(802) 876-5315
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Greetings, VFN family and friends!

I hope that you and yours are well as spring approaches (March 20th!) and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gains momentum in Vermont. I am happy to note that advocacy from families and individuals with disabilities/special health needs has resulted in some welcome adjustments in the state’s prioritization of the “most vulnerable.” We continue to seek some flexibility for parents and other unpaid caregivers to receive vaccines sooner, in that their significant illness would mean critical disruptions in care for some children and young adults whose well-being relies upon their caregivers’ healthy presence. In solidarity with other disability partners, we continue to raise concerns about specific conditions that place certain individuals at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19, as well as serious inequities in healthcare for Vermonters who are black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). Advocacy matters - you can contact the Governor’s office https://governor.vermont.gov/email, or reach out to Commissioner Levine Mark.Levine@vermont.gov to share your thoughts/thanks/concerns.

Stay well, and keep up the great work with masking, distancing, handwashing, and sanitizing. Know that you can always contact our Family Support helpline for parent-to-parent support, information and connection or our Puppets in Education programs for students coping with anxiety as we all continue to deal with the pressures of this pandemic. We are here for you, always. Together, we are Vermont Strong!

From the heart,
Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.
2021 Annual Conference
Imagine, Inspire, Innovate
Register Today!
Please join us for our 2021 Annual Conference, held over two days on Thursday, April 8th 9:00-2:30 and Friday, April 9th 9:00-2:30. As we all adapt to life during the pandemic, this year’s event is free of charge and will be held online over Zoom. Our goal is to bring inspiring speakers and practical information to families of children and youth with special health needs or disabilities and the professionals who serve them. We hope that this format will allow greater accessibility for all our attendees.
This year our theme is “Imagine, Inspire, Innovate” and we are featuring two wonderful Keynote speakers. On day one, Rachel Callander will join us from Australia to speak about her experience with her daughter in “Life, Love and Awesomeness: The Impact and Implications of Language” and on day two, Karen Gaffney will share her story as a person with Down Syndrome in "Today is a Journey of Hope!" Both Rachel and Karen will surely inspire you! 

We have a fabulous line-up of 6 workshops on topics including: a special 2-hour workshop on using the “Charting the Life Course” tool, Resiliency and Self-care, Transition to Adulthood from both the young adult and parent perspectives, navigating Care Conferences, and Anxiety/Worry with our Puppets in Education program! There will also be an opportunity for parents to chat over lunch. For a full schedule of events, keynote/workshop descriptions and to register please visit our VFN Conference page!
Platinum level: Children with Special Health Needs, Vermont Department of Health
Gold level: Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living
Silver level: – Office of the Provost, The University of Vermont
If you would like to become a sponsor for our conference you can do so here.
Grant Funds Available!
Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism
We are pleased to announce that we have received a $10,000 grant from the Doug Flutie Jr., Foundation for Autism. These funds will provide direct financial support to families with autism. Families who have children (from birth to age 22) with an autism diagnosis may request up to $200 for needed equipment, respite, camp, therapies, emergency childcare, or to attend a conference related to their child's diagnosis. We encourage families from rural areas (e.g. Bennington, Essex, Orleans and Windham counties) to apply. First time applicants will be prioritized for receiving a grant. One grant per household.
The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, based in Framingham MA, awards grants annually through a competitive application and review process. The signature grants that the Flutie Foundation distributed this year support traditionally under-served, under-funded, culturally diverse communities reflected in the Foundation’s area of interest; providing a path for educational and vocational skills, supporting recreational and active lifestyles, and ensuring people with autism are safe, supported and informed.
Please visit our website to complete an application. If you have questions or need support in completing an application, please email laurel.sanborn@vtfn.org or call 800-800-4005.
Summer Services: The Extended School Year
Has your child experienced learning losses during this pandemic school year? Would a summer program be necessary to help your child reach their educational goals? Would a summer program be necessary for your child to keep from regressing in academic/skill areas? If the answers to these questions are "yes" and your Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 team has not yet talked about the need for Extended School Year (ESY) services in the summer, you may want to schedule a meeting with your school team. It is not too soon to plan!

If you have any questions about your child’s IEP, your rights in the special education process, or Extended School Year, please call the VFN helpline at 802-876-5315.
Disability Awareness Days
Share Your Story
$ Stipend for Virtual Support Parent Training!
VFN continues to offer virtual Support Parent Trainings for parents who are ready to give back and support other families! Our next training will be Saturday April 17th, from 9-noon. To show our appreciation for your time, parents who complete this training are eligible for a $50 stipend. Join us in this Zoom training to learn, self-reflect, and connect with other parents, all from the comfort of your own home. If you are interested, please fill out our Support Parent Volunteer Application.

Questions? Email molly.lawney@vtfn.org.
Work Based Learning Experiences
A high school student’s IEP team can help them prepare for future employment as part of the student’s transition plan. Team members can include parents, teachers, mentors, transition counselors from Vocational Rehabilitation and other adult service providers such as Developmental Services and Mental Health. Students can participate in work-based learning experiences which are activities that involve real work experience or that connect classroom learning to employment and careers. These experiences can lead to permanent employment. Work-based learning includes apprenticeship, internships, job shadowing and service learning.
For any questions related to transition to adulthood for your youth with a disability, please call the VFN helpline at 802-876-5315. Check out our Transition Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities for more resources.
News from the Puppets
The PiE Team is in a busy stretch of performances and we love it! Since our last newsletter we have been “at” Springfield, Moretown, Fayston, Fair Haven and Grand Isle. We are about to start a stretch of shows “in” upstate New York, thanks to Upstate Chevrolet dealers.
We have received wonderful fan mail (mostly for our monkey and bird puppets, Bernard and Delores). These are from a 3rd grade class:
"Bernard is cool." - Travis
“Bernard, you are a good actress! Karen, Bernard, and chicken, stay safe and don't get sick!” - Abbi
“I liked the chicken!” - Britton
“Bernard looked fuzzy!” - Owen
“I liked the way that you guys did the video. I have had a great time in the video.” - Bailey
Our programs include a live Q&A portion with a puppet and a person, in addition to a filmed segment. When we were closing out Zoom yesterday with a school that was all remote, we heard one student say “MOM!!! The puppet called on me 4 times!”
We were also pleased to hear from the sponsors who attended the Fair Haven show:
“You all did such a great job in making the puppets come alive. This is such a confusing time for adults, I can only imagine what children must be going through. It was so great to see the children interact with you, and talk openly about their experiences. Thank you for letting us be a part of it. A big shout out to all of you for a job well done. I look forward to seeing your Facebook posts.”
Geneva and Erik, Ross Hometown Chevrolet”

For more information about our virtual puppet programs, please email karen.sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
2021 Sibshops
Our virtual Sibshop activities are still going strong! Last month, sibs had the opportunity to solve the case of the Smuggler’s Notch Smuggler; it turns out the culprit was actually a diabolical duo involved in a scheme to smuggle and sell rare shells from the Philippines! Luckily, our sibs are excellent detectives and were able to decode the secret message and uncover “who dunnit”! This activity was followed by a Sibchat around the theme of Forgiveness, which led to further discussion around “big, yucky” feelings and ways that we can express them without hurting others. SibShops are activities for brothers and sisters (age 6+) of children with special health care needs and disabilities. It provides them with a chance to connect with other children who get what it’s like to be a “sib.” Contact molly.lawney@vtfn.org with questions, to sign up, or to be added to our Sibshop email distribution list. 
Saturday March 20 – Sib Choice! 9-10:00 am: This month, we will have several activities prepared and sibs will get to choose which ones we do, or even suggest additional activities! The theme of this Sibshop will be Cooperation. In what ways do you cooperate with your families and sib when it comes to decision making? When do you find it difficult to cooperate and why?
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Contact our Helpline at (802) 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org

Upcoming Events - Register today!
In case you missed our last series of workshops, you can find a full list on our VFN website. Topics we have recently covered include: Remote Learning Tips and Tricks, COVID-19 and Your Family, A Community-School Approach to Dual Enrollment and Supported Decision Making.

April 8 and 9 from 9am-2:30pm each day - VFN 2021 Annual Conference
We will be offering inspiring Keynote presentations and a full set of workshops at our upcoming 2021 VFN Annual Conference Imagine, Inspire, Innovate. For a full schedule of events and keynote/workshop descriptions please visit our  VFN website and Register now!

We save workshops on our website and YouTube channel.
(802) 876-5315 / 1-800-800-4005
600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495