Five Essentials of the MiddleWay Approach
- The best decisions for kids are made by the people closest to them: their parents and the professionals who work with them every day.
- Parents are stronger partners to professionals when they understand systems, rules, and jargon and have confidence in their own abilities to advocate for their child.
- Best practices and an innovative mindset create the conditions for the most effective individualized solutions for kids, even within resource-limited environments.
- Safe, respectful, and honest communication is essential within team relationships and to all team processes.
- Uncertainty doesn’t have to be uncomfortable if we have the right skills and tools for working with it.
MiddleWay Dispute Resolution
Collaborative parent-school problem-solving is the way to go, even in rights-and-obligations-based relationships like IEP/504 teams. When adults feel divided and act in opposition to each other, someone – the parent or the school – ultimately wins the argument, complaint process, administrative intervention, or litigation. But the student rarely wins, because these processes burden the adults emotionally, financially and motivationally, and the child loses critical educational time that can’t be made up. Working relationships may buckle or break, and future work together is strained by tension and mistrust. MiddleWay dispute resolution recognizes the difficulties on all sides as well as the common ground of wanting ultimately to see a student grow into a successful young adult.
MiddleWay Strategic Planning
Futures planning for young people can be intimidating. Parents strive to keep doors open while worrying what bases they need to cover to address what keeps them up at night. And… we can’t be certain about what will happen along the way. Add to this the complexities of IEP Transition planning, the powerful role of Transition in the school plan, and navigating outside-of-school or post-secondary resources, and many parents don’t know where to begin. MiddleWay strategic planning emphasizes understanding the full landscape of futures planning, being clear about where we are today and generating concrete action steps for moving forward. Using MiddleWay’s North Star© and Telescoping© processes, parents gain confidence articulating a hopeful vision for the future and making a plan to get there while increasing their comfort level with course correction and flexibility as kids make their way towards adult life.
Caroline’s 29-year career is a marriage of law and education, shaped by personal experience raising a son with a disability. She began as a classroom teacher, went on to law practice, and circled back to public school as a special education Family Liaison and Transition Specialist. There, she focused on neutral dispute resolution, post-secondary planning, and community outreach. Today, she has returned to private practice to build capacity for collaborative practices in parent-school relationships and confidence for parents navigating futures planning for children with special needs.
Caroline is a mom to three remarkable and unique young adults. Her son’s disability emerged in preschool, increased in complexity over time, and fully revealed itself at age 21. His needs have presented as intertwined moving targets. He has accessed special education, medical and mental health support, community resources, and public services. His needs for high expectations and equal opportunity have always been just as important, and a dedicated team of family, friends, and professionals support him today to strike the balance. All three of Caroline’s children are creative, compassionate, interesting people building independent and self-actualizing lives.
“As a parent of a young man with special needs, I understand how high the stakes are in every opportunity your child gains or misses. I have deep experience as an educator/attorney, and I have navigated educational, social and personal triumphs and heartaches with my own son. When he was young, parents of older kids supported me along the way. I want to do the same for you.”
– Caroline Nelson