Families & the Community

Longtime Special Education Resource to Be Reborn as Part of New Center

By Christina A. Samuels — November 27, 2013 2 min read
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Resources created by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities—widely known by the acronym NICHCY, a holdover from the name it had over 30 years ago—will remain available online, though the center closed down after its last grant from the Department of Education’s office of special education programs ended in September.

The center, once known as the National Information Center for Handicapped Children and Youth, had for decades provided direct resources to parents through mail and a telephone hotline. Though the center moved more and more of its information online, the stream of contacts from the public continued, at a rate of 90 to 300 calls a month, said Elaine Mulligan, who was NICHCY’s director. Much of that was due to the center’s long history, she said. While other federally-funded resources would change names or contact information, NICHCY remained.

Parents “would tell us, ‘you’re the only one who answers the phone.’ And now we’re not answering the phone any more,” Mulligan said. That was “heartbreaking” for the information specialists at the NICHCY, she added. “Our hearts want us to go on answering those phones forever.”

The information hotline part of NICHCY’s mission is not coming back, Mulligan said. But the online information, which includes dozens of fact sheets on disabilities, family rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, individualized education programs, due process provisions, and other topics will be preserved in the new Center for Parent Information and Resources. CPIR is slated to be up and running by early next year, she said. (A fuller description of CPIR’s duties can be found at this Federal Register notice.)

A statement from the Education Department to Education Week said that “in recent years, [the office of special education programs] has been consolidating some of our smaller investments into larger centers. The ‘larger strategy’ is to structure our discretionary investments to have a greater impact, increased reach and deliver services in a more efficient and effective manner. It is expected that future investments/resources will support the work that was carried out through our National Dissemination Center and that those materials will continue to be available beyond 2014.” NICHCY was awarded $800,000 in its last five-year grant cycle.

The new center’s primary work will be to support the parent training information centers and the community parent resource centers, which are in every state and are tasked with working directly with families of children with disabilities. NICHCY-created documents will be among the information these centers can use when they talk with parents.

Mulligan said that in the meantime, the specialists who worked with NICHCY plan to repurpose the center’s social media accounts so that parents will be able to find them, even though the well-known name is going away. “We want to keep a connection to NICHCY because we want people to be able to find us. There is a benefit to having been around for years and years,” she said.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.