Group Focuses on Needs of Disabled Latino Students

Officials for Fiesta Educativa say that many Latino children with disabilities suffer unnecessarily because their families do not have enough access to information in Spanish.

Officials for the nonprofit group are working to help alleviate that information gap.

The most recent of their efforts was a conference last weekend at USC that drew about 1,200 people from California, Washington and Mexico.

"There is plenty of information in English," said Irene Martinez, the executive director and a co-founder of Fiesta Educativa. "But not everyone who is giving the information is bilingual. That's where we come in."

The organization, located just northeast of downtown, was founded in 1978 to help inform and assist Latino families in obtaining services and care for children with special needs.

The weekend conference sought to facilitate an information exchange by having professionals or authorities in their fields lead symposiums.

People with disabilities were told about services available and about their rights. Families were shown how to gain access to resources for jobs, services, therapies and counseling.

Among the speakers over the weekend was Judith Heumann, the assistant secretary of the Department of Education, office of special education and rehabilitative services. Also participating were Tom Skertic of the University of Kansas, Nadeen Ruiz of Cal State Sacramento and Maria Zuniga of San Diego State.

Information about Fiesta Educativa is available at (213) 221-6696.

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