November 2023 E-Newsletter

This E-newsletter is devoted to sharing information about special education, disability rights, mental health and human services law, political policy and research that is of importance to people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals that work with them. It also includes updates and news about our firm and its activities. We hope you find it helpful and welcome your comments and suggestions. —  Matt Cohen

Symposium on Legal and Educational Issues for LGBTQ+ students sponsored by Matt Cohen and Associates scheduled for Nov. 4 is postponed

In order to maximize participation and attendance at the planned Symposium, Matt Cohen and Associates and other sponsoring organizations (Loyola University School of Law, the Orthogenic School, the Moran Center, and others), have decided to postpone the symposium to a later day. Stay tuned for more information and/or contact Tami Kuipers at with questions. 

Illinois’ new reading policies don’t serve students with dyslexia, advocates and parents say

Illinois is preparing to revamp how it teaches reading, with a new law that requires school districts to use evidence-based reading instruction. But parents of children with dyslexia worry the new standards won’t provide enough support to their struggling readers. 

“We shouldn’t depend on the families of children who have dyslexia to advocate for their children to be taught aligned to the science and the research,” says one educator. “We need teachers who understand the science of reading, understand the research, and who know how to serve students who have dyslexia.” Read more from Chalkbeat.

CPS parents without busing demand help

In the midst of a school bus driver shortage, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) prioritized busing for special ed and unhoused students, as those students are legally entitled to the service. But that left parents of students who attend the city’s magnet or selective enrollment schools in the lurch.

Now, those parents are demanding help from the district and asking that any empty seats on school buses be allotted to their students. Read more from WBEZ. 

Advocates slam federal panel tasked with developing autism policy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 26.7 percent of children on the spectrum have profound autism, which means they are non- or minimally-verbal and have an IQ of less than 50. But families of those children say their concerns are being ignored by the federal panel tasked with shaping policy on developmental disabilities. 

“We haven’t seen anything substantial that can help move these fields in promising new directions, rather they recapitulate some already well-known ideas and facts, with no substantial discussion, and certainly without any sense of urgency whatsoever,” says one advocate. Read more from Disability Scoop. 

Most of nation’s school still struggling with special ed teacher shortages

Schools across the nation are struggling with a shortage of special education teachers, with 86 percent of schools reporting difficulty filling teaching positions and 83 percent reporting difficulty hiring classroom aides, transportation staff and mental health providers. 

And while staffing shortages overall are down slightly, according to the latest federal data, a majority of schools reported being understaffed in special ed. Read more from Disability Scoop.


Days may be numbered for three downstate therapeutic day schools 

Three therapeutic day schools, owned by Menta Schools, in southern Illinois that were operating without appropriate state approval received a temporary reprieve from an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) ruling to close the facilities. 

In addition to operating without state approval, an ISBE investigation found “troubling restraint and time out practices” at two of the three schools. Read more from WLDS-AM.

New data shows extent to which family income drives academic success

New data collected by researchers at Harvard University shows, for the first time, the degree to which students’ academic success, as measured by test scores, is determined by their parents’ income. The research, which looked at three years of SAT and ACT scores, found huge disparities based more on family income than race, with just one in five students from the poorest families even taking the tests. 

“Kids in disadvantaged neighborhoods end up behind the starting line even when they get to kindergarten,” says one researcher. “On average, our schools aren’t very good at undoing that damage.” Read more from the New York Times.

New (16th) edition of K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences is out

This is an excellent and comprehensive guide to support services for students with disabilities at the college and university level, authored by Mary Beth Kravetz and Imy Wax. It also contains a short article from Matt Cohen on “The Rights of College Students with Disabilities: Myth vs. Reality.” 

Fall Webinars

Ask the Lawyer Session with Matt Cohen 

Wed, Nov. 8, noon to 1 p.m. 

Register in advance.

Rights & Opportunities for Kids That are 2E

Elizabeth Hooper, MCA Advocate and Dr. Layne Kalbfleisch, M.Ed., Ph.D.

Wed., Dec. 3, noon to 2 p.m. 

Register in advance.

BIPs and FBAs

Christine Palmieri, along with a BCBA

Wed., Jan. 17, noon to 1 p.m. 

Register in advance.

You will receive an email with instructions on how to join the webinar after you register. Our webinars are provided free of charge. 

Recent firm successes

  • Obtained a school district’s agreement to provide therapeutic residential placement for a student with autism and ADHD whose aggressive and perseverative behaviors have been preventing him from accessing his education in a therapeutic day setting. 

  • Successfully advocated for access to two general education classes with dedicated para support outside of the cluster classroom for an autistic middle school student.

  • Supported a family to effectively advocate for a change of placement to a residential program with intensive programming for executive functioning and specific learning disabilities. 

  • Effectively worked with the high school to broaden and strengthen the goals and programming for reading comprehension. 

  • Initiated effective changes to aide support, including generating written instructional plans, to ensure that all staff consistently provided appropriate support. 

  • Promoted student involvement to generate a robust high school-level IEP for a twice-exceptional student.

  • Successfully advocated for a change in the program to appropriately address the vocational and transition goals for a student with autism in high school. 

  • Effectively advocated for an initial IEP, including comprehensive and intensive programming for reading, writing, and math. 

  • Obtained an appropriate therapeutic day school placement for an elementary-age student with autism.

Office news and updates

Matt Cohen has been ranked as one of America’s Most Honored Lawyers, in the top 5 percent, by the American Registry for 2023.

Matt Cohen has been selected a 2024 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007 that is awarded to only 5 percent of Illinois attorneys.
Matt also has once again been selected an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2023, a distinction earned by fewer than 5 percent of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Illinois.
Matt also has been named an Avvo top lawyer for 2023.

Matt once again is a contributing author for the The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences (16 th Ed 9/23). published by Penguin Random House. His article, "10 Things College Students with Disabilities Need to Know About their Rights," appears in the 15th edition of the guide.

Matt Cohen & Associates was selected the Best Local Business for the 2021 Best of Chicago Awards. The award recognizes the firm's commitment to community service.
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? Click here for further details.


We offer several different brochures related to the following topics, available by calling the office: 

  • 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


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
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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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