Press Releases

Learning Support Fund Program Empowers Disability Advocates

May 31, 2019 (Atlanta, GA) – The Learning Opportunities Support Fund, a grant program by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), awards necessary financial assistance to Georgia advocates with developmental disabilities and their families to gain access to disability education, events and resources.
By providing grants, the program assists self-advocates and their families to attend impactful events and conferences, including self-advocacy; service and support accessibility; and parent trainings.
For Keri and Ross Ninness of Marietta, GA, the fund enabled them to attend an Okur-chung Neurodevelopmental Syndrome (OCNS) Symposium in Newark, NJ. The Ninness’ son, Thomas, was one of eight children diagnosed with OCNS when it was discovered three years ago.
“[At the symposium] we received a crash course in genetics from leading scientists, and it provided so much new information and understanding of our rare disease,” Keri said. “It helped us connect the dots between the science and the symptoms.” Additionally, they received support from families who had experiences in treatments and interventions.
Utilizing the funds to learn more about their youngest son’s Autism diagnosis, Macon-based Mark and Jill Vanderhoek travelled to the Eighth Annual Summit of Lives in the Balance Conference in Portland, ME. There, they heard highly-respected clinical child psychologist, Dr. Ross Greene speak.
“We have read much of Dr. Greene’s work, and the annual conference had a number of interesting topics and speakers we thought would benefit our family,” Mark said.
Being able to attend the conference also introduced them Dr. Julie Causton, CEO and founder of Inclusive Schooling, who spoke on best practices for inclusive education. Since then, the Vanderhoeks have been using what they learned to become stronger advocates for their children.
“It helped us re-frame our thinking about how to work through challenging behaviors with our children…and finding a new way of helping them grow,” added Mark.
Individuals with disabilities, their family members or guardians can apply for funding towards eligible events including self-advocacy training, obtaining access to services and parent training and information.
Learn more about GCDD’s Learning Opportunities Support Fund, and apply online here.

About the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities: The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is the State's leader in advancing public policy on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to bring about social and policy changes that promote opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities and their families to live, learn, work, play and worship in Georgia communities.


Hillary Hibben, Media Relations Director
Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
404.657.2121 (office) | 470.698.3062 (cell)