The Parent Consultant Training Institute (PCTI)

By Elizabeth Topaz, Senior Trainer/ Statewide Training Coordinator, Parent Consultant Training Institute

Women listen during classThe Federation’s Parent Training and Information Center offers several services designed to inform, educate, and empower parents. These services include the Call Center, which provides parents with information regarding specific questions, as well as parent workshops on a variety of topics offered throughout the Commonwealth during the school year. We also offer the Parent Consultant Training Institute (PCTI), an intensive training series designed for parents who want to learn about the special education process and their child’s rights in greater depth.
The emphasis at PCTI is on developing a collaborative relationship with your child’s school, while effectively advocating for the assistance that your child needs. Participants in PCTI enter the class with, at a minimum, some familiarity with the IEP process. Many parents taking the class are already assisting their friends and their community in understanding and contributing to their child’s special education planning. We recommend that parents taking the class attend our Basic Rights workshop at least once before attending PCTI (a schedule of Basic Rights workshops may be found here; they are free to attend).

When parents attend the first day of PCTI, they meet, connect, and share ideas with other informed parents, as well as professionals. The course is taught primarily through presentations, as well as some class exercises in which participants have the opportunity to apply their new knowledge. Presentations are made by Federation staff and outside experts. Approximately half of the course is taught by outside experts who are leaders in their field.

Topics covered in PCTI include an in-depth look at Basic Rights in Special Education and IEPs; Neuropsychological and Educational Assessments; Measurable Goals and Access to the Curriculum; IDEA History and Advocacy; Transition; Discipline; and Effective Progress. In addition, we learn about communicating productively and effectively with our schools, working with parents and professionals of differing backgrounds, trauma’s effect on learning, and government systems for resolving special education disputes. Speakers typically include a neuropsychologist, university professors, attorneys, educators, and officials from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Problem Resolution System and the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.

Course WorkbookInternships are available to those that have attended all of the PCTI presentations. During the 25-hour Call Center internship, parents assist in our Boston or Turner’s Falls Call Centers, responding to inquiries and providing information to parents. Many of our interns are then able to participate in our pro bono internship, in which they assist other parents at school meetings.

Parents leave PCTI with an understanding of what to expect from the IEP process and how to ensure that their child receives appropriate special education services. One parent who recently took the course told us that “This course was life changing… Before the class I was scared and confused, now I am empowered.”

PCTI is held 5 times a year throughout Massachusetts. We meet for 6 hours a day, once a week for 9 weeks, except for our intensive condensed class, which meets for 9 hours daily, for 5 consecutive days. The next PCTI is an intensive condensed class in Sturbridge during the week of June 25. You can see the full schedule here; next year’s schedule will be posted in July.

Unlike many of our other programs, PCTI is a fee based program. Parents attend at a reduced cost of $350. Many parents will be eligible for partial scholarships of up to $250 through the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council’s (MCCD) Council Empowerment Funds Program. To learn more about that program, you can visit the MDDC’s website.

If you would like to register for PCTI, you may do so on line here. If you have questions about the PCTI program, please contact Elizabeth Topaz at or 617.399.8315.