Sussan Greenwald and Wesler Welcomes New Attorney
Andrew I. Meltzer Joins Our Team
A native of Princeton Junction, NJ, Meltzer received his J.D. in 2014 from the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law and he is looking forward to advocating for special needs children and their families. We asked Andrew a few questions so you could get to know him better.
Q: What made you decide to pursue your law degree?
A: From an early age, history and politics were my two passions. As I went through college, I realized that the easiest way to pool those interests was to study law. As I studied law, I became very civic-minded and knew that I wanted to become a lawyer who would be able to help make a difference in people’s lives. Special education law is so important to me—especially since I was diagnosed with a learning disability (LD) when I was about 5- or 6-years old. Ironically, I used to pass SGW’s office driving to my grandmother’s house for years before ever setting foot into the building. I knew that they advocated for children like me, and it’s an incredible full circle that I’ll now be able to work on cases in which I have a vested interest.
Q: How do you feel your background is a key asset in special needs law?
A: As a classified student who was high-achieving in certain areas but also had an LD, I had an IEP from elementary school through high school. I know how beneficial it is to receive the appropriate services, but I also know how frustrating it can be when you do not. As someone who has lived through this, I know how a child can feel stigmatized and have low self-esteem, so I can empathize deeply with my clients. I want to remind families that having an LD does not mean your child will not be successful. It actually can mean the opposite; you just need to think of it as a learning ‘difference’ rather than a learning ‘disability.’
One of my internships was with the Education Section of the NJ Attorney General’s Office, where I conducted legal research on a variety of education matters, including IEPs and 504 Plans. That knowledge, coupled with my firsthand experience of living with an LD, will help me relate to and effectively advocate for our clients. As a special education attorney, I want to help parents remain hopeful and optimistic. Once they obtain the appropriate services for their child, he or she will be able to flourish and taste success.
Q: How can a parent help their special needs child in school?
A: Parents need to remind their special needs child that they’re capable of doing everything they want to do; it just might be in a different way. The turning point for me was when I became very self-aware of my LD (around middle school). By coming to terms with it and learning how to maximize my strengths, I built a repertoire of compensatory skills that enabled me to overcome the weaknesses of my LD.
When your child encounters difficulty in class, and if their teachers are getting frustrated with them, they need to frame their disability as an explanation, not as an excuse. When you explain why your student is behaving a certain way, the teachers will have a better understanding of how to work with your child. I strongly believe that it is important to have a productive and positive relationship with the schools. The interests of both the student and the schools cannot and should not be mutually exclusive. Ultimately, when the student succeeds, it’s a win-win for all.