The Importance of Parents and Professionals Partnering
A Dance That Matters
THE DANCE TOWARD PARTNERSHIP: Using the Dance Metaphor to Understand Parent‐Professional Partnerships
Forming partnerships between parents of children with disabilities and the professionals who work with them is like learning a new dance. At first the parent dancer and the professional dancer do not glide together gracefully across the floor. The moves are likely to feel stiff, uncertain, and awkward. The partners may have different expectations, needs, and constraints. Each seems to be listening to his or her own music with its own tune, words, and rhythm . . . No wonder some partnerships are not as graceful as others; the absence of shared music and familiar dance steps causes collisions.
Toes‐‐‐and feelings‐‐‐get stepped on…
Dance Steps to Practice: Stop, Look, Listen, Share, and Take Care STOP: It’s easy to fall into the trap of labeling the partners in the dance as either “the parent” or “the professional.” When we stop this categorical thinking, we discover that we share a common label. We are all people—each with our own stories, foibles, strengths, interests, and hopes. Casual conversation in the hallways, over the phone, or before and after meetings create opportunities to get to know each other a little bit better. We learn that one of us likes hockey, or enjoys gardening or works the midnight shift. We may not become best friends or perfect partners but moving beyond our labels into friendly interactions can enhance and strengthen partnerships.
LOOK: Look for opportunities to follow through on commitments you’ve made, big or small. Being dependable is a powerful way to build trust. Notify your partner when you anticipate a delay, a change in your agreement, an unexpected barrier, or when you have more ideas. If you begin to feel ambivalent about the agreed‐upon plans, share your concerns or questions. Keeping silent will inevitably lead to misunderstandings . . . Look to others to talk through the challenges or to seek guidance . . . Stay away from people who encourage blaming or attacking others. That type of negative advice puts a screeching halt to building partnerships.