zakson law

Areas of Practice

Learn here about your child’s right to special education and your right to advocate for what your child needs. Whether you are preparing for your first IEP team meeting or planning for graduation, we want you to be a better-informed advocate for your child. We’re here to support you every step of the way.  

Special Education | Special Needs Trusts/Estate Planning |
Disability & Children’s Rights | Regional Centers

Special Education

Compassionate, knowledgeable and effective representation to help families obtain what their children need from school districts and public agencies.

Heather provides full support for families, from attending IEP team meetings to obtaining key expert evaluations to due process hearings and federal court litigation. For two decades, Heather has provided compassionate, knowledgeable and effective representation to help families obtain what their children
need from school districts and public agencies.
  • Parents are entitled to real and meaningful participation in IEP team meetings, so that the IEP team keeps your child’s potential and growth at the center of the discussion. 
  • Every child is entitled to an IEP that provides a foundation for meaningful educational growth, services and supports to master critical skills and have access to knowledge, and a school environment where the child can build real friendships and feel accomplished and validated.
  • When your child’s IEP is not meeting their needs, you have the right to disagree, and to fight back!

Here are some terms regarding special education and how we can help.

IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) | Due Process | Mediation | IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation) | Therapeutic Residential Placement | Adult Transition


“IEP” stands for Individualized Education Program. IEPs should be individualized, support growth and learning, and provide a foundation for collaboration.

  • Individualized: it is meant to be tailored to a child’s unique needs;
  • Education: it is meant to describe the environment and supports the student needs to learn and grow;
  • Program: it is meant to describe how a team of educators will work together to help the student achieve specific outcomes. 

Unfortunately, some students’ IEPs aren’t individualized,  don’t support growth and learning, and don’t provide a foundation for collaboration. If you’re frustrated with your child’s special education program, or you’re just not sure, we can help.

Due Process

“Due Process” is the term that’s used to describe legal procedures used to resolve a dispute between the family of a child with disabilities and the child’s school district.

If you want to improve your child’s educational program, you have to consider “due process.” So much depends on what you decide to do.

Litigation can be costly, stressful and complicated. If you are in a dispute or disagreement with your child’s school, and you think that “due process” is on the horizon, don’t go it alone! We will help you avoid litigation if that’s possible. If it’s not, we will help you win.


Mediation is a meeting between the parties – the family and the school district – that is facilitated by a neutral mediator who helps both sides to move toward a resolution and settlement.

Mediation and settlement negotiations are the best chance to have a say in the outcome of your case! They are also risky business for unrepresented parents, especially when you’re trying to resolve multiple issues and the negotiations involve waivers of rights and claims.

Work with a qualified and experienced special education attorney to avoid the pitfalls and get the best outcome available from your settlement agreement.

IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation)

An Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) is performed by a qualified professional who does not work for the public school or school district.

The IDEA provides that parents of special education students have a right to an IEE when they disagree with the public school’s evaluation of their child.  20 U.S.C. §1415(b)(1), 34 C.F.R. 300.502.

A qualified expert assessment is essential to understand and to prove what kind of educational program and services the school district should provide your child to meet his or her needs.

Therapeutic Residential Placement

When your child is in crisis they may need intensive mental health support in a Therapeutic Residential Placement.

For families with a child in residential treatment, the financial and emotional strain can be overwhelming.
Heather can help you obtain a qualified expert evaluation, provide guidance in the search for an appropriate placement, and fight for the funding you need, all with the compassion and tenacity to see you and your child through the storm.

Adult Transition

Adult Transition describes the process of getting ready for adulthood, and the time period from the mid- to late teens.

This is a time when it’s important to make sure that the student has mastered age-appropriate skills and understanding and is participating in activities that are appropriate for young adulthood.

IEPs for teens and young adults must include Adult Transition Planning in three areas: Education, Employment, and Independent Living.

Importantly, Transition planning must include the student! It’s the only time that the IEP team is required to incorporate the student’s ideas, wishes and priorities for their own future. It’s an exciting time!  And sometimes scary. We would love to help you and your family make the most of the opportunity to improve your student’s educational program and move toward a bright future!  

Special Needs Trusts/Estate Planning

Expert guidance to ensure that you have properly planned for your children's future, especially if you have a child with disabilities.

Every parent needs expert guidance to ensure that they have properly planned for their children’s future. This is especially important if you have a child with disabilities who may need to rely on public benefits like SSI and Medicaid after they reach adulthood. 
A Special Needs Trust (“SNT”) is designed to provide your adult child the money they need to live well, without risking disqualification for important health coverage and other benefits. Heather will talk with you about your goals and your family’s unique situation, and build a plan for you that will serve your family now and in the future!

Disability & Children's Rights

Children with disabilities have broad protections under federal and state law. Understand your rights and obtain relief and compensation.

If you suspect your child is denied access to places or programs because of their disability, or has been injured or abused in school, you may have claims for corrective action, compensatory relief, or damages. Children with disabilities have broad protections under federal and state law, 
and our legal team can help you understand your rights and obtain the relief and compensation you deserve.

Regional Centers

California’s Regional Centers were established to provide a wide range of supports and services for people with developmental disabilities of all ages.

There are 21 Regional Centers spread out geographically across the state. The Regional Center system is unique to California and does not exist in any other state.  A few other states have comparable systems, but most do not.

The law that governs Regional Center eligibility and responsibilities is California’s Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act, usually referred to as the “Lanterman Act.” It’s found in the State Welfare and Institutions Code.

California established the Regional Center system to “assist persons with developmental disabilities and their families in securing those services and supports which maximize opportunities and choices for living, working, learning, and recreating in the community.”

Every Regional Center client has a written Individual Program Plan (“IPP”) that describes their needs and the services they receive. The IPP is reviewed and updated at least annually.  Regional Center service coordinators should use the principles of Person-Centered Planning to help Clients and their family members and people in their circle of support to design an IPP that works for them.

When a client or family disagrees with what the Regional Center has done, there is an appeal process and a chance for a Fair Hearing before a judge.

We can help you understand what resources are available, and help you get what you need.

Dealing with the legalities to ensure the optimum benefits for your child can be daunting. We’re here to help. 

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