Julie Swanson is a Connecticut special education advocate whose practice grew out of her efforts to help her son. As an advocate, she helps parents navigate the special education process, including attending IEP and Section 504 meetings. She speaks frequently on special education matters and has a long-standing history of service on special education-related state boards, task forces, and legislative appointments to state councils. She is the co-author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling You and co-founder of YourSpecialEducatonRights.com, a video-based website devoted to helping parents understand their rights under the IDEA.
Gerri Fleming began her career as a high school History teacher in New York City. After moving to Connecticut and starting her family, Gerri re-entered the workforce by opening up her advocacy practice. Gerri is a SEAT graduate, a year-long pilot program in special education advocacy funded by the USDOE awarded to the University of Southern California, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, (USC, UCEDD) in partnership with Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) to develop a national advocacy training curriculum. SEAT provided extensive classroom training in special education law and a practicum in a special education law firm. Gerri lives in Greenwich with her husband and son.
Meredith C. Braxton has been practicing law for 28 years, with a primary focus on special education for the last 16 years. After spending time in general and business litigation in “big law” in New York City and two smaller Connecticut firms, Meredith started a solo practice and began representing students and parents in their efforts to enforce their civil rights by having their children identified, securing appropriate services, and enforcing their rights to appropriate placements, whether via PPT, negotiation, an administrative due process hearing, or appeal to the federal courts. Her office is in Greenwich. Meredith also recently launched a companion practice with her colleague Liz Hook (Braxton Hook) to represent families in New York in special education matters and individuals in both Connecticut and New York in employment matters.
Andrew A. Feinstein has represented children with disabilities and their families pursuing appropriate educational programs for more than twenty years, first in Hartford with David C. Shaw, and since 2008, as a solo practitioner in Mystic, Connecticut. He is co-chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the preeminent national special education advocacy organization and an adjunct professor of special education law at Central Connecticut State University. Attorney Feinstein graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 and the New York University School of Law in 1975. He completed the Senior Manager in Government Program at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, in 1983. He has served as a professional staff member of the House Committee on Armed Services and Chief Counsel of the House Civil Service Subcommittee.
Financial Advisor at Stratos Wealth Management. In addition to earning the Certified Financial Planner ™ certification, he is a Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC®). Inspired by his son with Autism, Michael works with families to plan for the particular financial challenges of caring for a dependent with special needs. Michael is a noted speaker on the topic of special needs planning at both national and local venues including the National Autism Association, COPAA, the Autism Society of America and the US Autism and Asperger Association. He has also appeared on CNN and in various publications including Financial Advisor magazine. Michael graduated from SUNY Albany with degrees in Finance and Math and from Columbia University School of Law. Michael is a board member and Treasurer of Abilis and is a member of the First Selectman’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities in Greenwich. He lives in Cos Cob with his wife and son.
Professional Non-Attorney Special Education Advocate who has been assisting Connecticut families in securing appropriate educational services for their children with disabilities since 2007. She combines her advocacy experience with the education she gained from completing Special Education Advocacy Training (SEAT). SEAT was a year-long course funded by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services awarded to the University of Southern California, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in partnership with the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). The training provided for extensive classroom instruction by an attorney and an advocate and a practicum in a special education law firm. Kristin completed her practicum with Andrew Feinstein, Esq. of the Feinstein Education Law Group. She also completed Wrightslaw’s Special Education Law & Advocacy Training. As the parent of a child with disabilities, she also understands the process from a personal perspective. Kristin received her Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Saint Michaels College in 1993 and lives with her husband, two sons, a daughter and two dogs in Fairfield, CT.
Proud mother of a three-year-old boy with a disability. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education and an Early Childhood/Special Education teaching certification in the State of Connecticut. Heather is also a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society of Education. Recently, she received a State of Connecticut Official Citation as well as an Empowerment Award in recognition of her hard work towards helping to keep Camp Harkness open when drastic budget cuts threatened the state park’s closure. Heather brings a wealth of hands-on experience, knowledge, and expertise in the education field along with navigating the special education process for her son. Additionally, Heather is an active member of the Connecticut Family Support Network serving as a parent mentor supporting other families in the special needs community as well as a board member for the Camp Harkness Advisory Committee.
Parent and educator in Connecticut. She teaches drama to students of all abilities at Easton Country Day School and Acting Up Theater Company.
John began his involvement in special education early in 1996 when his then three-year-old son had a profound hearing loss as the result of contracting Pneumococcal meningitis. In 1997, significantly as the result of his family’s experiences in the PPT process he enrolled in the University of Connecticut School of Law. Following Graduation, he spent two years as the Children’s Rights Advocate for the A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington DC. He has practiced in Connecticut representing families with children with disabilities from 2002 until he was appointed by CPAC in December 2015. John has served on many Commissions and groups working on the rights of people with disabilities, including notably the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities and the State Advisory Committee on Special Education, serving as a member of the Executive Committee of both groups. He is currently a member of the Cromwell Board of Education and Committee to Support People with Disabilities. He formally served as a member of Cromwell’s Board of Selectmen for four years, Board of Finance for five years and as First Selectmen from 2009-11.
Attorney in private practice in Connecticut who focuses on the representation of children and adolescents under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Her representation includes attendance at IEP team meetings and mediation and zealous advocacy in litigation in due process hearings and federal court. Attorney Laviano is a regular presenter, locally and nationally, on the Civil Rights of students with disabilities, and is the co-author of the popular book, Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling You and co-founder of YourSpecialEducationRights.com, a video-based website devoted to helping parents understand their rights under the IDEA.
Missy first became interested in special education advocacy when she observed her mom calling the TN Director of Special Education to report that the local district did not have services for her, then 4-year-old brother, Mac. Within minutes of speaking to the state director, the local director called to explain that “we actually take 4 year olds” and “there must have been a misunderstanding”. Fast forward 35 years, and Missy (Melissa Olive, Ph.D., BCBAD), is the Executive Director of Applied Behavioral Strategies LLC, an agency she started in 2010. Prior to entering private practice, Missy spent 9 years conducting research and training special education teachers and behavior analysts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Nevada, Reno. Missy has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters focusing on assessment and treatment of challenging behaviors, communication intervention, feeding disorders, and ethical issues for behavior analysts. Missy is the Chair of the Legislative Committee of CT ABA as well as one of the Board of Directors of CT ABA.
Director of Applied Developmental Analysis (ADA) Therapy, LLC – a licensed clinical psychology organization for families and schools managing developmental differences. After receiving his Doctorate in 1986 from Tufts University, Dr. Weiss was a faculty member in the Schools of Medicine at McGill and Harvard Universities and a staff Psychologist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and the Children’s Hospitals in Montreal and Boston. He was also an Adjunct Professor in Psychology at Fairfield University. Dr. Weiss has worked for more than 35-years consulting to families and school boards across the United States and eastern Canada. Dr. Weiss was the senior editor of the textbook Newborn Attention: Biological Constraints & the Influence of Experience (1991, co-edited with Philip R. Zelazo, Ph.D., McGill University) and has published numerous articles, chapters, and abstracts related to infancy, children and families, and developmental differences and disabilities. Dr. Weiss along with Sheldon Wagner, Ph.D. and Susan Goldberg, M.A. have co-authored a book about managing children’s behavior, titled Drawing the Line: 10 Steps to Constructive Discipline and Achieving a Great Relationship With Your Kids (2006; Warner Books Publisher). He was the featured host of the Canadian syndicated television show “Real Families with Dr. Michael Weiss” and has been a regular contributor to Parents Canada.
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