The Alabama Parent Education Center (APEC) has won a five-year federal grant to continue operating as Alabama’s Parent Training and Information Center, or AL PTI as they are commonly known.
PTI staff help families of children with special needs navigate their child’s education journey, beginning with early intervention and on into college and career choices.
Jeana Winter, Executive Director of APEC, called this a major source of funding and is excited that this funding will allow the AL PTI to branch out to serve not only parents, but also youth with disabilities.
As a result of the funding made available through the grant, the AL PTI “will be working directly with youth on building their capacity for their own transitional planning, and we’re also going to be working with families so they are better prepared to support their child in becoming their own best self-advocates,” Winter said.
PTIs are funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).
Most states have at least one PTI, with a few having more that are divided by geographical region. A total of 68 PTIs are funded, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Understood, a web site devoted to helping families with children with special needs find resources, has a deeper dive into what PTIs offer.
APEC, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is Alabama’s only PTI. Winter, who also serves on the statewide Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP) for the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE), has been with APEC since 2003.
The bulk of the work APEC does with families of children with disabilities is through the AL PTI grant.
The focus of this particular grant, according to Winter, is “to help families with children and youth with disabilities to better understand their children’s particular disability, their rights within the educational system and special education and early intervention systems, and a system of successful transition into adulthood, so that all youth with disabilities are college and career ready.”
A unique characteristic of APEC is that most everyone involved in the organization, from the advisory level to board members to staff to volunteers, have children with disabilities and have lived through the challenges that Winter and her staff help others journey through. Winter sees that as a distinct advantage for families needing the AL PTI’s services.
What AL PTI Does for Families of Children with Disabilities
Empowering families and youth with disabilities through information-sharing is a common thread across the AL PTI’s efforts.While APEC’s physical location is in Wetumpka, technology has allowed the AL PTI’s staff of six to reach families all over the state.
Training is offered through conference calls, webinars, and on site in their multi-purpose building.
In addition to training opportunities, AL PTI staff members are available to individually consult with families to help them effectively prepare for and participate in Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Section 504 meetings with school officials.
Winter made clear that the AL PTI works with families of children with disabilities regardless of whether the child actually has an IEP or 504 plan. Families of children who are moving through Response to Instruction (RtI) can also be helped by the AL PTI.
Some of the offerings for the grant cycle include continued community-based workshops around the state, and community-based advocacy training around issues faced by middle school-aged children as they plot their course for high school and beyond. Transition training is typically offered for children ages 14 and up along with their families.
Last year, APEC worked collaboratively with the special education personnel at ALSDE and also with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) to hold workshops in many communities around the state on the difficult issues faced in transition.
In addition to working with families, AL PTI staff also provides on-site workshops and development for schools, agencies, and community groups on special education and disabilities.
APEC recently hosted their annual conference, held live in Montgomery, and simultaneously broadcast live to three additional locations across the state.
Here’s a link to their calendar of events. Services are free to families of children with disabilities.
Families in need of services can call the AL PTI toll-free at (866) 532-7660.
In the spirit of full disclosure
The Alabama School Connection co-hosted a Special Education Forum in September 2012 with APEC where State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice spoke with more than 200 parents about the changes that were coming with the move to Alabama’s College and Career-Ready Standards.