Breaking Ground 115

Download a PDF version of Breaking Ground 115 here.

Download a plain text version of Breaking Ground 115 with image descriptions here (Word document).

Click the links below to read individual articles. Further down on this page, see the introduction letter from our Executive Director and short bonus content beneath the letter.

Introduction from Executive Director Lauren Pearcy

Dear Readers,

Before you dive into the content of this issue of Breaking Ground, I want to share news about the staffing structure at our Council. Over the summer, we did a deep dive into our team’s strengths and areas of need.

We came out with a new organizational structure and three restructured roles:

  • Jolene Sharp has moved from Chief Public Information Officer to Chief Strategy Officer. This broadens Jolene’s role beyond communications into helping set the overall strategy for our State Plan Goal areas, which she has already been doing for several years. All three goal areas (Leadership Development, Public Policy, and Communications) now report to Jolene.
  • Emma (Shouse) Garton has moved from Public Information Specialist to Director of Public Policy. Emma, whose degree is in social work, started at the Council more than 10 years ago as a public policy intern. She has supported public policy behind the scenes ever since. Since early 2023, Emma has been leading our public policy work while maintaining her communications role.
  • We will be hiring a new communications support person, which will backfill the role Emma vacates. Stay tuned to our newsletters and social media for more information!

I am so proud of our team for maintaining our work while we’ve been short staffed. On a small team, that takes 110% from all of us. You can read more about all of our staff on our website ( We are excited for what this new chapter will bring!

Now, dive into the program updates we have for you in the following pages. We chose these highlights from the topics that have bubbled up the most for us in the past quarter. Let us know what you think:

Happy reading,

Lauren Pearcy

Executive Director

Brief Bonus Content featured in this issue

Clinical Consultation Network

The Clinical Consultation Network (CCN) is a weekly learning opportunity led by our partners at the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). Dr. Bruce Davis, DIDD Deputy Commissioner of Clinical Services, hosts the CCN and members of the DIDD Clinical Services Division staff serve as co-hosts.

The CCN meets virtually every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. CST to discuss topics related to health, behavioral health, and disability. Sometimes meetings focus on sharing an individual “case study” of how different professionals came together to help a person with a disability. Sometimes state or national experts present on research or best practices in the disability field. Meetings are open to the public, recorded, and posted on DIDD’s YouTube channel so you can watch past sessions any time. If you are a Tennessean with a disability, family member of people with disabilities, or serve people with disabilities in your job, the CCN is a great way to learn about disability resources and topics!

Learn more, explore the CCN video library, and tune in next Tuesday!

Tennessee Tech Connect

Tennessee Tech Connect is a new collaborative program between TN Disability Pathfinder ( and the TN Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD). It was developed to provide information to the disability community about assistive and enabling technology.

This new platform connects Tennesseans with disabilities to technology tools that can help you live a better life. Search for devices, apps and other products that can help with:

  • job training
  • transportation
  • independent living and daily tasks like cleaning, cooking, home safety, and taking medicine
  • communication
  • and much more!

Explore Tennessee Tech Connect today by using the search options for type of need, stage of life, disability, payment options or other categories:

Tennessee Disability Pathfinder is a joint project of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. It is partially funded under grant contracts with the Tennessee Departments of Health, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Education, Human Services/Division of Rehabilitation Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Transportation.

Free help for public schools serving students with disabilities through TN-TAN

The Tennessee Technical Assistance Network (TN-TAN) [] is a program from the Tennessee Department of Education that offers free help to schools and families to support students with disabilities, ages 3-22. The network provides targeted, intensive supports in the areas of:

  • Assistive technology
  • Autism
  • Intensive behavior issues and supports
  • Preschool and early childhood
  • Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) for Academics and Behavior
  • Coming soon: Family Engagement and High school transition

TN-TAN launched in July 2021. It is part of the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) strategic plan, called Best for All. TN-TAN came out of the department’s work to improve the use of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds. TDOE wanted to use the funds to increase supports to schools and families for the benefit of students with disabilities across the state.

In addition to direct supports, TN-TAN has a coordination team (managed by the University of Tennessee Center for Literacy, Education and Employment – UT-CLEE) that ensures network partners are working together to best support students, families, and schools. There’s also an evaluation team (managed by the University of Kansas and the University of Kentucky) to measure the effectiveness of the network and its individual partner and network goals.

Data from the most recent quarter indicate that TN-TAN supported 125 school districts across TN through response to referrals, training and consulting between April 1 and July 31, 2023.
Families and schools can learn more and access help at On the website, you’ll find:

  • A “Request Assistance” button
  • Details about the services available through TN-TAN
  • A calendar of TN-TAN events
  • Resources related to the focus areas listed above

To follow the network on social media, follow the TN-TAN on X (Twitter) at @Tennessee_TAN.  For general questions, contact

New Video and Tool: Healthy Behavior Check-In

Finding the root cause for behavior can sometimes take some real detective work. Learn about a new tool to help people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their supporters think about the needs behind behavior.