(802) 876-5315
Strong Families. Strong Futures.
Hello VFN Family and Friends,

We are thrilled to have Dr. Jacqueline Kelleher join the team as the new Executive Director. Dr. Kelleher brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about the needs of families of children with a disability, special health need or mental health issue. She is also the parent of four now-adult children with developmental disabilities and disorders. She understands firsthand the lived experience of families navigating essential but complex systems to support their loved ones. “Dr. Kelleher embodies the spirit of our mission and her expertise establishes a strong foundation to move VFN forward as we continue to expand services to support Vermont families. We are thrilled to have her as the Executive Director. We are confident that the children and families we serve, our partnerships, staff, and supporters will value her vision and leadership,” said VFN’s Board Co-Chair, Kevin Kelleher, (no relation to Dr. Kelleher).

Dr. Kelleher worked as the State Director of Special Education with the Vermont Agency of Education from 2019-2022. She oversaw the implementation of special education policies, practices, and procedures with federal and state laws for districts in the state. In this role, she viewed VFN as a partner and was a vocal proponent of the education system’s need to partner with parents to serve students best. Notably, Dr. Kelleher understands that the needs of the families VFN serves are extensive, both in the number of families who need support and the degree to which families need help. She hopes to elevate the “go to” family organization to ensure that all families have a strong start, advance inclusive communities, and lift family voices for change. “It’s a genuine honor to be allowed to join the VFN team. As a parent with lived experience, I know how important VFN is for families with a child with a disability, special health need or mental health issue. And it’s easy to see that its strength lies with its exceptional staff, most of who have lived experiences and have deep expertise on how to support families. Combined with VFN’s strategic partnerships with essential community-based services and state agencies and departments, the possibilities of what we can accomplish together are endless, and I am excited to get started,” said Dr. Kelleher.

VFN is always looking for ways to better serve and support families of children with disabilities, special health needs or mental health issues. We recently expanded our programming to help families of children with mental health issues. Additionally, we launched a new program to help families advocate for necessary system changes to eliminate or lower barriers to help. As VFN continues to deepen its work in supporting families, we are pleased to have Dr. Kelleher at the helm beginning on Monday, November 7, 2022. 

Please join all of us at VFN in welcoming Dr. Jacqui Kelleher!

Photo: Dr Jacqui Kelleher in a winter coat standing in front of a pond in the snow
Community Partners in Autism Research
(Project C-PAR)
Vermont Family Network is proud to be engaged with a team led by co-chair of the UVM Autism Collaborative, Dr. Liliane Savard, in a project funded through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, (PCORI). The goal of the $350,000 award is to better understand what researchers need to know about engaging autistics* and parent/caregivers as research partners. An additional goal of the funded projects is to identify research gaps and priorities supporting the transition from pediatric to adult healthcare services.
 
On December 11, 2022 and February 11, 2023 VFN Family Support Consultant, Marie Fetterhoff, will help facilitate focus groups on Zoom of parents/caregivers parenting autistic children and adults*. These focus groups will inform researchers about what kind of supports encourage these stakeholders to participate as members of research teams. On December 10, 2022 and February 11, 2023 Green Mountain Self-Advocates, another partner on the project, will facilitate focus groups of autistic adults.

A second component of the project is to identify research needed to improve the transition from pediatric to adult services and supports. If you are a parent or caregiver of an autistic child or adult or are an autistic 16 years or older, and are interested in joining one of these projects, your experience and perspective are very important! We are working to intentionally remove barriers to participation, so please reach out with any questions or concerns.
 
For more information contact Dr. Liliane Savard at Liliane.Savard@uvm.edu,
or call (802) 522-3615. To read or watch more information about the December focus groups on research partnership, visit the Community Partnership for Autism Research (C-PAR) project page.

*A note on language: People use different words to talk about autism. In this project we say "Autistic person" and "person on the autism spectrum." Many people prefer these words. We will ask what you prefer.
Photo: Dr. Liliane Savard helps a young child reach the bars on the monkey bars.
Pre-employment Transition Services
If you have a high school student with a disability who is eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation services, provided through HireAbility Vermont, ask the school about pre-employment transition services. These services, which can be provided by HireAbility in collaboration with the school, includes these activities: job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, counseling on post-secondary education opportunities, workplace readiness training, and instruction in self-advocacy. Learn more about each of these activities through this series: National Technical Assistance Center on Transition: The Collaborative.

For more information on transitioning to adult life or how pre-employment transition services can fit within your high school student’s transition plan, contact VFN Family Support at 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org. Check out VFN’s Transition Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities.
Photo: A group of four teenagers standing with arms wrapped around each other
Coordinated Services Plan (Act 264) Meetings
When a child with a disability or special health need requires services from multiple organizations, and families need help with coordinating those services, they may be eligible for a Coordinated Services Plan (CSP). This tool coordinates the parties involved in a child’s care by bringing all the providers together at one meeting. Families who access the CSP are entitled to a parent representative who can support the family before, during and after the CSP meeting. VFN Family Support Consultants, through a collaboration with the Vermont Department of Mental Health and several designated agencies, support families in the CSP process in the role of parent rep in many parts of the state.

If you have any questions regarding the parent representative role and how to access one for your meeting, Act 264 or mental health supports in general, please contact the VFN helpline at 802-876-5315 or info@vtfn.org.
Picture: Graphic of people putting pieces of a puzzle together
News From the Puppets
The PiE Team is so grateful to be back in schools, most recently with support from the National Life Group Foundation (thank you!). 
 
We are hearing from teachers and students how glad they are too:
 
“It is with a smile in my heart that I write to you with so much gratitude for all the
staff and students of Northfield Elementary School that were so privileged to witness Puppets in Education perform shows about
Kindness & Stress. Thank you so much for allowing us the opportunity to enjoy ourselves while engaging in a very real and present conversation about stress in our lives. lt was a true pleasure to see every student at NES fully engaged during this programming. Something that doesn't happen often!” - School Counselor
 
“I just want to say that was the most difficult group in the school and they were so engaged by the puppet show. Every kid raised their hands and wanted to answer. They all wanted to share their worries, stresses and strategies. It was amazing to see. I have never experienced them so calm and attentive. It goes to show if you ask the right questions they will want to respond. One kid in the back has never experienced a presentation before and she was very present and connected to the puppets. She even raised her hand and answered questions. She has never participated in this way before. That was a first. This program is GREAT!” - Teacher, Grade 4
 
To schedule a program, please contact karen.sharpwolf@vtfn.org.
Picture: Thank you note from a student at Northfield Elementary School
Parent Match Program
We recently held a Support Parent check-in on Zoom with trained Support Parents from our Parent Match Program. We shared that in our program over 37 matches were made this past year, including national matches, and that 13 new Support Parents have been trained! We also took the time to share parent match experiences.
 
Trained Support Parents express feeling good about helping another parent navigate their parenting journey by actively listening and sharing what has worked for them. At times, parents are seeking a quick connection focused on information about resources; other times, parents are seeking a more in-depth conversation as they process a new diagnosis or bump in the road. One referred parent shared, “it was so helpful to learn that another family’s experience is similar to what I am going to go through”.
 
If you are at a place where you feel you would like to support another parent on a similar parenting journey, we now offer rolling trainings to become a trained support parent. Our training is delivered in two parts through a self-guided hybrid model that is meant to meet the needs of busy parents.
  • In Part 1, we share our Support Parent Training Materials through email, along with a questionnaire that will ensure participant’s understanding of the material.
  • Part 2 involves joining a Support Parent Zoom gathering, for discussion about the Parent Match process, review of necessary skills, and sharing of family stories.
Once these 2 parts are completed then the newly trained Support Parent joins our Support Parent network.
 
The next gathering is scheduled for Thursday, November 17 from 12-2:00 p.m. If evening is better for you, we will have another training on January 24 from 6-8:00 p.m. Interested parents can complete this Survey Monkey application. After we receive your application, Mindy will reach out begin the training process. Please email mindy.deibler@vtfn.org with any questions.
Photo: A woman sitting on a couch, talking on her cell phone near a window.
Sibshops
We have had 3 successful in-person Sibshops over the past three months! Our new meeting location, at the Essex Teen Center, is proving to be a great space for us to gather with many options for playing games, crafting, moving our bodies and sharing our sibling experiences.

Sibshops are fun activities 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 a fun activity. All events are facilitated by trained Sibshops Facilitators with the help of a few volunteers. If you’d like to get to know your Sibshop facilitators, check out our Facilitator Bios page. Sibshops began nationally in 1982. To learn more about the history of Sibshops visit the Sibling Support website.

From Get Air to MetroRock, decorating cookies to making puppets, we have planned many cool outings and activities this year - check out our Activities Description List to see what, where, and when each Sibshop will be. Our next Sibshops event is the ever-popular cookie-decorating activity! Saturday, December 10 from 1-3:00 p.m. at the Essex Teen Center. If your child wants to join us this year, 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 Sibshop email distribution list.
Picture: The Sibshops logo with children playing with a ball.
Wellness Window!

November is National Gratitude month and everyone at VFN is especially grateful for all our volunteers.


  • Thank you to our Family Faculty parents, caregivers and self-advocates, who courageously share their family stories to medical and education students.
  • Thank you to all our Support Parents for the emotional support you provide to parents who are just starting their journey or may have hit a bump in the road and need to talk to someone.
  • Thank you to our Sibshop volunteers who commit their time and energy to supporting our fun activities for sibs each month.
  • Thank you to all our Board members who volunteer their time each month to help guide and support what we do at VFN.
  • Lastly, thank you to our Puppet in Education volunteers for your help with refreshing the Disability Awareness program.

We appreciate all of you and couldn’t do our work
without each and every one of you!
Picture: Graphic with many colors and the words "thank you"
Join Our Team!
We are currently seeking applicants for the following position:

A part-time Family Support Consultant - Mental Health - 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.
Picture: A blue and white graphic with words "we're hiring, join our team"
Upcoming Events - Register today!
Free Workshops

Learn how Progressive Education can help ease stress for a youth with a disability and their family as they consider college and careers during or after high school. Progressive Education can help a young person identify their path and develop the skills to succeed through exciting, real-world opportunities and one-on-one counseling. Join us as a panel of presenters from HireAbility VT, College Compass and Community College of Vermont (CCV) highlights their collaboration in developing and supporting a personalized plan including mentorship, campus engagement, skill building, and strong team-based communication as we focus on working toward greater independence and advocacy for long-term success.

December 7 from 10-11:00 a.m. Register here for "Regulating at Home"
Regulating at home can be tricky, especially after a day of school and activities. Being around your child who is fluctuating in and out of regulation can look and feel out of control, overwhelming, dysregulating, and triggering for everyone in the family. Join us to learn what dysregulation is from a brainstem "inside-out" perspective, figure out what your child's regulation pattern is, talk about how a custom home program can support this, and start to create a regulation-supporting routine that makes sense for you and your child. This discussion will end by teaching you how to support your child's regulation through the evening and into bedtime. This presentation is most applicable for children under age 12, but the concepts are helpful for children, teenagers, and young adults of any age. Presenter: Natalie Mannherz, pediatric occupational therapist.

Join us for a presentation and conversation around finding a summer camp. We’ll cover the overall camp experience touching upon the natural connection between camp and school, including how camps can fit into the extended school year (ESY) within your child’s individualized education program (IEP). We’ll look at processes and resources for finding camps, including tangible steps and resources families can use to find the right camp for their camper (or young adult…Camp is a phenomenal work experience too!) Our hope is that you find a camp that will safely take your child and return them happy, healthy, and having made friends and memories. Presenters: Bud Copeland – Director of Membership & Engagement – American Camps Association, New England and Karen Price, VFN Co-Director of Family Support.

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.
Photo: A mother holding her child on her lap outdoors and both are laughing
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!
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Contact our Helpline at (802) 876-5315 or info@vtfn.org
Office
600 Blair Park Rd, Ste 240,
Williston, VT 05495