so I shouldn’t either, autism, or no autism.

    4. Finally, I can’t leave this out. I have always struggled to see myself as strong and capable. I’ve overcome a lot but I am my own worst critic. Well, Jasmyn, who’s a wonderful artist, painted me as a warrior. This means more to me than I can put into words! It is a reminder I am not my disability, I am loved, and I am capable. It is my prized possession and I will treasure it always.

    In conclusion, my best friend has shown me that there is more to me than a label, I am a wonderful friend with lots to offer, and I deserve to treat myself with love, kindness, and respect, as well as get treated that way by other people. So to Jasmyn, thank you for being my friend.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Autism Tennessee. The author and the blog are not be held responsible for any misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others.

  • Monday, June 03, 2019 9:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    "Diversity is being asked to the party.  Inclusion is being asked to dance." - Verna Myers 

    When Allison and Morgan were babies, I spent a grand amount of time doing everything a mom does for her children.  I suspected the natural progression would be less in my hands, and more in theirs, as time passed.

    As Allison grew, and became able to do things on her own, I'd step back and happily step in, whenever needed.  Being my first, it was much easier to hang on, than to let go.  School came.  Friendships came.  Invites and outings came.  Opinions, independence, and marriage came.  There are still times when she needs to talk to mom, to share about her day;  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And of course, I Love that.    She'll ask for advice, weigh what I say, and then make her own decisions.   I've never had to be concerned about her finding her place in the world.  She knows how to reach out, and reach back.  She knows how to ask for what she needs.


    Morgan is on the autism spectrum.  Her walk has been anything but a natural progression.  I'm still stepping back, stepping in, side stepping,... whatever it takes to help her be a part of things.  She has come a long way.  Like her sister, she has definite opinions.    But in life's dance, she still needs a partner.  She needs someone to Ask her to dance and support her steps.  As easy as it is to do things FOR her, there is so much more value in doing things WITH her.  It takes more time.  It takes more patience.  When she nails the steps, the dance is beautiful, and uniquely her own.  The girl has MOVES. 

    Night To Shine Dance 2018

    I'm so grateful for the things I've learned from doing the mom dance with both of my daughters.  "INCLUSION is Being Asked to Dance."  The past few years, I've had the privilege of working WITH The Weekley Hall Singers.  They are a group of adults with disabilities who enjoy encouraging others with their music.  They were ready to be Included.  They were ready to be Involved.  All I had to do was Ask.

    Weekley Hall Singers Foyer 1

    Weekley Hall Singers Foyer 4

    The Weekley Hall Singers are Engaged. They are Enthusiastic. They give it all they've got. They make My heart dance.

    Until Next Time,

    Know The Hope!


    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Autism Tennessee. The author and the blog are not be held responsible for any misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others.

  • Monday, May 20, 2019 9:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When I began writing Cowboy Dreams, it was my intention to simply tell the story of my transition from earning my associate’s degree in general education to finishing my education with my bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and sciences with a minor in early childhood education. I had a desire to write about a fictional adventure so I decided to use my life’s current circumstances for its background. Of course, as the author, I allowed myself some embellishments for my namesake, Tricia Perkins. These creative qualities gave me the ability to truly imagine myself in a different way that would allow me to better relate to the reader.

    As I typed each word that eventually turned into a paragraph and then a chapter, I found I was able to fully immerse myself into my imagination in order to describe, in detail, what I wanted my reader to feel and experience as they read my book. For me, my writing process is simply just typing out my thoughts. There’s no brainstorming or pre-writing practices in order for me to organize what I want to say. Really, the only time I ever jot something down is if I have dialogue or a description I want to add and I’m not at my laptop. Otherwise, the only tools I need are my imagination, a laptop, and my Logitech mouse for easy correcting and synonyms.

    However, as I furthered into the story line and had family, friends, and a professional editor on craigslist critique it, I found that I still had a lot of work to do. A desire for writing a story and putting that desire into action only requires more work and a lot more time until the story’s edges are smoothed out and the unnecessary scenes are deleted. As with all forms of art, editing the format until it’s completion, is a process. For me, that process took a little over a decade to be completed. In fact, it took me from 2006 to 2018 until it was finally ready for publication on June 22nd.

    Despite the long wait for my manuscript to take its final form and be ready for the public to read, the editing process allowed me to learn more about myself and how my Asperger’s Syndrome shapes my writing and my creativity. Through it, God has blessed me with such a detailed imagination that I often found myself reliving the emotions I desired to trigger in my reader as I reread my own writing. At times, I also found it very cathartic as my writing gave me new insight into how God views me.

    The writing process for my fictional story turned testimony was a learning adventure for me not only in my writing, but also in myself. In asking others for their constructive criticism, I was able to write a story that represents me in the best way for those I will never get a chance to meet. It tells of the real life heartache I dealt with from the emotional scarring caused by bullies to me expressing my thoughts and fears through a fictional character. Tricia Perkins is the embodiment of me in fictional form while Clay Gibson, the race car drivin’ cowboy after her heart, is the fictional embodiment of the man my heart desires.

    For those interested in finding out more about Cowboy Dreams, I have included the Amazon link below.


    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views or opinions of Autism Tennessee. The author and the blog are not be held responsible for any misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others.

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