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Baltimore’s Child “Your Special Child”

Excerpts, written by Amy Landsman, September 2015, page 30

“In a perfect world, families and public schools in Maryland would work in total harmony to find the best strategies and support services for every student with a special need. In the real world, however, schools don’t always adequately provide the services outlined in their students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)—and when families push to obtain these needed services for their kids, sometimes these schools may even push back.
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If you think your situation may call for an attorney, go ahead and set up a consultation with one, urges Ellen Callegary, a partner with the Baltimore law firm…which specializes in special education, disability, and family law issues. Some lawyers offer free consultations; others may charge an hourly rate. Either way, you are under no obligation to retain counsel at that time, emphasizes Callegary. Reputable lawyers won’t try to push you into retaining their services, especially when they’re not actually needed. “Our ethical responsibility is to say to you, ‘You don’t need an attorney,’ if you don’t need an attorney,’’ says Callegary. While hiring a lawyer is generally a last resort for families, Callegary says it can be worth the investment. Special education law is complex, and some situations may demand an expert. Callegary knows many families who have reported that showing up with an attorney in tow actually led to more positive interactions at team meetings.
Some families are so exhausted by the day-to-day challenges of raising a child with special needs that they don’t have the energy to fight with the school over their child’s IEP, points out Callegary. That’s also a scenario in which an advocate or attorney can ease their burden. On paper, parents and their child’s school are equal partners in the special education process. And that’s often how it plays out. But sometimes, the balance of power gets skewed.”