Press Release

Wiscarson Law Assists Salem Family in Achieving Landmark Settlement in Oregon History
Salem-Keizer Public Schools and Oregon Department of Human Services Funding Out-of-State Education and Residential Services for Elie Riehl

SALEM, Ore. (November 20, 2017) Wiscarson Law, Oregon’s only law firm solely focused on special education law for families, worked alongside client and Salem resident, Christie Riehl, to achieve a landmark position in Oregon’s history. For the first time in the State of Oregon, a public school district and the Oregon Department of Human Services are, as mandated by federal statute, collaboratively funding out-of-state education and residential services for a student with disabilities.

Per the agreement, Elanor “Elie” Riehl, a 20-year old Salem resident who is autistic and has an intellectual disability, is now attending the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (“The May Institute”) in Randolph, Mass. Her treatment and education are being funded by Salem-Keizer Public Schools and the Oregon Department of Human Services, Office of Developmental Disabilities Services.

“It is very gratifying to achieve a resolution in which all responsible parties have come together to do the right thing for a student with disabilities,” said Diane Wiscarson, founder of Wiscarson Law. “After more than a year of negotiations for this specific resolution, and 19 years of tireless advocacy by the Riehl family, Elie is finally getting the treatment and education that she needs and to which she is entitled to by law.”

Elie began receiving services at The May Institute in September 2016. According to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting that occurred in September 2017, she has achieved considerable gains, academically and developmentally.   

“We are heartened that Elie is finally receiving the skilled and compassionate care that she needs, and which will allow her to thrive,” said Christie Riehl, Elie’s mother. “We believe this is a win-win for all involved, and we have complete confidence that The May Institute will continue to help Elie achieve her full potential.”

According to Elie’s IEP, her communication deficits, cognitive delays and attending difficulties compete with all aspects of progress with skill development. To accommodate these challenges, Elie receives specialized instruction at The May Institute that is supervised by staff with expertise in autism/ pervasive developmental disorder, and the principles of applied behavior analysis. Instruction is carried out in a low student-to-instructor ratio, or one-to-one.

Among her disabilities, Elie suffers from a subset of self-injurious behavior (SIB) called “automatic SIB.” She hits her head forcefully with her fists and knees, or hits her head against the wall, for example. At its peak, Elie had hurt herself upwards of 200 times per hour. Unlike most who suffer from SIB, Elie isn’t hurting herself because she intends to, or because she is trying to get attention – she just can’t help it. Prior to attending The May Institute, she would attempt self-restraint by wrapping herself in a blanket, holding a pillow, or lying face down. The May Institute equips Elie with arm limiters and knee pads during the school day, which block attempts at self-harm and/or limit resulting injury from SIB. In the past year, Elie’s propensity for SIB has reduced dramatically and the goal is for her to function one year from now without limiters, resulting in minimal self-injury. (Of note: Elie is a participant in an ongoing study of automatic SIB being performed at Kennedy Krieger Institute, detailed in this article.)

Per Riehl and Wiscarson, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney’s office, and Jeff Sneddon, LCSW, program manager for Linn County Developmental Disabilities, were instrumental in achieving the interagency agreement that has allowed Elie to attend The May Institute. Courtney’s team supported the Riehl family by engaging all relevant parties in the discussion, including the Oregon Department of Education, Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Oregon Department of Human Services/Oregon Developmental Disability Services, and the Oregon Health Authority. And Sneddon worked closely with the Riehl family throughout the process to achieve the resolution from the Oregon Department of Human Services.

“This interagency agreement required an impressive level of collaboration among all relevant agencies, and unwavering persistence on Christie’s part,” said Wiscarson. “We hope and expect that this resolution will establish the bar for other families in Oregon facing similar challenges.”

About Wiscarson Law

Wiscarson Law is Oregon’s only law firm solely focused on special education law for families. Wiscarson Law founder, Diane Wiscarson, started her practice shortly after graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 1996. She and her firm have since shepherded thousands of Oregon and Washington families through the region’s public school districts and educational service districts (ESDs) on behalf of their special needs children. 

For more information regarding Wiscarson Law, call 503.727.0202 or go to


Kelliann Amico | 503.705.6203 (mobile – call/text) |

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