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Parent Mentor ParentLink Program

Once you are comfortable in your role as a caregiver, additional training can certify you to help mentor other families through ParentLink.  LifeLine presents a complete series of workshops that will equip you to advocate for your child or support other families in their advocacy.   These training opportunities will help you better understand special education proceedings and other service delivery systems.  We discuss multiple topics, beginning with basic special education processes, and moving on to communication strategies, IEP goal development, 504 plans, the role of parent mentors.  We offer training on transitions at early intervention, middle, and high school as well as transitions to adult life.

Three moms with arms around each other - Lisa Wendy DonnaParentLink Parent Mentor Certification

LifeLine offers a ParentLink Parent Mentor Certification  which consists of about 40 hours of training provided by STEP and LifeLine. This certification can be completed almost like college credits.  You can begin anytime by attending our Basic Special Education Rights Workshop and then attend other workshops as you are able until you have collected certificates from each workshop on the list.  Once you have completed the training, you will attend IEPs and one-on-one meetings with parents alongside a trained mentor until you are prepared to mentor another family through the process. Join our growing number of mentors who are learning to advocate for their own child while preparing to help other families.  There is a $100 charge for materials for this certification when you begin the process.  Mentors have up to two years from start date to complete this certification.

Download the  ParentLink – Parent Mentor Application 2017


Volunteer Advocacy Project

The purpose of this project is to train volunteer advocates to provide instrumental and affective support to parents of children with disabilities. In this training, participants will learn more about special education law and advocacy strategies. At the end of the training, each participant will shadow an advocate at a special education meeting. Following graduation from the program, you will be linked with a family of a child with a disability. Each volunteer advocate is expected to work with, at least, four families, at the discretion of The Arc or STEP or LifeLine.

Once a year, this is a comprehensive 6-week training.  Each training session will last 6 hours each Saturday (beginning at 9AMMichal, Barry & DR (CST) and ending at 3PM (CST); beginning at 10AM and ending at 4PM, EST).  Once a year, there is a 13 week training.  That training lasts 3 hours one weeknight (beginning at 6PM (CST) and ending at 9PM (CST).

The training will include a binder of materials including passages from: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, State law, No Child Left Behind, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Additionally, the participants will be given copies of each training session’s power points along with relevant materials. For each training session, the participant will be expected to read pertinent materials. This will encourage full participation at the training sessions. The training will be held on the Vanderbilt campus in The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. The training will also be video-conferenced to other sites across the state, including LifeLine, Inc. in Chattanooga, TN. This could also be conferenced to Northwest Georgia if there is enough interest.

There is a $30 charge to cover the cost of materials for the training. Make checks payable to LifeLine, Inc. or pay via Paypal: 

We look forward to receiving your application to the Advocacy Project. You may e-mail your application to lisa.mattheiss@lifelinefamilies.org. If we receive applications which outnumber the available spots, we will encourage those not participating in this training session to attend a future training session.

Click Here to Register for Volunteer Advocacy Project online directly to Vanderbilt or complete this application ParentLink – Parent Mentor Application 2017.  Be sure to mark that you are registering for Volunteer Advocacy Project.


Why parent mentors?Payne Family
Because one family’s story can make a lasting difference to another family…

(Names have been changed).

The funnel of students from private special education schools who often contract with southeast Tennessee schools to provide early intervention and preschool services contributes to the more restrictive placement factor for preschool/kindergarten students with specific diagnoses.  Recommendations for students leaving these schools almost always include direct admission to CDC (comprehensive developmental classrooms), many times without even basic access to same age peers during non-academic class sessions.  Parents must strongly advocate for different placement and multiple complaints have been filed as a result of this predetermination of placement.    Several of our parent mentors frequently share their stories in meetings to help families understand the options available and multiple ways to decrease restrictions for the child’s environment. 

Two of LifeLine’s families, both with same age children with Down Syndrome, aged out of the same special education preschool in the same year.  Scott went into a CDC class with little expectations, no academic goals, and developed major behaviors and a significant aversion to school.  Andrew went into general education with support (the need for which has diminished over the years).  Andrew’s IEP held academic goals, high expectations, and he loved school.  After watching no progress with Scott for two years, his parents knew they had to do something when his behavior frustrated his teacher to the extent she attempted to tie him in a chair and withheld food.  LifeLine reconnected the two families and Andrew’s mom worked with LifeLine staff to go to the school with Scott’s parents to advocate for a placement change to Scott’s home zoned school with supports.  After two weeks in the general education setting, Scott’s behaviors disappeared, goals that had been on his IEP for two years were mastered, and he loved coming to school. The change was incredible!
Both boys now read fluently, use IPADS for access to some of their academics and participate fully in every aspect of their school community life. These two moms share their story frequently, empowering other families to advocate for inclusion early in their child’s education.  They share strategies that made inclusion successful and the significance of the choices they both made when developing their children’s education plan.  Families are able to benefit most when they get to meet other families and hear stories of their journeys. It provides hope for the future, but also the practical skills necessary for advocacy.

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