Blaming mothers: A sad fact facing mothers of children with disabilities 
We are sharing an important and painfully accurate perspective from a special education advocate. She writes:
“This Article grew out of my experience as an advocate in the special education system. Too often, I have received phone calls from parents—primarily mothers—who recount the terrible treatment they and their child have received at the hands of their school district. Mothers tell me that they are blamed for their child’s challenges in school and accused of lying to teachers or staff. They sometimes tell me that their school district does not carry through with promises made to them concerning their child’s education.

When I agree to attend a meeting with the mother at the school district, I am surprised when everyone acts so polite and helpful. We soon develop a reasonable educational plan for the child. How can this be, I wonder? Was the mother telling me the truth?
Unfortunately, I have come to believe that the mother’s recounting of the school district’s treatment of her and her child is accurate." Read her full article in the Boston University Law Review.   
ISBE finds fault with CPS home/hospital instruction program
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has ruled in favor of advocates who filed a complaint charging that Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) home/hospital instruction program denied a free appropriate public education — as required by federal law — to students needing special education services in the home setting due to a
medical condition. ISBE directed the district to take corrective action. Read more from Matt Cohen and Associates.  

CPS pays $22 million in compensation to students who suffered delays, denials of special ed services
CPS is offering financial compensation to students whose services were delayed or denied during the 2016 - 2018 school years. So far, families have received $22 million in remedies. 

If you received a claims notice from the district, then your child is eligible for that compensation. If you did not receive a claims notice but feel your student may have been impacted, if you received a claims notice but don't know how to respond, or if feel you may have missed the deadline, please reach out to Matt Cohen and Associates. We are here to help. 

The compensation is the result of an ISBE investigation which Matt Cohen and other advocates litigated. The CPS special ed program is still under state oversight as a result of that probe.

CPS will provide translation services for families of students with disabilities under legal settlement
CPS will be required to provide translation services to families of students with disabilities, under a legal settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by Equip for Equality. Under the settlement, the district agrees to provide English language interpreters for all IEP meetings and translated versions of all documents within 30 days of those meetings.
Lawyers who filed the initial complaint hope the settlement may set a precedent that can be used to address similar problems in other districts. Read more from Chalkbeat.  
Disability diagnoses, special ed enrollment up over the last decade
Students served under IDEA accounted for 15 percent of all students during the 2020 - 21 school year, up 13 percent over the last decade, according to new federal data. The diagnosis of specific learning disability, the most common one, affected a third of students. Autism affected 12 percent and 7 percent of students had development delays.
Despite the increase in diagnoses, funding is not keeping up with the increased need. “Unfortunately, as I’m sure you know, getting identified does not always result in quality programs,” said a lawyer for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, of which Matt Cohen is board member. Read more from Disability Scoop.
Ending abortion rights could have far-reaching implications for health, safety of people with disabilities
Disability advocates fear the U.S Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights codified in Roe V. Wade could have far-reaching impacts on the rights of people with disabilities — impacts one advocate labeled a “disaster.”
Because people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of sexual assault or have medical conditions that make carrying a pregnancy to term dangerous, the ruling’s impact could be lethal. Plus, because it overturns the right to privacy and disregards decades of precedent, the ruling could jeopardize the personal rights of disabled people when it comes to marriage, sterilization, medical care and a host of other rights. Read more from Disability Scoop. 
Chicago school on a mission to create more inclusive curriculum, school culture
“We want all students to feel a sense of belonging and representation in our community,” said a school counselor at Bell Elementary, a public school in a wealthy, mostly white Chicago neighborhood that went on a mission this year to teach inclusivity.

The school held its own Pride Parade and teachers taught lessons on family, gender, race and culture, Black Lives Matter and International Pronouns Day. The school serves 900 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Read more from Block Club.
Chicago parents, educators fight to save program serving deaf and hard of hearing students 
Last month, after parents, educators and students rallied to save a beloved program providing services to deaf and hard of hearing students, CPS officials backed off plans to close the program. But this month, parents are still getting mixed messages about its future at Chase Elementary.
CPS claims it never intended to close the program, but parents worry the school is not being allowed to register new students for next year. The school has the fourth largest enrollment of deaf and hard of hearing students in the district and parents say their students make remarkable progress there. Read more from Chalkbeat.

Special Announcement: Memorial service for Anne Marie Robinson
A memorial service will be held for Ann Marie Robinson, our former advocate, on Aug. 31, at 4 p.m., at the Garfield Park Conservatory Community Room. She passed away in March.

Anne worked with our firm for over 25 years, until her retirement in December. She was a fierce advocate for children who, as a parent of child with disabilities, could relate to clients on the most personal level.

If you are interested in attending and/or submitting a remembrance about Annmarie, please email Brad Dembs at
Registration open for COPAA SPED advocacy trainings
Registration is open for the next Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT) offered by the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA), of which Matt Cohen is a board member. SEAT 3.0 is being offered this summer. There are three levels of training and the courses fill up quickly. Find more info and registration links here. 
Matt Cohen to speak at Illinois Statewide Transition Conference Nov. 3 - 4
Matt Cohen will be presenting at the Illinois Statewide Transition Conference on Nov. 3. The title of his presentation is “The Challenge of Finding Hope for Our Kids and Ourselves!”

Using his research and experience as an advocate and parent, Matt will address the challenges people face in dealing with disabilities and the importance of identifying, confronting and accepting painful realities. More details about the conference can be found here 
Recent firm successes

  • Recovered attorneys’ fees from private residential program that sought to dismiss student with autism despite lack of any alternative placement options, resulting in a need to file an emergency hearing request on behalf of the family.

  • Obtained district payment for summer programming at private therapeutic day school and future educational expenses for elementary school student.

  • Recovered attorneys’ fees from school district after winning due process hearing and further resolved additional dispute by obtaining funds for parents to use for compensatory education after student ages out of special education eligibility.

  • Recovered attorneys’ fees from private residential program that sought to dismiss student with autism despite lack of any alternative placement options, resulting in a need to file an emergency hearing request on behalf of the family.

  • Obtained agreement to maintain elementary school student with Down syndrome in general education and conduct private evaluations at district expense.

  • Recovered attorneys’ fees from school district after winning due process hearing.

  • Placement at Cove at district expense.

  • Placement at Acacia at district expense.  

  • Supported a family to develop strategy and advocate for a student with Fragile X to maintain placement in a neighborhood school with a mix of co-taught and pull out minutes and a full day paraprofessional, after being inappropriately referred for placement in a cluster classroom.

  • Successfully advocated to add home school communication to the IEP of a student with Autism and collaborated on a format that included ABC data and worked well for both the family and school team.
Office news and updates
Matt Cohen and Associates will be fully virtual beginning Aug. 1
Matt Cohen and Associates has maintained a suite of offices at 155 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago since 2012. Prior to the pandemic, some of our staff worked primarily from home, but the pandemic forced the entire office to move to a virtual work arrangement.
That shift actually worked very well and we now successfully conduct all our business remotely, using Zoom for client and staff meetings, mediation and IEP meetings and even for due process hearings.

Our client records are now completely cloud based and
the staff has found many ways to capitalize on virtual programming to better serve our clients and work more efficiently. As a result, effective August 1, we will be operating completely remotely and will no longer be using our downtown office space

Our phone numbers and email addresses will remain the same.  For the time being, we will also be using the same mailing address. While we will miss the office, we will continue to meet regularly as a staff and to collaborate virtually on a daily basis. 

  • Matt Cohen has been ranked as one of America’s Most Honored Lawyers, in the top 1 percent, by the American Registry.

  • 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," 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.
Summer is here...a great time for an IEP check up to prepare for next year!" 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

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
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.