The Law Office of PATRICIA S. PHELAN


Take Action for Autism Insurance Reform Bill!

Take Action in New York: Urge Govenor Paterson

to Sign the Autism Insurance Reform Bill into Law!

A.10372A (New York’s autism insurance reform bill) passed the full Assembly UNANIMOUSLY last week.

This ringing endorsement came on the heels of unanimous passage in the Senate. Autism Speaks is incredibly grateful

to Speaker Shelley Silver and primary bill sponsors Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Senator Neil Breslin for their leadership

and commitment to seeing this effort through.The State Assembly and Senate have recently passed the autism insurance reform bills

(S.7000B/A.10372A) in unanimous votes! Now the bill heads to Governor David Paterson.

If enacted, S.7000B/A.10372A will require private health insurers subject to New York law to cover evidence-based treatment

for autism spectrum disorder, with no age or dollar caps allowed. This will be a huge step forward for the families of New York

dealing with the challenges of autism. It is now critical that we ensure that Governor Paterson signs S.7000B/A.10372A

into law as soon as possible.

1. E-MAIL Governor Paterson, asking him to sign S.7000B/A.10372A into law

as soon as possible. It is imperative that Governor Paterson receive thousands of e-mails

asking him to sign this legislation.

2. WRITE a letter to the editor of your local paper. It is important that members

of your community read about the positive impact this legislation will have on families

of New York.


July 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Social Skills and Photography

As you know, many students with disabilities – – particularly those on the Spectrum – – tend to have social skill deficits and benefit from visually presented information.  The attached set of five photographs entitled “The Gift” taken by my dear friend and very talented photographer Blake Robinson provides a short and sweet visual story of friendship which I encourage you to share with your children. By viewing these five photographs together, and perhaps roll playing to generalize the skills thereafter, we can encourage our children to interpret facial expressions, talk about emotions and feelings, and learn important social skills concepts including reciprocity and sharing.

Please go to the following link and scroll down to: the gift: 2 girls, 5 pictures, one sweet story! dated May 30, 2010 and take this creative opportunity to work on social skills with your son, daughter, grandchild, student, etc.  Enjoy!

And if you are in the market for a new family portrait, graduation, birthday or wedding portrait or corporate pictures, to name a few, do not hesitate to contact Blake Robinson: and learn more about Blake’s work at: D0n’t forget Father’s Day is just around the corner and photographs make a great gift!

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


The Saloon in Pearl River, NY is proud to sponsor a FUNDRAISER IN SUPPORT OF AUTISM SPEAKS 

Come for Lunch, Dinner or Drinks!





The Saloon

45-49 West Central Avenue

Pearl River, NY 10965




Don’t miss Family Fun Night

5-8 PM Paul the Clown!

 Initiated by The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan  Walk Team

For more information contact The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan at 845-398-FAPE or



September 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Autism Awareness Month: Solve a Piece of the Autism Puzzle!

Did you know that April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day?

Given the prevalenceof Autism in society today (1 in 150) it is difficult to find a person who has not in some way been touched by this disability. It almost seems that you are in the minority if you or someone you know does not have a family member, friend, colleague or acquaintance diagnosed on the spectrum.

Therefore, during the next month, I hope you will take a moment to learn at least one fact about Autism. The more we as members of society improve our knowledge of this disorder as well as increase our sensitivity towards and acceptance of those inflicted, the closer we are as a society to solving the Autism puzzle.

Please take a moment to review one or more facts and resources listed below relating to Autism:


1. A developmental disability
2. Significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction
3. Generally evident before age 3
4. Adversely affects a student’s educational performance
5. Often repetitive activities, stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or daily routines, unusual responses to sensory experiences.


1. Impaired social interaction (i.e. eye contact, developing peer relationships, sharing enjoyment with others, emotional reciprocity)
2. Impaired communication (i.e. speech, pretend play)
3. Repetitive and stereotyped behaviors or interests (i.e. spinning tops, preoccupation with trains, need to hold objects in hands)


Requiring immediate evaluation:
-no babbling or pointing or other gestures by 12 months
-no single words by 16 months
-no two-word phrases by 24 months
-loss of language or social skills (any age)
Raise attention:
-not turning head when parent says name
-not pointing to show parents an interesting object or event
-lack of babbling
-smiling late
-failure to make eye contact


Advocates for Children’s Health Affected by Mercury Poisoning:

The Association for Behavior Analysis International:

Autism One:

Autism Program Quality Indicators:

Autism Research Institute:

Autism Society of America:

Autism Speaks:

Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice:

NYSDOH Clinical Practice Guideline Report of the Recommendations, Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorders:

The Elija Foundation:

The Explosive Child/Collaborative Problem Solving.

Families for Early Autism Treatment:

Generation Rescue:

Jessica Kingsley Publishers of books on Autism, Asperger Syndrome and other spectrum conditions:

A Ray of Hope Autism Awareness Jewelry:

Moms Against Mercury:

National Autism Association:

No Mercury:

New Yorkers for Vaccine Information and Choice:

Parents of Autistic Children:

RDI = Relationship Development Intervention:

SAFEMINDS = Coalition for Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders:

Spectrum Magazine:

Unlocking Autism:


Autism in your Classroom – – A General Educator’s Guide to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, By Deborah Fein, Ph.D. & Michelle A. Dunn, Ph.D.

Autism/Aspergers: Solving the Relationship Puzzle, By Dr. Steven Gutstein
This book summarizes and justifies the basis for the RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) methodology for children on the Spectrum.

The Autism Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know About Diagnosis, Treatment, Coping and Healing – – From A Mother Whose Child Recovered , By Karen Siff Exkorn

Let Me Hear Your Voice, By Catherine Maurice
This book details a real mother’s account of her family’s triumph over autism.

The New Social Story Book, By Carol Gray
This book contains and extensive compilation of social stories and illustrations to help children with autism spectrum disorders tackle everyday life situations.

Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children, By Dr. Steven Gutstein and Rachelle Sheely
This book provides social and emotional development activities for young children with Asperger Syndrome, Autism, PDD and NLD.

Replays: Using Play to Enhance Emotional and Behavioral Development for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, By Karen Levine and Naomi Chedd
This book gives the reader strategies to use to help children on the autism spectrum to access their emotions through interactive, symbolic play.

Say Good-Bye to Allergy-Related Autism,  By Dr. Nambudripad
These books explain a non-invasive, revolutionary treatment called NAET to battle allergies and allergy-related conditions including allergy-related autism. NAET incorporates various medical disciplines such as allopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, kinesiology and nutrition.

Special Diets for Special Kids, By Lisa Lewis, Ph.D.
Excellent overview of issues surrounding food allergies and dietary intervention into autism and related developmental disorders. Also contains recipes to assist in implementing the special diet.

THE SOCIAL SKILLS PICTURE BOOK Teaching play, emotion, and communication to children with autism, By Jed Baker, Ph.D.
This book has terrific real-life photographs which accompany its social skills rules to help teach children with autism how to develop their social skills.

S.O.S. Social Skills in Our Schools – – A Social Skills Program for Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Including High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome, and Their Typical Peers, By. Michelle A. Dunn, Ph.D.

REMEMBER: This list is by no means exhaustive of the many agencies and resources in existence within the field of Autism. 

Moreover, please check out the link below for a brief trip around the world to view how different countries and Autism Speaks are recognizing April 2nd and working to solve this International puzzle:

From a parent of a child on the spectrum, and an attorney whose practice is dedicated solely to helping parents of children with disabilities, I thank you for taking a moment to learn about Autism, celebrate Autism Awareness Month and bring us one piece closer to solving the puzzle.

Please keep in mind that the resources listed are not intended as a recommendation, referral, or endorsement thereof.   In addition, the information in this blog is not intended as legal advice.  

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

“Knowledge is Power!”

I have always felt empowered by the more information I have gained about both special education law in general, as well as about my daughter’s disability – – PDD-NOS (an Autism Spectrum Disorder).  Similarly, I have always impressed upon my clients that the more time they are able to take to learn about special education law and their child’s disability, the more empowered they too will feel. 

In my experience, the more empowered we feel, the more successful advocates we can be on behalf of our children.

To this end, therefore, there are a number of upcoming events related to special education and Autism, which I wanted to let you know about.  Each provides a wonderful opportunity for further empowerment!

June 13, 2008  10am-2pm at The ELIJA House Library, 665 N. Newbridge Road, Levittown, NY:  “Introduction to Verbal Behavior and How it Applies to Teaching Learners with Autism Functional Communication Skills” Presented by Maria Visco, BS, BCaBA (Cost 40).  For more information, log onto or call Mary at 516-433-4321

June 20, 200810am-2pm at The ELIJA House Library, 665 N. Newbridge Road, Levittown, NY: “Question & Answer:  Troubleshooting Toileting Issues with Individuals with Autism” Presented by Dr. Bobby Newman, BCBA (Cost $40).  For more information, log onto or call Mary at 516-433-4321

September 25, 2008, Suffern, NY:  The Third Annual Rockland County Autism Symposium”  (Cost:  FREE).  More details to follow.

September 27, 2008:  Walk Now for Autism Greater Hudson Valley Walk.  For more information, log onto or 914-934-5138 or email

October 27, 20086 pm-8:30 pm at Pace University Law School:  “Special Education:  Transition Planning and Implementation” Presented by Barbara Ebenstein, Esq. (Cost $125 attorneys, $100 Pace Grads, $50 others).  For more information, call 914-422-4062 or email

March 5-8, 2009 in Washington, DC:  Annual Conference of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.  This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about various issues related to special education law and advocacy, and network with parents of children with special needs, as well as attorneys and advocates within the special education field. For more information log onto




June 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t Miss this Sale!

I just learned about this great sale on items helpful for teaching children with Autism and related disorders.  Log onto Natural Learning Concepts at for some great deals!


May 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Help Parents of Children with Disabilities Get Reimbursed for Expert Witness Fees!

Here is your chance to make a difference for the families of children with special needs.

Call your Congressional Representative on Tuesday, May 6!
Ask Congress to Support the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R. 4188!
Help Parents Recover Expert Witness Fees and Level the Playing Field!  

PLEASE CALL YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES ON TUESDAY, MAY 6, AND ASK THEM TO CO-SPONSOR THE IDEA FAIRNESS RESTORATION ACT, H.R. 4188.  This bill will allow parents who prevail in due process or litigation under IDEA recover their expert witness fees. 

Few parents can afford the thousands of dollars needed to pay for expert testimony that is often necessary to prevail in IDEA cases.  But school districts can use tax dollars to employ and pay for psychologists and other paid experts.  Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden.  H.R. 4188 is necessary to restore Congress’ original intent and allow parents to recover their expert witness fees.  Introduced by Congressman Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Pete Sessions (Texas), it will help level the playing field for the parents of millions of children with disabilities.

Over 100 disability organizations, including the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, Arc, Easter Seals, the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates, Inc., National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Society, National Down Syndrome Congress, Learning Disabilities Association, National Center for Learning Disabilities, CHADD, and others support H.R. 4188.  But we need your help to get it passed.

Call Congress on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Ask them to Cosponsor H.R. 4188

On Tuesday, May 6, 2008, please call your Congressional Representatives (202-224-3121) and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Have friends and family members call.  It will only take 2-3 minutes.

If you do not know who your Congressional Representative is, go to and put your zip code into the box in the upper left corner.   (You usually only need your five digit zip code.)  You can also use to look up Representatives and phone numbers.  PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES INSTEAD OF USING EMAIL.  Congress needs to hear our voices and hear from as many parents and child advocates as possible!

It helps if you ask for the Education Aide, but you can also talk to the person who answers the phone.  You can leave a voicemail message.  Tell them you are a constituent and would like the Congressperson to co-sponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. 

Please make a phone call on May 6, even if you’ve made one before.  If you can’t call on May 6, it’s okay to call afterwards. 

Why It’s Important to Cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 4188).

The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would override the Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006) and allow parents who prevail in due process or litigation to be reimbursed for their expert witness fees. When prevailing parents cannot recover expert costs, the playing field is neither level nor fair, and children are denied a free appropriate public education and other fundamental IDEA rights.

  • Hiring qualified medical, technical, and other expert witnesses can cost many thousands of dollars.  Few parents can afford this high cost, putting due process out of reach for most parents, who struggle to afford what their children with disabilities need.
  • School districts use tax dollars to pay for psychologists and other paid experts.  Parents have fewer resources and yet must bear a greater financial burden. Approximately 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over 2/3 earn less than $50,000 a year.
  • Congress intended for parents to recover their expert witness fees in the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986.  Allowing parents to recoup their expert fees simply restores Congress’ original intent.
  • If due process is not affordable, the IEP process becomes even more one-sided and unfair.  School personnel control the IEP process and often vastly outnumber parents.  When the right to due process is meaningful, it helps ensure that school districts provide appropriate educations to children with disabilities.
  • Most parents turn to due process and litigation only as a last resort.  In 2003, the GAO reported that there were only 5 hearings per 10,000 special education students.  But when parents are forced into due process, they should be able to afford expert witnesses.

Want more detailed information? 

Download COPAA’s complete brochure on the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act and enabling parents to recover expert fees,
There is also a Spanish language version,
(Lea aqui en Espanol: Murphy y los derechos de los padres para recuperar el costo de los expertos: )
You can read H.R. 4188 here:
You can read letters from over 100 disability organizations supporting H.R. 4188 here:

For more information about H.R. 4188 and this alert, please contact Bob Berlow and Jess Butler of COPAA at  Together, we can make the difference and restore a balanced playing field for children with disabilities.

Let Congress hear your voice on May 6!  Ask your Representative to cosponsor H.R. 4188, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act.  Call Congress, 202-224-3121.

April 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Strength in Numbers – – Special Ed Law Conference a Success!

Having just returned from the 10th Annual Conference of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates ( I am reminded that as both an attorney advocating for the rights of children with disabilities, as well as a parent of a child classified with a disability, I am in good company. 

It is comforting to know that there is strength in the number of wonderful professionals advocating for children with special needs.  This is true even though this area of the law so frequently seems unjust, despite the good intentions of its creators over the years. 

As a parent of a child classified with a disability, it is wonderful to know I am part of a large family of other parents who like me, are confronted daily with the emotional, physical, educational and other obstacles incidental to our children’s disabilities.  We struggle to keep life in perspective.  It never hurts to have a gentile reminder of how lucky we really are, no matter how “bad” it may seem, on a given day. 

If you are a parent’s attorney, advocate, and/or a parent of a child with a disability, and are not already part of of COPAA, I urge you to consider becoming a member.  This organization provides valuable resources in the area of special education, wonderful networking opportunities and is instrumental in most of the cutting edge advocacy issues surrounding special education law. 

The annual COPAA conference is a gathering of some of the brightest minds in the field of special education law.  It is both inspiring, and informative.  I value the opportunity to be a part of the conference each year.  Please remember there is strength in numbers. 

To my fellow COPAA family members, I thank you for another wonderful conference and look forward to seeing you again at next year’s annual “family reunion” in DC!

March 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Should You Do Once You Receive A Progress Report About Your Child’s IEP Goals?

     Periodically during the school year, you will receive a report about your child’s progress towards meeting his IEP goals.  How often you get one of these reports depends upon what is written in your child’s IEP.  Under the law, you must receive a report of your child’s progress at least as often as every grading period for the general education population.  What should you do once you receive this feedback as to your child’s progress on IEP goals?  ASK YOURSELF:

Do I agree with the report of my child’s progress?

     First, review the progress report and decide if you agree with how the school says your child is progressing on his IEP goals.  If you do NOT agree, document your concerns.  Write a polite letter to your child’s teacher and/or the person responsible for reporting your child’s progress.  Request an informal meeting with a particular teacher or if necessary, your child’s educational team.  Discuss your concerns and try to resolve any inconsistency between how you versus the school feel your child is progressing.  Keep in mind that any inconsistency might not necessarily be a sign of an inaccuracy, but rather, a sign that your child performs differently at school than at home. If necessary, request a formal IEP meeting [either a CSE or CPSE meeting, depending upon your child’s age] to address your concerns.

Is my child not making enough progress?

     Second, look at your child’s progress on his IEP goals.  According to the report, is your child progressing satisfactorily or appropriately on the IEP goals?  If your child has NOT made adequate progress on his goals up to this point, this could be a signal that he needs MORE support than is currently built into his IEP.  Do not wait until the end of the school year to conclude your child needed more support than the CSE initially recommended.  This is a waste of your child’s precious time to learn.  Re-examine your child’s IEP with his teachers.  If necessary, request a formal IEP meeting for this purpose.

Is my child making “too much” progress?

     If your child is having a strong year and progressing well on his goals, that is wonderful.  However, you need to keep an eye out if the progress report says your child already achieved IEP goals, that the IEP team recommended he work on throughout the entire school year.  This could be an indication that the IEP goals originally set were too easy for your child – – in effect, that the IEP team did not set the bar high enough.  

     Indeed, your child’s IEP goals are required under the law to be measurable annual goals.  Recent changes in the law no longer requirethe IEP to contain short-term objectives and benchmarks, unless your child is either a preschool child with a disability, or, your child needs to take a NYS alternative assessment. 

     Keep in mind, however, that the IEP team still can include short-term objectives and benchmarks to measure a child’s progress throughthe school year – – before the year’s end.  If, for instance, by the end of the first quarter of school, your child has achieved a benchmark set for the first quarter, then your child is right on target.  However, my concern is, for example, has your child achieved a goal by the first quarter of the school year that the IEP team thought would take all school year to achieve?  If this is a pattern, it is likely a sign that the goals set on the IEP should be revised.   Indeed, under the new “findings” in the law [Section 1400(c) of the IDEA 2004] we know through research that we can be more effective at educating children with disabilities if, among other things, we set “challenging expectations” for them.  It is therefore important to make sure your child’s annual goals are sufficiently challenging to measure progress your child should make over the entire school year.

Communicate your concerns.  Request an IEP meeting, if necessary.

     In general, speak with your child’s educational team regarding any concerns you have about his IEP goals or the level of services in his IEP.  Always document your concerns in a letter.  If necessary, request an IEP meeting to discuss your concerns and possibly modify your child’s IEP.

Contact us!

     Do not hesitate to contact The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan for assistance including:     

          Support in understanding your child’s IEP;
          Direction in drafting measurable and appropriate annual IEP goals;
          Assistance in effective letter writing to your school district;
          Preparation for your child’s IEP meeting; and 
          Negotiation with your school district for free and appropriate educational services for your child.

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Do You Need A Special Education Attorney?

     As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate.  However, there are times when despite your best efforts, you may need the help of an experienced and educated legal professional to obtain appropriate special educational services for your child.  Located in Rockland County, New York, in close proximity to Westchester, Orange, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, as well as all five boroughs of New York City, The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan is here to provide you this necessary legal guidance.  

     I am an experienced litigator as well as a parent of a child with a disability.  This professional and personal experience enable me to understand what you are going through, as well as what is legally and practically necessary to help your child.  Accordingly, rest assured I will relentlessly represent your family’s special needs interests with compassion and zeal. 

     Of course, the most common time people feel the need to contact a special education attorney such as myself is when they disagree with their school district (or depending on the age of their child, the county).  Indeed, I encourage you to contact me as soon as possible if you disagree with the recommendations made by the CPSE [Committee on Preschool Special Education] or CSE [Committee on Special Education] at your child’s IEP [Individualized Education Program] meeting.  Also do not hesitate to contact me if your child is less than 3 years old, and you disagree with the recommendations made by the county at your child’s IFSP [Individualized Family Service Plan] meeting.  I can evaluate and explain  to you your options under the law, and help you to determine the best course of action for your child. 

     While many cases can be resolved without formal litigation, there are those situations where litigation is unavoidable.  If it is appropriate, rest assured I will professionally and diligently represent you and your child throughout all aspects of an impartial due process hearing, and or mediation. 

     However, I do encourage you to be as proactive, organized and collaborative as possible in an effort to avoid litigation.  If at all possible, do not wait until you and your school district/county have come to an impasse, before you seek legal guidance.  Indeed, I recommend you contact me early in the process, to learn, understand and weigh your options under the law. 

     By contacting The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan, you will be taking an important step in empowering yourself to become the best advocate you can be for your child.  I can help you understand the special education process, and your basic legal rights.  I can also assist you in writing letters to your school district, when necessary.  In addition to strategic letter writing, I can also teach you other helpful  strategies to enable you to become a more successful advocate for your child. I can help you interpret your child’s evaluations.  If appropriate under the law, I can assist you to seek a free, independent evaluation.  I can help you determine if you should obtain any private evaluations, to better understand your child’s strengths and needs.  I can guide you to work with medical and educational professionals to better understand your child’s present levels of performance, and determine appropriate recommendations for your child’s IEP.  These recommendations might include learning strategies, accommodations, modifications to the general education curriculum and environment, and IEP goals.  I can help you to prepare for IEP meetings, and if appropriate, accompany you to these meetings.

     Please contact The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan so that I may help you and your school district (or county) work together to find an appropriate educational program for your child.  In my experience, the best outcomes for children come when parents and school districts (or the county) work as cooperatively and collaboratively with one another as possible.     

    Keep in mind that there is no single solution or right course of action to navigating all cases within the special education system.  Just like our children’s individual educational needs, every advocacy case is unique.  Please contact me if you seek the customized, professional , experienced and relentless advocacy that is appropriate for your child’s individual, special educational needs. 

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments