The National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education
"Encouraging the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special
I have been having serious disagreements with my son's school district over his educational program and placement. I'm scheduled to go to a mediation. How might I best prepare?
We are very supportive of your desire to resolve differences with the school district through mediation. Our strong belief is that parents, educators, service providers and ultimately, children and youth benefit when adversarial encounters are avoided and differences are resolved through positive communication and collaboration.
While mediation is typically an informal process, especially compared to a due process hearing, we strongly recommend that you take some time and prepare in advance. Here are some suggestions we hope will assist you in your preparations.
Make sure you bring documents that you think will be helpful to the mediation. Organize the documents in a way that makes sense to you and so that they are easily located. It might help to arrange the documents by date. Your file might include copies of evaluations, IEP's, correspondence, medical reports, and other information.
One of the powerful aspects of mediation is that any concerns you have about your child's education are open for discussion. The mediation is an opportunity for you and the school to address any issues related to your child's education program and make suggestions for your child's IEP team to consider and adopt.
It may be helpful to create an outline of the issues or areas of concern you wish to raise with the school, or even to compose a complete narrative or story. Having your thoughts and the important points you hope to share written down and in front of you, will help you communicate your concerns in a meaningful way and ensure that you don't leave out any issues that are important to your family. We recommend you prepare this several days before the mediation so you have plenty of time to review it and to ensure that it includes all of the points you wish to convey.
If you haven't already, consider familiarizing yourself with IDEA '97 and the associated regulations. The regulations are available in a variety of formats at The Alliance web site: http://www.taalliance.org. If they seem lengthy and complex, your local Parent Training and Information Center is a good source for clarification.
Finally, if this is the first time you have participated in a mediation session, you may want to review some of the other information at the CADRE web-site that highlights the process.
There is an overview of mediation at: http://www.directionservice.org/cadre/aboutmed.cfm
The benefits of mediation can be found at: http://www.directionservice.org/cadre/med_benefits.cfm
An example of mediation ground rules are found at: http://www.directionservice.org/cadre/grs.cfm
We cannot underscore the importance of adequate preparation for the mediation. You are far more likely to achieve the r