When the Dance is Complicated

I am continuing my review/summary of a really great book called Parents and Professionals Partnering for Children with Disabilities. Chapter 4 is titled “When the Dance is Complicated,” as, I believe, most dances are. My perspective comes from being the only person I know who broke a toe during a real dance class, but also as a speech pathologist and as the parent of a child with special needs. The parent/professional dance is the one we’re referring to here, so we’ll just leave my toe and my dancing ability out of the discussion for now.

The authors have previously discussed how it is true that we, the professionals, have come to this relationship out of an interest in working with children with special needs. Parents, on the other hand, have come to the dance by default. They didn’t buy a ticket and circle the date on the calendar. No, they arrived at the dance floor because they were metaphorically dragged onto it. As we see in Chapter 4, there are a lot of factors that can lead to negative emotions.

Anger is identified as one of the characters in our dance party, and one of the reflections asks us to think of a time when we experienced someone else’s anger. To be succinct: I didn’t like it. Anger sucks the energy out of a person. It puts one side on the defensive or triggers rage in return. Nobody is having a good time, and it is hard to feel like you are in a partnership when one or both sides are harboring anger. And, as can happen, anger can come in between two people even if the anger is coming from outside of that relationship. Yeah, no fun.

As an example, the authors bring up an old movie, Terms of Endearment, with one scene in which one of the characters began yelling. As an added bonus, I’ll give you my very brief movie review: Hated that movie. I believe it is the only time I walked out of a movie theater. Too much yelling, too much anger. I couldn’t deal with it. But the book is asking me to reflect on the movie so there you go. I also had to add in a bit about where the anger in the movie came from. It came from a combination of helplessness and fear. Not a great combo to live with. Too much cortisol rushing around the brain to feel comfortable with life. blog1

The takeaway here was pretty simple, yet profound.

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If we can drill down and acknowledge that fear or helplessness or any other contributing emotions are coming to the dance floor (or IEP table) with us, we are then able to deal with those as well as we can. Also, when a parent is concerned about their child, those feelings need to be addressed so what we can communicate fully.

The really cool part about this book is that it does not just identify problems and leave you there to sort it all out on your own. The book gives concrete examples. In this case, the authors shared the story of a new teacher who chose not to focus on the negative, but to focus on the positives that the child brought to school each day. She wrote weekly notes home to the parent but did not get any response at all until the last day of school. The book also stresses the importance of talking about those positives even if you never get a positive response in return.

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Chapter 4 is fairly short but it is packed with practical information. For myself, the issue of a parent presenting as angry or as not involved is a good piece of information to keep at the front of my mind, and I can see myself referring back to this and/or sharing with parents in the future.

Rose Godfrey

Rose Godfrey

Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist, writer, world traveler, and mom of 12.She earned her Masters Degree from California State University, Chico. Rose is licensed as a speech pathologist in several states and she holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Rose Godfrey

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