Horizon of Hope Blog

Congratulations, Gail Powell!

Gail Powell Receives Another Award
in Recognition of Her Leadership


Gail Powell has received another honor during her service at High Hopes Development Center.  Mrs. Powell is a two-time winner of the Williamson Impact Award for her contributions to the community of Williamson County, and is now a Women of Influence Award winner as well for the Greater Nashville Area.  Gail humbly considers these accomplishments wins for High Hopes Development Center as a whole, not for herself.

Powell has led High Hopes Development Center as the Executive Director for over eight years, and much success has been achieved for the community through High Hopes under her leadership.  Since becoming Executive Director, the number of children served annually by High Hopes has tripled, from 150 to over 600, the budget has more than doubled and the organization has moved into its first, very own, 14,400 square foot state-of-the-art facility.  Gail will tell you that these accomplishments are not just because of her, but because of the exceptional team of leaders, teachers, therapists, administration and supports that truly care for the children at High Hopes.

Powell's most recent recognition award, Women of Influence, is testament to her character.  She was nominated because of her unfailing leadership, love for those whom she serves, and ability to listen to, and naturally mentor, those around her.  Powell shares the Women of Influence Award honor with alum such as Mayor Megan Barry.

High Hopes Development Center is honored to have Gail Powell as their Executive Director and active contributing member of the Williamson County community.

See the full list of the 2016 Women of Influence Winners

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Share HOPE this Valentine’s!



If you have HOPE, share it!

HOPE picture

Many families that have a child with special needs are still searching for HOPE.
If you've already found High HOPEs, please share it with others so that when those who need it are searching, they will be able to find it too!  

This week's Horizon of Hope is about YOU!  There are many ways to support High Hopes Development Center, so this Valentine's please take just a moment to see how you can share HOPE with those who need it most.

You can SHARE HOPE through social media.
If you haven't already...
twitter iconplease FOLLOW us on TWITTER and LIKE us on FACEBOOK!facebook icon
Then, when you see something positive from High Hopes, please SHARE it!
We want everyone who needs the services High Hopes provides to know that we are here for them.

You can give to High HOPEs in a variety of ways!
You can GIVE of your TIME by volunteering...just contact Lynne Arnold at to see how you and/or a group can volunteer.
You can GIVE items from our WISH LIST.  Visa gift cards and new or used iPads/Tablets are especially needed right now.
Or, you can GIVE by making a monetary amount is too small!
If you are shopping on Amazon, please select High Hopes as your charity through Amazon Smile.
If you have a Kroger shopping card, please link High Hopes to it as your charity.

Donate Now buttonamazon smile logokroger card icon

Throughout the year, High HOPEs hosts several fundraiser events of various interests and price points.  BOOKMARK our CALENDAR webpage and always stay up to date on upcoming events.
We have everything from a golf tournament, concerts, special shopping events, beer tastings and more!  Don't forget to share these events with friends and family too.
We also help those who may want to host a more intimate evening with their circle of friends to simply explain to them what High HOPEs is and what they do in our community.  If this sounds like something that interests you, please contact Bonnie Richardson at for more information.

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

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Why I Chose High Hopes Preschool for My Son Who Is Typically Developing

Why I Chose High Hopes Preschool for My Son Who Is Typically Developing

"When I had my son, and went back to work, it was imperative that we find a place to care for him that was trustworthy, provided him with loving support, and equipped him with the skills he would need to be successful once he started grade school. We found just that in High Hopes.

My son, who is typically developing, began in the High Hopes Preschool program at the age of 9 weeks. He grew, played, and learned for 5 years alongside children of varying abilities and backgrounds. His teachers were always loving and supportive, and challenged him to achieve his best.

He graduated from High Hopes ready for kindergarten, both socially and academically well-rounded. I will always remember our first kindergarten parent-teacher conference, when his teacher asked about his preschool experience.

When I spoke of High Hopes and its inclusive mission, she beamed and remarked how that made perfect sense. She then told me that he was always ready to help a student who struggled, and that he was also the first to offer support or encouragement when another child needed it.

It is, of course, wonderful that my child entered kindergarten with the academic skills necessary for success, but more importantly, he entered kindergarten with an elevated sense of compassion and empathy. Those skills truly are the ones necessary for success in life. We are so grateful to High Hopes for providing such a special environment for our son to learn and grow!

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We All Have “Sensory” Needs, and Meet Them in Different Ways

We all have "sensory" needs, and meet them in different ways...and that's okay!

Ever heard a clock ticking in the background and had it drive you nuts?

clock ticking

Ever started tapping your toes or fingers for no reason?

These are both due to sensory needs!  We ALL have sensory needs, some of us just have more needs, or have a different sensory sensitivity level, than others.

Sensory issues are usually defined as either hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) or hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to sensory stimuli.

Hearing a quite clock tick in the background is an example of hypersensitivity.
Tapping your fingers or toes is an example of hyposensitivity.

Hypersensitivity requires the need for less stimulation.
Hyposensitivity requires the need for more stimulation.

Sensory issues are a particularly common theme for people with autism or that are on the autism spectrum disorder.

Watch this video as it demonstrates
what it can be like for a person with autism when they are in a situation like walking around in public,
that makes them feel sensory overload.

Here are solutions for 7 types of sensory needs that could be helpful by Fun and Function.

Sensory Need Solutions

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“Heart of High Hopes” 2015 recipient: Alison Pagliara



Heart of High Hopes Award 2015

awarded to Alison Pagliara

Alison Pagliara Heart of High Hopes Award EDITED

Volunteers are at the very heart of any nonprofit, and there are always those that go over and above. At High Hopes Development Center there are numerous volunteers that not only rock babies, staff events, assist with office work, serve as board members, and perform countless other tasks, but also share the message of High Hopes with others in the community. Each year, the board of directors recognizes one of their own who has especially well represented the attributes of an exemplary volunteer. The Vic Brown Memorial Heart of High Hopes Award was established in 2010 following the tragic death of long-time, passionate board member Vic Brown. In honor of the memory of this exemplary board member and ambassador for children and for High Hopes, the Vic Brown Memorial Heart of High Hopes Award is bestowed upon a qualified and deserving person. This person best exemplifies Mr. Brown’s characteristics and commitment to High Hopes by exhibiting a heart and a love for children; dedication to, and an ambassadorship for, the mission of High Hopes; integrity, generosity, service, and loyalty to High Hopes; and has shown evidence of a lasting contribution to the growth and vision of High Hopes. The 2015 recipient is Alison Pagliara.

Alison became involved with High Hopes Development Center in 2012 when she was invited by a friend to attend Strings & Stories: An Intimate Night of Songwriters’ Tales. That friend was Donna Adams, a High Hopes board member, whose passion for the mission of High Hopes is ebullient. After Alison attended the fundraiser and heard the stories of those who have been helped by the local non-profit, Pagliara was hooked. She began volunteering and was quickly a familiar smiling face around the office. And it wasn’t long until she began serving on the board of directors. As a former mathematics teacher, her analytical insights have been a welcome addition. In the spring of 2015, Alison saw a need: the beautiful new building at 301 High Hopes Court, completed in 2014, was already nearing capacity; but, with great potential for future growth, was sadly out of space. Seeing the lot next door at 303 High Hopes Court for sale, Alison graciously acted and by the early summer of 2015, the lot belonged to High Hopes! Currently, strategic planning is underway and a “303 Committee” has been formed to explore the possibilities of this amazing gift.

All because of one person’s passion and belief in serving others, the future is looking brighter for children and youth with special needs from over 16 area counties who are served by High Hopes Development Center.

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Celebrate HOPE This Holiday Season!!

Celebrate the HOPE of Success with a
Mom from High Hopes!


Before she was born, Adalynn was diagnosed with spina bifida.

I sat in the doctor’s office with his words swirling in my head: “cognitively impaired,” and “probably use a wheelchair.” I broke down crying. My husband put his arm around me and said, “We are going to give her the best life we can.” That was the beginning of our journey with Adalynn.

Adalynn had her first surgery before her first meal. Her spinal cord had formed outside of her body, and cerebrospinal fluid was not draining properly from her head. Within twelve hours of birth, her spine was repaired but the spinal nerves could not be restored, leaving Adalynn paralyzed below the hips.

At fourteen months, we chose therapy at High Hopes Development Center. It was a life-changing decision. We were paired with a physical therapist who had previous experience with others like Adalynn. What an absolute relief to be with someone who understood Adalynn’s various medical issues. Just one month later, Adalynn rolled over for the first time. Within a couple of weeks, she began to army crawl and, at two years, took her first steps.

When we decided to send her to preschool, the High Hopes staff went out of their way to accommodate her needs. The teachers and therapists were welcoming and assured me that she would be included. Adalynn was so comfortable, she fit in right away! She now knows all the therapists and teachers by name, and she is regularly seen zipping down the hall in her wheelchair. With occupational therapy we have seen significant improvement in Adalynn’s writing skills and confidence. She continues to consistently make progress in so many areas thanks to our High Hopes family.

High Hopes Development Center is a storehouse of knowledge and experience. From her leg braces to her first wheelchair, the advice and guidance we have received has been invaluable for us. I can’t imagine where we would be now if not for the positive support and kindness we have received from High Hopes.

With the help of High Hopes, our Adalynn is a happy, smiling little girl experiencing so many of the joys of childhood, just like her friends. Her future is promising, thanks to our High Hopes family. I hope you’ll consider supporting this amazing place with a gift this holiday season. Adalynn and I will tell you it matters.

With high hopes,

Jennifer Morgan

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Thanks to Emma Sterland and Therapy-in-a-Bin, we would like to share some tips to help your and your child have the best holiday season ever with these tips!


By Emma Sterland
Special Needs Resources


While most children live for the holiday season, it can be an extremely stressful time of year for children with autism and other forms of learning disability. The disruption to their routine, unfamiliar sights and smells, the house full of noise and people – it can all prove too much. Holidays are all about the family, but it can be hard keeping everyone happy.

The following tips for surviving the holiday season have been contributed to Scope by parents of children and adults with special needs.  The general consensus seems to be to plan ahead. Whether that’s creating a visual story for your child, preparing them what to expect, or giving relatives a heads-up in advance about your child’s particular needs – preparation is key.


Try to find ways to reduce the stress – both on your child and you. Schedule in quiet times and create chill-out zones in your home. Remember, your child will pick up on your stress levels, so try not to over-stretch yourself.


Friends and family may not know how they can help unless you tell them. Give them a list of things they can do to support you – from looking after your child while you spend quality time with your other children – to pouring you a glass of champagne!


If your child is not keen on opening presents because they’re new and unfamiliar, try wrapping up some favorite toys. Sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring.


I always give my children, who have ASD, ‘jobs’ to do at family gatherings – take coats, offer nibbles round etc. Giving them something to do reduces their stress of having people in the house. I also give them an itinerary so they understand, for example, that people stand around and chat a lot, and that is part of the occasion.


Add cinnamon to your child’s play-dough to gradually introduce new smells. One thing that people with autism complain about during the holidays is the many different perfume smells coming from visiting adults. Ask your family and friends to hold off on the perfume.


Help and encourage the person you are caring for to give gifts. This provides an excellent opportunity to work on social skills, like thinking of other people’s needs and interests, and being kind and helpful. I support my daughter to make gifts for her family and friends. She also looks forward to giving out the presents as well.


It’s easy to get overloaded with festive preparations at this time of year, so plan daily activities to make some special time for your kids – ie. 5 to 10 mins of undivided attention. Let your child take the lead, tune into their world and see it through their eyes.


Print off a week-to-view calendar page from your PC or the internet and add a picture of your planned activities during the holidays (divide into morning, lunch afternoon etc) and this will help put your child at ease about the week ahead.


Talk to family members ahead of time. Discuss your child’s specific needs, and gently but firmly tell them what your plans are. Be sure to let them know that this will make the whole experience better for everyone. Ask for their support.


When you are visiting friends or relatives, fill a backpack with things your child finds comforting or enjoys playing with – toy cars, a stuffed animal, a CD and CD player, or a few books. If your child gets over stimulated, find a quiet corner or a back room and pull out the backpack.


Our daughter loves looking at pictures and we have found it a great way of explaining different events to her. We have a holiday season book we’ve made with pictures of her and the family doing things in the holidays. We’ve included pictures of her in the school play, relatives coming to visit, etc. It helps her not to get overwhelmed with what’s going on.


I run a group for kids who have an autism spectrum disorder. Instead of having a party at this time of year, we arrange an experience for them. For them and us, as their parents, it’s much more enjoyable as there is no pressure to conform to the demands that a social occasion puts on them.


My son has trouble with fine motor skills so I ‘doctor’ his cards and presents to allow him to open them easily. Makes for a much happier time for all and gives him a sense of satisfaction that he can complete tasks.


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Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home for Christmas supports High Hopes Development Center

 Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home for Christmas

Actress Kristin Chenoweth is best known for her Broadway roles in Wicked and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, as well as on TV show The West Wing. But she’s also known to the folks at High Hopes as the lady with a giant voice and even bigger heart. Long-time friend Kandi states, “ALL children, including those with special needs, deserve an opportunity to be their very best and have the tools to learn and grow to their maximum potential.  Our next generation is a priority to Kristin Chenoweth and High Hopes.”

High Hopes Development Center in Franklin is known for the premier services they provide for children with special needs. Kristin Chenoweth is known for her premier voice and acting talents. Through one amazing little girl named Gracie, two worlds collide.

Turn the clock back to the late 80’s when Kristin was a college student at Oklahoma City University. Her close friend was Kandi, and the two shared a love of music and performance. They remained friends through all the miles and years, and when Kandi’s daughter Gracie was born, Kristin was one of her biggest supporters.

You see, Gracie was born with pulmonary hypertension, a lung condition making it difficult for her to breathe. While in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, it was confirmed that she also had Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. Gracie spent over three weeks in the NICU before her family was able to take her home.

As her parents learned more about the physical growth and intellectual delays associated with Down syndrome, they decided that providing extra assistance and care for Gracie was their highest priority. They, like many other parents over the last 30+ years, turned to High Hopes Development Center to transform their baby girl’s challenges into triumphs.

Gracie began physical therapy at High Hopes when she was just 6 months old, eventually adding occupational and speech therapies as well. With the help of a dedicated team of therapists, she learned to walk, write her name, and speak in short sentences. As a student in the inclusive preschool, she also learned to socialize and communicate with other children.

Now, seven-year-old Gracie’s parents say, “We consider everyone at High Hopes our family, as they have used their greatest talents to help our daughter grow and shine. They are truly the most skilled, caring, passionate group of people, who give so much of themselves to better the lives of so many children. We are forever grateful for High Hopes!”

So when the dates for Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home for Christmas with the Nashville Symphony were announced, Kandi and Kristin began talking. Wouldn’t it be great to use the efforts of choir voices to benefit a local charity? Through her connections as a choir director at an area church, Kandi generated a group of talented volunteers to sing as the High Hopes Choir at the concerts on December 8th and 9th at the Schermerhorn. In return, Kristin will be making a donation to High Hopes Development Center on behalf of the choir volunteers. Tickets to both shows are available at the TicketMaster, Nashville Symphony sites.

High Hopes Development Center is a local non-profit that has been equipping children and youth, with and without special needs, to reach their maximum potential for over 31 years with two programs: an inclusive preschool, where children who are typically-developing make up 60% of their enrollment and 40% have a diagnosed special need ranging from developmental delays to rare chromosomal disorders, and an on-site pediatric therapy clinic providing physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapies.

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Happy Special Education Day!

Special Education Day is observed annually on December 2 and celebrates President Gerald Ford’s signing of our nation’s first federal special education law in 1975, now known as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

This year is the 40th anniversary of IDEA which ensures free and appropriate education to children with disabilities throughout the nation by providing equal opportunities and equal access.  It governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services.

Infants and toddlers (birth – 2 years) with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C.  Children and youth (3 years – 21 years) receive special education related services under IDEA Part B.  In Tennessee, TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System) provides early intervention services to eligible families with children under 3 years of age with disabilities and developmental delays.  Local school systems provide special education services to children and youth from ages 3 – 21 years.

~Cheryl Dean

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Thankful for Many Things

We all have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  One former High Hopes mom is thankful that her son was discharged from four therapies at High Hopes: physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and feeding therapy.  Keep reading to see how each of these therapies led up to a momentous occasion!

At one point, one of our friends had difficulty walking, talking, eating and caring for himself.  His pediatrician recommended therapies to help improve each of the areas of concern, and his mother drove him to High Hopes, WITH high hopes of making each of these tasks easier for her son.  Week after week, this little guy came to "play" with his friends at High Hopes.  During this "play" time, he worked very hard learning skills that he could practice at home, and eventually master.

His physical therapist tirelessly worked with him on exercises that helped strengthen his muscles used for walking and running.  His speech therapist helped him better communicate by teaching him, in fun ways, how to form sounds that were difficult.  His occupational therapist helped him strengthen his ability in various tasks from being able to help dress himself, brush his teeth and feed himself.  His feeding therapist patiently helped him explore new foods with different tastes and textures.  After diligently attending his therapies and practicing what he had learned, he was discharged from each of them because he had met his goals for all of the things in which he once had difficulty.


All of this little guy's therapies culminated into one very momentous occasion (pictured above) when he, for the first time accomplished all of these tasks together:  1) WALKED into a restaurant, 2) SPOKE to the server to tell them what he wanted to order, 3) FED himself and 4) ATE the food he had ordered!

It is important that we learn to celebrate and give thanks for the small accomplishments along the way, that lead us to the bigger changes for which we strive.


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  • Upcoming Events

    1. Talbots In-Store Fundraiser

      August 24 @ 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
    2. Special Needs All Access Night at Discovery Center

      August 25 @ 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
    3. Great Americana BBQ Festival

      August 26 @ 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
    4. Special Saturdays at Christ Presbyterian Church

      September 9 @ 9:00 am - 11:30 am
    5. High Hopes Family Picnic

      September 15 @ 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm
    6. Free Autism Workshop at Vanderbilt

      September 16 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • Testimonial

    "Teachers & therapists love the work they do"

    Meet our Elle.  Born in June 2010, Elle was six weeks early and spent almost two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit learning to eat properly and gain weight.  At six months, we began noticing Elle was not meeting typical goals, like rolling over.  At 14 months, Elle still wasn't pulling up or talking, so we contacted Tennessee's Early Intervention System (TEIS) who said Elle had a Global Development Delay and recommended High Hopes.

    Elle began physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy weekly at High Hopes' Therapy Clinic at 16 months of age.  Shortly after, Elle began attending High Hopes' Preschool and ...

    Learning to "eat like a boss!" ~ Anaya

    Anaya came home from Arkansas at 15 months old.  She had the most vibrant personality and we were smitten with her immediately!  At 15 months, she had never eaten food orally, nor even knew what that required.  She had a feeding tube as her main source of nutrition.

    We had a friend recommend High Hopes and we began seeing a feeding therapist there.  The feeding therapist was so sweet and patient with us as we learned how to teach this phenomenon we call "eating."  We worked together empowering Anaya to do it and she made incredible improvement!  After 6 months at High Hopes Anaya became completely independent of the tube.  Within one year of  Anaya being home, she had her t...

    Miracles Delivered through High Hopes ~ Caleb

    Caleb was born a perfectly healthy little boy July 11, 2012.  Two weeks later our world was turned upside down when he developed bacterial meningitis.  This  journey resulted in a month-long stay at Vanderbilt and life-long effects for Caleb of significant frontal lobe brain damage and risk of seizures.

    Caleb is our little fighter and has always had several guardian angels watching over him.  We came home from the hospital with no idea whether our son would walk, talk, eat well, or function as a typically-developing child.  We only knew we wanted to provide him with the best resources possible.  We sincerely believe it was one of those guardian angels who led us to be introdu...

    A Journey of Success ~ Caroline

    Our journey with High Hopes began in January 2006.  After relocating to Nashville, we were looking for a place for daycare and therapy for our then eight-month old daughter, Caroline, who was born with Down syndrome.  What we found in High Hopes was so much more.

    Because of its unique setting, High Hopes has provided Caroline with a nurturing and caring atmosphere where she not only has gone to school, but also has received the many therapies she needs to thrive.  It gave us the comfort of knowing she was being cared for by compassionate teachers and therapists in a safe environment.  It was important that what Caroline was learning and workin...

    From a tragic beginning to a hopeful future: Meet Grayson

    Grayson was born with an addiction to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.  His withdrawals were so severe, he was in the hospital for three and a half months and was considered one of the worst cases of withdrawals that the nurses at Vanderbilt had ever seen.   As a result of his birth circumstances, Grayson often experienced respiratory distress and was diagnosed as significantly developmentally delayed.

    At 7 months, Grayson began receiving Physical, Occupational, Speech and Feeding therapies at The Therapy Clinic at High Hopes.  His therapists encouraged and supported the family while working to overcome so many obstacles and celebrated alongside them when they were...

    Meet Hatcher

    Hatcher, Stories of HopeHigh Hopes changes lives. My son, Hatcher, came to High Hopes at age one with Down syndrome and leukemia, unable to walk or talk. As a divorced mom with the responsibility of two older children and a baby that required multiple treatments and medical appointments, I could not work outside our home and applied for food stamps just to feed my children.

    When we arrived at High Hopes, we found help,...

    Read More Testimonials »

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