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November 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
Investigation finds shocking use of isolation rooms in schools across Illinois

In response to a directive from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the Illinois State Board of Education has adopted emergency rules to end the seclusion of students in isolation rooms, after the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documented over 20,000 cases of school children being locked away for hours on end.
By law, the practice should only be used in cases when behavior poses harm to the student or others, but the investigation highlighted many instances where children were isolated for minor infractions. Finding strategies to deal with out-of-control student behavior is challenging for the most experienced and caring educators. Let's hope the state adopts thoughtful policies to address the Tribune's disturbing findings. READ MORE

However, almost immediately after the announcement of the emergency ban on seclusion, many private therapeutic schools and some public schools complained, indicating that they would not be able to safely manage students with disabilities with dangerous behaviors and that many would have to be terminated from their programs.  

In response, ISBE  has temporarily frozen the implementation of some of the rules, pending further work on how they would be implemented, while others are allowed to go into effect. This unintended consequence of the emergency rule caused many families to rightfully panic that their children would lose their placements. We think the reaction of the providers substantiates the over dependence on restraint and seclusion, as it should not be an essential element of a child's program. 

Nonetheless, given the threat and the apparent inability of some providers to easily or effectively implement alternatives, it was prudent for ISBE to allow a SHORT-TERM SUSPENSION of the rules. To the credit of ISBE, it is working to involve the advocacy community in developing solutions to the problem, along with public and private school representatives and parents. I am actively involved in the effort to find a workable long-term solution. Stay tuned and READ MORE about the temporary suspension. 

National data blows hole in Common Core, testing and charter school results

Many parents and educators believe the Common Core standards, excessive statewide testing programs and charter school proliferation--the policies promoted by right wing, school privatization boosters--have not improved educational performance, wasting valuable instruction time and money instead. Now, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) confirm those suspicions.
Test scores have remained flat or gone down since Common Core, excessive testing and charters were pushed on the nation's schools. The way to improve education? Focus on and invest in students and teachers, not multi-million-dollar testing regimes. READ MORE

New research shows inclusion works, boosts test scores for Indiana students with disabilities

A new study shows that Indiana students with disabilities who were included in a general education classroom out performed their peers in separate special ed classrooms on state assessments. The study, conducted by Indiana University, followed students from third to eighth grade and defined "inclusion" as 80 percent of time in a general ed classroom.
"This is one of the first studies to find such conclusive evidence in favor of inclusion," said one of the study's authors, who hopes the findings will be used to inform school improvement plans and teacher training programs in Indiana districts. READ MORE
Inclusion means more than dumping IEP students into a general education classroom

In this essay, a parent who is also an educator shares the experience of her autistic daughter who is in a general education classroom. Her daughter's preschool teacher did everything she could to celebrate her child's uniqueness and support her challenges. But the transition to kindergarten was not so pleasant.
"My child is not that different. She is not a mystical creature that nobody has ever seen or met before," she writes. "She is a little girl who is real. She has feelings, emotions, and struggles. And she is here in a world where the true mysterious creature is her IEP, and how it is going to survive the weather of a General Education Classroom." READ MORE

Educators question popular reading and assessment program

The Fountas and Pinnell reading instruction and assessment program is popular with many school districts, including Chicago Public Schools (CPS). But educators have concerns that the program does not present a research-based or evidence-based explanation for the teaching of the skills or for the way the skills are presented.
Plus, the assessments were field tested on a group of "typical students" that excluded students with disabilities. READ MORE HERE and HERE

Nearly 20,000 adults with disabilities waiting for spots in state programs, despite court order to improve services

This Chicago Tribune story documents a complaint we and other special ed advocates hear over and over. Illinois lags woefully behind other states in providing programs for young adults who have aged out of the school system.
Nearly 20,000 adults with developmental disabilities are on waiting lists for state programs, despite a 2011 court order directing Illinois to improve services for disabled adults. One family tells the Tribune they signed their child up for state services when he was five and he waited 17 years, until he turned 22, for a program spot. READ MORE

Young people shine in Joffrey Ballet Adaptive Dance Program's "The Nutcracker"

We at MCA are so proud to know one of the amazing young people in this story, who we helped to secure an appropriate educational program. And kudos to the Joffrey Ballet for its Adaptive Dance program, which shows that individuals with disabilities have the same talents and interests the rest of us have.
"Just because we have a disability doesn't mean we can't be a normal kid," one of the girls said. "I am more than just a person in a wheelchair." READ MORE

Northwestern University seeking parent interviews for research study on parent involvement in IEP process

Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine is looking to interview parents for a research study examining the needs of parents raising children with disabilities. You will be asked to complete an online survey that takes 20 - 25 minutes and, if you choose, possibly participate in a follow up interview.
The study seeks to give parents of children with disabilities under 22 years old a platform to share their experiences to inform future services and policies. The more parents who take the survey, the more voices that can be shared with policymakers and clinicians. READ MORE

Recent Firm Successes

  • Secured retroactive and prospective funding for residential placement for two years for a child with severe PTSD and commitment to step down to therapeutic day school if needed after discharge from residential.  
  • Successfully advocated for a high school student with executive functioning and social/emotional needs to receive an IEP and the specialized supports he requires.
  • Secured placement in specialized school for student with learning disabilities, as well as reimbursement of parents' initial expenses.
  • Successfully advocated for a high school student with executive functioning and social/emotional needs to receive an IEP and the specialized supports he requires. 
  • Effectively collaborated with school team to create a robust initial 504 plan for a high school junior. 
  • Obtained placement for an elementary-age child with learning and attention issues at a private special education program, including reimbursement for parents' tuition costs to date. 
Upcoming presentations
MCA Advocacy Colloquium, Matt Cohen
Related Services Technology, Unusual Therapies and Intervention
Matt Cohen & Assoc. 7th floor conference room
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.(Date may change due to a hearing)
155 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL  60601 
For MCA Advocacy Colloquium members only. Others may contact Matt Cohen to discuss your interest. Meal is provided, so please RSVP to Tami Kuipers at by day before.
Matt Cohen
Panel Discussion on Rights and Services for Gifted Children
Midwest Academy for Gifted Education
Sunday, Dec. 15, noon - 1 p.m.
Chicago, IL 60642
Matt Cohen, Brad Dembs and Elizabeth Hooper
The Role and Power of Independent Evaluations: How to Critically Evaluate and Use IEEs to Secure Appropriate Placements and Services
COPAA 22nd Annual Conference
Sunday, March 8, 2020, 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor
401 W. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
For conference information and details, visit
Matt Cohen
Keynote speaker
LDA of Illinois Annual Conference
October 30, 2020.  Details to come. 
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





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