EXPERT UPDATE: Consortium Works on Issues Facing Latinos with Disabilities

By Jennifer Bosk

Among the many challenges parents and caregivers of children with disabilities experience is being understood by communities and the public. Add not speaking or limited understanding of the English language and the problem is compounded.

Screen Shot 2018 07 30 at 16.06.36Lola Hernández (left) and Brenda Liz Muñoz tape a televised segment on Spanish-speaking families with children, youth and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at Telemundo Atlanta.

Three years ago, the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) of the School of Public Health at Georgia State University (GSU) set out to tackle this very issue. Through their development of the Latino Community of Practice: Supporting Families with Children and Youth with Disabilities (LCP), over 125 Latino-serving family advocates, partners and professionals from the metro Atlanta area and beyond now come together to work on complex issues facing Latinos with disabilities.

Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) Council member Brenda Munoz co-leads the LCP.  Working to provide a great life for her son, whom she describes as “tall, dark, and handsome as well as profoundly autistic and non-verbal,” she found her career following the path to the CLD. She explains her capstone project is the Latino Community of Practice.

Georgia is 10th in the nation with the largest Hispanic population growth. With one in every 58 children on the autism spectrum according to the Centers for Disease Control,  it reasons that many Hispanic families are living with a child with a disability.  The Latino Community of Practice has decided the best way to help these families is to focus on three key areas:

     1. professional capacity building and collective impact;
     2. education and leadership training for parents; and
     3. formal and informal advocacy in public policy and systems of care.

At the start, this consortium of parents and leaders met quarterly to work on community building and learning about educational and health equity as it relates to intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as bilingual community engagement. Some of the consortium’s co-founding partners are the City of Atlanta, Immigration Affairs/Welcoming Atlanta, Latin American Association, Marcus Autism Center/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Parent to Parent of Georgia, SPECTRUM, Inc., Atlanta Public Schools, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Learn the Signs Act Early (LTSAE) campaign.

With the success of bringing the supporters and professionals together, Munoz says the group’s focus now is on families. She adds the Latino Community of Practice is currently in a collaboration with SPECTRUM, Inc. Together, they are hosting Latino Family Nights in Duluth to address a variety of topics including how best to advocate for their children, available services and supports and how to navigate the school system. The Latino Family Nights have proven so popular, they will now be held monthly starting in August.

As the Latino Family Nights grow, Munoz is working with the leading Latina researcher and professor of disability and human development at the University of Chicago, Dr. Sandra Magana. Dr. Magana created an English/Spanish, evidenced-based curriculum titled “Parents Take Action,” which Munoz’s group will begin using soon at the Latino Family Nights. The curriculum draws from existing knowledge about autism, treatments, services and strategies and makes it accessible to the Spanish-speaking Latino community in a culturally competent and cost-effective way.

For more information on the Latino Community of Practice initiative and its events, please refer to their web page at or their Facebook page at

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