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January 15, 2020 Feature

Resource Guide for Attorneys Representing Families with Children with Special Needs

Karl W. Topor

Defining “Special Needs”

Autism Spectrum Disorder/Down Syndrome/Cerebral Palsy

Autism Society,, provides information and resources on individuals on the spectrum.

Autism Speaks,, is a nonprofit organization derived in part from the merger of Autism Coalition for Research and Education (ACRE), the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), and Cure Autism Now (CAN). The organization researches causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions.

NADS, the National Association for Down Syndrome,, advocates for families with Down syndrome members. The website provides information and resources on access and services.

NDDS, the National Down Syndrome Society,, is a human rights organization for those with Down syndrome. It assists with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and offers personalized inclusion support to families and schools.

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP),, is dedicated to advancing the independence, productivity, and full citizenship of people with disabilities.

The Cerebral Palsy Guide,, is offered by a national support organization.

The National Association for Childhood Development (NACD),, offers treatment and services in homes. The NACD provides comprehensive intervention as well as coaching and support of families.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)/Learning Disabilities

Attention Deficit Disorder Organization (ADDA),, offers a variety of articles on ADHD-related topics, a newsletter, webinars and videos, and virtual support groups. is a good source for advice on parenting; medications to treat ADHD; and ADHD in school, policy, and mental health.

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), offers support and information.

The National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC),, a CHADD program, also provides some of the latest evidence-based information on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Very Well Mind,, through Dotdash publishing, provides substantive information on ADHD and links to several informative articles.

Lectures by Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D., Dr. Barkley is an ADHD expert who offers information on ADHD and related topics.

ADHD Collective,, offers apps, courses, books, podcasts, and other tools for college students with ADHD.,, has an excellent guide to the medical aspects of ADHD.

Serious Psychiatric Disorders

The National Institute of Mental Health,, describes research on mental disorders and mental health.

Serious Medical Illnesses, Chronic Developmental Disorders/Physical Disabilities, and especially, from the Nemours Foundation, provides information on chronic disorders.

The Special Ed Wiki,, provides information on children’s physical disabilities and related topics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),, provides information on developmental disabilities and disorders.

Profound Cognitive Impairment/Intellectual Disability

The American Association on Intellectual and Development Disabilities (AAIDD),, provides education and support related to intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc,, assists children with all intellectual developmental disabilities and their families.

Sensory Impairment

The Hanen Group,, provides information on language, social, and literacy skills. The following is an excellent article on dealing with sensory impairment:

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA),, assists those with speech, language, and hearing disorders.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB),, assists blind children and their families with educational resources, programs, and services.

Understanding Educational Plans

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC),, provides information about legislation relevant to the education of children with special needs.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF),, is directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. The Center educates government officials, service providers, and legal counsel as to disability laws related to special education.

The PTA educates families of children newly diagnosed with special needs on how to get the best special education, services, and resources. The website provides a Special Education tool kit,

The Individuals with Education Disabilities Act (IDEA),, provides information from the U.S. Department of Education dealing with education of children with special needs.

Economic Considerations

The Social Security Administration Office of Policy,, offers a good discussion of child support payments and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Special Needs Trusts

Capital First Trust Company,, explains the special needs trust guidelines.

The Social Security Administration,, explains Medicaid trust exceptions.

Guardianship of an Adult Child,, discusses adult guardianship/conservatorship.

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Karl W. Topor, of the Law Office of Karl W. Topor in Boston, Massachusetts, focuses his practice on all aspects of family law matters, including contested divorces, custody, and the drafting of prenuptial agreements. He is an active member of the ABA Family Law Section. He currently serves as chair of the Special Needs Committee and the Membership Benefit Committee. He has served on the Section Council for two terms and has been a member of the Publications Board.