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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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MCA updated logo

May 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

MCA success in due process hearing helps family retain private school setting critical to student's educational progress and health

M CA just received another great due process decision on behalf of one of our clients. The student is in junior high and has severe learning disabilities, language problems, ADHD, anxiety and a serious potentially life-threatening medical problem. He was placed in a private school for children with learning disabilities by the district three years ago via a settlement agreement and was continued at the school until his May, 2018 IEP meeting, when the district decided he was ready to return to public school.

That decision was made based almost entirely on his passing grades, reports of progress, and a few brief observations by school staff. However, the school ignored the strong recommendations from the private school staff, a private therapist and private psychologist, all of whom agreed the student needed the intensive support of the smaller, private program and would suffer extreme anxiety if transferred back to the public school, creating a risk of aggravating his heart condition.

The due process hearing officer agreed with us, ruling the school had failed to show it could meet his needs in the less restrictive environment. She ordered that the student remain at the private school at least through the end of the summer of 2020. And, in a remarkable finding, she ordered that when the school met to consider his placement beyond that date, it had to pay for a private clinician to evaluate him and then follow the recommendation of that clinician. This is a huge victory for the student and the parent and our firm is proud to have been in this struggle with them.

Before she even received the decision, the client wrote:  "I want to thank you. Regardless of outcome, I would hire you a hundred times over. Your approach, kindness and guidance came through every step of the way. I feel very good about our chances, mostly based on Matt using one of my favorite words, hubris, during his expertly crafted close."
DeVos education department readies for IDEA reauthorization

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the US Department of Education are gearing up for an overdue reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a move that could spell trouble for the nation's special education law and the students it's designed to protect. Normally, IDEA is supposed to be reviewed and renewed every seven years, but that has not occurred since 2004 due to lack of agreement about how it should be changed, even before Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education. In her time as head of the U. S. Department of Education (DOE), Devos has shown a serious lack of understanding, knowledge and respect for the law, as well as an utter lack of compassion for students and individuals with disabilities who look to IDEA to safeguard their rights. We in the special education and disability community would prefer to leave the law as it is, despite its flaws, than open it up to potentially devastating deregulation through a DeVos/Trump-led reauthorization process.   READ MORE
New government study documents disparities in special ed enrollment

Ab out 13 percent of students nationally receive special education services, but the rates vary widely by state, according to a new study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). IDEA requires states develop policies to identify and evaluate all students with disabilities, but they are given latitude in setting eligibility criteria and defining disability criteria, a factor that helps explain the state by state disparities.

GAO investigators examined federal special ed data, agency documentation, federal and state laws and interviewed education officials and other stakeholders and advocates in four states. According to one Congressman, the report shows how inconsistent state policies and lax federal oversight allow thousands of children with disabilities to fall through the cracks. Eligibility for special education services should not be based on the accident of where the family lives. 
READ MORE and read the full study HERE .

New CDC study finds numbers of preschoolers with Autism growing

The number of four year-olds with autism increased from 1 in 75 children in 2010 to 1 in 59 children in 2015, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study is the first to look at prevalence of the developmental disorder in four year olds. Historically, the agency has studied eight year olds, but recently expanded data collection to look at preschoolers and 16 year olds.

The study relied on criteria from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but the criteria for Autism diagnosis was significantly revised in 2013. Other research has shown that revision has led to a drop in the diagnosis and this CDC study seems to indicate that, as well.  READ MORE and read the full study HERE .

Advocates tell ISBE CPS special ed reforms on slow track

T he picture of special education reforms for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in the wake of a state appointed monitor is far less rosy than the district and the ISBE Monitor represents, according to a statement presented by special ed advocates to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in April. While some progress has been made in certain areas, CPS has failed to address ISBE's order that it identify students who were harmed by the district's actions and provide compensatory services.

Matt Cohen and Associates is one of 13 advocate groups who initiated the state investigation into CPS' special ed program and is working to hold the district accountable for reforms mandated by the state.  READ MORE
Special education protections advancing in Illinois Legislature

Two bills that address the ongoing problems with CPS' special education program are making their way through the Illinois General Assembly but need a final push to get them to the governor's desk before the May 31 end of session.

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. HB 3586  would increase transparency of special education policies and services and require all school districts through the state to provide all evaluation data, progress reports and draft IEPs about their child five days before a scheduled IEP meeting. THIS IS A HUGE EXPANSION OF THE ABILITY OF PARENTS TO RECEIVE AND REVIEW INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR CHILD PRIOR TO THE IEP MEETING.

PLEASE CALL YOUR STATE SENATOR TO SUPPORT THESE BILLS. Find contact info for your state senator HERE . Both bills passed the Illinois House in April and need state senate action before the legislature adjourns May 31.

New data shows declines in school bullying and violence

As any parent knows, even one instance of bullying or violence in a child's life can be traumatic. Still, a new report by the Department of Education showing small dips in school violence is welcome news. In fact, the number of students aged 12 - 18 who reported being bullied at school in 2016 - 2017 was the lowest since 2005, when the federal government first began collecting the information. Nonetheless, approximately 20% of students reported being bullied and over 800,000 students reported being victimized in some way.  READ MORE

Summer camp available for children with Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Camp, USA, which boasts it's the longest-running camp for children with Tourette's Syndrome, is running a co-ed camp this summer for children aged eight to 16 whose primary diagnosis is Tourette Syndrome or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The camp is run by a non-profit, all volunteer organization in its 26th year. MORE DETAILS HERE

In the news...

Not many tears in the special education advocacy community over the departure of Elizabeth Keenan, now the former head of special education at CPS.

Excellent analysis by Chalkbeat that confirms what special ed parents, educators and advocates have been experiencing on the ground with the CPS program.

The answer? It all comes down to money, according to this report by American Public Media.

The New York Times says rumors are swirling that Education Secretary Betsy Devos may be the next official shown the door by President Trump. Not a moment to soon.

What our clients say:

"Matt -words cannot express how grateful I am to to you for pulling us through these hard times! We are doing pretty good right now thanks to some wonderful professionals you hooked us up with, Dr _____ and David _____ to name a few. I so appreciate you going above and beyond to help me. I won't forget your kindness. Thank you Matt."

Client with young adult daughter with autism whom I assisted in personal injury case for negligence by therapeutic day school and in finding appropriate resources.   

Recent successes at the firm
  • Secured funding for placement at private day school.
  • Secured placement in private therapeutic day school for student with autism including placement for student's sibling as part of the agreement.
  • MC/BD- NM- Secured residential placement for student with severe autism who was dangerous to self and others and elopement risk, in unusual situation of both parents having custody but other parent opposed to placement.
  • Secured district funding for private neuropsychological and auditory evaluations and continued special education eligibility until such evaluations are considered by IEP team.


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.

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 and Associates Upcoming Presentations 

Due Process and the Alternatives (continued)
May 14, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Matt Cohen and Associates Advocates Colloquium -
Matt Cohen
155 N. Michigan Ave.,  Chicago

For Members of MCA Advocacy Colloquium - Advocates and Attorneys, RSVP required.

Managing Difficult Parent/School Conflicts
June, 11
Matt Cohen and Associates Advocacy Colloquium
Matt Cohen
155 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

For Members of MCA Advocacy Colloquium Only-  Attorneys and Advocates Only/ RSVP Required.  Call 866-787-9270 to register.

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: 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  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. 


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.