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Meet Megan, a Physician Assistant in our Center for Developmental Pediatrics Program. Below, Megan describes what a day looks like for her here at Siskin:

“Physician Assistants are Master’s level medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative.  PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving healthcare access and quality. I am proud to be the first Physician Assistant on the medical team in the Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Clinic at Siskin Children’s Institute.  

My job differs from many of my colleagues in other medical specialties.  Due to the nature of our patients with special needs, we spend a significant amount of time assessing the patient, taking detailed medical history starting with mother’s pregnancy, conducting a thorough physical exam, ordering and interpreting lab tests or imaging studies, performing specific standardized tests, all the while formulating a list of possible diagnoses.  Once we have the information gathered, we arrive at a diagnosis.  

At times the diagnosis is challenging for parents.  We do our best to provide up to date information, resources, and referrals to other specialists and therapists to help build a team to support the family/caregivers and child with special needs to help achieve their greatest potential.  If medication is indicated we will discuss the benefits and side effects of the medication and help parents and caregivers know what to expect.  We are available to the parents and caregivers for questions and concerns and follow up as often as needed until the child is stable.  

Siskin is a unique environment in that we have therapists, a psychologist, behavior analysts, teachers, early interventionists, and medical providers all under one roof.  We collaborate well with one another and one of the highlights of this position is seeing how our work in the clinic affects a child’s performance in other areas of their life.  I look forward to serving children with special needs and their families for many years to come.”

To learn more about our Center for Developmental Pediatrics, click here

Here at Siskin our mission is to improve the quality of life for children with special needs and their families. Below, Deidra Love, Director of our Home and Community-Based Early Intervention Program, shares a touching story that emphasizes the importance of our collaborative, family-centered approach.

"This is what we consider a BIG WIN in our Home and Community-Based Early Intervention (HCBEI) program:

One of our home visitors Catherine has been working with Ashley* and her grandson Sam* for several months now. Ashley shows great commitment in caring for Sam, who has some special health needs, language delay and challenging behavior at times, too. One of the goals Ashley created for Sam’s learning plan is that Sam will use more words to communicate what he wants throughout his day.

On weekly home visits, Catherine and Ashley talk about Ashley’s top priorities for Sam’s learning, brainstorm ideas to teach Sam to use words to ask for what he wants, and try out ideas to see how they will work in Sam’s regular activities. At a recent home visit, Catherine realized that Ashley really gets the point of early intervention coaching as she told Catherine, 'You know I’m not ACTUALLY a speech therapist, but I am kind of like Sam’s speech therapist, because every time you come, we make a plan of the ways I will work with him all week long and I do it. Now, he’s talking a lot more!'

This is a win for our program because one of our primary goals in early intervention is to build the confidence and capacity of families/caregivers as they teach their child to participate in regular, daily activities. We want them to understand that the REAL intervention happens all week long in between visits from the professional. Now, Ashley sees herself as the best and most capable teacher for her grandson, which is exactly how it should be!"

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of this family.

Katie Beckett Waiver

March 15th, 2019

In 1981, President Reagan personally intervened when a mom reached out to him to share the story of her daughter, Katie Beckett. Katie contracted viral encephalitis at just five months old and spent the better part of three years in an Iowa hospital. Katie had Medicaid that covered her while she was an inpatient, however, when she was ready to go home, she was dropped from Medicaid simply because her parents made too much money. Therefore, their only option was to remain in the hospital. 

Impassioned that any parent could face this situation, President Reagan created the Katie Beckett Waiver with help from Congress through the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA) which allowed Katie, and children like her, to retain their Medicaid coverage regardless of their parent’s income. This gives parents the option of taking care of their children at home instead of them remaining hospitalized. 

Currently, there is no program in Tennessee designed as a pathway to Medicaid for children with complex medical needs and long-term disabilities. Lacking options, some families have been forced to give up custody of their child just to get them the care they need. Other parents have gotten divorced just to reduce their household income and make their child eligible for TennCare. Some desperate families have permanently moved from Tennessee to a state with a program that covers their child. 

A Katie Beckett/TERFA Program in Tennessee would make Medicaid benefits available to children (age 18 or under) who qualify with a diagnosis of complex medical needs or a long-term disability. Representative Sam Whitson and Senator Kerry Roberts have filed a bill HB0498/SB0476 and are working on additional language to create this program through legislative action. Governor Bill Lee could include this in his budget proposal or our state legislature could include it. 

Do you have a child, or know of a child, with complex medical needs or a long-term disability that has been directly affected by Tennessee’s lack of coverage for children of middle-income families? Tell your story, and tell your legislators.

Join the movement alongside Family Voices of Tennessee at: 

To share your story directly, please call: (615) 383-9442 or email:

To contact our Siskin Children’s Institute Family Voices Coordinator, Lisa Spurlock, please call: (423) 648-1700 or email: 

Check out our local NewsChannel 9 station’s coverage of the Katie Beckett Waiver here.