top of page

Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller lives in Gallatin with her husband, and their son, Gary Jr. Gary is an adventurous and curious four-year-old boy who enjoys roller-skating, pizza, and cats. Gary also likes painting, playing tee-ball, and singing. He is independent and creative, and as Jennifer describes, a little bit mischievous. Loving and well-mannered, Gary never misses an opportunity to thank his family.

At the age of 3, Gary was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, hyperactivity, expressive receptive disorder, and developmental delay. One of the prominent characteristics of these conditions is an inability to communicate properly. On one occasion, Gary swallowed magnets and coins and was unable to tell his mom what happened. To treat Gary’s condition, his pediatrician ordered occupational therapy and speech therapy. These therapies are imperative for a child Gary’s age with autism and expressive receptive disorder.

Even though TennCare approved Gary for occupational and speech therapies, Jennifer found that quickly securing a provider for these services was not going to be easy. There were three possible therapy providers available in the area, but two of them had extensive waiting lists and the third would not accept Gary’s TennCare HMO. Jennifer knew that time spent on a therapy waiting list was time wasted. She knew that she would have to fight to get Gary the services he needed, when he needed them.

Jennifer requested to have Gary’s HMO changed so that he could start his therapies right away. Her request was denied by TennCare. Jennifer was not willing to take no for an answer, so she filed an emergency appeal. Her appeal was once again rejected because TennCare said Gary did not meet the hardship criteria necessary to switch HMOs at that time.

During this time, Gary’s HMO sent a letter indicating that they had secured an appointment for Gary at one provider. However, the HMO later told Jennifer that she had to take Gary to another provider. After an initial evaluation, the second provider never got back to Jennifer, and by that point the opening at the first provider had closed.

In the meantime, Gary was approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to his disability and was consequently moved to another TennCare HMO. A call by a TJC client advocate pushed up Gary’s enrollment date, just in time for Gary’s appointment with his doctor. However, during the time that the appeals were processed, the only provider who initially had an opening for occupational and speech therapies had filled that slot.

Jennifer quickly arranged for speech therapy at Vanderbilt until a permanent provider could be set up. Finally, a slot with the initial provider reopened in mid-2011, more than three months after she initially tried to get services. Gary was finally able to obtain speech and occupational therapy from a permanent provider. Currently, Gary is still not receiving the full amount of services that his doctor prescribed last year. Jennifer said Gary has made great progress since starting his therapies, but more therapy is needed for Gary to reach his full potential.

Jennifer, with help from TJC, had to fight to get Gary the services he needed to help him learn, communicate, and flourish. Through her tireless efforts and dedication to Gary’s health, she managed to piece together the services he needed. Jennifer has shown a great desire to not only advocate for her own child, but also on behalf of children across Tennessee. The time and energy Jennifer put into getting her son the services he needs to thrive and her tenacity in the face of denials and limitations demonstrate her commitment as a mother and advocate, and for that TJC honors her as a Mother of the Year.

Photo Credit: Jim Hagans

bottom of page