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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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February 2020 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
Big News: CPS capitulates on advocates' demands for strict liability for compensatory education

The Special Education Advocacy Coalition of Chicago has been fighting the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), ISBE and the U.S. Department of Education over their refusal to implement a strict liability standard to determine compensatory services for students who lost or were denied services during 2016 - 2017, when CPS slashed special ed programs. Those changes impacted 10,000 students. 

Last week, CPS finally relented and agreed that in many of the categories of service denial, students will be given automatic minimum remedies to address their educational losses. Parents still will have the right to seek more than the minimum remedies via a special IEP meeting with a neutral IEP team and will retain the right to appeal those decisions via an SEA complaint or a due process hearing. 

Racial, economic disparities abound in private school placements for students with learning disabilities

Public schools in New York, just like public schools in Chicago, struggle to serve students with severe learning disabilities. Private school placements can be life changing, but hard to access, especially for low-income families of color, as this article demonstrates. 

Two students, with the same learning disability, living just 15 blocks apart in New York City experienced vastly different education experiences.  "Basically, if you're poor, you've got second-class remedies available to you," says one special ed attorney. READ MORE.

Where the Democratic presidential candidates stand on disability rights, education 

Nearly every major candidate for the Democratic primary has detailed a plan to address the rights of individuals with disabilities, highlighting the importance of this voting bloc and the need to challenge the current administration's dangerous policies. We've compiled sources for you to assess the candidates' plans for yourself.
Complex Child, a monthly online magazine written by parents of children with healthcare needs and disabilities, has an extremely thorough compilation of all the presidential candidates' platforms on disability rights. The data is derived from candidate websites, surveys and questionnaires. READ MORE
Chalkbeat, a non-profit education news service, has compiled an informative chart detailing the candidates' key education platforms, some of which include the needs of students with disabilities. READ MORE

Take action to stop Trump rule changes that could cut disability benefits

The Trump administration is quietly proposing rules changes that could cut benefits to tens of thousands of Americans receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Under the change, the government would conduct more frequent and, potentially stringent, reviews to determine if recipients are "eligible" for benefits.
More than 8 million Americans receive disability benefits based on loss of income due to a severe disability. While the administration won't estimate potential lost benefits, it claims the changes could save $2.6 million over the next decade. Where would those savings come from other than reduced benefits? READ MORE and TAKE ACTION.

$400 million federal special ed funding increase still just a drop in the bucket

Federal spending on special education will rise more than it has in years, by $400 million, under the $1.3 trillion spending package Trump signed in September. 

While the spending increase is the largest seen since 2016, it doesn't even come close to meeting the IDEA mandate that the federal government provide 40 percent of funding for students with disabilities. READ MORE

What can you do to ensure your school is following your IEP and special ed law?

Recent studies have shown the various ways in which states and school districts try to skirt special ed law. So, what's a parent to do?
It shouldn't be a parent's job to enforce IDEA or make sure the school is correctly implementing your child's IEP. But in many school districts that's exactly what parents must do. This article provides helpful tips to help parents get the job done. READ MORE  

Depression rates for teen girls increasing faster than for boys and social media could be to blame

The rates of depression, self-harm and suicide among teen girls in the U.S. has increased in recent years faster than for teen boys. And mental health experts think digital media and the use of smart phones could be the reason.
A survey of more than 200,000 teens in the U.S. and Great Britain found that boys and girls spend their time on digital media in different ways. Boys spend more time gaming, interacting with each other. Girls spend more time texting and using social media, which can elicit anxiety and actually interfere with social interaction. READ MORE

Parents, advocates speak out at Illinois legislative hearing on misuse of seclusion and restraint in state schools
Illinois lawmakers continue to wrestle with the aftermath of revelations of abuse in the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools across the state. Legislators held a three-hour joint Senate/House hearing in January to consider two reform bills.
The hearing heard heartbreaking testimony from parents, educators and advocates, many who believe schools have become too punitive and use excessive discipline and punishment measures for routine infractions. READ MORE

The pro-corporate education reform movement is dead and good riddance, says Diane Ravitch

The education reform movement, and its obsession with standardized testing and other "accountability" measures, has failed, writes public education advocate Diane Ravitch. To improve schools, Ravitch writes in this essay based on her new book, we need to recognize that poverty is the great determinant in student achievement. We need to address the poverty, homelessness, hunger and lack of healthcare in our nation's students.
"Children and schools need stability, not disruption. They need experienced teachers and well-maintained schools. All children need schools that have a nurse, counselors, and a library with a librarian. Children need time to play every day. They need nutrition and regular medical check-ups," she writes. "All of this is common sense. These are reforms that work."

Recent Firm Successes

  • Successfully coached a parent to advocate for the implementation of a robust, appropriate reading curriculum for an elementary-aged student with learning disabilities.


  • Negotiated additional supports for student threatened with transfer to therapeutic day school, allowing for him to maintain current placement.


  • Helped secured an initial IEP for a young man with high functioning autism, anxiety, and ADHD.

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Office news and updates

Matt Cohen & Associates has been selected the Best Local Business for the 2020 Best of Chicago Awards. The award recognizes the firm's commitment to community service.

Matt Cohen also has been selected  as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2020.  The distinction of being a Leading Lawyer has been earned by fewer than 5 percent of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Upcoming presentations
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
March 8, 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

Brad Dembs
Developmental Difference Resource Fair 2020
March 29, 9:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m.
UIC Student Center East
750 Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Sponsored by the Neighborhood Parents Network. For more information, visit

Matt Cohen
Tourette Syndrome Association Educational Event
April 18, 10 - 1:00 p.m.
Francesca North in Northbrook
1145 Church Street
Northbrook, IL 60062
More information to come.
Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs
Transition Planning and the Law
The Arc Annual Meeting
April 22, 4 - 5:30 p.m.
Lisle Doubletree
3003 Corporate W Dr.
Lisle, IL 60532
Matt Cohen
Keynote speaker
Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois Annual Conference
October 30. 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





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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