Group photo of FACT Oregon

FACT Oregon—changing perception of disability

FACT Oregon is a nonprofit organization that empowers families who are experiencing disability to pursue whole lives. Their goal is to help build a future where communities are accessible to, inclusive of, and empower the self-determination of people with disabilities. FACT Oregon is the federal and state-designated Parent Training and Information Center for Special Education in Oregon.

The organization educates and provides support to families, youth with disabilities, and community partners to help them navigate special education and disability systems and services. They also create opportunities that enable youth to thrive at home, in school and within their communities.

Their peer-delivered and peer-created services and resources include:

  • A Statewide Support Line: FACT Oregon offers a support line that provides 1:1 assistance with disability-related questions. All Support Line staff are parents of youth experiencing disability and are highly trained in special education and disability services.
  • Training: The organization provides live virtual and in-person training programs for families to help them navigate available options and opportunities such as early intervention and early childhood services, special education and Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs), assistive technology, future planning, and behavior and communication needs.
  • On-Demand Services: Many of these programs and training sessions are also available as on-demand modules, allowing families to use them when needed.
  • Toolkits: FACT Oregon also offers toolkits to support families in learning about special education and procedural safeguards.
  • Parent Leadership: The organization also provides cohorts that work closely with parents to help improve their advocacy skills so they can make changes within the system.

Empowering families and transforming how communities perceive disability.

At the heart of FACT Oregon’s work is a deep desire to help families navigate disability, whether they have a new diagnosis or are navigating the transition to adulthood. The organization also aims to change perceptions of disability, so these children have all the supports and opportunities they need to thrive.

How to use FACT Oregon services.

One of the most important tools parents have is the FACT Oregon support line, which allows them to pick up the phone, send a text or email, or schedule a time to talk to get real answers from a real person. This valuable service helps families feel less alone and gives them a clear idea of next steps as they navigate a particular issue.

Every child and situation is unique, so every conversation is different, and the support person talks through the specific needs and hopes of the family to help them achieve the best outcome. The direction families receive from these representatives, who are both knowledgeable and empathetic, is invaluable.

Activate Your Advocacy program.

Lucia is a parent and graduate of FACT Oregon’s Activate Your Advocacy Parent Leadership program. She is an immigrant from Peru with two sons aged 19 and 15. Both are on the autism disorder spectrum, and one has an intellectual disability. Lucia and her husband wanted to support both children in becoming happy and independent adults. They started looking for services to meet their needs in both schools and the health care system.

Their first obstacle was understanding the education system in the U.S. Most testing and evaluations are parent-initiated, but in Peru, most are solely directed by teachers. This, along with a language barrier, limited Lucia’s ability to obtain the help her sons needed. Understanding an IEP is difficult even for many English-speaking people. Translation services alone were not enough.

Lucia worked hard to improve her English and understanding of the endless acronyms that make up the education system in the U.S. There was much to learn, including health, education, laws and community services.

Even once she understood the language and how educational services worked, Lucia needed help to fully participate in her parent role. She had no connection to other parents in the Spanish-speaking community whose children were on IEPs. She didn’t know what to ask case managers or schools for, and by the time she discovered that Early Intervention was available, her oldest son was already in school. He didn’t receive access to many services until he was 15 years old.

Lucia first connected with FACT Oregon in 2018 and was part of the first Activate Your Advocacy (AYA) parent leadership cohort in 2021. With their support, she received the information and education she needed as a parent to better advocate for her sons. Today she helps other immigrants find the support and services they need. She wants to help create safe spaces in her community, where everyone can speak and discuss their unique challenges. That led her to develop a Spanish-Speaking Special Education Committee in her district. FACT Oregon provided her the opportunity to learn how to advocate, and helped her raise her voice on behalf of her family and her community.

Challenges facing FACT Oregon.

Like many organizations working to help underserved populations, FACT Oregon is constantly working against capacity constraints. In the last year, their call volume has grown significantly, and in order to meet increased demand they are training new staff, upgrading systems, and providing ongoing professional development to stay abreast of current issues facing families in education and disability systems.

Building internal capacity is a major focus for the organization. Much of the funding FACT Oregon receives is fixed and does not flex as demand grows, so they turn to foundations, corporate partners and individual donors to help bridge the gap. Training new staff, securing the vision and leadership that the organization needs for the future, and working to bring the voices of people like Lucia to decision-making tables takes significant work and resources. The AYA parent leadership program has already proven itself to be a great pipeline, as several staff and board members are graduates. FACT Oregon would like to invest even more heavily into parent leaders like Lucia, but they need more funding to better engage and mentor AYA graduates intentionally and for the long-term.

Support FACT Oregon.

Community appetite for the services FACT Oregon provides is growing. In 2022-23, the Support Line served more than 1,600 unique families and professionals through over 25,000 connections. Additionally, 2,000 people from across the state accessed at least one training. Since 2021, they have trained 63 parents through the AYA parent leadership program.

FACT Oregon is unique in the disability landscape in Oregon as the state’s sole Parent Training and Information Center for Special Education. Staff receive ongoing training to support families in learning about special education and create resources that are vetted by educators and partners like Disability Rights Oregon, the state’s Protection and Advocacy agency.

Feedback from families on FACT Oregon’s services is stellar. Nearly all parents report feeling better equipped to engage in their children’s education and disability services after engaging with the organization. They appreciate that they can call the support line or attend training programs.

The services that FACT Oregon provides to these families is unique and needs support. Donations are critical to help FACT Oregon meet its growing demand, as they allow families to receive the free support, training, and resources they need to navigate disability and special education. Consider supporting FACT Oregon to help them continue providing these services.


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