Phoenix couple runs support group in Spanish for disabled families

Gabby and Jose Orozco, who run Grupo de Apoyo Para Ninos, or GANE, a parent-run support group for Spanish-speaking families with children and adults with different abilities, pose for a photo in front of their Phoenix office.Patrick Breen / The Republic

Anabel Quintana sat and listened as an education attorney spoke in Spanish about a voucher scheme for students with disabilities at a meeting in April in front of a room owned by 20 parents.

Quintana said she had attended monthly meetings like this through a support group for 10 years to learn more about resources in Spanish for her son who was diagnosed with autism when he was around 3 years old.

The group called Grupo de Apoyo Para Niños or GANE, a parent-run support group in Spanish for families with children and adults with disabilities, is where Quintana said she first learned about autism.

At the meetings, she also met a couple, Gabby and José Orozco, who have led the group for 15 years to provide free support, information and resources to an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Spanish-speaking families and immigrant families like Quintana and her son Phoenix.

“You help a lot of families,” said Quintana. “They do a lot of things for us.”

The Orozcos began running the group after moving to Arizona from California in 2004. They knew the difficulty navigating the special education system for their son Joshua, who is now 27 and has autism, so they wanted to help other parents do the same.

“We saw the need to help the Hispanic community and that is really our passion,” said Gabby. “We only came here to visit the group and see what it is like, and they ended up saying, ‘Can you stay here please? Will you help us and organize it? ‘ … And we’ve been here ever since. “

Couple teaches parents to stand up for themselves and the rights of their child

Through GANE, Gabby and José, a certified translator, support parents by translating information into Spanish and showing them what resources are available in their community and schools.

“There are more resources, information for English-speaking families,” said Gabby. “Even English-speaking families can have a hard time with certain types of support and services, but for Spanish-speaking families, the barrier is even more difficult.”

Gabby Orozco greets children in her Phoenix office.

Gabby Orozco greets children in her Phoenix office.Patrick Breen / The Republic

Much of the information that families in GANE could benefit from was only available in English, so the couple said they did it themselves to translate the materials. Each month the group hosts an expert or lawyer to educate families in Spanish about the resources available to them.

The couple also believe it is important to educate parents about their rights and how to stand up in the sessions of the Individualized Education Program for Students with Disabilities, said the Orozcos, who have attended many IEP family meetings around the world Discuss your child’s goals with the children. School.

“If someone tells them, ‘Well, you won’t get any support’ … anything you tell them, they’ll take it,” said Gabby. “You have to see that ‘This is something my son and daughter need, I deserve it.’ And they should be more open about it, but we’re still helping them. “

When the group met in April, José presented a package to Quintana – she said he had checked her son’s IEP because she wasn’t sure what to do after his necklace was stolen at school. The school took no action for her son, who is also hyperactive and non-verbal, so she said that after consulting with José, she planned to meet with the district.

In addition to providing information about schools, IEPs, and resources for children and adults with developmental disabilities, the couple said it also supports families with their daily needs.

When the pandemic started, Gabby said that many families struggled to switch to online school because they didn’t have internet access or didn’t know how to use some of the technology required so they helped families sign up for classes online .

“This is our niche. Working with children, working with people and now having our son with a disability, we know what it was like and we just try to help as much as possible,” said José.

Arizona should translate, provide all materials in Spanish, the couple say

The Orozcos said everything at the country level should be translated into Spanish, as over a quarter of households in Arizona speak a language other than English at home, according to U.S. census data that found over 1.2 million Arizonans live Spanish at home in 2015 speak, and around 458,000 said they spoke less than “very good” English.

“We’re trying to do our best,” said Gabby. “But it should be translated at the state level, everything should be translated so that families at least have that support and resources.”

Since the 2010-11 school year, the number of Latin American or Latin American students in Maricopa County has increased by approximately 18%. They also make up the largest group of students in Maricopa County, according to the Arizona Department of Education enrollment dates.

After years of meetings at different locations, the Orozcos found a permanent home for the group’s events in their company Ideal Care, which offers services for people with disabilities at home.

Over time, the number of families joining the group also fluctuated due to deportations, Gabby said, but many Spanish-speaking families and immigrant families are part of the group as long as they have been leading it.

Since meeting the Orozcos, Quintana has said that not only have they provided support and resources for their son, but they are like family too. Whenever she needs your help with her son’s school or any other issue, they are there to help, she said.

“You will always be there,” said Quintana. “Regardless of whether Saturday or Sunday. … You will call back immediately.”

You can reach the reporter at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ Audreyj101.

This story is part of the Faces of Arizona series. For years, people in the various communities in Arizona have said that the newspapers do not reflect them and that they want to see more good news about their people. These profiles are a step in this direction. Do you have any feedback or ideas about who we should cover? Send them to editor Kaila White at [email protected].

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