Mediations involving young people with special education needs can be complex especially where there is a comorbidity with another health related condition.
Do mediators need to have an awareness of health related issues in Special Education disputes?
Absolutely, as medical and special education needs can be so aligned.
Below are some examples of where a young person will have a dual diagnosis.
A child with Autism may have co-morbid clinical levels of anxiety.
A child with a physical disability might have clinical levels of depression.
A young person with dyslexia and dyspraxia might have Marfan Syndrome a genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissue.
A mediator who has had experience teaching young people with disabilities and is aware and knowledgeable of the possible co-morbid health related issues is best placed to mediate Special Educational Needs(SEN) disputes.
Let me give you an example.
Andrea is 15 and has been diagnosed with Autism, a life long developmental disorder. Recently, she has also been diagnosed with clinical levels of anxiety. She is attending a mediation with her mother regarding a dispute about her Local Offer. She is extremely anxious and has had disturbed sleep and high levels of irritability for over two weeks since she heard about the mediation date.
Her mother is very keen for her to attend the mediation because she wants Andrea’s voice heard and she thinks that it is an important life long skill for Andrea to share her needs in a supportive atmosphere.
What can the mediator do to lesson Andrea’s anxiety?
A social story can be developed for Andrea describing the mediation process. This will present information about the mediation in a visual, literal, ‘concrete’ way and will improve Andrea’s understanding of the mediation process.
The mediator could arrange for Andrea to visit the venue before the mediation date. This gives Andrea time to orient herself to the physical environment and deal with any sensory needs before the mediation takes place.
The mediator could use a flip chart during the mediation to give a visual representation of the conversation that occurs during the mediation.
The mediator can ask Andrea’s mother what can be done to lesson Andrea’s anxiety.
Andrea might have sensitivity around excessive noise, bright lights or touch. The mediator would need to structure the environment to meet these needs as far as possible.
Regular breaks might need to be built into the mediation.
The mediator needs to be aware that some repetitive behaviours in young people with Autism can be self calming. Making clicking sounds might be a coping mechanism for the young person with Autism. When this is happening the mediator might need to ask for a break depending on the level of the behaviour.
Mediators need to have a high level of expertise around the medical issues that present in Special Education disputes. If they don’t they run the risk of contributing to the distress of the young people they work with. Joanne and the members of the ASM team who specialise in medical and educational mediation and relationship coaching have that expertise.