Empowering families, improving lives...everyday
About

Discover ECAC

We are committed to improving the lives and education of ALL children everyday.

ECAC figure iconDiscover our mission and how we empower families and improve lives through our many resources​, including: 
  • Our friendly and knowledgeable Parent Educators
  • State and local resources
  • North Carolina's Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center
  • North Carolina Deaf/Blind Project
  • North Carolina State Improvement Project (NCSIP)
  • And more!

Our mission

  • Exceptional Children's Assistance Center (ECAC) is a private, nonprofit parent organization, committed to improving the lives and education of ALL children through a special emphasis on children with disabilities and special healthcare needs
  • ECAC affirms the right of all individuals, from all backgrounds and cultures, with or without disabilities, to an appropriate education and other needed services.
  • ECAC seeks to make that right a reality by providing information, education, outreach, and support to and for families with children across the state of North Carolina.
Children smiling at playground

Providing resources, assisting families

ECAC helps parents navigate the special education system, know their rights, and use their voice. We provide information, support, training and resources to assist families caring for children with special needs from birth to age 26. We also support young adults with disabilities in becoming self-advocates and leaders and the educators and professionals who serve them.

As parents of special needs children, we understand.

ECAC’s Parent Educators are parents of children with special needs. We approach this work with practical knowledge and personal experience. We know that families are their child’s first and most influential teacher. We assist families in also becoming their child’s best advocate in school, the community and in life.
image of young girl in wheelchair holding a plant smiling next to mom
image of teenage African American male using sign language

Providing connections for support

ECAC staff are not lawyers and we not do we have the answer to every question that families have regarding their child’s success. We can provide connections to community and state resources that can support families.

North Carolina's PTI Center

ECAC is the state’s designated Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) and receives funding from the federal Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs.

Who we serve

  • North Carolina parents and family members of a child from birth to age 26 with special needs
  • Children and youth with special needs from birth to age 26
  • Professionals who work with children with special needs

Funded Partnerships

North Carolina's Deaf/Blind Project

A project of ECAC, in collaboration with the NC Department of Public Instruction, Exceptional Children Division and East Carolina University. The NC Deaf-Blind Project provides a variety of supports and services designed to meet the needs of families with children who have deaf-blindness, birth to 22, and those that educate them. The NC Deaf/Blind Project provides 1:1 support, education and leadership development. All Deaf/Blind Project services are free to N.C. families.
ECAC North Carolina Deaf-Blind Project logo, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Exceptional Children Division

ECAC and the North Carolina Infant Toddler Program (NCITP)

The North Carolina Early Intervention Branch (NCEI) is a part of the N.C. Division of Public Health and is the lead agency for the N.C. Infant-Toddler Program (ITP). The Infant-Toddler Program provides early intervention supports and services for families and their children, birth to three who have special needs. ECAC has a contract for collaborative work with the NCITP to promote family engagement and leadership opportunities across the state. ECAC also provides training and materials to educate families about child development, early childhood transitions and their rights under IDEA.
Be Early logo

ECAC and the North Carolina State Improvement Project (NCSIP)

NCSIP is a program in the Exceptional Children Division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education, NCSIP works to improve the quality and effectiveness of educational programs and instruction for students with disabilities in North Carolina.

NC SIP logo

Our history

Image of Connie Hawkins receiving award
Connie Hawkins (center) receiving The Deborah Greenblatt Distinguished Service Award with Ryan Platt, (left) Board President of the Arc of North Carolina and John Nash (right), Executive Director of the Arc of North Carolina

ECAC is a nonprofit organization created in 1984 by Connie Hawkins and Frank Graziadei, two parents with children with special needs. With the help of Richard White, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, they wrote North Carolina’s first grant to fund the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). Their experience as parents of children with disabilities, compelled them to help find support for other families of children with special needs. 

Connie Hawkins was both ECAC’s founder and Executive Director for 34 years. Frank Graziadei, has returned as a Board Member. Both Connie and Frank are still advocating for a free and appropriate education for ALL children with a special focus on child with disabilities.

Continuing to grow our services

Today, ECAC continues this legacy of support to North Carolina families with children with special needs age birth – 26 years of age. We have continued to grow and expand our services to now serve young people with disabilities by helping them to develop self-advocacy and leadership skills. We pride ourselves on providing high quality, useful and relevant services to families, youth and the professionals that serve them.

Learn more and get started!

Meet our energetic team

Get to know our dedicated team members—committed to empowering families and improving lives!

Find resources for parents and families

We realize that navigating the special education process can be both challenging and frustrating. We can help.

Discover resources and education

Through our Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center, we offer numerous resources from disability-specific to family support.