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Siskin children's institute grows aba program


Chattanooga, Tenn., May 10, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – In an effort to enhance access to care for local children with special needs and their families, Siskin Children’s Institute has developed a new Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy program. The new team includes many Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) and three Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Kayla Lentz,  M.Ed., LBA, BCBA
Kayla is a licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has experience working with individuals of all ages and with a wide range of abilities but has a passion for working with children with an autism diagnosis. She received her bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis from the University of North Texas and her master’s degree from Arizona State University. Kayla especially enjoys teaching functional living skills and communication.

Jessica Palmier, BCBA
Jessica is a licensed Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University. Jessica has experience working with preschool and school aged children in home and school settings. In addition to these services she has worked in many other settings including adult services, the foster care system, and a private clinic. Jessica contributes the knowledge and expertise to teach families how to respond to challenging behaviors and teach appropriate behaviors by utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis

Jane White, BCBA, LBA
Jane is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and TN Licensed Behavior Analyst with over a decade of experience in the field of ABA. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from University of North Carolina Asheville and an M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis from University of South Florida. Jane has experience working with preschool and school-age children in home, clinic, and school settings. As a graduate student, Jane conducted research in the area of verbal behavior with children with autism. She has special interests in the areas of verbal behavior and early intensive behavioral intervention.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based form of therapy that focuses on increasing positive and helpful behaviors while also decreasing unwanted behaviors. It can help increase language and communication skills, improve focus, memory, and academic performance, and enhance social skills with peers and adults. ABA is oftentimes a primary tool when working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities.

ABA therapy is customized to meet the needs and goals of each child. Therapists will work with each family to help develop these goals and strategies based on the child's interests and skills in order to increase positive and helpful behaviors.

The ABA therapy program at Siskin is ideal for children 18 months old to 12 years of age. BCBAs, along with RBTs, will work with each child and their family to develop an ABA program to meet the needs of that individual child.

Learn more about ABA.


Southeastern Salvage HOme Emporium Supports Siskin Families


Chattanooga, Tenn., April 24, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Spring has sprung at Siskin Children’s Institute thanks to the generosity of Southeastern Salvage and Carla and Bubba Morgan, longtime supporters of the Institute and its’ work serving children with special needs in our community. The Morgans kindly give their time, talent, and treasure to support the Institute and have recently helped refresh many of the classrooms, a multipurpose room, and outdoor spaces in recent months. Classrooms in the Siskin Early Learning Center enjoyed new furnishings including rugs, while a space often used for therapy and other enrichment programs received new flooring. “We are incredibly grateful to Southeastern Salvage and the Morgan family for their generosity,” says Derek Bullard, President and CEO of Siskin Children’s Institute. “Thanks to their kindness, families have a welcoming atmosphere when walking in to the building, children have rugs and other furnishings in the classroom, and our multipurpose space now has flooring that allows for more activities and that will last for years to come.” In addition, Southeastern Salvage and the Morgan family also helped spruce up the front of the building by updating the landscaping and clearing some overgrown vines.  

The Morgan family and their support continues as they’ve served as co-chairs for several fundraising events supporting the Institute including StarNight and StyleWorks, signature fundraising events each year. Carla has also served for many years on the Institute board of directors and recently chaired the development and marketing committee. Additionally, their daughter, McCall Morgan, co-founded of Serving it Up for Siskin, a tennis tournament organized by the Baylor School Tennis Team that benefits children with special needs served by the Institute. 

The Morgan family have even helped provide a Santa experience for many of the children Siskin serves by providing stockings and small gifts for children in December each year.

“Thank you to the Morgan family and Southeastern Salvage for ensuring that families caring for children with special needs feel welcome and at ease when at the Institute, “ says Linda McReynolds, Director of Development and Communications. “We are so grateful for their involvement and support for the last 30 years."


Silverdale baptist academy hosts 5th annual egg hunt 


Chattanooga, Tenn., April 16, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – On April 12 the Silverdale Baptist Academy Interact Club held the 5th annual Egg Hunt at Siskin Children’s Institute for the children and families of the Siskin Early Learning Center. This partnership began five years ago when the Interact Club at Silverdale Baptist Academy wanted to begin a legacy event, a project that would impact the community and would be an annual event to help others locally.

The Interact Club is a student led organization and follows a special motto, Service above Self. “This is my third year going, I love the egg hunt because it’s an outlet to serve and give God glory, and it brings me joy to see us impact the lives of kid’s and show the love of Christ,” says Timothy Moyers. The club is associated with the Rotary Club and after meeting with the mayor’s council on disabilities a suggestion was made to present their egg hunt idea to Siskin Children’s Institute. Since then, the club has visited the Institute every spring with hundreds of eggs, activities like face painting, and this year they invited the Chattanooga Fire Department as well.

“The Easter Egg Hunt at Siskin has become one of our signature projects,” says Nikki Bautista, Foreign Language Department Head at Silverdale Baptist Academy and Interact Club sponsor. The club also helps with other events supporting children, raises money for families that need water filters in Cubulco, Guatemala, sock drives for the homeless, and more.

“This is by far one of our favorite service projects!” said Beth Allison, Silverdale Baptist Academy High School IMPACT Teacher. Beth teaches a self-contained class for students with disabilities at the Academy and every year she brings her students to participate in the Interact Club Egg Hunt. One of her students is an alumni of the Siskin Early Learning Center. Beth says “It’s been so special, to her parents, to see that she’s able to give back and serve at a school that was so special to them.”

Julie Mickel, Director of the Siskin Early Learning Center, says “We are so impressed with these students from Silverdale Baptist and their passion for helping children in the community. Our children, families, and staff look forward to this event every year.” 


Suntrust foundation gives $10,000 to help establish helen siskin pregulman family voices of tennessee southeast partnership


Chattanooga, Tenn., April 8, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Thanks to the SunTrust Foundation, families will have additional access to resources through the newly established Helen Siskin Pregulman Family Voices of Tennessee Southeast Partnership. The Partnership, in collaboration with Family Voices of Tennessee and the Tennessee Disability Coalition, provides emotional and educational support to the families of children with special health care needs, chronic illnesses, or disabilities.

“We’re thrilled to receive funding from the SunTrust Foundation that will help us provide parent workshops on a number of different topics related to their child’s well-being, parenting a child with special needs, and building community,” says Lisa Spurlock, Family Voices of Tennessee Southeast Coordinator at Siskin Children’s Institute.

The SunTrust Foundation generously awarded the Institute a grant of $10,000 to assist in providing local families resources and information they want and need as they continue on their journey caring for their child. “It is so important that parents have access to information, support, and resources that help them help their child. We are grateful that the SunTrust Foundation is providing that support,” said Derek Bullard, president and CEO of Siskin Children’s Institute.

“We’re committed to ensuring the well-being of children with special needs and their families,” said Jim Vaughn, SunTrust Bank East Tennessee market president. “That’s why the SunTrust Foundation continues to support Siskin Children’s Institute for their dedication and innovative ways to instill confidence among children with all abilities.” 


Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics Implements New Technology to Help More Families


Chattanooga, Tenn., March 14, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – New technology at Siskin Children’s Institute will enhance how children with special needs are served in our community. The new real time teleconferencing system, being rolled out this month in the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics, will improve how children and families access care and will utilize distant site partners and providers. Developmental Pediatrics is recognized as one of the fields with the greatest shortages of pediatric subspecialists, and as such, recruiting Developmental Pediatricians can be especially difficult. However, the need for these specialists continues to grow as more and more families are referred to the Institute for developmental assessments and testing. “This new technology will be a huge asset for the Institute as we continue to grow,” says Stephanie Cooper-Wilkes, Director of Healthcare Administration at Siskin. “We’re excited to roll this out and begin seeing families for follow up visits and other non-diagnostic needs using teleconferencing format.” Families will continue to see an on-site provider for all initial visits and diagnostic-related appointments.

A Spring City family knows that first-hand as they were the first to take advantage of this technology in early March as they came in for a follow up appointment with Siskin’s Dr. Van Decar. During the visit, Dr. Van Decar was able to interact with the child and his family just as he had done in their previous visit, he was able to simultaneously review patient records and notes taken from the last visit, share growth charts, and other relevant information with the family in real time via the conferencing system. 

“This new technology puts Siskin Children’s Institute in an excellent position to serve more children and recruit additional physicians from our region who may not be able to be in the office every day, but can use the telemedicine/telecommunications software to treat families from an off-site location,” says Derek Bullard, President and CEO of the Institute. “We are excited to be able to help more families and hope to increase access to care for families in our rural areas in the coming months.”

Learn more about the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics.


sushi nabe raises $1000 for children with special needs


Chattanooga, Tenn., March 8, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Sushi Nabe, a locally-owned and operated authentic Japanese restaurant, generously donated $1,000 raised from their annual sushi making workshop to support the children with special needs served by Siskin Children’s Institute. The class, held on Super Bowl Sunday each year, teaches attendees the art of making sushi and while supporting a local cause. 

“We can’t thank our friends at Sushi Nabe enough for their continued support of the children with special needs we serve” says Derek Bullard, President and CEO of Siskin Children’s Institute. “With their help, we can continue to serve more children and families in our community.”

To learn more about Sushi Nabe, visit


siskin children's institute celebrates 43rd annual styleworks event
Edna Varner and Alisa Russell to co-chair


Chattanooga, Tenn., February 26, 2019


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Siskin Children’s Institute is pleased to announce Edna Varner and Alisa Russell as the co-chairs for the 2019 StyleWorks luncheon and fashion show. A spring tradition in Chattanooga, StyleWorks – Fashion with Compassion supports Siskin Children’s Institute’s programs that serve more than 2,200 children with special needs and their families annually. StyleWorks will take place on Thursday, April 18, beginning at 11:30am at the Chattanooga Convention Center with the Dillard’s Pop-up Shop opening at 10:30am.

Local models as well as current and former children of the Institute will showcase Dillard’s trendiest clothing and accessories in the StyleWorks runway fashion show, produced by Kim Coulter Style Makers. Guests will be treated to a show full of smiling faces that highlight the work of Siskin Children’s Institute.

“Styleworks is a fun event that truly embodies what I feel Siskin is about…empowering children with special needs”, says event co-chair Alisa Russell. “What an honor it is to watch those children walk the runway every year with the crowd cheering and their uniqueness being praised. It is with great joy that I have been involved with Siskin for several years, with my own family benefitting from the services provided. What a privilege it is to have a place like Siskin in Chattanooga.”

Guests can expect to meet children from SCI programs, hear their stories and their incredible accomplishments, all while enjoying an exciting runway fashion show like no other.  

StyleWorks attendees will also have the opportunity to shop at the Dillard’s pop-up shop just before the luncheon and following the fashion show. In addition to providing StyleWorks guests with great deals, Dillard’s will be donating a portion of each purchase that day to support children with special needs served by the Institute.  Plus, all guests will be entered to win one of several door prizes from Dillard’s and one lucky guest will win a $1500 gift card from our long-time StyleWorks partner, Rone Regency Jewelers. 

Join us at our 43rd annual StyleWorks, Fashion with Compassion event. You can help Siskin Children’s Institute make a difference in the lives of children with special needs and their families in the Chattanooga region just by attending this event and showing your support at the fashion show. 

Thank you to our StyleWorks sponsors: Dillard’s, CBL & Associates, Charles and Betty Lebovitz, Jo Ann Yates, SecurAmerica, Southeastern Salvage, First Tennessee Foundation, Claire Binder, Pris and Robert Siskin, Becky and Daniel Siskin, Jonathan and Wendy Siskin, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Sunny 92.3, WRCB Channel 3, and Fairway Outdoor Advertising. 

For more information about StyleWorks 2019 or to purchase your ticket, visit


Family voices of tennessee launches southeast tn hub at siskin children's institute


Chattanooga, Tenn., February 4, 2019


Siskin Children’s Institute is excited to partner with Family Voices of Tennessee and the Tennessee Disability Coalition to establish the Helen Siskin Pregulman Family Voices of Tennessee, Southeast Tennessee Partnership. This collaboration creates a local hub for families in the Chattanooga region in search of resources, support, and guidance as they care for children with special healthcare needs, chronic illnesses and disabilities. The new partnerships provides local access to emotional and educational support, connections to other families, parent mentors, tools for navigating healthcare systems and insurance, and more.   

“Partnering with Siskin Children’s Institute to expand our reach is a wonderful opportunity to provide more access to the information, tools, and resources available,” says Kara Adams, Director of Family Voices of Tennessee. “We are thrilled to be able to reach more families in Tennessee.”

The local office will be led by long-time advocate for families with special needs, Lisa Spurlock. Lisa has worked with countless families in the region during her career as a physical therapy assistant, both in a home and childcare settings, including the Siskin Early Learning Center. Her drive to help others is evident in the passion she has for working with children with special needs, helping them to meet goals and milestones and supporting their families. Lisa will now also serve as the local Family Voices of TN Southeast Partnership Coordinator for the Chattanooga region. 

Siskin Children’s Institute will be holding two upcoming information sessions for families and service providers to learn more about the Family Voices of Tennessee program, recruit parents to serve as mentors, and hear about plans for 2019.

Information sessions will be held on February 28 for both parents and organizations serving those with special needs. These are free, but registration is requested. Those interested in participating can visit to learn more.


First watch hixon raises $8,000 for siskin children's institute in grand opening event


Chattanooga, Tenn., December 05, 2018


Siskin Children’s Institute (SCI) is excited to share the success of our community partner, First Watch The Daytime Café (Hixson), and its grand opening charity event held December 8 and 9. The New First Watch in Hixson hosted friends and family of the Institute during its soft opening event this past weekend. Guests were treated to a delicious meal courtesy of First Watch, and in lieu of paying for their meal, guests were able to make donations in support of children with special needs served at SCI.

“We are honored to be able to partner with such an impactful and reputable organization,” said James Baker, General Manager of First Watch Hixson.  “It would not have been as successful without our team and the Siskin team working in unison to put this event together for the children of our community.”

The event was a tremendous success, totaling $8,000 in the two days, half of the total came by donations made from guests and the other as a match contribution from Knoxville Based Capstone Concepts, LLC, which is the Franchisee of First Watch in Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Johnson City.

“We are so thankful for this wonderful partnership with First Watch Hixson and for their generosity,” says President and CEO, Derek Bullard.  “It’s because of great community partnerships like this, that SCI is able to provide high-quality programs and services for children with special needs and their families.”

To learn more about First Watch, visit


Baylor School Tennis Teams Raise More than $16,000 for Children with Special Needs


Chattanooga, Tenn., December 05, 2018


For six years now the Baylor School Boys and Girls Tennis Teamshave planned and hosted Serving It Up for Siskin, a mixed doubles tennis tournament benefiting Siskin Children’s Institute. This year’s event, held on November 10, was organized by Izzy Boyd, Anna Hawkins, Miles Kadrie, Landie McBrayer, and Hunter Smith. The event was extremely successful raising a record breaking $16,100 for children with special needs. “It’s incredible the dedication these students have and their abilities to plan and organize such a successful event while also fulfilling their school requirements” says Derek Bullard, President and CEO of Siskin Children’s Institute.“We are grateful for their commitment to the children and families we serve.”  

Serving it Up for Siskin began as a senior project in 2013 by Baylor alumnae McCall Morgan and Harper Caswell. The original event succeeded tremendously and created a partnership with the Baylor tennis program.  “Having a tennis tournament allows us to do and share something we are all passionate about while raising money and awareness for the Siskin Children’s Institute. I hope that we will help make a difference in the life of children with special needs and their families,” says Landie McBrayer.

Now an annual event, Serving It Up for Siskin has raised approximately $68,990 since its inception.


james van decar, md, faap joins siskin children's institute


Chattanooga, Tenn., December 04, 2018


Siskin Children’s Institute is excited to announce that Dr. James Van Decar will join the team in the Siskin Center for Developmental Pediatrics beginning January 2019. 

Dr. Van Decar is a neurodevelopmental pediatrician with more than 30 years of experience serving children with special needs and is an expert in the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of developmental disabilities in children. He retired from the Air Force in 2015 after a 28-year career spanning medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, residency in pediatrics and fellowship in developmental disabilities in San Antonio, Texas, and then multiple assignments including Lakenheath Air Force Base in England, Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.  In addition to the exceptional care he provided to thousands of military dependent children with special needs, he also established one of the Department of Defense (DoD)’s first early intervention programs for children when their families were stationed overseas. He advocated for them through efforts to reform the DoD’s Exceptional Family Member Program, and worked to improve Tricare’s Autism Demonstration Program.   

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Van Decar to Siskin Children’s Institute, “ says Institute President and CEO, Derek Bullard. “His vast experiences working in the field of developmental disabilities and his passion for serving children with special needs and their families make him a great fit for SCI. He will be a great addition to our team.”

Dr. Van Decar is a member of the planning committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics Developmental Pediatrics board review course, and also consults with the Florida State University Autism Center.  In addition, he was recently appointed by the Governor of Tennessee to the State Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention Services.



Community Support Needed to help children with special needs: 

Siskin children's institute launches 1 in 6 campaign


Chattanooga, Tenn., October 29, 2018

Siskin Children’s Institute is excited to announce the launch of their annual donation drive with a goal of having one in six Chattanooga area residents donate $20 to support children with special needs, impacting the future for thousands of children in our community. 

One in six children is diagnosed with a developmental delay or disability in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control. Thanks to our founders, Mose and Garrison Siskin, families in the Chattanooga region have access to the highest quality programs and services to ensure children with special needs meet their full potential. “As parents of a child with special needs, one of the things we desire most is a sense of normal life. Siskin helps us to feel like Michael can go to school with typically developing children and interact with all the children in everything they do. He learns and grows just like the other child, but with some extra help from some special folks. And most of all, he’s having fun and loving school. We can’t thank them enough,” says Patty Casey, Michael’s mom. 

You can help children with special needs in our community by becoming the 1 in 6 Chattanooga area residents who give $20 or more to ensure children have the resources and services they need. If one in six Chattanooga area residents gave just $20, incredible things could happen for children with special needs. With your help, we can impact more kids than ever before. 

“From the first moment we walked in the door at Siskin, we could tell everyone, from the receptionist to the therapist and up to the CEO, want the best for Joel. 
Joel sometimes needs creative solutions to keep making progress. His therapist is always willing to go the extra mile to find what will work best and help Joel reach his full potential” says Wendy Westbrook, Joel’s mom. “Our family is thankful to have Siskin Children’s Institute.  When Joel meets a goal, it is not time to quit, it is just time to set a new goal. Every visit to Siskin brings Joel closer to being fully independent.  Extraordinary, life changing, incredible, and indispensable are all ways that we describe Siskin.  We are so glad to have these resources available locally.“
Your contributions could:

Provide integrated creative arts enrichment programs to help children with special needs express themselves, enhance social skills, and better communicate with their peers. 
Grow our needs-based scholarship program for low income families who don’t meet requirements for other financial supports to ensure they have access to SCI programs and services.
Help SCI expand the partnership with Family Voices of TN to provide local families the support, parent training, resources, and peer network to navigate the complex systems involved in caring for children with special needs.
Expand therapeutic services to provide more children with needed speech, physical, and occupational therapies as well applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

Help Siskin Children’s Institute reach their goal by December 31, 2018.

To make a donation and read the stories of some of the children you will impact, 


Help support the 1 in 6 Campaign by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Baylor tennis team hosts 6th annual serving it up for siskin tennis tournament 


Chattanooga, Tenn., October 3, 2018

Baylor School’s Girls and Boys Tennis Teams will hold their 6th annual “Serving It Up For Siskin Children’s Institute” mixed doubles tennis tournament on Saturday, November 10, 2018 at the Baylor School Tennis Courts. This year’s event, led by students Izzy Boyd, Miles Kadrie, Landie McBrayer, and Hunter Smith, will raise funds for the programs and services of Siskin Children’s Institute, a comprehensive organization serving children with special needs, and their families in the region.
Many families from the Chattanooga and surrounding communities have be impacted by knowing an individual with disabilities. Miles Kadrie, captain of the Baylor boys' tennis team, shares, “My Great Uncle Bud had disabilities throughout his life and having access to a program as revered and impactful as that of Siskin would have very well improved his quality of life so much, and I can only hope that any money or awareness we might raise will benefit others in similar positions.” 

Serving it Up for Siskin began as a senior project in 2013 by Baylor alumnae McCall Morgan and Harper Caswell. The original event succeeded tremendously and created a partnership with the Baylor tennis program. Now an annual event, the tournament has raised approximately $52,890 since its inception. Each year the Baylor Tennis Team passes the torch, building a legacy of philanthropy and community service with a goal to surpass the previous year with the participation level and total amount raised. 

This tournament is open to all ages and skill levels free of charge to participate. However, donations from participants are appreciated and welcomed.

Registration Deadline for Serving It Up for Siskin is Friday, October 26. 

To register for the event please contact: Miles Kadrie at
For more information about the event please visit

Tennis Team with bannerCrowd by table
Doubles team playing tennisSingles playing tennis