(802) 876-5315
Donate Now
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Family sitting on the lawn with trees and wildflowers behind them

Greetings to our VFN Family and Friends.


Vermont Family Network is thrilled to announce our upcoming conference, "Change Begins with You – Using Your Voice to Make a Difference." This event is a unique opportunity for caregivers and professionals from diverse backgrounds to come together and explore the power of their voices in creating positive change. The conference aims to foster a sense of unity and collaboration, emphasizing the significance of a spectrum of caregivers and professionals contributing to greater inclusivity throughout Vermont.


Importance of a Spectrum of Caregivers and Professionals:


  • Diverse Perspectives Lead to Holistic Solutions: Bringing together a diverse range of caregivers and professionals ensures a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by individuals and families. Autism, developmental disabilities, and other disabilities and special health needs affect people in unique ways, and a spectrum of perspectives helps in crafting holistic solutions that cater to the varied needs of our community.
  • Strengthening the Support Network: Caregivers and professionals form the backbone of the support network for individuals with disabilities and special health needs. By gathering a diverse group at our conference, we aim to strengthen this network, creating a collaborative environment where shared experiences and knowledge can be exchanged. This collaboration enhances the quality of support available to families, ultimately contributing to improved outcomes for individuals with disabilities and special health needs.
  • Empowering Families through Knowledge: A spectrum of caregivers and professionals brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Our conference provides a platform for participants to share best practices, resources, and strategies. Empowering families with this knowledge enables them to make informed decisions and navigate the complex landscape of services and support systems effectively.


Contributing to Greater Inclusivity throughout Vermont:


  • Breaking Down Barriers: Inclusivity begins with breaking down barriers – physical, social, and systemic. By bringing together caregivers and professionals, we aim to foster a sense of community that transcends individual roles and backgrounds. This shared experience creates a foundation for collaboration that extends beyond the conference, breaking down barriers in the everyday lives of individuals with disabilities and special health needs and their families.
  • Advocacy and Policy Change: The collective voice of caregivers and professionals holds immense power in advocating for policy changes that promote inclusivity. Our conference encourages participants to leverage their experiences and insights to drive positive policy changes at local and state levels, ensuring that Vermont becomes a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.
  • Building a Supportive Ecosystem: Through collaboration, the conference aims to build a supportive ecosystem where caregivers and professionals work hand-in-hand to address challenges and celebrate successes. This sense of unity fosters a culture of understanding, empathy, and respect, creating an environment where every individual, regardless of ability, feels valued and included.


"Change Begins with You – Using Your Voice to Make a Difference" is not just a conference; it is a catalyst for transformation. By bringing together a spectrum of caregivers and professionals, we aspire to create a ripple effect that extends far beyond the event itself. Together, we can contribute to a more inclusive Vermont where every individual, regardless of ability, can thrive and be an integral part of the community. Join us on this journey of change and empowerment – because change truly begins with each and every one of us.


From the heart,

Jacqui

News from the Puppets

Welcome our New Puppeteer!

Our new Dragon puppet, Mrs Kitchen gets a hug from a puppet friend

The puppets are pleased to introduce Karlie Kauffeld as our new per-diem puppeteer. Karlie (she/her) is ecstatic to be joining the Puppets in Education team! Having been the kindergarten­ through eighth grade Music and Theater Educator at Folsom School in South Hero for the past ten years, she is thrilled to return to a school setting to work in the performing arts. She is an active member of the Shelburne Players and Lyric Theater and enjoys playing woodwinds in the pit orchestra for Very Merry Theater. She loves to run, juggle, write, and crochet. She is currently working on a giant lavender submarine cat house for her cat, Zippy. Karlie lives in Shelburne with her wonderful partner, Mike.


We would also like to introduce our newest puppet, Mrs. Kitchen. She made her debut last month in the Bullying Prevention Workshop, helping the students with some role plays. Her primary role will be replacing Mrs. Beaks the chicken in our Friend 2 Friend/Autism Awareness puppet program. But of course, when you have a dragon puppet, you find a way to use her wherever you can.


In other puppet news, as of January 18th, we’ve reached 17 schools, over 2,000 students and 300 adults! We have 27 more schools to go to this school year (including some schools rescheduled due to inclement weather).

Starting in February, the puppets will begin their annual round of Upstate Chevy Dealer-sponsored shows. We’ll once again be traveling to places like Amsterdam, NY, Lanesborough, MA, and Coxsackie, NY. This is in addition to our Vermont shows!


We continue to be grateful for all our sponsors, volunteers, interns, and supporters. We could not do any of this without you!

Registration is now Open!

VFN Annual Conference

April 2, 2024

“Change Begins with You – Using Your Voice to Make a Difference”

 

We are excited to announce that our 2024 Annual Conference will be held on April 2, 2024, at the UVM Davis Center from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. This year our event will begin with a welcome from VFN’s Executive Director, Jacqui Kelleher and former South Burlington State Representative to the VT House, Maida Townsend, will kick off our day with opening remarks. We will then welcome our featured presenter, Amy Shollenberger, from Action Circles. Amy will provide a full day, in-depth, interactive training on advocacy. Topics include:

 

  • Legislative Process 101
  • Strategic Thinking for the Legislative Process
  • Telling Your Story to Share in a Way That Is Heard

 

Amy has more than 20 years of experience developing political strategy, grassroots organizing, influencing policy, and running political issue campaigns. She has worked on a variety of campaigns, ranging in scope from local community issues to state and national issues. She started Action Circles in 2010 and along with the Action Circles Team has served clients and offered training ever since. There will also be an opportunity for attendees to visit exhibit tables, network, and chat over lunch.

Register today!

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for our 2024 annual conference, please contact katie.keidel@vtfn.org.

 

If you are interested in being an exhibitor at our 2024 annual conference, please contact rachel.boyers@vtfn.org.

 

Our sponsors and exhibitors provide invaluable financial aid and informational resources for families. Thank you for your consideration!

Family Faculty 101

What, How, and Why?

Family sitting on the lawn with trees overhead


The Family Faculty program provides opportunities for families of children with unique healthcare needs to share their experiences directly with healthcare providers-in-training. This helps teach these providers-in-training the importance of family-centered care.

 

Families can present to college classes, meet with small groups of medical students, or host individual medical students for home visits. In all cases, families share their perspectives by telling their stories of raising a child with disabilities and special health needs.

 

Sharing these important stories helps the next generation of nurses, doctors, therapists, and other healthcare workers better understand the challenges families face. It builds students' skills at partnering with families respectfully to assure high-quality care focused on the whole child's

health and well-being.


Please let our Family Faculty Coordinator, Jenny Norris jenny.norris@vtfn.org, know if you would like more details or are interested in volunteering for the Family Faculty Program. We always seek families in the Chittenden County area who are willing to lend their voices.

Summer Services:

The Extended School Year

Students in a classroom

Has your child experienced learning losses over the past 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 never too soon to plan! Check out VFN’s workshop on summer camps/ESY.



If you have any questions about your child’s IEP, your rights in the special education process, or Extended School Year, please contact the VFN helpline at 802-876-5315 or info@vtfn.org.

Sibshops!

A Sib skates at the ice rink at Leddy Park

Fifteen Sibs took to the ice at Leddy Park on January 20th! Our theme was “Balance”!


Sibshops are for children and youth ages 8+. The program is open* to those who are siblings of brothers and sisters who have special health needs. “Special health needs” includes anyone with a medical concern, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis; a developmental disability such as Down Syndrome, or autism; intellectual disability or any other chronic disability or health condition.



*Registration for 2024-25 Sibshops will open in July.

Are there IEPs and Section 504 Plans in College?

College student in a wheelchair on a college campus

The short answer is no. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which is the law that provides students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) and a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) no longer applies once students graduate from high school. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 still protects students from discrimination when they get to college. However, they won’t get a 504 plan like they had in high school. A student’s 504 plan doesn’t “travel” with a student to college. Rather, colleges are required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that they do not discriminate based on disability. Read Know Your Rights and Responsibilities for Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education on VFN’s Transition Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities for more information.

Genetics Corner

Our VFN Genetic Navigator, Ashley Michaud is presenting a two-part workshop called New Genetic Connections: Introduction to Genetics, Red Flags and Resources. This training was originally created by the Mountain State Regional Genetic Network.


It will break down and explain the who and why of genetics, genetic vocabulary and basic genetic concepts. Ashely will also explore four case studies and go over what the red flags are that families and professionals should consider when referring to a genetic specialist. Lastly, she will discuss how a genetic navigator might assist in this process as well as other local, regional, and national genetic resources. This webinar will benefit those who are navigating a genetic diagnosis, and those hoping to understand more about the basics of genetics. See our Upcoming Events below for dates and to register!

Wellness Window!
Two cups of steaming, hot tea with orange peel and cloves

February…the month of love and cold winter days. In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s easy to overlook the importance of self- care. We often find ourselves juggling the needs of others, work, various responsibilities and relationships, leaving little time for personal well-being. The loving care and dedication you provide to others deserves celebration and finding ways to treat yourself with the same nurturing spirit is important too. Remember that self-care doesn’t need to be this grand plan, but rather a small, meaningful way to connect with and invest in our mental, emotional, and physical health. So here are a few tips and some links to resources to get started.


  • Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee
  • Listen to your favorite song or podcast
  • Do a face mask at home - find some wonderful recipes here
  • Move your body - YouTube has many free resources - a personal favorite is Yoga with Adrienne
  • Take a walk to clear your mind
  • Call an uplifting friend
  • Start a gratitude journal or jar
  • Carve out time for a hobby or try something new!


Renewing your cup amidst busy care-giving rejuvenates the soul and know that throughout, YOU matter!

Upcoming Events - Register today!

Free Workshops


February 12 at 10:30 a.m. Register for "What Parents, Families & Caregivers Need to Know About Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports"

This workshop is focused on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and the crucial role of family engagement in creating thriving schools. PBIS, a framework implemented in 170 schools in Vermont, prioritizes a safe and supportive learning atmosphere for all students. PBIS is a proactive, school-wide system to nurture the social, emotional, and academic well-being of students. Learn how students, teachers, administrators, counselors, and families collaborate to provide support in various school settings, including lunchrooms and playgrounds. Gain insights into PBIS levels of support, opportunities for family involvement, and valuable resources to deepen your understanding.

Presenter: Amy Wheeler-Sutton - Co-Director of BEST and VTPBIS Project at the University of Vermont


February 22 at 1:00 p.m. Register for "New Genetic Connections: Introduction to Genetics, Red Flags and Resources - Part One"

This two-part workshop will explore four case studies and go over what the red flags are that families and professionals should consider when referring to a genetic specialist. It will also discuss how a genetic navigator might assist in this process as well as other local, regional, and national genetic resources. This webinar will benefit those who are navigating a genetic diagnosis, and those hoping to understand more about the basics of genetics.

Presenter: Ashley Michaud - Genetic Navigator for Vermont Family Network


March 14 at 10:00 a.m. Register for "New Genetic Connections: Introduction to Genetics, Red Flags and Resources - Part Two"

See description above...


March 22 at 1:00 p.m. Register for "Chronic Absenteeism, Truancy and Educational Neglect"

What is the difference between Chronic Absenteeism, Truancy and Educational Neglect? What should you expect when your child is unable or unwilling to attend school? Join our presenters from the state as they discuss the current process for the school and state response when students are not at school for periods of time. They will also talk about how families and schools can help children to return to schools.

Presenters: - Alicia Hanrahan - Education Programs Manager/Interagency Coordinator, Family and Educator Support Programs, VT AOE, Heather Willis-Doxee - State Director of Special Education, Student Support Services Team, VT AOE, and Lindy Boudreau, Juvenile Justice Director, VT DCF


May 14 at 1:00 p.m. Register for "Sharing Information with Siblings"

Join us for a panel discussion with parents and adult siblings about their experiences discussing disability, challenges, benefits, and everything in between! Emily Holl, Director of the Sibling Support Project, will provide tips for sharing key information at different stages of life with young siblings, teens, and adults to create positive outcomes for the entire family. Presenter: Emily Holl - Director of the Sibling Support Project


If you are unable to attend, you can still register and we’ll send you a

recording of the workshop which you can watch on your own time.


Registrations are also posted under Upcoming Events on the landing page of our website. In case you missed our last series of workshops, you can find a full list on our VFN website. Stay tuned as we add more workshops to our schedule!


We save workshops on our website and YouTube channel.



Upcoming Events


April 2, 2024 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. VFN 2024 Annual Conference "Change Begins with You - Using Your Voice to Make a Difference"

Our featured presenter, Amy Shollenberger from Action Circles, will provide a full day, in-depth interactive training on advocacy. Topics include:

  • Legislative Process 101
  • Strategic Thinking for the Legislative Process
  • Telling Your Story to Share in a Way That Is Heard

Amy has more than 20 years of experience developing political strategy, grassroots organizing, influencing policy, and running political issue campaigns. She has worked on a variety of campaigns, ranging in scope from local community issues to state and national issues. She started Action Circles in 2010 and along with the Action Circles Team has served clients and offered training ever since.


There will also be an opportunity for attendees to chat and network over breakfast and lunch.

Register Today!

VFN Workshop Topics/Speakers Survey

We want to hear your ideas for our upcoming online workshops. What topics interest you? Are there presenters you would recommend?
Let us know your thoughts.
Complete our survey!
Contact Us. We Will Listen!
Helping Vermont Families thrive for more than 30 years

Join our closed Facebook group specifically for parents of adult children

Learn More

Join our closed Facebook group

for all parents

Learn More

Contact our Helpline at (802) 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org

Learn More
Contact Us
Facebook  Youtube  Instagram  
Office
600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495