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October 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

Our firm and Covid-19: new materials, new staff and a new website to help you navigate pandemic's challenges

MDC opening video for website

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Matt Cohen and Associates has developed many new materials and programs to assist families and providers and we're launching a new website to help you access the services you need. People, especially those with disabilities, are suffering and there is a lot of confusion about what their rights are. We are committed to doing all we can to support you.
In addition to the legal and advocacy services we normally provide, we've developed new services, brought on more staff and developed new webinars and written materials to help you navigate these uncharted times. You'll find all this information and more on our redesigned website, which features a resource center with brochures and other materials, webinars, and a special section on distance learning.
Our site also features a page that provides a political action page with information on legislation and important political initiatives and actions, a feature that may seem unusual for a law firm. But we believe it is impossible to separate being a special ed, disability rights and civil rights law firm from the political process. Our firm is dedicated to pushing policies in the political arena that support and expand disability and civil rights and we will share those initiatives with our clients and supporters.
We hope you find our new resources informative and helpful during this difficult time and that you and your family are safe and well. FIND OUT MORE

Matt Cohen and Associates October webinars

To deal with the huge disruption to our education system, which has severely impacted special ed students, our firm is offering free webinars to help parents and others navigate the new terrain of remote learning and other issues critical to children and individuals with disabilities. Check out our October series.

My Kids Are At Home, NOW WHAT?
Elizabeth Hooper, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m.

Practical suggestions for how to support your child's remote learning at home. Register in advance

Evaluations and Independent Educational Evaluations During the Pandemic
Matt Cohen and Brad Dems, Oct. 27, 3:30 p.m.

We will discuss the basics of educational evaluations, including your entitlement to evaluations, the school district's responsibilities for initiating and conducting evaluations. We will also discuss your right to independent evaluations and strategies for obtaining and utilizing evaluation reports from private clinicians to advocate for your child's needs. Register in advance.

Advocacy Strategies for Parents
Verity Sandell, Nov. 17, 3:30 p.m. 

How to identify when and if to request an evaluation for your child and how to advocate at school. We will cover building positive relationships with school staff and explain RTI, MTSS, CSEs and when each is/is not appropriate. Register in advance.

Compensatory Education - How to Position Yourself
Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs, Nov. 24, 3:30 p.m.

We will discuss the legal standards for measuring and proving the need for compensatory education, as well as strategies for how to document any regression or stagnation of skills. This is particularly significant for parents to know and be able to recognize now if their children are participating in remote learning. Register in advance.

Parent Ask The Lawyer
Matt Cohen will be hosting the following Ask the Lawyer webinars to answer your general questions about special ed law and advocacy. If you have specific questions about your child, please schedule a meeting with one of our staff.

Oct. 28, 4 p.m. Register in advance.
Nov. 18, 4 p.m. Register in advance.
Dec. 9, 4 p.m. Register in advance.
Jan. 6, 4 p.m. Register in advance.
Jan. 20, 4 p.m. Register in advance.

After registering in advance, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinars. Please refer to our website and our Facebook page for more information. 

IEPs in the time of COVID

Obtaining an IEP can be challenging during a normal school year, but many parents are finding obtaining services during the pandemic is even more difficult. However, there may be a silver lining, says Matt Cohen.
"This is a unique moment in special education history because parents will have more data than schools will," Cohen says. "That puts parents in a position of strength in some ways." But only if they know their rights. READ MORE.

Discipline in the times of COVID

Disproportionate discipline rates for students with disabilities were at crisis levels before COVID-19 hit. But the pandemic has turned everything upside down, write two advocates worried what will happen to special needs students when schools reopen.
Students with disabilities may not be able to heed the additional safety protocols, they write, and that could unleash a wave of harsh discipline--all in the name of keeping kids safe. READ MORE.

Remote learning is hard, for parents, teachers and students 

Chicago Public Schools pledged that remote learning for students with disabilities would be much improved from the spring--when teachers, parents and CPS officials all agreed it left a lot to be desired. But two weeks into the new school year, it was unclear how the district planned to provide some services virtually.
Chalkbeat surveyed and interviewed parents during the first two weeks of school. The bottom line: this is hard work. READ MORE.

CPS schools won't reopen, but some SPED students may return for services 

Although Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week she was not ready to reopen schools, CPS is reportedly planning to bring special education students back into buildings for therapeutic services such as vision screenings or physical therapy.  
Teachers and parents acknowledge the difficulty of providing these services remotely. But educators say they are worried about bringing the most vulnerable students-and the clinicians who serve them--into school buildings without the proper safety protocols in place. READ MORE.

Worrisome news for reopening schools

A new CDC study finds that young children can be coronavirus vectors, spreading the virus even if they themselves show no symptoms. The report found outbreaks at three child care centers in Utah from April to July.
Twelve children became infected and spread the virus to at least one in four of the people they were in contact with outside the facility. The study is bad news for proponents of reopening school buildings this fall. READ MORE.

DeVos finally gives up on funneling CARES Act aid to private schools 

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has finally given up her push to funnel CARES Act funding to private schools, but only after losing several court rulings. Last week, she finally announced the department will not appeal a federal court ruling that overturned her controversial rule dictating that states share a portion of the education funding from the stimulus relief bill with private schools.
A total of four federal lawsuits were filed against the department and two judges issued injunctions to stop DeVos from implementing the rule. READ MORE. 

Ginsberg remembered for landmark disability rights ruling

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was known as a champion of women's rights, but advocates recall that she was instrumental in several landmark disability rights cases, including a 1999 ruling that affirmed the right of individuals with disabilities to live in a community.
"Her work gave power to the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and she will forever be remembered as a champion of the rights of millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," says one advocate. READ MORE.

Assistive technology fund available

A generous donation is allowing the Arc of Illinois to fund, or partially fund, assistive technology for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The goal of the program is to enhance and improve the quality of life by providing technology that can help individuals with education, employment, community living and independence.
The Arc of Illinois is a non-profit statewide advocacy organization representing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. READ MORE.

Recent Firm Successes

  • Worked with school to create a rigorous remote learning plan that maximizes supports in General Education settings with General Ed curriculum.
  • Helped family secure more robust support for half day remote learning plan, with half day in person program with 1-1 aide for student struggling with remote learning.
  • Assisted family to secure in person sign language interpreter for student with deafness unable to process remote instruction and sign language interpretation simultaneously.
  • Obtained funds to be used for compensatory education services by private providers of the parents' choosing to account for school district's failure to provide appropriate instruction and related services to 12-year-old girl with autism, ADHD, and specific learning disorders in reading, writing, and math.
  • Negotiated return of student with disabilities who had been academically dismissed to good standing at four-year university for ADA and Section 504 violations including failure to provide reasonable accommodation. 
Upcoming presentations

Matt Cohen and William Hrabe, Equip for Equality
Compensatory Education and Class Complaints: Identifying and Delivering Appropriate Remedies Following District-Wide Denial of Services
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) Virtual Summit
March 4 - 6, 2021

MCA updated logo
Office news and updates

Matt Cohen is once again a contributing author for the K and W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities, published by Penguin Random House. His article, "10 Things College Students with Disabilities Need to Know About their Rights," will appear in the 15th edition of the guide.

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 again has been selected by his peers as a 2021 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007. Matt also has been selected as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2020The distinction of being a Leading Lawyer has been earned by fewer than 5 percent of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Brochures Available 
We offer several different brochures related 
to the following topics: 
  • Introduction to College Accommodations
  • 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.   

MCA updated logo


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, 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 and to view this email in your browser, 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

    866-787-9270 or 



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.