How to Avoid Due Process Hearings for Assistive Technology

Provided by: MDA Publications and written by Alyssa Quintero

Due process hearings are expensive and time-consuming, and should be avoided, cautions Steedman. It’s possible to find solutions without going to court.

Mediation sessions, which are required prior to a court hearing, can be fruitful. Unlike a court hearing, where one side wins and the other loses, mediation gives parties a chance to compromise and collaborate.

For example, second-grader Desiree Sheehy of Franklin Lakes, N.J., has type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, and has been using the Easy Up n’ Go partial weight-bearing system at home since February 2006.

However, the school district wouldn’t allow Desiree, 8, to use the device at school, arguing that her physical therapy sessions provided the same benefits, says Linda Sheehy, Desiree’s grandmother.

Desiree’s IEP team disregarded the recommendations of both the school’s physical therapist and Desiree’s physician supporting her use of the device. After months of frustration and stalemate, the Sheehys filed a due process petition stating the district blocked them from influencing Desiree’s education plan, including her PT program.

Before going to court, the Sheehys and school district officials participated in multiple mediation sessions, which ultimately resulted in a confidential agreement that allows Desiree to use a motorized stander called a Standing Dani in school every day. The Standing Dani is now written into Desiree’s IEP.

“The fact that they’re cooperating with me on the stander and that she’s getting into it for an hour a day is a good thing for Desiree,” Sheehy said. “I nearly ended up going to court because the whole process was so frustrating. Nobody should have to go through that.”
Steedman recommends that parents have legal representation and/or an AT or special education expert present at mediations, even though they’re not required to do so. These experts may stand a better chance than parents of initiating informal, unemotional discussions with school district officials.

An attorney and/or advocate can help strengthen relationships and build trust among the parties, Steedman says, while an AT expert can more convincingly discuss why the child will not receive an appropriate education without a particular AT device.

“You have to go in there with the idea that it’s like preparing for a football game. You’re the coach of Podunk High School, and you’re preparing your team to play the New England Patriots,” Steedman explains.

“You’re the underdog, so you need to have a game plan that’s set up nicely so that you can give them the information and get them to come around to your side.”

Find Support

Connect with other parents about Assistive Technology.

Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to parents, caregivers, and professionals about their experiences.


Looking for more information on Assistive Technology and Individualized Service Plans?

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)
(877) 687-2842 (877) 687-2842

Alliance for Technology Access
(707) 778-3011 (707) 778-3011

National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP)
(703) 524-6686 (703) 524-6686 (AT resources)