Considering Special Education Mediation

Helping Parents and
Educators Create Solutions that Improve Results for
Students with Disabilities

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a highly flexible way to resolve disagreements between school or early intervention (EI) systems and parents of children with disabilities. A neutral person, called a mediator, helps parents, educators and service providers to communicate more effectively and develop a written document that contains the details of their agreement.

Participation in mediation is completely voluntary; parents only have to
participate if they choose to. The mediation process is also confidential; discussions cannot be used in any future due process hearing or court proceeding.

Why Consider Mediation?

Mediation has many benefits for parents, educators and service providers,

  • Families can maintain an ongoing and positive relationship with the school or EI service system and benefit from partnering with educators or service providers in developing their child’s program.
  • Conflicts that arise out of misunderstandings or lack of shared information can be resolved through mediators helping parents, educators and service providers to communicate directly with one another.
  • Special education and early intervention issues are complex and can best be solved by working together.
  • Mediation tends to be faster and less costly than adversarial approaches such as due process hearings and court proceedings.
  • Mediation results in agreements that participants find satisfactory and research shows that people tend to follow the terms of their mediated agreements.

What are the Drawbacks of Using Mediation?

Mediation may have a few drawbacks or limitations worth noting. For example, some states have policies that do not allow attorneys to participate in a mediation session. Without an attorney present, some parents might feel uncomfortable speaking directly to administrators who they have had difficulty communicating with in the past.

Additionally, while mediation agreements are typically implemented with a high degree of satisfaction and attention to details, there is always a chance that families may choose to file for due process if mediation does not achieve the desired result.

How Can I Best Find a Mediator?

If you have requested a due process hearing and are participating in
mediation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Amendments of 1997, your state education or EI lead agency will provide a qualified and impartial mediator for you. Additional information about this type of mediation may be found In some situations, parents, schools and service providers may have the opportunity to select their own mediator(s), rather than have one assigned to them. CADRE offers a Database of Conflict Resolution and Special Education Professionals at



CADRE, el Centro Nacional sobre la Resolución de Disputas, es financiado por el Departamento de Educación de los Estados Unidos, Oficina de Programas de Educación Especial. CADRE usa tecnología avanzada al igual que métodos tradicionales para proporcionar asistencia técnica a las agencias estatales para la implementación de los requisitos de… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Juliana Birkhoff: Training Lacks Teaching of Complex Knowledge Processing – Video

Juliana Birkhoff explains mediators' mental process when they're in the room and says that the type of knowledge processing that occurs there can only be learned from mediating cases -...

By Juliana Birkhoff

Heartbroken in Pittsburgh

Indisputably I thought that teaching the Kavanaugh hearings in a careful and respectful manner a few weeks ago would be the biggest teaching challenge of the semester.  I was wrong.  This...

By Andrea Schneider

Crime and Punishment

In our society's criminal justice system, justice equals punishment. You do the crime, you do the time. You do the time, you've paid your debt to society and justice has...

By Marty Price

Find a Mediator