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

As of April 1, Matt Cohen and Associates has a new mailing address:

Matt Cohen & Associates 

77 W. Wacker Drive

Suite 4500

Chicago, IL 60601 

Matt Cohen and Associates’ due process win is victory for children with “hidden” disorders

Matt Cohen and Associates just secured another victory after a two-day due process hearing under Section 504 against a suburban high school. Our client is a very bright 10th grader who has autism and severe anxiety but was nonetheless receiving very good grades and test scores while taking a demanding schedule including many honors classes. The high school acknowledged that the student had a disability but disagreed that the disability substantially limited his performance, as he was getting excellent grades and did not display many overt symptoms at school.


The hearing officer found that the district improperly relied on his grades and limited information from his teachers, while disregarding the extensive clinical evidence and the student's own testimony documenting the presence of severe and pervasive anxiety and symptoms of social difficulties due to his autism. The hearing officer found that the district's "adoption of a wait and see approach while implementing tiers of interventions is simply unacceptable and fails to recognize the intent and purpose of Section 504."


Matt Cohen, who litigated the hearing, commented that this is a major victory both for children with anxiety disorders and other "hidden" disabilities and for gifted students with disabilities who are enrolled in honors and AP classes. “It makes clear that the schools must look at the student's overall functioning and not just academic performance to qualify for 504 services and accommodations," he said. Read the ruling. 

U.S. DOE issues Section 504 guidance for students with diabetes

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has released a fact sheet outlining Section 504 protections for students with diabetes. The new document does not address the potential obligation of the school to help manage the disease. Instead, it provides useful information on the possible 504 accommodations to which students may be entitled. Read the new fact sheet. 

Parents still frustrated with CPS special ed services

Even though Chicago Public Schools’ special education program has been under state supervision for years, parents of students with disabilities say their children still are not getting the services they need and are legally entitled to.


The program has a new chief and CPS says this year’s budget includes an additional $120 million for support and services. More than 15 percent of the district’s students have an IEP. Read more from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Absenteeism hampers recovery from pandemic learning loss

Absenteeism is on the rise, according to a new study and some analysts say it is one of the main reasons for persistent pandemic learning loss. Last year, an estimated 26 percent of public school students nationwide were chronically absent, defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year.


And, the increases occurred proportionally in large districts and small and wealthy districts, as well as low-income ones. Read more from The New York Times.

Academic cost of pandemic school closures lingers to this day

There were no easy answers four years ago, when at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and everything except vital services in the nation shut down. But national data seem to indicate that schools which stayed closed longer have steeper learning losses, as measured by test scores. 


Still, some educators believe the decision to stay closed until safety mitigations were in place was the right one. “It doesn’t matter what is going on in the building and how much people are learning if people are getting the virus and running the potential of dying,” says one Philadelphia teacher. Read more from The New York Times.


With 400,000 lead pipes in Chicago, thousands of young children potentially exposed to lead

A state law requires the City of Chicago to remove all of its 400,000 lead water pipes over 50 years. But that’s not soon enough for the two thirds of Chicago children under the age of six who may already have been exposed to lead in their water.


Since no amount of lead is considered safe for children, families and advocates are concerned about the slow pace of retrofitting the city’s drinking water system. Read or listen for more from WBEZ's Reset.


Upcoming Webinars

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 Attorney Brad Dembs to 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
  • Collaborated with district and therapeutic day school to ease a student’s return to the public school while working to maximize the benefits of the therapeutic day school with the time remaining. 

  • Facilitated district engaging in robust evaluations for behavior and communication as well as improved home/school communication with a focus on the students’ medical needs. 

  • Helped improve educational program for a middle school girl with severe learning disabilities, auditory processing, and vision challenges.

  • Helped family successfully advocate that a high school student remain in a therapeutic day school. 

  • Negotiated with school district to overcome its refusal to allow a family to observe a proposed placement in a specialized classroom.

  • Supported a family whose child was at risk of expulsion. Avoided a “manifestation hearing” and potential expulsion and instead negotiated the student’s placement at a therapeutic day school where student will receive needed social-emotional support.

  • Subsequent to securing a major due process victory in a 504 case against a North Shore high school (see lead article above), worked successfully with another similarly situated student’s family at the same high school to also obtain Section 504 accommodations, including one and a half time on tests and agreement to be exempt from Scantron tests. 

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.” 


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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