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What is ADR?
PEAK Parent Center partners with the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Exceptional Student Services Unit (ESSU), to provide resources and information on CDE’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) efforts. Brief answers to questions we commonly receive from parents and links to additional resources are provided below.
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The links provided on this page take you to external resources. These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. PEAK Parent Center bears no responsibility for the content of the external site or for that of subsequent links.
Disclaimer: PEAK Parent Center’s ADR Project is a collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education. The resources provided on this page are provided for informational purposes to support collaboration in the IEP process and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Colorado Department of Education. PEAK Parent Center is not a legal services agency and cannot provide legal advice or legal representation. Any information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice and should not be used as a substitution for legal advice.
Some of the contents of this website were developed under a grant from the US Department of Education, #H328M200062. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Project Officer, Perry Williams.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
In general, ADR provides alternatives to formal litigation for the resolution and/or prevention of disputes.
CDE’s ADR Project goes beyond providing an alternative process. The project is designed to provide all stakeholders, including parents, tools to support communication and collaboration.
Special Education Facilitation
Special Education Facilitation is a service provided for special education meetings where an impartial facilitator participates to promote effective communication and assists the IEP team in developing an IEP based on the student’s needs. The facilitator keeps the team focused on the appropriate development of the IEP while working through conflicts that arise and ensuring the participation of each IEP team member.
Facilitators use a variety of tools in preparing for IEP and other meetings and facilitating the meeting. These tools can be helpful to all stakeholders when preparing for and participating in meetings. CDE and PEAK Parent Center provide additional training and resources on the tools described below. If you would like to receive copies of any of these tools, please email email@example.com.
FAPE in the LRE: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides for eligible students with disabilities to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) provided in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This graphic depicts how special education supports the general curriculum and related services wrap around and support special education.
Parent Input Form: A fillable PDF in English and Spanish that school teams may use to obtain parent input on strengths, observations and areas of concern. If the school team does not provide a form, parents could fill it out on their own to use it, think through or provide parent input. (Spanish version available.)
FAPE Continuum: A visual of the main sections of the IEP. Facilitators may use this visual for charting during the meeting. Parents can use this as a reminder of the sections of the IEP that will be covered in an IEP meeting.
Comprehensive Evaluation Wheel: A visual of the types of evaluations to consider so that the evaluation is comprehensive in determining the needs of the student. This tool is intended to be used for discussion to make sure that all areas related to the suspected disability or disabilities are covered, including areas that may not be commonly linked to the disability category. This tool is for discussion purposes and not a suggestion that all areas be assessed.
Question Bank: Strategic questions are a great way to improve communication in meetings. They can help to build clarity and understanding among the team members about what is needed for the child. The Question Bank provides a list of questions that can help to bring out more information and increase understanding.
Active Listening Skills: Paraphrasing, Mirroring and Reframing are tools to use to make sure that you are listening for the purpose of understanding and to show the speaker that you want to understand what they are saying. This handout briefly describes each of these active listening skills.
Conflict Wheel: Though not used in meetings, the conflict wheel provides a tool for thinking about potential sources of conflict for participants and the team. There are many variations of conflict wheels, and this is the one used by this project. Needs are at the center of the conflict wheel, recognizing that unmet needs or conflicting needs are at the center of conflict. This tool is helpful in preparing for or reflecting on meetings when the team has not been able to come to consensus.
Consensus Scale: In IEP meetings, the team is working toward consensus. This visual can help to understand where people are with respect to a proposal that is being considered.
The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) offers resources on resolving conflict, including "The Working Together Series," which includes five interactive self-directed courses. These courses provide families and educators with a number of strategies for working together and through conflict.
You may request a facilitator by completing the form available on the ADR page on CDE's website.
If your IEP team has been meeting for a student’s IEP and is having trouble working together through some key issues, it may be time for Special Education Facilitation. While there may be many issues in conflict, the team should be ready and willing to work together, keep open minds, and hear the other party. Facilitation is intended to prevent disputes, so if you are having concerns about the IEP process, do not hesitate to check with CDE’s ADR Specialist about whether facilitation might improve your team’s collaboration. If the IEP team relationships have deteriorated to the point that team members are no longer willing to listen and participate in good faith discussions with the help of a professional facilitator, it may be time for the parties to explore other dispute resolution options.
Special Education Facilitation may prevent disagreement among IEP team members from developing into a more serious dispute. It is important to schedule the Special Education Facilitation early in the process before insurmountable roadblocks or impasses have occurred.
An advocate represents the family and helps them in seeking special education supports and services. Advocates are often former teachers, administrators, special education professionals, education specialists, and even parents. Advocates are not required to have certifications or specific qualifications, so it is important that you find an advocate who has the experience and approach that works for your family. Most Arc chapters provide advocacy services free of charge. There are also many private advocates available.
The facilitator does not represent and is not aligned with any of the parties. The facilitator’s role is to support the process and keep the focus on the needs of the student.
Questions about DR
The Dispute Resolution Options provided under IDEA are Mediation, State Complaints, and Due Process Hearings. Additional resources on dispute resolution options:
Mediation: Typically, mediations are completed within 30 calendar days of a mediation request.
State Investigations: A written decision is issued within 60 calendar days after a properly filed complaint was received by the SCO and the AU.
Due Process: The AU must convene a resolution meeting within 15 days of a properly filed complaint. The resolution period may continue for up to 30 days. If no resolution is reached, a hearing must be conducted and a decision issued within 45 days. The ALJ’s decision may be appealed in state or federal district court within 90 days of the date of the decision. The process of working through the courts can take months or years.
The Office of Civil Rights has jurisdiction to investigate complaints of discrimination, including violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This does not fall under the IDEA. You can find out more information from the regional U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
Also consider consulting with an experienced special education attorney: Contact OCR
Mediation: The parties decide the outcome guided by a legal mediator.
State Complaint: The State Complaints Officer.
Due Process Hearing: The Administrative Law Judge.