KJK understands that families with children on the autism spectrum may face legal battles throughout their lives. Led by Partners Susan Stone and Kristina Supler, the Autism & Mental Health Advocacy team is uniquely positioned to meet the legal needs of those families. In fact, we can address legal issues that start as early as three years old and that can confront students well into adulthood.
Special Education and Related Services
Serving children ages three to 22, we – in collaboration with both primary school and college education consultants – assist families to ensure that students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or any other mental health and/or neurological challenges receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) or, if necessary, a private placement. In addition, we represent students facing disciplinary proceedings. By collaborating with our education consultants and outside therapists, we advocate for the needs of students during school meetings and, when needed, use that understanding to defend students during expulsion hearings or juvenile matters.
Title IX Proceedings
As students with high-functioning ASD shift to the college setting, they often lag behind peers with respect to social skills. Now more than ever, many students with ASD find themselves accused of violating a school’s sexual misconduct policy. The Title IX process is stressful for any student, but for those with ASD and other disabilities, like ADHD or anxiety, it can be particularly traumatic. Skilled at defending these students, we obtain accommodations to help our clients navigate the process. We also understand the relationship between the school’s office of disability services and student conduct office. Finally, we use our experience in representing individuals with disabilities to create a tailored defense for our clients.
Unfortunately, many of our clients with mental health challenges find themselves facing prosecution. We have defended clients facing charges ranging from internet crimes, drug offenses, sexual assault and rape. We often find that the criminal justice system does not have an understanding of ASD and other mental health disorders, or how these disorders impact lives. We vigorously advocate for our clients, presenting a defense that examines the way in which our clients understand the world.
Our practice assists outside counsel in criminal cases with sentencing mitigation. We understand the unique vulnerability of defendants with autism, and we try to protect our clients from time in prison. Advocating for the most lenient sentence possible, we explain how our client’s disabilities contributed to the illegal conduct. We use our vast array of resources to prepare a sentencing presentation with a combination of medical, therapeutic, and education reports, as well as community support and suggestions for alternatives to traditional incarceration. We collaborate with counsel to design an effective and comprehensive sentencing presentation.Read More
The prevalence of autism in the United States continues to rise. As growing numbers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) transition into adulthood in an age of computers and technology, this population is facing prosecution with greater regularity. The criminal justice system, however, struggles to understand autism and how people on the spectrum experience the world. With most criminal cases ending in a guilty plea – 99% of cases, in fact – the sentencing phase of a case is crucial. Yet most attorneys approach sentencing with a mechanical and routine strategy. Worse, judges often sentence defendants with autism just as they would sentence any other defendant.
We break that cycle by designing creative sentencing presentations for defendants with autism and other mental health issues. We educate the court about autism and create sentencing proposals that include alternatives to incarceration. We explain that people with autism are at risk in general population prison settings and that traditional rehabilitation models involving victim-centered empathy won’t work. We inform the court about our client’s vulnerabilities and how he or she learns and processes information.
What sets us apart from other attorneys is that we collaborate with a variety of forensic psychiatrists, psychologists and experts from around the country to develop an individually designed sentencing proposal. Outside professionals assist with explaining complicated medical conditions and how these conditions impact the person’s day-to-day experiences. We also delve into our client’s past to gain a deeper understanding of him or her. We look at past medical records and education plans to identify what strategies have worked or failed in the past. We talk to our client – sometimes with the assistance of the client’s own therapist – to build trust and develop helpful themes for mitigation. We spend time with loved ones to understand the challenges they face in raising our ASD clients. In essence, we review the unique building blocks of our client’s life to tailor an enlightened sentencing strategy. This strategy is then used to develop a written and oral presentation to the court.
Our practice provides both direct representation in criminal cases and sentencing consultation with primary counsel to build the most comprehensive and effective mitigation strategy possible. By taking a team approach, we develop a compelling narrative that explains why the autistic client engaged in illegal behavior and what can be done to make sure illegal conduct never occurs again. We accept the challenge of urging courts to consider how the autistic brain works and how that should factor into a sentence. Our call is to craft creative and compassionate sentencing strategies.
Managing the financial and physical care of children and adults with significant developmental disabilities often requires a state-funded waiver to pay for services, especially after children transition from high school and enter into adulthood. We have prevailed on waiver appeals and can help navigate families through the initial Ohio Eligibility Determination Instrument (OEDI) process, as well as Ohio’s new Waiver Waitlist Assessment process. We have also helped parents advocate for the appropriate waiver to meet the individual needs of each child or adult. Our goal is to lessen the stress of a complicated, bureaucratic process.