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vanderbilt presenting free training on developmental disabilities at siskin children's institute


Chattanooga, Tenn., April 9, 2018


Twenty-five percent of outpatient pediatric visits are for developmental or behavioral concerns. To help both families and professionals, the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND is holding a series of free conferences and workshops in Chattanooga and other Tennessee cities.

For families, the half-day session will help parents be effective advocates for their child with an intellectual and developmental disability. Experts will address a range of topics, including autism, intellectual disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and congenital Zika

For professionals, the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND is providing an Interprofessional Course on Developmental Disabilities in Pediatrics—Including Congenital Zika.

The Interprofessional Course is designed for a broad range of professionals, including community pediatricians, family physicians, pediatric and family nurse practitioners, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, dieticians, speech-language pathologists, special education teachers, school administrators, audiologists, social workers, and clinical and developmental psychologists. CME/CNE credits are available.


Siskin/Vanderbilt Partner to bring autism assessment training to Chattanooga


Chattanooga, Tenn., March 21, 2018


Siskin Children’s Institute (SCI), in partnership with VanderbiltKennedy Center, is excited to host a two-day professional training workshop,April 12 and 13, on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) for behavioralhealth professionals.

“Withthe rising diagnostic rates of autism spectrum disorders, there is a need toprovide additional training to local professionals to expand diagnostic optionsfor families of children with autism concerns,” says Dr. Brandon Rodgers,Director of Behavioral Health Services at SCI. “Our hope is that equipping moreprofessionals with these tools will result in shorter wait times for childrento receive these critical assessment services in the Chattanooga area.”

SiskinChildren’s Institute is pleased that Dr. Gotham, one of the assessment’s developers,will lead the two-day training. More than 60professionals from across the country including Kennedy Krieger, LSU,University of Texas, Florida, Colorado and more will join local and regional professionalsas they develop the skills to utilize this essential tool. Participants willalso be provided continuing education credit through Vanderbilt University.

Thanksto a grant from the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, 25 local and regionalprofessionals including behavioral health providers, representatives from localpublic schools, speech-language pathologists, and private providers ineducation and pediatrics will be able to attend this vital workshop at no cost. 


Siskin Children’s Institute Hosts 42nd Annual StyleWorks Event 


Chattanooga, Tenn., March 12, 2018


Siskin Children’s Institute is pleased to announce Kim Leffew and Carrie Eaves as the co-chairs for the 2018 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 2,600 children with special needs and their families annually. StyleWorks, will take place on Thursday, May 3, beginning at 11:00am at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
This year’s event welcomes a new presenting sponsor, Dillard’s, known for providing designer apparel, shoes, and accessories as well as highend beauty products and home goods. Local models as well as current and former children of the Institute along with their families 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.

“I can’t express, in words, how honored I am to be the co-chair for Styleworks 2018. In November 2011, our family of three entered the butterfly gates and never looked back. It is difficult for me to envision what 18 months to age 6 would have been like for our son Laik, and our family, without Siskin Children’s Institute,” says event co-chair Kim Leffew. “As Chattanoogans, the families in our city and surrounding areas are exponentially fortunate that we have a resource like Siskin Children’s Institute. StyleWorks gives the attendees a brief glance into the Institute. I invite everyone to come see the butterflies spread their wings on the fashion runway!” 

Five families will be featured at this year’s event, both families with children currently enrolled in programs and those who got their start with the Institute and are flourishing as teens and adults. Guests will be inspired by their stories and their incredible accomplishments, all while enjoying an exciting runway fashion show like no other. 

"I have been involved with the Institute for many years, and I have seen firsthand the positive impact that a specialized program can have on a child with special needs and their families," says event co-chair Carrie Eaves. "My daughter got the best start in life thanks to Siskin, and I am so happy to share my story and support this mission."

In addition to the fashion show, attendees will have the opportunity to shop at the pop-up Dillard’s store just before the luncheon and following the fashion show. Donations made at this year’s event will be used for a scholarship fund to provide opportunities for more children with special needs to attend the Siskin Early Learning Center. We look forward to you joining us at our 42nd 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. This year’s event will be dedicated to the memory of Amelia David Allen.

Thank you to our StyleWorks sponsors: Dillard’s, Jo Ann Yates, First Tennessee, ERMC Facility Services, Helen Pregulman, CBL & Associates, Charles and Betty Lebovitz, Southeastern Salvage, Rone Regency Jewelers, Pris Siskin, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Sunny 92.3, WRCB Channel 3, and EPB Fiber Optics. 



Siskin Children’s Institute Promotes Stephanie Cooper-Wilkes

Chattanooga, Tenn., March 7, 2018


Siskin Children’s Institute has appointed Stephanie Cooper-Wilkes practice manager in the Center for Developmental Pediatrics. With 12 years of experience in medical practice management, Stephanie brings extensive knowledge of administering a clinic to her new responsibilities.  During her five years’ of previous employment at Siskin Children’s Institute, she served as the clinic’s billing manager.
In her new role, Stephanie will prioritize the support of high-quality patient care and satisfaction, optimize efficiency in daily operations, and ensure compliance with changes in administrative health-care regulations.

“We are pleased to recognize Stephanie’s experience and contributions to Siskin Children’s Institute.  In her new leadership responsibilities, Stephanie will help move the Institute forward in its mission to serve children with special needs and their families,” said Dr. Deborah Arfken, the interim President and CEO.


The Siskin Museum of Religious Artifacts Provides Interesting Opportunity for Community 

Chattanooga, Tenn., March 1, 2018

The Siskin Museum of Religious Artifacts, operated by Siskin Children’s Institute, houses hundreds of religious artifacts and is open to the public free of charge Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm. It is located inside Siskin Children’s Institute at 1101 Carter Street. 

The museum is home to over 400 religious pieces, 247 Judaic and 140 Christian, ranging from the 16th to the 20th century. Other religions and philosophies represented in the museum are Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism among others. Each artifact was hand-picked in Europe by, Rabbi Harris Swift, a close friend of Mose and Garrison Siskin. 

The Siskin brothers, who were members of the Jewish faith, believed that if you could understand a person's religious views, you could know that person more fully. The Siskin brothers’ belief in preserving and appreciating the many religions of the world lives on in the Siskin Museum of Religious Artifacts.

Resources are available to ensure maximum satisfaction while visiting the museum. Each artifact has a QR code that can be scanned with a smart phone, which will provide an informational summary of the piece.

chattanooga roots property team raises $4,000 to support children with special needs 

Chattanooga, Tenn., February 5, 2018

Siskin Children’s Institute is excited to share the success of our community partner, Chattanooga Roots Property Team. For each home purchased or sold in 2017, the Chattanooga Roots Property Team donated $50 to Siskin Children’s Institute. Thanks to their generosity, the Team raised a total of $4,000 in the past year to support the programs and services for children with special needs and their families.

“Even before visiting the Institute, I felt the need to give back to the Chattanooga community,” says Natalie Henson. “Siskin Children’s Institute and the children with special needs they serve hold a special place in my heart. I’m so glad I have the opportunity to support a local organization that supports families in our community.” 

Institute Interim President and CEO, Deborah Arfken, adds “We appreciate Chattanooga Roots, a dedicated community partner. They and all our partners ensure that we achieve our mission.”


Chattanooga, Tenn., January 31, 2018

Julie Mickel, Amanda Robins, and Lisa Spurlock have been accepted to present at the Partners in Education Conference, February 6 – 8 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The presentation is titled Inclusion: The Journey of Two Children. “We will follow the path of two Siskin Early Learning Center children and explore what a day in an inclusive environment looks like,” says Julie Mickel, Siskin Early Learning Center director. “The presentation will explain what therapy services look like in an inclusive environment, explore how to embed functional individualized education program goals into daily classroom routines, and how to write functional goals that are age-appropriate and meaningful to the child and family.” 

Joining Julie in the presentation will be Amanda Robins, Siskin Early Learning Center education coordinator, and Lisa Spurlock, Children’s Hospital at Erlanger physical therapy assistant and Siskin Early Learning Center provider.

The PIE conference is an annual event which focuses on instruction and best practices for all students in the state of Tennessee, will be held at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. To learn more about the Partners in Education Conference, visit

Siskin Children’s Institute Welcomes Deidra Love, New Director Of Home Visiting Program

Chattanooga, Tenn., January 26, 2018

Siskin Children’s Institute is proud to announce Deidra Love as the new Director of Home and Community-Based Early Intervention.

Deidra Love earned her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from UTC, as well as undergraduate degrees in Education and English from Carson Newman University. She brings more than 18 years of experience in the early intervention field as a teacher, home visitor, and behavior specialist/consultant. Deidra has focused additional study and professional work in the fields of autism, challenging behavior, and inclusion. She has provided training and workshops for preschool teachers and early intervention professionals across the state. Additionally, she is the mother of four children and is passionate about supporting the developmental therapists on her team who, in turn, help families and caregivers build their skills and confidence as capable teachers of their own children.

“I am very grateful and excited to join this team as director of the Home and Community-based Early Intervention Program here at Siskin Children’s Institute. The work of home visitors is so important, as we strive to increase children’s progress and growth by building on the strengths and supporting the needs of their families. I look forward to investing in and leading our dedicated and skilled group of home visitors here at Siskin, as well as expanding our program to reach more children and families in the Chattanooga community and surrounding counties.”

Baylor Tennis Team Raises Over $13,000 for Kids with Special Needs 

Chattanooga, Tenn., January 18, 2018

Baylor School’s girls and boys tennis teams held the 5th annual “Serving It Up For Siskin Children’s Institute” tennis tournament in the fall, raising $13,540 for children with special needs and their families. The funds will support programs and services of Siskin Children’s Institute, the largest and most comprehensive organization serving children with special needs and their families in the tri-state area.

The Baylor tennis students who paved the way for this year’s success include Lauren Carelli, Miles Kadrie, Hailey Kleban, Landie McBrayer, Lilly Mooney, Presley Thomas, and Ryan Toomey. Siskin Children’s Institute gives a special thanks to everyone at Baylor School and the sponsors who made it all possible. 

Serving it Up for Siskin Children’s Institute began as a senior project by Baylor alumnae McCall Morgan and Harper Caswell. The event was a tremendous success and a partnership with the Baylor tennis programs was born. Now an annual event, the tournament has raised over $50,000 since its inception. Each year the Baylor tennis team passes the torch, building a legacy of giving and community service with a goal to surpass the participation and dollars raised in the previous year. 

Wendy Bennett announced as Siskin Children’s Institute Events Manager in addition to Executive Assistant to the CEO

Chattanooga, Tenn., December 19, 2017

The addition of events manager to Wendy Bennett’s title gives recognition to the responsibilities she has carried for many years. In her new role, she will manage Star Night and Style Works, the signature fundraising events for the Institute. She will also continue as the executive assistant to the President & CEO. Bennett is a graduate of Georgia Northwestern Technical Institute.

“Bennett brings a remarkable level of entrepreneurial skills to conducting the major fundraising events for Siskin Children’s Institute. Under her management, the many moving aspects of large events run like clockwork,” said Dr. Arfken.

Siskin Children’s Institute Offers Free Resources to the Community through Lending Library

Chattanooga, Tenn., November 30, 2017

Siskin Children’s Institute offers families and professionals free access to their Lending Library. Inside is an extensive collection of more than 5,000 books, DVDs, periodicals, videos on child development and disability related topics, and now includes access to assistive technology devices. The Institute staff can help visitors research a topic, select the right books, browse the library catalog or use one of the computer work stations. All resources are available at no charge. The Lending Library is located at 1101 Carter Street and open Monday through Friday 9am to 4pm. 

In addition to the plethora of resources available at Siskin Children’s Institute, the downtown branch of the Chattanooga Public Library houses the Siskin Children’s Institute Parent Corner, where visitors can now find helpful information on a number of topics related to early childhood development and disabilities. The Parent Corner is on the second floor of the library, located at 1001 Broad Street. 

The lending library now offers assistive technology. Assistive technology (AT) is any item that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. Please contact the Siskin Lending Library for additional information about the AT devices available for check-out.

If you are unable to make it in, Siskin Children’s Institute can provide helpful resources over the phone, send information via email, or even mail resources free of charge. 

Siskin children's institute hosts free workshops for families with special needs

Chattanooga, Tenn., November 7, 2017

Siskin Children’s Institute is proud to announce it will be teaming up with the Chattanooga Autism Center and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment & Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) to provide free educational workshops for parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder. Ideal participants are parents with children 5 years and younger, or who are newly diagnosed. Siskin Children’s Institute will be hosting all workshops at 1101 Carter Street during September, October, and December. 

TRIAD has provided services to thousands of children and families and is a member of the renowned Marino Autism Research Institute. It has been a partner of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center since 2005. The goal of each workshop is to provide parents and caregivers with strategies to be used at home, at school, or in the community. The strategies discussed are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). 

Live streaming sessions with the TRIAD staff in Nashville, in-person segments, and various activities are on the agenda for each of these 3-hour workshops.

To learn more about Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment & Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) visit

Siskin Children’s Institute Partners with Vanderbilt to Share SPARK Research Opportunity

Chattanooga, Tenn., September 21, 2017

Siskin Children’s Institute is proud to partner with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment & Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) to encourage participation in a research study focused on the condition. The study, known as SPARK, focuses on speeding up the research around and understanding of autism by building a community of 50,000 individuals with autism and their families across the nation willing to provide researchers with medical and genetic information.

Participation in the SPARK research study is open to individuals of all ages with a professional diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) living in the United States. ASD includes Asperger syndrome, autism/autistic disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Participants are welcome to invite biological parents and full biological siblings (with and without ASD) to participate as well. 

Chattanooga Radio Control Club Announces 6th Annual Siskin Air Show

Chattanooga, Tenn., August 29, 2017

The Chattanooga Radio Control Club will hold it’s 6th annual Siskin Air Show on Saturday, September 16, from 10am to 2pm at Summit Field in Ooltewah. 

The annual event welcomes families for a day of fun and excitement as club members put on an incredible air show including radio controlled planes, high performance jets, helicopters, quadcopters, and more. Guests will be amazed as giant-scale aerobatics perform gravity defying stunts, warbirds take to the skies, and turbine powered jets roar past at speeds up to 170 mph. Kids and adults can also then take their turn flying a radio controlled plane alongside a club member in the buddy box.

“We are excited to partner with Siskin Children’s Institute for our 6th annual air show supporting children with special needs and their families. It’s always fun introducing a new generation of kids to the hobby of flying radio controlled planes,” says club member and event organizer, Tony Bosco. 

Bring the whole family! Admission is $10 per carload. Snacks and drinks will be available on-site. Summit Field is located at 4223 Old Woodland Drive. Please plan to bring cash for this event, as we are unable to accept credit cards.

Learn more about the Chattanooga Radio Control Club at 

Siskin Early Learning Center Earns 3-Star Rating

Chattanooga, Tenn., August 14, 2017

Siskin Children’s Institute is pleased to share that our inclusive early learning center has once again earned a 3-star rating, the highest rating possible, from the Tennessee Star Quality Program. This assessment involved observation of five classrooms as well as routines and practices within each including classroom environment, personal care routines, interactions between children and their peers as well as the interaction with the adults, activities/materials, program structure, and language/reasoning skills throughout the day. Other areas that are taken into consideration are professional development hours and content, classroom ratios, and parent involvement.

“We are thrilled to receive the Tennessee Star Quality Program’s 3-star rating. Our center utilizes evidence-based practices to increase a child’s engagement, independence and social relationships within an inclusive, intentional play setting incorporating developmentally appropriate standards and we believe our high rating reflects that. We’re so proud of our teaching staff who work hard every day providing incredible, loving, high-quality care, “says Julie Mickel, Director of the Early Learning Center at Siskin Children’s Institute.

The Tennessee Star Quality Program is a voluntary program that recognizes child care agencies who exceed minimum licensing standards. To learn more, visit

The Siskin Early Learning Center provides a high quality preschool education to young children with and without disabilities, including children with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, chromosomal abnormality and other disabilities. All children learn and play side-by-side in an environment that celebrates the accomplishments of every child.

The Siskin Children’s Institute Center for Developmental Pediatrics Expands Behavioral Health Services

Chattanooga, Tenn., July 24, 2017

Siskin Children’s Institute (SCI) is proud to announce the expansion of behavioral health services available through the Center for Developmental Pediatrics. Beginning in August, children with special needs and their families will now have greater access to individual and family counseling designed specifically for their needs. In addition, the social skills groups and parenting workshops currently offered at the center will be expanded and available to more families in the Chattanooga region.  All of these services will be made available on an affordable sliding fee scale. 

“We are grateful for outstanding community support from our foundation partners, particularly the George R. Johnson Family Foundation as well as the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and the Weldon F. Osborne Foundation, for helping us meet this community need,” says Institute CEO, John Farrimond. “We are excited to be able to provide the Chattanooga area with this much needed service and continue to improve the quality of life for children with special needs and their families.”

The program, led by Dr. Brandon Rodgers, LMFT, will utilize master’s and doctoral level interns from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accredited universities such as Lee University, Texas Tech, and others to both meet demand for services and provide local placements for graduate students. 

“With the opening of the Developmental Family Therapy Center and partnerships with local and national family therapy programs, SCI will be able to positively influence the lives of our local families and children with special needs while also developing and training the therapists of tomorrow,” says Rodgers. 

Families that have childrenwith special needs ages 10 and under that utilize SCI services, as well asthose who have not, are welcome to schedule an appointment.  Appointments can be made by self-referral or familiescan be referred from an SCI provider, a primary care physician, or theirchild’s local school system.

Appointments are now beingscheduled for August. Referral forms are available online at

SunTrust Foundation Gives $10,000 to Support Children with Special Needs

Chattanooga, Tenn., June 16, 2017

For many Chattanooga families with children who may have a developmental delay, it can be difficult to obtain the testing and assessments needed for diagnosis due to lack of insurance coverage or being under insured. These evaluations are the gateway to getting help for many children with special needs. Unfortunately insurance companies will often times not cover these initial expenses leaving families with few options. In 2015, Siskin Children’s Institute created the Siskin Testing and Assessment Relief (STAR) program to help families with the expenses associated with these critical services. Thanks to the generosity of the SunTrust Foundation, who recently gave $10,000 to support the program, many more families in the region will receive the help they need. The Institute is grateful to the SunTrust Foundation for helping to bridge the gap between insurance reimbursements and coverage for families with children who have special needs.

“Giving children with special needs & their families the greatest opportunity for success in life is something we care deeply about at SunTrust.  That’s why we’re pleased to support an organization such as Siskin Children’s Institute that does just that for our community,” says Kevin Smith, Regional Vice President of Commercial Banking. 

“Community partners like the SunTrust Foundation are vital to our mission of serving children with special needs. They understand, at a fundamental level, the importance of giving back to the communities they serve. This gift will impact many children’s lives at an early and critical stage. Truly they are helping make a difference,” says Institute CEO, John Farrimond.

Siskin Children’s Institute Announces New Director of Early Learning Center

Chattanooga, Tenn., May 25, 2017

Siskin Children's Institute is excited to announce that Early Learning Center Education Coordinator, Julie Mickel, has been promoted to Center Director. A fourteen-year veteran of the Institute, Julie began her Institute career by providing outreach services to the community through professional and student training. Recently she has taken the consulting lead with several Tennessee public school systems seeking to bring children with disabilities into an inclusive environment. Additionally, she has presented at numerous conferences both locally and nationally.

“Julie has played a key role in the ongoing success of the Early Learning Center and embodies the Institute’s commitment to excellence. Her innovative thinking and vision will continue to enhance this wonderful and important program.” said John Farrimond, President and CEO of Siskin Children’s Institute. 

Mickel has bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Prior to coming to the Institute, Julie taught preschool special education in Catoosa County, Georgia. In this new position Julie will help further the program’s ultimate goal, to educate children with and without developmental disabilities in an inclusive learning environment. 

We're happy to provide information about the Institute. 

Contact our communications team with any questions: 

linda mcreynolds

Director of Development and Communications 

shannon york

Marketing & Communications Manager