(802) 876-5315
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Photo: Two siblings smiling while they sit on a rock in a meadow
Greetings to our VFN Family and Friends!

Last month I reflected on the concept of family since it is a prominent part of our name and organizational mission. We will continue to explore the inclusivity of what constitutes a family and to strive to support all families across this State, regardless of their zip code. This month I turn to the other part of who we are – network. Since my arrival, I have witnessed networking on so many levels, given I am defining it as exchanging ideas, information, resources, and support among individuals, groups, and institutions. I see this daily, both internally within my organization and externally with other organizations. I see us all lifting each other up, eager to offer assistance and share our learning. Networks not only give us a greater reach to whom we can serve but can make us fundamentally better as an organization.
From the calls to our helpline where we problem-solve or match parent mentors, to new colleagues in other nonprofits helping me navigate the State during a Legislative session, I am inspired by those working in nonprofits who truly help others network with selfless, positive enthusiasm. Networking makes us more strongly connected and increases the likelihood of impact; particularly in a rural state that experiences disparity when it comes to accessing resources. The networks we make as families, staff, businesses, and professional groups allow us to build a better foundation for ensuring access, equity, and opportunity. While we have a history of networking with simply the best across this great State, in 2023, VFN continues to draw from those engaged individuals, and is networking with new organizations and partners to engage in courageous conversations and expand the work in more culturally and linguistically diverse communities. We bring our ideas, high quality services, our assessment of our reflective practices and in return, through this exciting time in expanding our network, we benefit from new insights, fresh perspectives, and candid exchanges that improve who we are as professionals and people. Further, we get to introduce friends we’ve had for a long time to our new contacts in our new networks, which adds to the vibrant, rich mosaic of who we are.
So, as I reflect on what the NETWORK represents in our name, I am proud. It represents a caring, committed community uniting together with others to exchange shared resources to advance inclusion and ensure thriving families in the Green Mountain State. We remain humbled by our local, regional, statewide, and national partners who have allowed us to do the great work that we do. We are excited for the future as we deepen our experiences through new networks and weave them together with all that we know to build, sustain, and grow the VFN mission.
Finally, this photo pictures a glimpse into my personal network, where family is everything. Special welcome to daughter, Kellee Comeau, who is joining VFN February 7, 2023 to pursue a passion in helping others. Stay warm, everyone! Have a great month!

From the heart,

Photo: Dr Jacqui Kelleher surrounded by her family in a pile on the floor
VFN 2023 Annual Conference
"Inclusion and Well-Being"
Registration is Open!

Our 2023 Annual Conference “Inclusion and Well-Being” will be held on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at the UVM Dudley H. Davis Center from 9:00-1:00 p.m. and attendees are invited to stay for a free afternoon film screening of “My Disability Roadmap,” a new documentary by Dan and Samuel Habib. The film event is hosted by the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at the University of Vermont. The film and a discussion are planned for 1:00-4:30 p.m.
This year our new Executive Director, Jacqui Kelleher, and Vermont Agency of Education guests, Betty Roy and Cassie Santo will start off our day talking about Building Inclusive Systems. They will provide practical tips and strategies and highlight how inclusive systems and practices have positive impacts on the well-being of children, youth and their families and professionals who serve them. We will then welcome our featured presenter, Dr. Joelle Van Lent, who will focus on the well-being and resilience of caregivers, families and helping professionals. This presentation will offer fascinating information about how we are impacted in positive ways through caring roles, as well as our risk for negative impact. Participants will learn practical strategies that can be used to buffer impact and increase the resilience of the care provider.

For the afternoon, we will partner with UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion where Dan and Samuel Habib will share their new short film “My Disability Roadmap” and discuss how they have tried to build a culture of inclusion in their family, school district, and community, and plan for a full adult life as Samuel enters his 20’s. VFN Conference attendees are invited to stay for the film event which is free and open to the public.
For the most up to date information including an agenda,
please visit our VFN Annual Conference page.
Top Photo: Dr. Joelle Van Lent seated and smiling
Bottom Photo: Dan and Samuel Habib smiling while in hiking in the forest
Grant Funds Available!
Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism
Vermont Family Network is pleased to announce that we have received a $12,500 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 by 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 Get Support to complete an application. We will begin dispersing grants in early March. If you have questions or need support in completing an application, please email laurel.sanborn@vtfn.org or call 802-876-5315.

Image: A hand holding a coin with the money symbol on it
Summer Camp Resources

Are you thinking about summer care for your child? Now may be a good time to start looking into this! Some camps open up registration in February and March. Check out our updated Summer Camps List 2023 for ideas.

In case you missed it, consider watching our new Finding A Summer Camp Webinar with Bud Copeland from the American Camp Association, New England. This webinar also highlights what you need to know about Extended School Year Services with VFN’s Karen Price.

Image: A group of children and camp leader sitting in a circle in the woods
Pediatric to Adult Transition of Healthcare
(PATH) for Autistics
The UVM Autism Collaborative is looking for autistics 16 years and older and healthcare professionals, high school educators, researchers, and parents/caregivers to participate in a research partnership for Pediatric to Adult Transition of Healthcare for Autistics (PATH).
Please consider lending your voice, Vermont Family Network is collaborating with UVM on this PCORI (Patient- Centered Outcomes Research Institute) project and will be present for the focus groups.
If selected, you will participate in 2 virtual focus groups (2 hours each) complete questionnaires and trainings one between February 23-26,2023 and one between March 9-13, 2023.

Participants will receive a $200 stipend for their time.
More details about the project, dates, commitments, and compensation can be found by scanning the QR code, downloading the flyer or calling Dr. Liliane Savard at Liliane.savard@uvm.edu or call/text (802)522-3615.

Please share this information with others who might be interested.
Image: A QR Code
Are there IEPs and Section 504 Plans in College?
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.

Please contact our Family Support Consultants at Vermont Family Network at 802-876-5315 or info@vtfn.org if you have questions about the transition to adulthood process for your youth with a disability.

Image: Person with a graduation hat on sits at a computer with books all around them
Summer Services: The Extended School Year
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 most recent 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.

Photo: A group of students working at computers with a teacher helping them
News From the Puppets
Hello Friends!

The puppets have been all over Vermont this January, from tip to toe – literally! We started out the new year by going down to Brattleboro for a day of puppet shows about Kindness and Stress. Two weeks later, we went in the other direction and headed up to Derby, right by the Canadian border! While we were up there, we spent the day performing our Friend 2 Friend/ Demystifying Autism show. This school followed a buddy system, and each show was performed to 100 students, with the younger Kindergarteners through second graders sitting next to their fifth and sixth grade buddies.
Our puppets made some new friends that day, and we were delighted by the impact we had:

  • “This was the best day of my life! Meeting Freddie means everything’s all right.” – 1st grader, who had his picture taken with Freddie the puppet, and then his aide printed the picture out and had Freddie sign it for him
  • “I’m autistic, too! Does Freddie know?” – Kindergartener
  • “I work with a student on the spectrum, and it was right on point. Great work!” – Kindergarten teacher
During all four shows, when the kids realized Freddie doesn’t like loud noises, instead of yelling “Freddie, please come back!” during the question-and-answer part, they quietly spoke it.

We are starting out February with the first of our Upstate Chevrolet-sponsored trips to New York. We’ll also be visiting Johnson, Bennington, and Jay/Westfield. We are nearly booked for this school year, and we still have a wait-list of schools looking for funding support. If you’d like to help out a school or have inquiries about programming for the 2023-24 school year, please contact Karen Sharpwolf at Karen.Sharpwolf@vtfn.org.

Photo: Benard Monkey and Delores Goose puppets next to the US/Canadian border sign

It’s not too late to join us for our remaining Sibshops activities!

Sibshops are for children ages 6 to 13 who have a brother or sister with a disability or special health need. They provide an opportunity to connect, share a snack, and discuss the ups and downs of being a “sib,” all while doing fun activities.

Upcoming activities include exploring Vermont’s winter beauty during an outdoor hike; developing our perseverance through rock climbing; creating beautiful flower arrangements; and celebrating our Sibshops’ year with a family ice cream social (new families who may want to learn more about Sibshops are welcome to join this social too!).

If you’d like to get to know your Sibshop facilitators, check out our Facilitator Bios page.

Upcoming Sibshops:
  • March 11 – Snowshoeing/Winter Hike 1-3:00 p.m. at: Catamount Outdoor Family Center
  • April 8 - MetroRock Indoor Rock Climbing 1-3:00 p.m. at: MetroRock
  • May 13 - Opening the Senses 1-3:00 p.m. Location: Essex Teen Center
  • June 17 – Family Ice Cream Social**12-2 p.m.** Location: To Be Determined  [note date change from 6/3 to 6/17]
If your child wants to join us, please fill out our Sibshop Registration Form. If you are not ready to commit but want to keep a pulse on our activities and updates for the year, you can email mindy.deibler@vtfn.org to be added to our Sibshops email distribution list.

Image: The Sibshops logo with children playing with a ball.
Parent Match Program
Help Wanted: Support Parents for VFN’s Parent Match Program

  • Who: Parents/caregivers to be an empathetic listener to other parents in similar situation
  • Commitment: A typical parent match involves connecting several times over a few months * It is always OK to say “no” when you are busy and not available
  • Reward: The feeling that you are not alone and that you have helped another parent in their journey, just by listening
  • Qualifications: Experience parenting a child, young adult, or adult child with a special health need or disability
  • Training: Part 1: Review Support Parent Training Slides (allow one hour) Part 2: Two-hour zoom gathering offered at convenient times; opportunity to review Parent Match process, practice active listening, share family stories…. 
We need and welcome all experiences and seek to increase our capacity of trained support parents who have navigated parenting young adults and teens with mental health needs, fostering or adopting teens, raising children who are hearing impaired or have hearing loss…honestly all parenting experiences are needed!
Did you know? Research indicates that those who consistently help other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer.
The next Part 2 Zoom gatherings are scheduled for: March 28 from 12-2:00 p.m. and May 23 from 6-8:00 p.m.
Interested parents can complete this Survey Monkey application. After we receive your application, Mindy will reach out to begin the training process. Please email mindy.deibler@vtfn.org with any questions.

If you are a parent or caregiver who is seeking a Parent Match, please contact Mindy at mindy.deibler@vtfn.org.

Image: Road signs saying "Your Support Needed"
Wellness Window!
Winter Fun!

Winters in Vermont are short on sunshine and the lack of vitamin D can make us feel a bit lethargic. One scientifically proven way to boost your mood is to move. As little as 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week can lift your spirits and improve your sleep. But smaller amounts—as little as 10-15 minutes at a time may make a difference. Need more motivation? Try music, find a style of music that makes you want to dance, because the music that moves you is just a search bar away on your computer or mobile device.

If you prefer the great outdoors, there are low-cost events around Vermont that might tempt you to get outside and get moving. Check out Find and Go Seek for events near you.

***Please call ahead before attending to confirm they are still happening!

Photo: A parent and child stretching together on the floor
Advocacy News
Join us for our next Advocacy and Policy Committee meeting on February 21 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. You will learn more about what’s happening at the state house and inform how we advocate for change. Your input on these important issues are essential to our success!

Image: A blue and green graphic saying "Advocacy"
Join Our Team!
We are currently seeking applicants for the following position:

A part-time Family Support Consultant - Mental Health (Outside of Chittenden County) to provide family centered information, referrals, and assistance to families of children with special health needs, individuals, and professionals individually over the phone and in person, and through trainings and workshops. The Mental Health specialist supports families whose children are experiencing mental health or emotional behavioral issues.

Image: A blue and white graphic with words "we're hiring, join our team"
Vermont Family Network
is now on Instagram!

It is official! We are now on Instagram!
Use the QR code or use the link below
to give us a follow.
Upcoming Events - Register today!
Photo: A parent hugging their young child while both are laughing and sitting on a rock
Upcoming Events

You will learn more about what’s happening at the state house and inform how we advocate for change. Your input on these important issues are essential to our success!

The conference will be held in-person at the UVM Dudley H. Davis Center from 9:00-1:00 p.m. and attendees are invited to stay for a free afternoon film screening of “My Disability Roadmap,” a new documentary by Dan and Samuel Habib. The film event is hosted by the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at the University of Vermont. The film and a discussion are planned for 1:00-4:30 p.m.

Free Workshops

We invite parents and professionals to join us in learning about Vermont Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired (VABVI) services for children ages birth through high school graduation. VABVI staff includes Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI), Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialists (CATIS) for Individuals with Visually Impairments and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS). Learn about the 9 areas of the “Expanded Core Curriculum” specific to students with a visual impairment, the updated July 2022 VT AOE qualifications for a visual impairment and the variety of assessments, consultation, and direct instruction options available through VABVI.
Presenter: Stephanie Bissonette, VABVI Director of Children Services, licensed Teacher of the Visually Impaired and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist.

Learn about this summer program that provides work experience and job readiness skills training to students with disabilities. We will share information about who is involved, the impact, and hear directly from a parent and student about their experience with the program.
Presenters: Sam Bernstein - participant in Summer Careers Exploration Program, Tracey Dolan - Sam's parent, Tara Howe - HireAbility Transition Program Manager, and Kara Haynes - HireAbility Transition Program Associate Manager

In this workshop, presenters will share information about the JOBS Program which provides comprehensive case management, therapeutic services, and employment support for adolescents and young adults (ages 16-21 years) who are experiencing mental health challenges. The program helps youth find and maintain employment, while developing independent living skills to live successfully in the community. JOBS is a collaboration between Spectrum Youth and Family Services and HireAbility (formerly known as Vocational Rehabilitation.)
Presenters: Kara Haynes - HireAbility Transition Program Associate Manager, Laura Flint – VT Dept. of Mental Health Senior Evidence-Based Practices Evaluator and Supported Employment Services, and Tara Howe – HireAbility Transition Program Manager

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.

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 fall schedule!

We save workshops on our website and YouTube channel.
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.
Contact Us. We Will Listen!
Helping Vermont Families thrive for more than 30 years
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Contact our Helpline at (802) 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org
600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495