Practice Areas

Special Education Law

Tracey Spencer Walsh helps clients throughout New York and Connecticut to ensure that students with a disability receive the special education services to which they are entitled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). When a child has a disability, including learning disabilities, behavioral challenges, a serious illness, emotional challenges or another disability, he or she deserves a thoughtful, comprehensive and appropriate education that will facilitate a bright future. 

Securing Educational Services and Private School Tuition Reimbursement

If your child has been denied educational services and/or you are considering placing your child in a private school, consulting with Tracey at the beginning of the process can help you avoid mistakes. Planning ahead, and that includes cooperating with your school district, could be the key to successfully securing an appropriate education for your child.


Legal Guardianship
In the eyes of the law, even a person with a significant developmental, cognitive, or mental health disability is legally permitted to make decisions on his or her own behalf at the age of majority (18 in most states, including NY). The only way parents can continue making decisions for their child is to become their legal guardian. “Families need to keep in mind that guardianship is not the same as serving as a substitute parent. A guardian is an individual that is truly person-centered and focused on the needs of the individual with disabilities. They will not be required to provide parental types of support”. Guardianship is a court-ordered arrangement in which one person is given the legal authority to
make decisions on behalf of another person whom a court has deemed to be “incapacitated.” The guardian’s
decision-making authority extends to all areas specified by the court.

Limited Guardian:  A limited guardian makes decisions in only some specific areas, such as medical care. Limited guardianship may be appropriate if the person with a disability can make some decisions on his or her own.

General Guardian:  A general guardian has broad control and decision-making authority over the individual. General guardianship may be appropriate if the person has a significant intellectual disability or mental illness and, as a result, is unable to meaningfully participate in important decisions that affect him or her.

Conservator:  A conservator manages the finances (income and assets) of a person with a disability. A
conservator has no authority to make personal decisions (medical, educational, etc.) for the person whose
funds he or she is managing.

Deciding Whether Guardianship is Necessary
For parents, the decision to seek guardianship can be difficult. You need to protect your son or daughter with, but there may be some areas where he or she can make sound decisions. Fortunately, legal guardianship is not an “all or nothing” proposition. It is possible to carve out some areas where you son or daughter can retain important decision-making rights and control of his or her own life. When considering how much authority you need—and how much independence your son or daughter should retain—you should begin with an assessment of the different areas in which your son or daughter may need your assistance. These areas may include: medical, educational, financial, vocational/adult services, living arrangements, legal, self-care, safety, and communication.

Obtaining Guardianship
To obtain guardianship, you may want to consider hiring an attorney with expertise in this area. Each family is unique in that there are many significant choices and decisions to be made in this process.

Article 17A Guardianship Is Currently Being Challenged as Unconstitutional
Parents of children with a developmental disability, like autism, soon may no longer be able to acquire Guardianship under Article 17A . Disability Rights New York has filed an action Federal Court seeking to have 17A declared unconstitutional. Further, the Report and Recommendations of the Olmstead Cabinet recommends that 17A be reformed, finding it "archaic."

Constitutional Rights of Children

While the law treats children differently from adults in many respects, children have legal rights. Furthermore, while children’s rights are not necessarily less than those of adults, they are often different. Tracey can help you understand what are your child's constitutional rights.