January 2024 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

Matt Cohen & Associates wins key ruling ensuring full IDEA rights for 22-year olds

Matt Cohen & Associates (MCA) recently scored a decisive and impactful victory in a due process hearing where a student’s continued residential placement was in jeopardy. In addition to obtaining every element of relief sought on behalf of our clients’ son, MCA also secured a precedent setting decision that 22-year-old Illinois students who qualify for extended transition services under Illinois Public Act 102-0172 (“House Bill 40”) retain all IDEA and Illinois rights to a free appropriate public education and procedural safeguards during the period between their 22nd birthday and when they age out of services. Read more.

CPS names new director to lead troubled special ed department

A well-regarded principal of a school serving students with disabilities has been chosen to lead CPS’ troubled special ed department. The district is still under a state monitor as the result of an investigation into illegal delays and denials of services dating back to 2016. Matt Cohen helped lead the litigation that established state intervention.


The new chief is Joshua Long, a former speech therapist and Golden Apple for Excellence award winner, a prestigious honor offered to Illinois educators and administrators. Read more from WBEZ.

“Why I couldn’t watch the Color Purple with my mother.”

Civil rights leader William Barber, II, suffers from a debilitating form of arthritis, which requires his use of two canes and a tall chair because he is unable to bend to sit in a low chair. In an essay published by CNN, Barber recounts how a recent trip to see The Color Purple movie with his mother turned into a fight over his rights under the ADA — and the power he sees “when the broken and rejected come together and insist on being heard.” Read his full essay at

How families navigate Chicago’s school choice system

As Chicago Public Schools (CPS) considers transitioning away from a “school choice” model — a system often described as the Hunger Games — to provide more support to neighborhood schools, Chalkbeat interviewed five families about their experiences navigating the district’s complicated and highly competitive system.


The district’s move represents the first time CPS has stated a formal goal of moving away from selective admissions policies, a system it says “reinforces, rather than disrupts, cycles of inequity.” Read more from Chalkbeat. 

Hundreds of Illinois youth miss school due to lack of of foster placements

Illinois doesn’t have enough foster homes to serve the roughly 20,000 children in the child welfare system. That means hundreds of children are being housed in psychiatric facilities beyond medical necessity and missing as much as a month of school. 


“It’s hard to think of a better way to tell a child, ‘You don’t matter,’ than keeping the child locked up in a psychiatric ward for months on end because [the state] has nowhere to place you,” writes Cook County’s public guardian. Read more from Chalkbeat. 

CPS pilot program seeks to address PTSD in young women

A recent survey found that, in a sample of young women from 10 CPS neighborhood schools, 38 percent exhibited signs of PTSD. That’s more than double the rate reported by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. But a Chicago pilot program is having success reducing those symptoms.


Working on Womanhood offered 750 CPS students intensive group therapy and support, which researchers say reduced PTSD symptoms by 22 percent. Read more from the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Illinois assesses availability of mental health screenings in state’s schools

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently completed a “landscape scan” to assess the availability of mental health screenings in districts across the state. The scan found that 71 percent of districts offer some form of screening, but also identified disparities, with smaller districts less likely to provide the screenings.


“Universal mental health screening can save children’s lives by identifying the symptoms of depression, substance use disorders, and suicidal ideation before students reach the point of crisis,” says the state education superintendent. Read more form WREX-13. 

New data details continued problems with CPS busing service

As CPS continued to struggle to provide busing to all students who need it, an analysis of busing data showed that routes for special education students were sometimes almost empty, with an average of just seven students per route and more than half of the buses carrying only one child.


The new data calls into question the practice of assigning students with IEPs to schools far away from their home instead of providing services at their neighborhood schools. Read more from Chalkbeat.  

How schools improperly send children to psychiatric hospitals

At schools across the country, children exhibiting behavior challenges or frustrations with their schoolwork are being sent to psychiatric hospitals for evaluations, a practice that is legal but supposed to be reserved for children with severe mental illness. In one Maryland school district, the process has been used more than 750 times, sometimes on children as young as five years old.


“Schools focus on keeping kids out rather than on keeping kids in,” says one disability advocate. “I think that’s the fundamental crux of things.” Read more from the Hechinger Report.


COPAA 2024 Annual Conference March 6 - 8

The 26th COPAA Annual Conference will be held in Atlanta March 6 through 8, offering up to four days of in-person training with the nation's leading special education attorneys and advocates. This valuable training and networking event is top notch. Consider joining the conference to learn, network, and be part of this special community. Find more details and registration info at the COPAA.  

Fall Webinars

BIPs and FBAs

Christine Palmieri, along with a BCBA

Wed., Jan. 17, noon to 1 p.m. 

Register in advance.

Let’s Talk about Dyslexia

Wed., Feb. 21, noon to 1 p.m.  

Join MCA Advocate, Elizabeth Hooper, to talk about dyslexia and what you can do to ensure your children get the interventions they need.

Register in advance.


Therapeutic Placement and Extra Curricular Activities

Wed., March 20, noon to 1 p.m.

Join MCA Attorney, Jill Calian, and MCA Advocate, Christine Palmieri as they discuss how to get your child placed in therapeutic day school.

Register in advance.

Homeschooling and Homebound IEPs

Wed., April 17, noon to 1 p.m. 

Join MCA Attorneys Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs, as they discuss

options for non-traditional education — home school, home-bound IEPs, home hospital supports — and how to advocate for each.

Register in advance.


LGBTQ+ Youth and their Educational Needs

Wed., May 22, noon to 1 p.m.

Join MCA Attorneys, Brad Dembs and Anna Eisner Seder, as they discuss the legal and practical tips on how to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, particularly those with mental health issues or other disabilities, in school. 

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

  • Effectively advocated for an individualized remote program for a high school student with autism that was on probation.

  • Obtained a placement in a therapeutic day school for a middle school student with a 2E profile having challenges with social interactions and safe behavior. 


  • Supported an elementary aged student to effectively return to school following a prolonged break due to significant behavior and communication challenges.


  • Swayed a public high school to make meaningful, comprehensive accommodations and plans for executive functioning and writing support to appropriately meet the needs of a student with a 2E profile.


  • Successfully advocated for increased collaboration with private providers and a shift in staff’s perception of a student resulting in the student having deeper engagement, friendships, and confidence, while attending a therapeutic day school.


  • Effectively advocated for expanded support in the general education classroom for a middle school student with learning disabilities.


  • Secured a settlement agreement that required the district to fund and support placement for an elementary age child with speech/language impairment and other developmental delays in a private Montessori school through extended school year (ESY) 2025. 


  • Negotiated a settlement with a school district which included placement for a child who had previously attended private school in a therapeutic day school appropriate to meet her academic, sensory, and social/emotional needs.


  • Prevailed in a due process hearing, entitling family to reimbursement for all expenses at a residential transition program where the family had unilaterally placed their 22 year old son, prospective placement through the end of student’s IDEA eligibility, and reimbursement of other expenses including travel, neuropsychological evaluation, and educational consulting services. (See lead article.) 

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.

The new (16th) edition of K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences is out. Matt Cohen once again is a contributing author with his article, “The Rights of College Students with Disabilities: Myth vs. Reality.” 

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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