You may have heard about a powerful resource that can help parents of kids with learning and thinking differences get the help they need: Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs).
There are dozens of these centers across the country. And the Department of Education (ED) announced in August that nearly $14 million would be awarded to fund 40 PTIs in 28 states and two U.S territories over the next five years.
The funds are coming from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. They may help more parents get assistance from PTIs, whether they get help in person or through email or a phone call.
“Parents are crucial to their child’s readiness to learn at every step of the education pipeline,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in an ED press statement. “These centers will work on behalf of parents to help their children with disabilities achieve their academic potential.”
The centers also provide training and information for kids from birth to age 26. That includes help for students and young adults in college or in the workforce. PTIs also offer training for professionals.
But one the most important roles of PTIs is to offer parents information on specific disabilities, their legal rights and the resources that may be available to them. They may provide workshops and training on topics like:
- Children’s educational rights, including information on and
- Understanding and , and determining which is right for your child
But according to Jane Floethe-Ford, program director for a PTI in San Jose, California, many parents of kids with learning and thinking differences (which includes kids with learning disabilities) don’t take advantage of these services and programs. And there are more kids with learning disabilities than with any other disability, she adds.
Floethe-Ford, who has an adult son and daughter with learning differences, has used the resources at her PTI, which is called Parents Helping Parents.
She thinks there may be many reasons why some families don’t take advantage of PTIs. “Some parents may not see their kids as having ‘a disability.’ Or they might not think their issues are severe,” she says. “But if the kids are struggling to get their homework done at night, if they are forgetting and leaving important papers in their backpacks, maybe they can use some help.”
Floethe-Ford started working at Parents Helping Parents more than 20 years ago. There were other places she could get information about special education services and her children’s education rights, she says.
But what made the PTI special to her is that “I found my tribe,” she says. “To be with people who understand your journey is huge.”
“We’ve walked in your shoes and know what you are going through,” Floethe-Ford explains. “We want to empower parents. We want them to feel they’ve turned over every stone in getting help and support for their child.”
Getting the word out about PTIs can be challenging. Many centers, like Parents Helping Parents, don’t have “PTI” in their names. And while every state is legally required to have at least one PTI under the , parents don’t always know about them.
But the funding from the Department of Education—along with the hard work of people who work at PTIs—may help PTIs reach more parents and students.
Learn more about how PTIs can help and how to contact a PTI in your area.
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Geri Coleman Tucker is a freelance writer and editor and a former deputy managing editor for