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Paige’s Story

Paige, a bright third grade student on the autism spectrum, sat at home for nearly two months waiting for a school placement that would meet her needs. 

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Who We Serve

Students with Disabilities

Students with Disabilities

Advocates for Children of New York has been protecting and promoting the educational rights of students with disabilities since 1971.  As a result, we have unparalleled experience and expertise in special education, particularly in the New York City schools.  All of AFC’s projects involve special education advocacy to some extent, as they target specific populations that tend to include a disproportionate share of students with disabilities.

AFC’s Project Thrive focuses on low-income families with children with disabilities who need legal representation or in-depth case advocacy.  Our staff advises parents of their legal rights, negotiates on their behalf, and represents them in administrative hearings to obtain the services their children need to support their development, succeed in school, and maximize their independence. Read some of our success stories.

Community Education

AFC’s Parent Center is at the core of the organization — dedicated to supporting parents as they fight for a quality education for their children.  Through our Parent Center, we provide training, information, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, ages 0-26, and the professionals who work with them. We present workshops, in English and Spanish, throughout New York City’s communities that prepare parents to advocate effectively for their children’s education-related rights in the public school system.

Supported by a five-year grant from the United States Department of Education, AFC leads the New York Region 1 Parent Training and Information Center Collaborative.  The Collaborative, which coordinates the parent centers for New York City and Long Island, includes Sinergia, IncludeNYC (formerly known as Resources for Children with Special Needs), and the Long Island Advocacy Center. We are also proud members of the New York State Parent Network.

AFC’s Parent Center can provide FREE trainings and workshops at your school or organization on a variety of education-related topics. For more information or to schedule a training, click on the link. 

Guides & Resources

Note: The following resources are in PDF format and will open in a new window. To view PDF files, download the following free software: Get Adobe® Reader®. If you are unable to access PDFs, please call our Helpline (866-427-6033) or email info@afcnyc.org, and we will be happy to provide the information in an alternative format.

For many more guides and resources on special education and other topics, visit our resource library.

Guide to Special Education (also available in Spanish, ArabicBengali, & Chinese) 
This guide explains the variety of supports and services available for students with disabilities, the process for obtaining evaluations and developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and the rights of parents and students in New York City.

Guide to Section 504 
This guide explains what Section 504 is, how it applies to children in public schools, and how to get Section 504 services or accommodations for your child.

Preparing for an IEP Meeting (also available in SpanishArabicBengaliChinese, & Haitian Creole)
This tip sheet provides a quick overview of what happens at an IEP meeting and how to prepare.

Guide to Gifted & Talented Programs for Students with Disabilities (also available in Spanish)
Special education should not be a bar to admission or participation in a gifted and talented program. A student can have special education needs and be gifted and talented at the same time. This guide has been written to help you work your way through the system if that’s the case for your child.

Guide to Impartial Hearings (also available in Spanish)
This guide explains the special education impartial hearing process and important state regulations.

Positive Interventions for Students with Disabilities: Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBAs) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) (also available in Spanish)
When students with disabilities have inappropriate behaviors that interfere with their learning or the learning of other students, and/or their behavior gets them suspended or removed from class, schools should develop a plan to help students improve their behavior. This fact sheet explains how schools create and use Functional Behavioral Assessments (FBAs) to develop Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs).

Guide to Manifestation Determination Review (MDR): Protections for students with disabilities who face discipline (also available in Spanish
Students with disabilities have special rights and protections when they are suspended from school or removed from class. One of those rights is a meeting, called a Manifestation Determination Review, that might help your child stay in the current classroom. This guide explains what happens at the meeting and how to prepare.

High School Graduation Options for Students with Disabilities (also available in Spanish)
This fact sheet explains diploma and non-diploma options for students with disabilities in New York State.

Guide to Transition Services & College Planning: Helping Students with Disabilities Move from School to Adulthood (also available in Spanish)
This guide explains the transition process and how transition services can benefit a student with a disability.

Policy Work

Advocates for Children is a recognized leader in school reform efforts, with expertise in bringing together community-based organizations, parents’ groups, and government agencies to address systemic problems and improve outcomes and options for all students. In 2008, AFC founded the ARISE Coalition, a diverse group of parents, educators, and advocates working together to improve the education of students with disabilities in New York City’s public schools.  AFC continues to coordinate and lead the coalition. 

AFC also regularly testifies at public hearings and publishes policy reports that address important issues facing students with disabilities. Recent reports include:

CTE report cover

Obstacles and Opportunities: Creating Career and Technical Education Pathways for Students with Disabilities [PDF]
This December 2016 report analyzes access to high school-level career and technical education (CTE) programs for students with disabilities in New York State. Although students with disabilities made up about 15% of the class that was expected to graduate in 2015, they comprised only 11.6% of students reported to have completed most of a CTE program. Based on data findings and interviews with professionals, special education advocates, and parents of students with disabilities, the paper makes recommendations for addressing barriers to CTE.

A is for All report cover

A is for All: Meeting the Literacy Needs of Students with and without Disabilities in the New York City Public Schools [PDF]
On March 10, 2016,  AFC released this report documenting the need for urgent and sustained action to address the particularly low literacy levels for low-income students with disabilities. The report discusses the key elements for teaching reading effectively to all students, reviews research and case stories indicating that students with a wide range of disabilities are capable of learning to read if they receive appropriate instruction, highlights a number of promising programs in New York City, and provides recommendations for implementing systemic and lasting change.


When other avenues have been exhausted, AFC also engages in systemic reform through impact litigation. Such efforts have the potential to affect thousands of children with disabilities within the New York City public school system. For example, in a highly publicized case involving the co-location of Girls Preparatory Charter School with a public school serving students with autism, we established the right of parents in schools for students with disabilities to participate fully in the public process required for proposed co-locations or other significant changes in school utilization that may affect their schools. 

Other examples of key litigation include:

Jose P. v. Mills, a class action lawsuit filed more than thirty years ago on behalf of students with disabilities to address the Department of Education’s failure to provide them with timely and appropriate services;

L.V. v. New York City Department of Education, in which parents of children with disabilities filed suit claiming that they had received favorable orders and settlements in impartial hearings that were not being timely enforced;

E.B. v. New York City Board of Education, a class-action lawsuit addressing discipline of students with disabilities in the public schools; and

C.D. v. New York City Department of Education, which challenged the New York City Department of Education’s failure to provide free breakfast and lunch to children with disabilities who would ordinarily be entitled to receive meals in school, but who had to attend special education private schools because the DOE did not offer them an appropriate public school education.

Ideas That Work

The contents of this web page were developed under a grant from the US Department of Education, #H328M110008. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal Government.