New program connects special needs children with resources

TROY, Ala. (TROJANVISION) — It’s not always easy for parents of special needs children to find programs for their families.

Pike Pals is a new program that aims to connect parents of special needs children with resources to help them succeed.

“We are bringing providers whether it be medical or as simple as after school programs, all together in one under one roof so families can come in that may not know about the resources out there and learn about them,” said Julia Avant, founder and executive director of Pike Pals.

Representatives from several special needs focused organizations were there to tell parents about their services. One such group is the Alabama Parent Education Center.

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“What we do is train orient and give families information on how to navigate the public school system so that families that have children with disabilities can receive special education and related services,” said Gian Carlo Carattini, APEC ESL outreach coordinator.

Carattini makes sure parents who are not proficient in English have the resources and information they need for their students to be prepared for school.

“I am the official translator and interpreter for APEC so I translate our materials into Spanish primarily, but can offer it on demand to other languages,” Carattini explained.

According to Carattini, many families with special needs children face obstacles when it comes to getting help due to language barriers.

“We run into and when I say we I say we Hispanics, we Latin Americans run into a cultural aspect or cultural obstacle, and that is that children with special needs don’t have access to special education like we do here in the United States.”

Another issue, Carattini says, is that families do not realize there are laws in the United States that give every child the right to education. His job is to make sure parents have that information so their children can get an appropriate education.

“They don’t know that those benefits are available,” Carattini told TrojanVision. “They don’t know that it’s the right to claim them. They don’t know that evaluation and testing to determine what the disability is free of charge because the law dictates that every child in America gets a free appropriate public education.”

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Avant hopes Pike Pals will not only provide parents with resources, but also provide special needs families with a community.

“It’s a great event for everybody, whether it be getting the kids socialized and allowing the parents to really learn about the resources out there,” Avant said.

For more information or to have Pike Pals come to your city, email