Meet Matt Cohen and Associates’ new staff members
Matt Cohen and Associates is pleased to welcome four new staff members who bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities to our firm. 
Jill Calian, Attorney
Jill Calian first became involved in the world of special education while working on a pro bono case involving early intervention services during the six years that she practiced general commercial litigation at a large Chicago firm. While Jill took a break from the practice of law to raise her four sons, her knowledge of early intervention services came in handy when she subsequently learned that one of her sons has a rare genetic disorder.

Wanting to be the best possible advocate for her son, Jill began taking continuing legal education courses focused on special education law and joined the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) in 2009 and became active in several local advocacy organizations. In 2010, Jill and a colleague formed a law firm dedicated to special education law, serving families in the northern and western Chicago suburbs for seven years. Jill and her law partner took pride in their ability to relate to clients, not just as attorneys, but as mothers of children with disabilities.

After wrapping up her law practice, Jill remained active in disability advocacy organizations, with a particular focus on education policy and systemic advocacy in the local school districts. Jill found, however, that she just could not shake her passion for special education law and is thrilled to join Matt Cohen & Associates.
Jill is a graduate of Miami University (B.A.) and the University of Chicago School of Law (J.D.), She clerked for Justice Charles Levin on the Michigan Supreme Court.
Anna Eisner Seder, Attorney
Anna practiced in the areas of products liability and commercial litigation for several years before taking time off to raise her children. From 2014-2017, she worked as an Adjunct Professor of Legal Writing at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Anna became interested in special education advocacy through volunteer work as well as through her own experiences as a parent. Anna looks forward to helping families obtain special education services and supports and Section 504 accommodations.
Anna earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Rhetoric and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. 
Christine Palmieri, Advocate
Christine Palmieri joins our practice as a special education advocate. Christine has been passionate about supporting people with disabilities since she was young, growing up with her aunt who had intellectual disabilities and a mother who was a special education teacher.
Christine has extensive experience advocating for the unique needs of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) families, including for her own autistic teenager. She has advocated for and supported families on a wide variety of issues. Christine understands how to navigate the often changing and challenging system in CPS. She has worked to create special education committees in neighborhood schools and is a member of the CPS Office of Diverse Learners Services and Supports Family Advisory Board.

Christine is an integral member of the Special Education Advocacy Coalition of Chicago (SPEACC) where she has worked alongside and learned from Matt Cohen and Will Hrabe over the last four plus years advocating for the ISBE inquiry and resulting Student Specific Corrective Action (SSCA) and monitoring of the CPS special education department.

Christine holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Environmental Design from Montana State University and has worked in the architecture field. But she finds her true passion to be in special education advocacy.  
Claire Bufalino, Law Clerk
Claire recently received her J.D. and Master’s degree in Public Policy from Loyola University Chicago. During law school, she interned at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Legal Aid Chicago, and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. She also represented students and parents in education matters for two years as part of Loyola’s Education Law Practicum. She also has a B.F.A. in Recorded Music from New York University.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: CPS SSCA claims window closing at end of May 
Four years after the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) ruled that the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had violated the law by cutting special education services, the district has set up a system to help compensate families for the delays and denials they experienced. The program, Student Specific Corrective Action (SSCA), provides remedies to students with disabilities to make up for the harm CPS’ policies may have caused students during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
 
Families who have been identified by CPS as eligible for an SSCA automatic remedy now have until May 31, 2022, to file their claim. Call or email CPS, 773-553-1843 or SSCA@CPS.edu, for more information and to find out if your child qualifies.

Education Department finds Los Angeles schools violated IDEA during remote learning 
The U.S. Department of Education has settled a complaint alleging the Los Angeles school district failed to provide the services students with disabilities were legally entitled to during the pandemic. Under the agreement, the district has agreed to implement a plan to provide compensatory services to those who lost services or had services delayed.
 
The department is investigating similar complaints against the Seattle Public Schools and Virginia’s Fairfax County school district. Read more Disability Scoop

President Biden proposes big jump in spending on special education, related services
President Joe Biden’s budget proposal calls for $16.3 billion in funding for special education and related services for students with disabilities in pre-K through 12th grade, $3.3 billion more than last year. If approved, it would be the largest ever two-year increase in funding for programs serving students with disabilities.
 
The proposed budget also would double funds for early intervention and for a program to support and develop special education teachers. Read more from Disability Scoop.
 
Teacher satisfaction hits all time low, new survey finds
A new study finds that teacher job satisfaction is at an all time low, with 44 percent of teachers polled saying they are likely to leave the profession in the next two years. The Merrimack College Teacher Survey, a nationally representative survey of more than 1,300 teachers, found that only 12 percent of educators are “very satisfied” with their jobs. That’s down from 39 percent in 2012.
 
The survey finds that most teachers still love their craft, but they are exhausted, disillusioned and fed up. “I’ve never seen the number of people break down as I have this year,” says one teacher. “I think the pandemic has dampened that joy [of teaching], and people are trying to find it again.” Read more from Education Week.  
Michigan looking to fund mental health clinics in schools
Rates of depression and suicide among Michigan students were rising before the pandemic hit. But finding treatment when mental illness strikes is difficult, especially in the state’s rural areas. To address the problem, school districts are bringing mental health services to the students in their school buildings.
 
Michigan’s governor wants to spend $11 million to open new health centers in schools this year, but mental health advocates are pushing to more than double that amount. Read more from Chalkbeat.
Troubling news: American teens are sadder than they’ve ever been
A new government study paints an alarming picture of the mental health of the nation’s teens: it is getting worse for every teenage demographic across the country. The study, conducted by the CDC, finds that 44 percent of U.S. teens report “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.” That’s the highest rate ever recorded and up from 26 percent in 2009.
 
More than one in four girls and nearly half of LGBTQ teens in the study said they had contemplated suicide during the pandemic. “Rising teenage sadness isn’t a new trend, but rather the acceleration and broadening of a trend that clearly started before the pandemic,” says one child psychologist: “We shouldn’t ignore the pandemic, either.” Read more in The Atlantic.
New study calls into question popular reading intervention program
A popular reading intervention program for struggling first graders may be doing more harm than good, according to a new study. The program, Reading Recovery, offers one-on-one tutoring and has been used by over 2 million students since being introduced in 1984.
 
But new research, by the University of Delaware, found that, in later grades, children who participated in the program posted lower reading scores than students who had not received the tutoring. Read more from American Public Media.
Recent firm successes

  • Effectively advocated for more robust school evaluations and utilized clinician support resulting in a young girl with a learning disability being found eligible for special education after initially not being found eligible.

  • Facilitated effective collaboration between the private and school clinicians to construct and train staff on a highly individualized behavior plan for appropriate adult supports and target replacement behaviors at each stage of the student’s escalation cycle.

  • Successfully advocated to expand a student’s time in general education math with appropriate supplementary aids and supports.

  • Worked collaboratively to create an individualized plan, including co-taught coursework, to transition a student from a therapeutic day school to a public high school.

  • Obtained district reimbursement for parents’ tuition payments to private multisensory reading instructional program for young man with a Specific Learning Disorder.

  • Obtained reevaluation of a student that district found eligible for special education services Student’s daily life had been upset by several changes in his family environment that led to him being somewhat dysregulated in one class. Upon reevaluation, the district determined that the student was not eligible for special education services.
 
  • Successfully negotiated with a district for a student with a health issue to receive services when he could not attend in-person because of the risk of contracting COVID and then worked with the district to create a safe environment for him to return in person.

  • Successfully obtained accommodations for graduate school student with various mental health issues. Granted 50 percent extended time on classroom exams, practicals and lab assessments, testing in a small group, an additional attempt on specific exams compared to what typical peers receive, ability to test alone certain classes, and receive on-campus housing until program completion when on-campus housing is only provided to first-year students.

  • Coached graduate student to receive accommodations allowing her to participate in classes remotely due to risk of contracting COVID.

  • Negotiated payment of attorney’s fees from district that failed to address the bullying of a student by peers and faculty and failed to evaluate the student who had been diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety, Bi-Polar 2.
Office news and updates

Matt Cohen again has been selected a 2022 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007.
 
Matt also has once again been selected an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2022, 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 2022.
 
Matt once again is 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 was selected the Best Local Business for the 2021 Best of Chicago Awards. The award recognizes the firm's commitment to community service.
 
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? Click here for further details.
BROCHURES AVAILABLE

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

ABOUT US

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 tami.kuipers@gmail.com

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
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