About Us

Our mission is to celebrate all children by empowering families and communities with the special education answers and advocacy they need. Since 2003, Breaking Autism has served individuals, families, organizations, experts, and entire communities. Contact us today for more information about our initiatives, including special education consulting, advocacy, legal representation, education and speaking engagements.

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Empowering Children to Reach Their True Potential

Our Story: Letter From the Breaking Autism Team

At Breaking Autism, we help children, families, and professionals in the special needs community. We understand the complex and challenging road ahead. We are here for you. Time is far too crucial in the development of a child to let it frivolously pass.

By educating our clients and minimizing conflict, we maximize resources and ultimately keep the focus on the child's success.

Breaking Autism is unlike other special education consultants, advocates, or law firms. By educating our clients and minimizing conflict, we maximize resources and ultimately keep the focus on the child's success. Our unique business model allows us to work together with parents and professionals, ensuring a child's education is appropriate and holistically meets their unique needs.

Our approach focuses on the big picture of a child's life. We then look at what the child's needs and develop a systematic plan to achieve these goals. Likewise, our approach allows parents and professionals to remain in constant contact with us, free to ask questions, and gain guidance at the speed they need. As a result, issues are identified and resolved in a proactive and cost-effective manner. Meanwhile, everyone can feel confident that the children we serve are being empowered to reach their true potential and have a meaningful future.

Now that's powerful. And we love being a part of it!

Judy Ruffulo


Judy is a highly skilled non-attorney advocate and educational consultant with more than 15 years of experience serving families in Illinois. Her career has focused on educating parents about the rights of their disabled children and advocating for those rights in the schools.  She is a trained mediator through the Center for Conflict Resolution, has consulted for the Illinois State Board of Education on issues related to special education, a long-time board member of the Learning Disabilities Association and formed the Illinois Parent Education & Resource Center, a non-profit organization providing advocacy and training for parents of disabled students.  Her strong negotiating skills and calm demeanor bring about results-oriented IEPs and programming for her clients while protecting the fragile but vital school-family relationship.

In addition to completing hundreds of hours of special education training and professional development through Wrightslaw and other organizations, she is a SEAT graduate of the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA). SEAT  is the most intensive training of its kind, and the only field-tested program created under an independent national review advisory board.

Phil Milsk


Phil Milsk has a vast background in special education law and policy, as well as negotiation, communication, legal reasoning, and writing. Phil is a seasoned attorney in the state of Illinois and practiced as a special education Due Process Hearing officer for the Illinois State Board of Education as well. Moreover, Phil is an experienced public policy advocate on behalf of social workers, children and youth, and persons with disabilities.

Phil leverages his unparalleled experiences with his extensive knowledge and resources to represent families with special education needs. Here’s an extraordinary compliment to the team and to special education reform holistically.

Publications & Articles by Phil Milsk

Sabrina Shafer profile picture.


Sabrina Shafer has dedicated her life to understanding people and bring them together to empower a world for difference. She was instrumental in the development and launch of Breaking Autism in 2003. Sabrina has a vast background, most notably in building highly effective, cross-functional education plans while enabling parents and organizations to empower children with special education needs.

Sabrina serves as a foster-host parent through a global organization, Safe Families. She holds a Juris Doctorate in law, winning numerous CALI awards including for Special Education and Legal Writing, with a background in behavioral analysis, alternative dispute resolution, and working with children with special needs and the special education system.

A force to be reckoned with, the Breaking Autism team has been featured in the news, including NBC Chicago and Chicago Sun Times, breaking barriers and enriching lives along the way.


Nothing feels better than knowing you have someone in your corner. At Breaking Autism, we act as strong advocates for members of the autism community. Depend on us to:

  • Identify & Prioritize Legal Rights
  • Mediate & Problem-Solve with School Districts
  • Avoid Litigation & Due Process
  • Help with Delivery Methodologies

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Your child deserves a solid education. We're here to show parents that this is more than possible. We'll start with a one-hour consultation, during which we'll address your parental concerns and answer your questions. Children with special needs receive either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan. During our consultation, we'll prepare you for the IEP or 504 meeting and work with you to decide what should be in the written record. Once we're in the meeting, you can rely on us to fully direct the meeting.

Parents also depend on us to perform school observations, participate in team collaborations, and help the school with problem-solving.

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At home is where a majority of a child's development happens. Many parents have questions about what they should focus on at home with their child. We're relied on to develop a home program that addresses the specific child's needs, all while incorporating assistive technology. We ensure that the parents have good initial data about their child, allowing them to track progress in this ongoing process of autism support.

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Legal Representation

Some situations call for an attorney. When they do, make sure you have an attorney experienced practicing special education law. Breaking Autism has leading special education attorneys, include former special education Hearing Officers and policy advisors, to ensure your rights are fully protected and resolution can be reached as quickly as possible.

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Latest Blogs

Parent, Child, and Doctor

Eligibility: How do you know if your child really needs special education?

Eligibility is a process that is dictated by a law called Child Find.

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Parents at Meeting

Parents’ Rights to Meaningful Participation in IEP Meetings

Parents have a legal right to a seat at the IEP table.

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Dad and Child

Accelerate Growth!

There's no getting around it: the world is digital.

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In The News

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