Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Greetings, VFN friends and family!

Hope your September is off to a great start, and that those of you who have children and young adults in school are experiencing a healthy and happy return to learning opportunities, knowing that they look very different from family to family and school to school this fall. We are working diligently to keep everyone up to date as to what’s happening for families of children and youth with disabilities and special health needs in this time of pandemic, and I am certain you will find this issue of our newsletter chock-full of helpful information and training opportunities. This Friday, September 18th, we will be hosting a virtual Town Hall for the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights on Back to School for K-12 Students in Vermont with Disabilities or Special Health Needs. Register here. We hope you will join us for a rich conversation from family, health, education, and legal perspectives. Check out all of the other workshops in our Online Learning Series, Persevering in the Pandemic.
Our caring and experienced Family Support staff continue to field a multitude of Helpline calls, and our Facebook pages are very lively these days! Our Puppets in Education team is working on virtual offerings for students and schools throughout the state, and is eager to support community-building in these continuing times of change and uncertainty.
We will be releasing our FY 2020 Annual Report this month, and are excited to share all the great work that has happened over the last year! We are in the midst of short-term strategic planning for VFN for the coming months and 2021---would love to know if you have ideas about things you’d like us to do more of, things you’d like us to change, etc. We are all about continuous improvement as a family-driven organization, and we welcome your insights! You can e-mail me at Pam.McCarthy@vtfn.org.
From the heart,

Pam McCarthy, M.Ed.
Family Fun Grants
In late June, it became apparent that due to Covid-19 we would be underspent on parent stipends typically reserved for parents who share their time and their stories through our Family Faculty program. We saw that as a unique opportunity to provide families, now in their 3rd month of ‘Stay at Home’ orders, with small $100 grants to do something fun or to purchase something meaningful for their child with a special health care need. Within just a few days, we received 30 applications. We funded 18 through the Family Fun Grants, and were able to honor all the other requests through other funding programs at Vermont Family Network. Below are just a few of the examples of how families used their Family Fun Grant award. 

“Thank you Vermont Family Network for helping us as we continue reaching for the next best thing for our son.”

“We used our grant to take a day trip to Quechee. The kids love to look around the big shop there and feed the llamas! We had an excellent day that we wouldn't have gotten to enjoy without the grant. Thank you!”
“The Summer Fun grant allowed our son to taste test the best maple creemees from around Chittenden County. We are so grateful to VFN for the sweet, sticky adventures our family enjoyed this summer. Thanks to VFN again for their support.”
“Anthony chose to take a boat ride with the family fun grant. We had a great time on the water. It felt great to get some fresh air and see beautiful Vermont. Anthony was so excited to get out of the house. Especially in a summer filled with cancelled plans. On the way he kept saying lake on his speech generated device. Thank you so much for the much needed 'daycation'.”
High School Students with Disabilities
If your high school student is connected with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), be on the lookout for information from your local transition counselor on how VR services will look this new school year. If your high school student with a disability is not yet connected to VR but is interested in possible careers and training after high school, find out how VR can help by contacting your local VR transition counselor. The U.S.Department of Education published an open letter emphasizing that coordination and collaboration between VR agencies and schools can benefit every student with a disability. This partnership can help ensure that students with disabilities are presented with meaningful opportunities to prepare for the transition from school to a VR program in order to further maximize independence in their communities, self-sufficiency, and prepare for competitive integrated employment.

Check out the VFN Transition Toolkit for helpful resources and contact Family Support if you have any questions about your youth with a disability. 
New England Regional Genetics Network
The New England Regional Genetics Network (NERGN) supports family-led organizations such as Vermont Family Network, physicians and genetic counselors in New England. With a particular emphasis on medically underserved populations, the role of NERGN is to connect families to genetic services, implement quality improvement activities, implement innovative models of telehealth and telemedicine and provide resources to genetic service providers, public health officials and families. NERGN also developed a website to help school teams, families, and primary care all work together to make school a great place for everyone. Visit Genetics Education Materials for School Success (GEMMS). Soon it will be offered in Spanish!

In an effort to advance NERGN’s mission and goals in Vermont, VFN partners with families, the Department of Health, UVMMC Children’s Hospital and the New England Regional Genetics Group (NERGG), by identifying and addressing genetic-related service challenges experienced by families. Our goal is to improve the quality and delivery of coordinated genetic services in our state. For additional resources about genetics, contact Family Support at info@vtfn.org or (802) 876-5315. 
Special Education Rules Survey & Workshop
The Vermont Special Education Rules are currently open for comment! This is a rare opportunity for you to share valuable feedback regarding your experience with your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). We are gathering information regarding proposed changes in this short survey. Your feedback will be aggregated and shared with the State Board of Education and could influence the final changes to the Rules. If you are interested in submitting more detailed written comments to the State Board of Education, please contact Family Support at (802) 876-5313 or info@vtfn.org. The survey will be open until October 30.

VFN is collaborating with Disability Law Project and EdLaw New England to present a webinar, Preparing Families to Provide Testimony About Changes to Special Education Rules on October 7th. Please register here.
Sibshops for 2020-2021 School Year
Did you know that after a child is diagnosed with a special health care need or disability, siblings’ experiences parallel parents’ experiences? That’s why including brothers and sisters in the Family Support model is so important, and it’s why VFN runs monthly Sibshops throughout the school year! Sibshops are fun activities for brothers and sisters (age 6+) of children with special health care needs and disabilities. They also give “sibs” an opportunity to talk about the good- and not-so-good parts of having a sib with special needs with others who “get it.” The University of Washington surveyed adult sibs and found that three-fourths of subjects who attended Sibshops as children reported that it positively impacted their lives as adults and 94% of those surveyed said they would recommend Sibshops to others.
This year we have the unique opportunity to run our Sibshops virtually, which allows sibs all over Vermont to join us! We will continue to play fun games, do crafts and activities, and run our “Sibchats,” all from the comfort of our own homes. Monthly Sibshops will be held on weekends, hosted on Zoom, and last about an hour, so as not to overwhelm sibs with screen time. To learn more about our upcoming Sibshops for this year, check out our 2020-21 Sibshop Activity descriptions. Questions and registration forms can be sent to Molly.Lawney@vtfn.org. If you can't print the form, just email Molly with your child’s full name, contact information, and desired Sibshop dates. 
News from the Puppets
The Puppets Team is ready for the new school year! Starting in October, we will be offering live, online programs to assist schools with their social emotional learning while in remote or in-person learning. Our first program available this fall is our new Anxiety Program for Grades K-4. It will consist of a live intro with a puppet and a person, followed by an engaging and professionally filmed puppet skit, and end with a live Q&A with a puppet. Children will still be able to speak to the puppets directly, and we think it is an especially good time to provide them with tools to deal with worry and listen to their concerns. Thanks to our funders the Vermont Department of Mental Health, Upstate Chevy Dealers, Vermont Children’s Trust Foundation, Walter Cerf Community Fund, and The National Life Group, we will be adding our Bullying Prevention program for Grades K-4 and an Anxiety program for middle schoolers in early winter. Puppets are adapting quickly to the emerging needs of the schools during this unusual school year. If you are interested in scheduling, please contact Karen.Sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
Fun Movement Activities for Your Child
Are you looking for activities to keep your kids active while they do remote schooling or on rainy days? Then, check out the short video of Movement Activities that a group of UVM physical therapy students put together.

The students provide fun physical activities that include gross motor (PT) exercises and a fine motor (OT) activity. Here are the Video Instructions and a helpful handout for Ways to Modify Activities For Your Child. In addition, there is an optional Adventure Guide sheet for children to select which activities they complete that day.

One of our Family Support Consultants helped consult with the students on these activities. She was looking for a way to keep her child active during reduced access to PT and other activities during the Covid shutdown.
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VFN's Online Learning Series - Persevering in the Pandemic
Upcoming Events - Register today!

Although we won’t all be together at our Annual Conference this year, we are happy to announce our online Learning Series, Persevering in the Pandemic.
We are sincerely grateful to the ongoing support of our conference sponsors!

September 18 from 1 pm – 2:30 pm – VCDR Town Hall: Back to School for K-12 Students in Vermont with Disabilities or Special Health Needs. Multiple presenters listed in registration. Register here 

September 21 from 12 noon – 1 pm – Wordless Humor and the Element of Surprise to Increase Connection with Older Kids and Tweens at Home. Presenter: Sara Forward, LICSW, Senior Curriculum Specialist, Child Welfare Training Partnership, University of Vermont. Register here

October 1 from 10 am – 11 am – Coverage to Care: Insuring Vermont Families. Presenter: Victoria Jarvis, Program Manager, In-Person Assisters, Vermont Health Connect. Register here

October 7 from 1 pm – 2:30 pm – Preparing Families to Provide Testimony About Changes to Special Education Rules. Presenters: Attorneys from Vermont Legal Aid Disability Law Project and EdLaw New England. Register here

October 19 from 9 am – 10 am – Family Strategies for Mitigating the Long-Term Effects of the Pandemic. Presenter: Dr. Marlene Marone, Licensed Psychologist-Doctorate, Chief Psychologist & Manager, Psychological Services, University of Vermont Medical Center. Registration coming soon. 

October 29 from 12 noon – 1 pm – Disabled Children’s Home Care (VT’s Katie Beckett Medicaid) Eligibility & New Application. Presenter: Betty Morse, HST/Technical Assistance Specialist, Children with Special Health Needs (CSHN), Vermont Department of Health. Register here

Details Coming Soon! November date TBA – Strategies for Families of Children/Youth Living with Anxiety During the Pandemic. Presenter: Jeremiah Dickerson, MD, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vermont Center for Children, Youth, & Families

Details Coming Soon! November, date TBA – Telehealth. Presenter: TBA

These workshops will be saved on our website and YouTube channel.
(802) 876-5315 / 1-800-800-4005
Main Office
600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495