In This Issue
IEP Checkup!
School is in session - Time for an IEP Checkup!  Is your child's IEP giving them all they need? Does it have the right goals, objectives and evaluation procedures?  Do the services and accommodations provide all they are entitled to?  If you want an IEP Checkup, Click HERE

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MCA updated logo

April 2019 E-Newsletter 


This E-newsletter is devoted to sharing information about special education, disability rights, mental health and human services law, policy and research that is of importance to people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals that work with them.

Information includes political issues, important research, legal developments, and information based on our experiences that we hope will help you personally in your individual and professional efforts.   It also provides updates and news about our firm and its activities.  We hope you find it helpful and welcome your comments and suggestions.  
                                                                   -Matt Cohen
Disability rights advocates block Trump administration's delay of rules to protect students of color 

A federal district court has ruled that the Trump administration violated federal law when it delayed implementation of new rules designed to protect students of color who have been diagnosed with disabilities. The Department of Education rule, adopted in 2016, was designed to promote equity in the treatment of students of color with disabilities, who are disproportionately and unfairly suspended and expelled from school.  

After the Trump administration delayed the rule's implementation, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a national disability rights group, filed suit. The court found the delay was arbitrary and capricious and the original rule should take effect.  At press time, the DeVos administration was considering an appeal of the ruling. READ MORE
DeVos' proposed education cuts go deeper than Special Olympics but get less fanfare

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' proposed cuts to the Special Olympics, a program beloved by parents, students and disability rights advocates, blew up in her face after she was grilled by a U.S. House committee. 

The proposed cuts would have impacted 272,000 children who take advantage of the program.

Her testimony went viral and a firestorm ensued, even though the administration's budget was released weeks ago and DeVos had proposed the same cut twice before. While the program is important, and the proposed cut illustrated the administration's callous disregard for students with disabilities, the DeVos budget includes huge cuts to other important programs that, unfortunately, are being overlooked. READ MORE

If you want to oppose the DeVos budget, you can sign the Network for Public Education's (NPE) petition against it. NPE is a national, non-profit organization committed to strengthening and advocating for public education.

Bipartisan bill seeks to fully fund IDEA, finally

At the same time DeVos is slashing education funding, bipartisan legislation in Congress seeks to substantially increase the federal government's share of funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

When IDEA passed in 1975, the federal government was supposed to pick up 40 percent of the cost. But, as educators and advocates across the nation know, that never happened. Today, the federal government pays just 14.7 percent of the cost. So, the new measure proposes incremental hikes in federal funding to get to that "full funding" level by 2029. The bill has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. READ MORE
The U.S. Department of Education releases four letters responding to requests for guidance

The letters, released in February, address students with disabilities in correctional facilities, discipline procedures, children with disabilities placed in private schools by their parents, and response to intervention.

Study: Reworked Autism Definition Prompted Drop In Diagnoses

In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) reworked the definition of autism, eliminating diagnoses like Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder. Instead, clinicians are now directed to denote a level of severity of a broad "autism spectrum disorder."

Five years after those sweeping changes, new research shows that fewer people are being diagnosed with the developmental disorder. Overall, about one in five individuals who would have received an autism diagnosis under the old DSM are being left out under the new criteria, according to the study.

My own experience is that there is great confusion with respect to kids with higher functioning autism or that were previously diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome. Some of those children are now being diagnosed with Social Communication Disorder, but some are being wrongly lumped under the category of Emotional Disorder or not being diagnosed at all. READ MORE
Special education bills advancing in Illinois General Assembly

Advocates and parent groups are pushing two bills to address lags and problems with last year's state takeover of the special ed program in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

HB 3302 would extend the statute of limitations for parents to file a complaint for compensatory services resulting from the Illinois State Board of Education's (ISBE) public inquiry. At press time, the bill had passed out of committee and was awaiting action on state house floor.

HB 3586  would increase transparency of special education policies and services and provide parents five days to review documentation before a scheduled IEP meeting. This bill also has passed committee and is awaiting action on the state house floor.

Please call your state representative, find contact info here , and ask for a YES vote on these two bills.

Chicago Special Ed Parents Say Students Still Being Denied Services

WBEZ reports that Chicago special education advocates and parents say students with disabilities are still being denied needed services, even though a state monitor is now overseeing the Chicago public school system's special education program.

The advocates, including Matt Cohen, submitted a letter to the newly appointed Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) members identifying CONTINUING problems with the monitor's enforcement and oversight of Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) special ed program. READ MORE

Chicago Public Schools Struggle With High Special Education Teacher Vacancies

The Illinois state-appointed monitor over Chicago's special ed program says a dramatic shortage of special ed teachers is causing many of the district's problems providing services. READ MORE

Recent successes at the firm


  • Secured residential placement for child with autism and severe behavior challenges in an unusual situation in which one parent was opposed to the placement.
  • Secured partial funding for placement in non-approved boarding school that is not special ed.
  • Secured funding for placement at private day school.
  • Secured SAT test accommodations for student with ADHD and slow processing that had never had an IEP and was doing well in school without extended time.
  • Secured funding for placement at a private day school.
  • Effectively advocated to put in place Wilson reading programming, 1:1 aide, and improved BIP.
  • Secured funding for placement at a private day school.
  • Secured an initial IEP, including successfully advocating for a Specific Learning Disability label.
  • Secured commitment from school district for residential placement of child with significant aggressive behavior issues (still searching for appropriate placement); secured result of unfounded for two investigations into the parents by DCFS.
  • Settled long-standing federal court case (MI) regarding inclusion of child with Down Syndrome. Secured funding for private placement for student for 1st-8th grade and attorneys' fees.
  • Secured private FBA by Alice Belgrade (Private behavior consultant) and District speech and OT evaluations, as well as amendments to IEP and commitment to maintain IEP until evals are considered for student with social/emotional and behavior issues after district removed sped eligibility.
  • Secured placement at private day school for student with SLD, GAD, heart disease.
  • Successfully advocated for behavior to be found manifestation of disability and immediate reinstatement of student in school.
  • Secured attorneys fees reimbursement after successful due process hearing.
  • Secured placement at Hyde Park Day School for student with Learning disabilities.
  • Secured continued special ed eligibility and related services for student with high functioning autism.


MCA updated logo 
Office News and Updates

Matt Cohen  has been selected as an "Illinois Super Lawyer for 2018," having previously been selected for the last 13 years.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Hooper, one of the MCA advocates, on the birth of her daughter

Matt Cohen currently serves on the boards of the national Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), where he is a founding board member, and Our Place of New Trier Township, a community-based program for young adults with disabilities.  He also chairs the Illinois Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Special Education, having served in that capacity for over 25 years.
Matt Cohen's Upcoming Presentations 

Transition Planning - Strategy and Tactics
April 13, 9  - 10 a.m.
Joliet Junior College
1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet
Presented by Matt Cohen

Sponsored by Will-Grundy Transition Planning Committee.  The Will-Grundy Transition Planning Committee is a consortium of schools, agencies and not-for-profit organizations that have banded together to improve vocational transition from education to jobs for all learners, but particularly for individuals with disabilities. For further information visit .

Know Your Rights: Getting what your child needs from the Special Education System
Friday, May 17, 12 - 2 p.m.
Rockford Regional Office
4302 N. Main St., Rockford
Presented by Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs

Sponsored by UIC specialized Care for Children.  To register by May 10, please call Dawn or Shannon at 815-987-7571 or visit their webpage at .  

LeHigh University Special Education Law Symposium
You Be the Judge: Dueling Attorneys, the Facts, and the Law
(morning session)
The Intersection of RTI and IDEA Child Find/Eligibility: Navigating the Slippery Slope (afternoon session) 
Monday June 24th
Presented by Matt Cohen
LeHigh University
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA

For further information and to register, visit

If you are looking for further information or would like Matt to speak at your parent group, support group, organization, conference or convention or to do staff trainings, please contact: [email protected] or call at 1-866-787-9270.
Brochures Available 
We offer several different brochures related 
to the following topics: 
  • IEPs and 504 Plans - Navigating the Maze
  • Tips for Obtaining Accommodations for the ACT, SAT and other Placement Exams
  • Obtaining an Independent Educational Evaluation
  • Tips for Obtaining Appropriate Services for Your Child With Autism
  • Classroom Observation
To request multiple copies for your clients, 
please call us at 866-787-9270.   

Matt Cohen is the founder of the Chicago law firm Matt Cohen & Associates LLC.  


The practice is concentrated in representation of children and families in special education and discipline disputes with public schools, disability rights advocacy and legal assistance to mental health and human services professionals and the organizations they work for. 

For more information about Matt Cohen and the staff, please visit our  website.
If you have any questions, please contact his assistant, Tami Kuipers at 866-787-9270

book cover

   A Guide to Special Education Advocacy -
  What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know
   written by Matt Cohen
   published in 2009


    $20 plus $4.95 shipping 

    to order, call Tami at


    or [email protected]  



The material in this enews has been prepared by Matt Cohen & staff for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.  We assume no responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of any information provided herein. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. 


We would be pleased to communicate with you via email.  However, if you communicate with us through the Web site regarding a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged and confidential.  Do not send us confidential, proprietary or other sensitive information until you speak with one of our attorneys and receive authorization to send that information.  Matt Cohen is providing this enews, the information, listings, and links contained herein only as a convenience to you.