Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities

The Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD) is an interdisciplinary program that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families through training, service, applied research, information dissemination, planning, and policy development.


Governor Haslam Proclaims March "Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month"

"Disability is a natural part of the human experience that does not diminish the right of individuals with developmental disabilities to live independently, to exert control and choice over their own lives, and to fully participate in and contribute to their communities through full integration and inclusion..."

- Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Proclamation

This month, Governor Bill Haslam signed a proclamation designating March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Governor Haslam and the Tennessee disability community wishes to recognize the valuable contributions made by individuals with developmental disabilities who live, work, play, vote, volunteer, worship and build relationships in our local communities.

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Two Announcements Worth Celebrating

Dr. Debra Hanna, developmental pediatrician and our primary representative on a collaborative project with the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and UT Boling Center announce the availability of the IDD Healthcare E-Toolkit. The Health Care For Adults With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities: A Toolkit for Primary Care Providers (IDD Toolkit) is available online and offers health care providers best-practice tools and a wealth of information regarding specific medical and behavioral concerns of adults with IDD, including resources for patients and families.

Dr. Lauren Gardner, BCDD Psychologist, has published a book chapter in an autism textbook: Bellini, S., Gardner, L., & Markoff, K. (2014). "Social skills training" in F. Volkmar, P. Rhea, K. Pelphrey, & S. Rogers (Eds.), Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, 4th Edition.

Please join us in congratulating both Dr. Hanna and Dr. Gardner on their achievements and representing the center on a national scale.

Norfleet Forum March 20

The Norfleet forum on Early Childhood Brain Development will take the place at the FedEx Institute (University of Memphis campus) March 20. This event is free to all UTHSC faculty, staff, students and trainees. There is a $25 registration fee if you want to claim continuing education credits.

Strengths and Social Connections of Siblings With and Without Disabilities

This announcement is about an important new research project focusing on the strengths and social connections of siblings with and without disabilities in Tennessee. Siblings (ages 18-30) of individuals with intellectual disability or autism can participate.  A description of the survey is below.

If you are a sibling of a brother or sister with disabilities, the brief survey can be completed online by clicking this link: link icon If you are a parent, share this announcement with your adult children who have a brother or sister with a disability. Twenty siblings will be randomly picked to receive a $25 gift card from among all completed surveys. We are sending out this announcement on behalf of the project team. Any questions about the project should be directed to Mary Beth Carlton at or (615) 343-1438. IRB# 131465

PDF Version PDF icon

New DSM-V Guidelines Workshop

The University of Memphis is hosting a workshop for all mental health professionals on the new DSM-V guidelines. To register or learn more go to Continuing Professional Education credit/units are available for Social Workers and Psychologists.

Now available FREE ADHD Resources for Parents and Teachers

The Boling Center Library located at 711 Jefferson Ave, has received an overflow of ADHD resources from the Assisi Foundation. These resources include guides for parents of young children and teens as well as teachers. To request these materials, please contact the Dissemination Coordinator by email to schedule a time to visit the library. These materials are free while supplies last.

2012 National Disability Employment Awareness Toolkit is Now Available external link
Prepare for 2012 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) activities and observances. Held each October, NDEAM is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?" Posters are free and are available for order in English and Spanish.

Fact Sheets on Medicaid In Tennessee and Family Support

Three new fact sheets have been developed by The Arc of Tennessee (see list below). For more information or to obtain copies contact The Arc of Tennessee at 615-248-5878 or visit the website

New materials available on the Learn the Signs: Act Early website

Visit to find two new materials. Track Your Child's Developmental Milestonesbrochure (English and Spanish versions) and the Milestone Moments booklet. Only the English version of the booklet is available; the Spanish version will be posted soon. Links to both PDFs are below

Milestones Moments Booklet  milestones image

Milestones Brochure: Track Your Child’s Developmental Milestones
English  index clip image | Spanish  image clip )

Parents Guide to New State Rules: Restraint and Seclusion

To provide parents with information regarding Tennessee's state rules on restraint and seclusion in schools, the Disability Coalition on Education has developed a fact sheet. This fact sheet is available from the DCE at no cost. For additional copies or information regarding this topic contact Holly Lu Conant Rees at Click to view a fact sheet in spanish.

Emergency Management Update

Accessible Emergency Information can be found at This website has information for people with disabilities about how to deal with different types of emergencies.In response to the overwhelming popularity of NCD's 2009 emergency management report, NCD has created a new page Effective Emergency Management: Making Improvements for Communities and People with Disabilities to highlight some of the report's impact.

New Project Findings: Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Somali and Non-Somali Children in Minneapolis

CDC's NCBDDD, in partnership with NIH, Autism Speaks, and AUCD, recently conducted the largest project to date looking at the number and characteristics of Somali children with autism spectrum disorder in any U.S. community. Today, key findings from this project were released.

Save the Date: 2014 Disability Policy Seminar

2014 Disability Policy Seminar
April 7-9, 2014, Washington, DC

This is an opportunity to hear from leading public policy experts, disability advocates and Congressional staff discussing current key policies important to the disability community.

Save the Date: 2014 Training Institutes

Improving Children's Mental Health Care in an Era of Change, Challenge, and Innovations: The Role of the System of Care Approach
Wednesday, July 16- 20, 2014, Washington DC

The National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development is offering Training Institutes on improving services and supports for children, adolescents, and young adults with or at risk for mental health challenges and their families. The Training Institutes will provide in-depth, practical training on innovative approaches, and how lessons learned from systems of care can guide efforts to improve service delivery in a dramatically changing environment.

Haslam Announces Dismissal of Arlington Lawsuit

State completes exit plan ahead of schedule to end two decades of litigation

(Thursday, December 5, 2013) NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that after 21 years of litigation, a federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit originally filed over conditions at the now-closed Arlington Development Center in Memphis.

Judge Jon Phipps McCalla of the U.S. District Court, Western Division, entered an order and final judgment yesterday that the state has "complied with all material provisions of the Exit Plan" that was filed in January.

"In Tennessee, we are committed to taking care of our most vulnerable citizens," Haslam said. "The state appreciates the cooperation of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and People First of Tennessee during this past year.

"I am especially grateful to the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) and the TennCare Bureau for their tireless efforts in working toward a conclusion to this case. This is a big deal for our state."

The lawsuit was originally filed in 1992 after a letter from DOJ detailed poor conditions for the residents of Arlington Developmental Center. People First of Tennessee later filed a separate lawsuit.

"This case could not have been resolved without the dedicated efforts and hard work of DIDD, TennCare, and the lawyers representing them. I appreciate the cooperation shown by all of the parties in bringing this long-running lawsuit to a close," Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said.

Since the suit was originally filed, quality assurance and protection from harm programs have been developed in Tennessee that have been recognized nationally as models for other states.

In January, the parties agreed to an exit plan aimed at resolving the litigation. Under the agreement, the state enrolled a small number of additional people in the Arlington class to receive home- and community-based services, provided additional efforts to assist class members in nursing homes to transition to the community, and unveiled plans to demolish the former residential cottages on the Arlington campus.

The state completed the exit plan two months ahead of schedule.

National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Down Syndrome Resources at the University of Kentucky's Human Development Institute

Free resources are available about Down syndrome that are medically-reviewed, accurate, up-to-date and balance.

Early Signs of Autism Video Tutorial

The Kennedy Krieger Institute and Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have published a free online video to improve the recognition of the early signs of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among pediatricians, parents and early intervention providers. Bringing the Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders Into Focus (2013, runtime 9:03 minutes) consists of six video clips that compare toddlers with no signs of ASD to toddlers with early signs of ASD and includes an explanation of how the specific behaviors exhibited by each child are either suggestive of ASD or typical child development.
Early Recognition of ASD PDF icon

STEP Award Winner

The Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award

Debbie Vitale is the founding and current President of the Shelby County Regional Special Education PTA (also known as SEPTA), the first special education PTA of its kind in Tennessee which chartered in April, 2012. Prior to the creation of SEPTA, Debbie served as a LEND trainee at the UT Boling Center for Neurodevelopmental Disabilities a program which focuses on honing the skills of students/providers-to-be from various disciplines with respect to their advocacy work in the community serving children with different neurodevelopmental disabilities. This year at the 2013 Tennessee Disability Mega Conference and Arc Tennessee Awards banquet, Debbie received the Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award. This memorial award is given to a parent, an advocate, a teacher or a service provider who has exemplified using information to assist their own child or someone else's child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education. This person has demonstrated teamwork and collaboration and the zeal to share the information they have learned with others. Debbie's drive for working with Special needs families comes from both her social work background and the desire to make sure that everyone feels included and like a valued member of the community as well as her own experiences as a parent of a child with special needs.

Haslam Announces Commissioners AT DIDD, DCS

Payne to lead DIDD, Henry to stay on at DCS

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Debra Payne as the new commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) as Jim Henry becomes the permanent commissioner at the Department of Children's Services (DCS).

Payne currently serves as deputy commissioner of DIDD and Henry as the interim commissioner of DCS.

"These two departments handle some of the state's most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens," Haslam said. "I want to thank Debbie for taking on this new role in such a young department. Her experience and hard work will continue to serve the state of Tennessee very well."

As deputy commissioner of program operations at DIDD, Payne has overseen two development centers, a statewide community-based service delivery system supported by more than 2,000 employees, 475 community providers and three regional offices.

"I want to thank Gov. Haslam for the opportunity to continue to serve Tennesseans with disabilities," Payne said. "I look forward to working with this department and all of our providers in continuing to offer quality care."

Payne has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Middle Tennessee State University. She has served in numerous capacities throughout her career and is credited with assembling a nationally recognized Protection from Harm system as the statewide director of Protection from Harm for DIDD.

UTHSC Relative Caregiver Program "Empowering Young Males for Success"

The University of Tennessee Relative Caregiver Program, Empowering Young Males for Success, is a Preventive Model mentoring program. Our goal is to work with boys, ages 10 to 15 that are being raised by our Relative Caregivers. About 90% of the boys that are part of the Relative Caregiver Program have no positive male role models and most of the families, if not all, are on a fixed income and cannot afford to have their kids participate in any programs such as cub scouts or boy scouts.

Most of the children that are being raised by their caregiver are doing well in school and at home; they are exhibiting no significant behavioral problems. The goal of the University of Tennessee Relative Caregiver Program, Empowering Young Males for Success, is to provide encouraging tools and activities for the young males to stay on the path to success.

Our next two sessions will take place on Saturday, May 11th and Saturday, June 1st at the UTHSC SAC (Student Activity Center) from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If you have any questions feel free to contact: Rodney A. Johnson at 901-448-3809.

HUD & HHS Partner to Provide Housing & Services to Low-Income People with Disabilities

The U.S. departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have contributed nearly $98 million in funding to 13 state housing agencies so they can provide rental assistance for low-income people with disabilities. The funding will help prevent homelessness and placement of people in institutions. The funding comes from the Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Demonstration Program, which makes it possible for low-income people with disabilities to live in integrated settings instead of nursing homes.

Visit for more housing assistance resources, including information about where to find help with modifications to make your home accessible.

Visit Disability.Blog to read and comment on articles and stories about housing issues and other topics of interest to the disability community.

BCDD awarded $1.6 million grant

The Boling Center, Center of Excellence for Children in State Custody (UT OCE) has recently been awarded a four-year, $1.6 million grant to increase trauma-informed services to children in foster care or in military families. The grant was awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI). Beginning October 2012, the grant establishes the UT COE as a Community Treatment and Services Center in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and funds the proposed Tennessee Network for Trauma-Informed and Evidence-Based Systems (TN-TIES) project. Evidence-based, trauma-informed interventions either developed or supported by the NCTSN will be disseminated into the multiple systems commonly responsible for the care of youth in state custody, including foster parents, child welfare staff, and mental health providers. The UT COE will initially partner with Camelot Care Centers, Inc., and Child and Adolescent Services and School Behavioral Health, Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell.

Restraint and Seclusion

The Disability Coalition on Education (DCE) has created a information sheet on Restraint and SeclusionLink to Acrobat file


Interdisciplinary Community Education Workshop

Boling Center - Room 613 (or online). Cost is FREE but space limited.

Additional Events

  • Autism Community Workshop (families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders ages 2 - 5) February 22, March 22, and April 26. 8:30 - 12:00 at University Center/3rd Floor, The Univeristy of Memphis, Zach Curlin & Walker Avenue.
  • Disability Day on the Hill Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
  • The Bilingual Database external link is accepting applications for agencies. New agencies just added!
  • Upcoming STEP Workshops external link for West, Middle, and East TN

New Disability Website

The U.S. Department of Labor has launched, a redesigned federal Web site that connects the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities to thousands of disability-related resources.The site is also for parents of children with disabilities, employers, workforce and human resource professionals, veterans, educators, caregivers, and many others.

Contact BCDD

711 Jefferson Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38105
Phone: 901-448-6511
Fax: 901-448-7097