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

August 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

Matt Cohen's tips for reducing the back to school IEP blues

The start of a new school year is typically a mixture of anxiety and excitement for most  kids and their families. But for kids with disabilities and their families, there is often greater  reason for anxiety and more difficulty feeling the excitement, as concerns about how  the child's program will be implemented loom large. 

Matt Cohen has prepared a fact sheet to guide families through the often challenging first weeks of school. READ THE FACT SHEET
CPS Corrective Action Plan too little, too late

More than a year after compensatory services were ordered by the state to address illegal delays and denials of special ed services, Chicago Public Schools is finally sharing details of its corrective action plan with parents. But the plan is too little, too late to correct the widespread denials of service that CPS implemented during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
The CPS proposal puts the onus for addressing corrective actions on the students' already overtaxed IEP teams, the same teams that approved the delays and denials to begin with, and fails to acknowledge how district policies and actions harmed students. Plus, the plan sets up a situation where the IEP team could determine compensatory services are not warranted because the student made "expected progress" despite the denials and delays of services. READ MORE from the flyer that CPS issued.
And please share this flyer from Equip for Equality which provides information and resources for parents whose children were denied services by CPS. Parents who believe their child was harmed by the CPS 2016-18 policies limiting access to LD eligibility, ESY, placement at therapeutic days schools, provision of 1-1 paraprofessional support, and/or transportation services, can also contact our office for further information. Mention this when you are calling  or send an email to Matt Cohen at .
Another misleading headline from Betsy DeVos
Data released by Betsy DeVos' Education Department shows the agency's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is closing more cases than it did during the Obama administration. Although DeVos heralded the findings, the data actually show her department is doing less to help people with disabilities. 
This is evidenced by the decision to no longer consider systemic complaints, which take longer to investigate and resolve but impact far more people than individual complaints, and the very low (and dropping) rate of decisions requiring the school districts to take action to remedy the problem affecting the child.  And it shows that overall, the rate of favorable resolution for the child is below 15 percent of the cases filed. Those are incredibly steep odds. READ MORE

Trump education department raising alarm bells over possible changes to LRE mandates

Special education advocates are worried the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos may be gearing up to "reinterpret" IDEA's requirement that students be placed in the Least Restrictive Learning environment. 

Advocates met with department officials in July to strongly protest the proposed change and were told no such plans were in the works. However, in the same breath, agency officials said "nothing was off the table" as part of the department's efforts to "reshape" how it administers special education. READ MORE  
New study refutes claims that autism is caused by environmental factors

The largest study of its kind, involving more than 2 million people across five continents, finds that heredity, not environmental factors, are responsible for 80 percent of autism cases, findings that should put to rest claims that vaccines or maternal factors cause the disorder. 
The study, the largest to date, examined the medical histories of more than 2 million children born in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Israel, and Western Australia between 1998 and 2012 and tracked them until age 16. The study found that of the 22,000 that developed autism spectrum disorder, 80 percent of their risk of developing the disorder was due to genetic factors. READ MORE and READ THE STUDY .

Most states, including Illinois, failing to meet IDEA requirements

The U.S. Department of Education says fewer than half the states are meeting their obligations to serve students under IDEA, the federal special education law. The department's annual performance review found that just 21 states earned the designation of "meets requirements" for the 2017-2018 school year. Illinois was not one of them--the state received the "needs assistance" designation.  READ MORE

School to prison pipeline is real, especially for African American students with disabilities

Suspension, expulsion and other "exclusionary discipline" practices raise the chances that students will end up in the school to prison pipeline and students of color with disabilities are more likely to face that kind of discipline. Those are the findings of a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 
The report also highlights the higher rates of "school resource officers," police officers assigned to schools, in schools where at least half the students are students of color and have high poverty rates. The use of SROs is controversial, especially in a city like Chicago, where many schools have full-time police officers but not enough counselors, social workers or nurses. READ MORE and READ THE STUDY

Special ed teachers say many general ed, para pro colleagues unprepared for students with IEPs
Special education teachers find their special ed colleagues and related service providers are generally prepared to support students with disabilities, according to a new survey. But the same can't be said for their general education and paraprofessional colleagues. This finding is problematic given that federal data show students with disabilities spend at least 80 percent of their day in general education classrooms. 
The study, conducted by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), a group that represents special education teachers, also found that, while special ed teachers refer to their students' IEPs daily or weekly, they have little time to prepare lessons based on the plans. READ MORE .

In the news...

CPS special education assistants, custodians, bus aides, and security officers have been working without a contract for more than a year. Earlier this month, a whopping 97 percent of them voted to authorize a strike.
Negotiations continue, but the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) says it could strike if the district doesn't move on key demands, including smaller class sizes, more staffing and more special ed resources. 

A bill awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature would provide job protection for parents who need to attend important conferences at their children's school.

Recent Firm Successes
  • Assisted family in getting admission of gifted 4th grader into Accelerated 7-9th Grade program at Selective Enrollment School. 
  • Secured private placement in LD school for student requiring specialized multi-sensory reading and other research-based support.  
  • Secured private placement for a student with an intellectual disability.
  • Obtained research-based, multi-sensory instruction, paraprofessional training, and compensatory education for a student with Major Neurocognitive Disorder.
  • Secured one-on-one aide for student at non-profit summer program and after- school program.

MCA updated logo 
Office News and Updates

Matt Cohen   has been honored by the Illinois Attorney General's Office for his 25 plus years of service as chair of the agency's Special Education Committee. Matt says he is proud of the work he's done on the committee and grateful for the recognition. He chose to step down earlier this year to focus his energy on his clients and other pro bono activities.

Matt Cohen has, once again, been selected as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2019 - 2020. 
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.  
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, di sability rights advocacy, including advocacy for accommodations in admissions and licensing tests and in colleges and graduate schools 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  or 

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





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. 


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