Perhaps the best and easiest way to manage conflict is to prevent it in the first place. Increasing the capacity of systems and individuals to meaningfully collaborate and problem-solve offers a proactive strategy for conflict management. Here we review leading preventative alternatives.

This process recognizes that parents are a valuable source of assistance to other parents. There are many different approaches to offering a parent-to-parent assistance program, including strategies that emphasize parent-professional collaboration, dispute prevention, and conflict resolution. Some of these innovative practices occur at the regional service area, or district level, and others are state-wide. Some programs train parents of children with disabilities to support other family members through information, technical assistance and referral activities, while other programs train parents to accompany family members to IEP meetings or mediation. State-sponsored practices typically involve employment of a parent to serve as a resource person, liaison between family and school, neutral facilitator or ombudsperson. 

Practices:

The Utah Parent Center has Parent Consultants that work specifically with parents of children and youth with disabilities in five school districts.

The Family and Educator Partnership (FEP) works to develop and sustain effective partnerships between families, educators, and community providers to promote success for all children and youth with disabilities.

The South Dakota Navigator Program provides individualized technical assistance, information, and support services to families and educators caring for children with special education needs.
The missions of the PEERs is to provide up-to-date information, resources and support to parents of children with disabilities, facilitate partnerships between families and the school system, help parents gain access to accurate information and support services and provide referrals to community, state and federal resources.

The Wisconsin Statewide Parent-Educator Initiative is a service for parents, educators, and others interested in parent-educator partnerships for children with disabilities. Its goal is to help parents and school districts find or create the resources that will help them build positive working relationships that lead to shared decision making and children's learning. It supports increased sharing of information among parents, schools, projects, organizations and agencies through networking meetings, conferences, person-to-person contact, and media.

Case managers generally assist in remedying miscommunication and misinterpretation of the law. Along with facilitating family-school communication and assisting in the understanding of special education law, case managers clarify issues and facilitate problem-solving between teachers, administrators, service providers and family members. 

Practices:

Since 1977, schools and other community funders have supported a Case Coordinator function in Lane County, Oregon at Direction Service. The job of case coordinators has been to facilitate family-centered interagency collaboration and to support families and schools in preventing and resolving disagreements.
The Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services maintains a network of local Family Support Services Coordinators that assist parents of children with disabilities to fully participate in planning early intervention and special education services for their child.

This process involves intervening with parents and schools by telephone as soon as a request for assistance has been made. The inquiry by the parent is viewed as an opportunity for the office to help clarify the problem, identify informal ways of addressing the matter, and proceed with resolving the situation when appropriate. In some states, this is a function of the department’s intake procedures; in other states, it is a more formal process where callers who articulate a concern or problem are referred. 

Practices:

ConsultLine is a toll-free information help line for parents and advocates of children with disabilities who have questions or concerns about the education of a school-aged child. ConsultLine specialists answer questions and provide information about special education, gifted education, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Arizona’s Early Resolution program provides a toll-free number and email address for families to contact an Early Resolution Specialist when all means of resolving a special education issue at the local level have been exhausted and they are considering more formal dispute resolution options.

The Office for Exceptional Children (OEC) at the Ohio Department of Education provides an Education Program Specialist (EPS) available by telephone and email to provide further explanation about federal and state laws relating to special education, describe the options that are available to paren

The Special Education Call Center is designed to assist families, school district personnel and the general public by providing information about special education laws and the rights and protections of children receiving special education services.