Representing Children with Special Educational
Needs and Their Families in New Jersey
Cosner Youngelson attorneys have years of experience representing children with special educational needs and their families in New Jersey. Firm Partner Marc D. Youngelson, Esq. recently won a significant special education trial at the Office of Administrative Law, and lectures frequently on legal issues faced by families who have children with special needs.
We provide essential services to children with special needs and their families in three main areas:
- Special Needs Trusts
- Special Education and related services
Special Needs Trusts
Many children with special needs receive, or are eligible to receive, government benefits such as SSI or Medicaid. If so, we can create a Special Needs Trusts which preserves your child’s eligibility to receive those benefits, while at the same time planning for his or her long-term financial security. We are familiar with the SSI guidelines and rules and can help you understand if, when, whether and how to make distributions from the Trust in order to continue your child’s eligibility for the benefits he or she receives. [Click here] to consult one of the Firm’s estate planning attorneys for a free initial consultation to help you determine whether a Special Needs Trust is appropriate for your child and your family.
Children with special needs often require assistance in managing their affairs as they become adults. We are adept at handling difficult situations where decisions need to be made regarding individuals who cannot help themselves and lack the mental capacity to act in their own best interest. We help families have a guardian appointed who can take care of such individuals. [Contact] the Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation to determine whether guardianship is appropriate for your child and family.
Special Education Law
At Cosner Youngelson, we recognize that having children with special needs or disabilities poses numerous, and often heart-wrenching, challenges for parents and families. One particularly difficult challenge is ensuring that your child receives an appropriate public education. Our attorneys are committed to providing counseling, advice and assistance that will help you to enforce your legal rights and to ensure that your child receives all that he or she is entitled to under the law.
Partner Marc Youngelson recently won a significant special education case after a two year trial at the Office of Administrative Law. The case concerned the unilateral placement of a student with autism at the Princeton Child Development Institute (PCDI), a state-approved private, non-profit school for the education of children with autism. After approximately 30 days of trial which took place from April 2013 – January 2015, the Court ruled in favor of the family. Among other things, the Court held that the District failed to offer (i) a free and appropriate education (FAPE) to the student; and (ii) an IEP that was reasonably calculated to enable the student to receive a meaningful educational benefit. The Court further held that, contrary to the District’s claim, the student did not make meaningful progress while in the District’s program. Finally, the Court found that (i) PCDI was an appropriate placement for the student; and (ii) the parents were entitled to reimbursement for the unilateral placement of their child at PCDI. Click here for a complete copy of the court’s decision.
IDEA, IEPs and YOUR RIGHTS
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 20 USCA §1400 et seq., often referred to as IDEA, along with New Jersey educational law, provides that children in New Jersey with special needs or disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (often referred to as “FAPE”). Among other things, children in New Jersey with special educational needs are entitled under IDEA to a “special education,” which means that such children are entitled to receive instruction specifically designed to meet their unique needs. This can mean anything from modifications in the classroom to education in a private school, and everything in between. New Jersey children with disabilities and their families also are entitled under IDEA to “related services,” which can include speech language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social skills training, supplemental services outside the school day, special transportation, and other necessary support services. Under the law, a “special education” and “related services” are to be provided at public expense and in the least restrictive environment.
Knowing whether your child is entitled to a special education and related services, as well as causing your local school district to comply with its legal obligations to provide these services, can be a confusing, frustrating and time consuming process. Cosner Youngelson attorneys have the knowledge, training and experience to help you navigate these complex and emotionally challenging legal issues in order to ensure that your child and your family receive what they are entitled to under the law.
For example, New Jersey law requires schools to identify and to evaluate students who may need special educational services. Children who may qualify range from ages three through twenty-one and may present with a variety of disabilities, which may include:
- Specific learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc.)
- Cognitive delays
- Speech or language delays or impairments
- Traumatic brain injury
- Hearing impairments
- Vision impairment
- Serious emotional disturbances
- Orthopedic impairments
In order to be entitled to services, your child’s disability also must adversely affect his or her performance at school. Our attorneys can provide counseling and assistance in determining whether your child is eligible for such services.
Once your child is determined to be eligible, the school district is required to develop an individualized educational program – generally referred to as an “IEP” – which sets forth the services that your child will receive. The IEP must be designed with the goal of enabling your child to achieve “meaningful educational progress.” Cosner Youngelson attorneys can advise you throughout this process so that your child’s IEP meets his or her specific educational needs.
If you are dissatisfied with your child’s IEP, or the manner in which the IEP is being administered, we can help you take further action. You have several options, including the right to file a Petition for Due Process or Complaint Investigation. You also can try to resolve any objections informally with your local school board. If your objections cannot be resolved on a consensual basis, you are entitled to a hearing before an administrative law judge. At this hearing, you get the opportunity to submit testimony and documents, including expert reports, supporting your position. Cosner Youngelson attorneys can help you determine the best course of action to achieve the results you are seeking and to represent you throughout this technical, often fast-paced legal process.
It is important to note that New Jersey state and federal laws regarding education have very specific, frequently short time periods and deadlines by which certain actions must be taken. Legal remedies must be sought within distinct time frames in order to protect your child’s rights and to obtain Due Process. Cosner Youngelson attorneys can help you to avoid an inadvertent waiver of your rights.
In certain circumstances, it may be possible for you to recover your attorneys’ fees and to seek reimbursement for services you obtained at your own expense for your child’s educational needs. Cosner Youngelson attorneys can advise you on whether you qualify for such recoveries.
Partner Marc D. Youngelson, Esq. lectures and provides workshops frequently on legal issues faced by children with special needs and their families. Recent lectures and workshops include:
- Mercer County FSO Presents: Addressing the Unique Legal and Financial Needs of Special Needs Youth on April 25, 2016
- Middlesex County FSO Presents: Addressing the Unique Legal and Financial Needs of Special Needs Youth on May 24, 2016
- Sussex County FSO Presents: Addressing the Unique Legal and Financial Needs of Special Needs Youth on July 12, 2016
- Somerset County FSO Presents: Addressing the Unique Legal and Financial Needs of Special Needs Youth on September 22, 2016
- Hunterdon County FSO Presents: Addressing the Unique Legal and Financial Needs of Special Needs Youth on October 13, 2016
Cosner Youngelson attorneys have the knowledge, training and experience to guide you through the complex and emotionally challenging process of enforcing your and your child’s legal rights under IDEA and New Jersey educational law. Getting good legal advice about your and your child’s rights early in this process can be critical to developing the appropriate strategy for you and your family. We can help you in your efforts to work with your local school district to determine whether your child is eligible under applicable law for special educational services. If your child is eligible, we can help you ensure that appropriate services are provided. We can take the necessary action to enforce your legal rights so that your child receives all of the services he or she is entitled to under the law.
For more information, please contact Cosner Youngelson for a free initial consultation.