The Dance Manual: Parent and Professional Relationships

The first time I took a dance lesson, I was in college. I am a bit of a klutz, so I was not entirely surprised when I broke a toe, thus ending my short-lived experiment.

Once I had children, I had the idea that it would be good for them to have some quality instruction, so I signed them up for ballet lessons. It became apparent very quickly that there were essential steps in preparing to dance. Sure, the dancers made it all look beautiful but a lot of effort went into the process.

girls-2266509_640This week, I’m looking at chapter 3 of Parents and Professionals Partnering for Children with Disabilities. And this week, authors Janice Fialka, Arlene Feldman, and Karen Mikus once again present beautiful imagery of the partnership “dance” between parents and professionals. I love the idea of “essential steps.” It reminds me of my children’s dance classes where they had to first learn the proper positions for their feet before they could move onto more complex maneuvers.

When we work together to help children learn, we form a partnership. This book refers to it as a dance. For parents, the authors identify these “steps” that are essential to the dance:

  • Go slow
  • Ask for input
  • Trust yourself
  • Communicate
  • Be prepared
  • Read carefully
  • Ask
  • Speak out
  • Take five
  • Aim high
  • Learn
  • Share your family’s cultural values
  • Give feedback
  • Involve your child
  • Remember that your child is the same unique, wonderful child she or he was before the assessments
  • Be kind to yourselfch2 3

Professionals have their own set of steps to bring to the dance. A very short summary would be to tell parents what to expect, to come prepared, to LISTEN, to get to know the parents (culture, personal level, how they like to be addressed), welcome parents as part of the team, and invite parents to share what they know about their child as well as their hopes and dreams for their child’s future.

ch2 5


Chapter 3 has a lot to offer about meetings that professionals should remember. Be clear with parents about what to expect. This includes letting them know where to park, how to sign in to the school, where to go, who will be there–all the practical stuff. Then make them feel at ease when they get there.

ch2 6

Once the meeting begins, we need to share information and make sure parents are involved as true members of the team.

ch2 7

The meeting, if done right, can be the continuation of a dance that only improves with time. The dance floor is there….waiting. We all may come in feeling a little awkward, but with some careful choreography and practicing of the basic steps, we can create a beautiful dance routine.


If you have a moment, I encourage you to read this beautiful poem by Janice Fialka. Advice to Professionals Who Must “Conference Cases” 

And if you’d like to hear more about the dance from Ms. Fialka herself, this interview is very informative.


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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