How a Service Dog for My Son With Autism Impacted My Career

 service-dog-750x750By Skyler Phillips

Some people dream of doing great things in their life, that was never me, but I believe sometimes God has plans for our lives we never see coming. As a veteran firefighter, I thought I was doing enough to serve my community, until one day all that changed. In 2010 my wife found out that she was pregnant. While it was not planned, it was probably the single happiest moment of my life up to that point. Then I found out she was going to have a boy — wow, I was really in heaven now. I remember lying in bed thinking about all of the things we were going to do together: little league baseball, riding bicycles in the park, all of the things Dads and little boys do. Until, when my son was 3 years old, we learned about a 6 letter word that forever changed the direction of our lives: autism.

LifeLine Loses Friend & Board Member Randy Payne

The last line of LifeLine’s charter summarizes the Randy & Rachelpurpose of all of the preceding lines: “To share the love of Jesus Christ and the Biblical concept of the value of all human life with everyone who makes contact with this organization in word and deed.” I don’t know many people whose life epitomized that last line more than Randy Payne.

Because of a wheelchair and Craigslist several years ago, he and Rachel Payne became volunteers, and then friends and then LifeLine board members. The last time I saw him, just a few days ago, he was

UI Reach Program

“ThUI Reache University of Iowa REACH Program is a two-year, transition certificate program for students with multiple intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities. UI REACH provides a campus experience to empower young adults to become independent, engaged members of the community. Courses, campus life, and career preparation assist students in reaching their full potential. UI REACH strives to maintain periodic contact with alumni to encourage them to become independent adults by utilizing the independent living and career-related skills they learned in the program.

Key Features of UI REACH (more…)


LifeLine Launches First Responder Training

LifeLine™ Launches SNAP First Responder Training
SNAP  – Special Needs Awareness Program

Chattanooga, Tennessee: LifeLine™ launched its new Special Needs Awareness Program (“SNAP”) on Monday, January 9, 2017, with the first of a planned multi week training for the Chattanooga Fire Department.  For several years training and information on specific diagnoses or disability groups has been available to first responders, but this is the first time first responders will be trained with general disability information covering a multitude of different diagnoses, scenarios, and circumstances.

For co-authors Lisa Mattheiss and Skyler Phillips, this is a personal mission.  (more…)


Welcome Intern Kate Moreau!

Kate Moreau croppedMy name is Kate Moreau and I am a junior at Covenant College, where I am studying elementary education. I am originally from Wheaton, Illinois but have lived in the Chattanooga area since I started at Covenant a few years ago.
I came to Covenant with the intention of becoming a public elementary school teacher, but that all changed last summer. On a bit of a whim (I knew a little bit about special education from a class at Covenant, but that was really it), I applied for an internship at Jill’s House, a Christian respite center for kids with exceptionalities near Washington, DC. After spending just about two months with the kids and getting to dip my toes in the world of special needs, I realized (more…)

Facilitating Emotional Regulation Supplemental Resources

On Thursday evening, January 27, 2017, LifeLine families came together at our northwest Georgia FamilyShare support group and discussed ways to facilitate our children’s emotional regulation at home and at school. Lisa Mattheiss shared ideas and resources that she and Michal Jones had collected in their years of working with families in Chattanooga and northwest Georgia.  You can find the notes for that presentation here.  After a break, the group reconvened.  Families began to share various challenges and solutions, outlining resources, strategies, and websites that had worked for them in various emotionally challenging situations.  They also offered their own observations based on personal circumstances.

Here is a list of many of the ideas and suggestions that were provided by our families:   (more…)


Lessons from A Different Path

Crystal Horner, Chattanooga, TN

On January 2nd, 2008 I woke up in a hospital room with a small view of the rising sun. I had been up earlier that night giving birth to my first child. Hudson James Horner was born a bit abruptly as I had gotten an upper respiratory infection and had been sick for several days. That morning I felt time slow down enough for me to enjoy the momentous reality that every new mother wants to remember.

I knew I had been sick and I knew it was hard to breathe; I also knew my newborn was whisked away to the NICU because he was born premature. I only got to give him a small kiss before he left. (more…)


Alternative Options Resource List

Many of us are in the same boat.  We are raising children with special needs.  The problem is, they didn’t come with a manual and there are things that happen with them that we can’t explain, medicine can’t explain, and mainstream medicine can’t always cure.  Our purpose at our last FamilyShare support group meeting of 2016 was to share some potential solutions and possible alternative product options. (more…)


What Families with Special Needs Wish Their Pastors Knew

Last week Sandra Peoples published an article on Key Ministry’s blog entitled “What Special Needs Families Wish Their Pastors Knew”.   In that article, she shared five main points:

  1. We are lonely.
  2. We wish we could do more.
  3. We know you can’t control every church member’s reaction to our family, but you do set the example.
  4. How you talk about disabilities from the pulpit has an impact on us.
  5. The challenges we face as our children grow up change and evolve.

After sharing that article on LifeLine’s Facebook Group, Trish Cox wrote her own addendum to this article. (more…)


Meaningful Ministry for Those with Disabilities

Stephanie Hubach, author of Same Lake Different Boat, is also mom to Tim.  Stephanie took the month of October to share some thoughts about Down Syndrome and various ways that it has impacted Tim as well as ways Tim has effected people’s view of  the abilities of someone with Down Syndrome.

Post #8:  Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Meaningful Ministry

It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking about “ministry to” instead of “ministry alongside” when we look at people with noticeable disabilities, like those in our lives who have Down syndrome. This “heads south” in so many ways–for all of us. We miss out on being ministered to in profound ways that capture our attention like nothing else. We miss out on the blessing of participating in God’s rich tapestry of unique gifts in the body of Christ. And, worst of all, (more…)


10 Ways to Show the Love of God to Families Touched by Disability

John 9:2-4 “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”
These verses are the basis for this note. My husband and I are in a weekly Bible study (Same Lake Different Boat by Stephanie Hubach). That study focuses on disability, how it is viewed by the world, and how it is viewed by God. We have learned that disability is a normal part of an abnormal world. How should we view those touched by disability? How should we view all people? The answer to that is (more…)

Family Support Funding Caps

For the last three years or so I have been hearing about families’ increasing difficulty accessing Family Support services. We have finally received a list of Family Support Priorities and their spending/funding caps on various categories. If you are eligible for Family Support services in 2016-2017 fiscal year, please review this document and determine exactly what/how much you need and prioritize your requests because funding amounts have decreased.  Family Support Priorities and Caps 2016-2017

If you have concerns about Family Support that are unresolved at the local level, the DIDD Regional Office Family Support Staff for the East Region is Pattie Hall 865-588-0508 x169 . Her email is


Addressing Behavior in the IEP

This month the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services published a Dear Colleague Letter intended to help clarify the use of Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports in the IEP.  A copy of the guidance can be found here: Dear Colleague Letter-on-PBIS-in-IEPs–08-01-2016  Of course, as a governmental document, it was a little complicated, so they have also included a Stakeholder Summary (Dear Colleague Letter-on PBIS-in IEPs-Summary-for-Stakeholders–8-1-16) to make it easier to understand.

This guidance emphasizes (more…)


Key Elements of Inclusion

“What is Inclusion?The term inclusion implies a certain educational placement philosophy, interdisciplinary team planning approach, instructional method and attitude.”

“Inclusion DOES NOT necessarily mean that a student never leaves the class and is never paired with another student who receives special education services. Rather, it means that the student is truly a member of a class and is valued as much as any other student in that school. Inclusion means that a student will receive the support needed in order to be an active participant, contributor, and learner in his or her class, grade and school.”

“Based on successful inclusive education experiences in Maryland, it is clear that a key element for success is planning and the most significant factor in building an inclusive educational setting is the vision and leadership of the building administrator.”

What else does it take promote educational inclusion?  In an inclusive school, what do students, parents, and staff members believe?  Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education and Early Intervention Services, and Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education prepared a list of 13 elements of inclusion.  Here are the first six: (more…)


Questions & Answers on Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Requirements of IDEA

When discussion of placement arises in an IEP meeting, often how much “inclusion” will be accessible for a student becomes a topic of conversation.  Where is “inclusion” in IDEA?  Is that term actually there?  Or is it a concept?  Least Restrictive Environment is the term IDEA uses to define placements.  The United States Department of Education, office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), published a guidance memo November 23, 1994 that answered these 10 common questions about Least Restrictive Environment.  (Keep in mind that this memo was issued before the two reauthorizations which may have changed the actual code references which were attached to the original IDEA).  Find the answers to all of these questions below.

  1. What are the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Requirements of Part B of IDEA?
  2. Does IDEA define the term “inclusion?”
  3. How can IDEA requirements be implemented to ensure that consideration is given to whether a student with a disability can be educated in the regular education environment with the use of supplementary aids and services before a more restrictive placement is considered?
  4. Does IDEA define the term “supplementary aids and services?”
  5. How frequently must a disabled student’s placement be reviewed under IDEA?
  6. If a determination is made that a student with a disability cannot be educated in regular classes with the provisions of supplementary aids and services, can school districts refuse to implement the student’s IEP in a specific class because of the unwillingness of a particular teacher to educate that student (more…)

Is Inclusion Possible for Students with Disabilities in Hamilton County?

Chattanooga Inclusive Ed recently provided a requested white paper to Chattanooga 2.0 outlining current deficiencies in inclusive best practices in the Hamilton County Department of Education, a summary of evidence on the benefits of inclusion for children with and without exceptional needs, and concrete recommendations for reform. Here’s an excerpt from the white paper on how reforms for inclusive education have been successfully implemented in Metro Nashville public schools — a district larger, more urban and on average poorer than our own. If Metro Nashville can do it, surely we can too!

Several years ago, leaders in Metro Nashville Public Schools realized they had a serious problem with inclusion. In fact, Metro Nashville ranked last among Local Education Agencies (LEAs) according to the state’s Indicator 5 measures of inclusion. Over the past several years, Metro Nashville has (more…)