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Parents and Professionals Partnering for Children with Disabilities


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Table of Contents

Foreword by Ann P. Turnbull Preface Acknowledgments About the Authors Introduction 1. The Dance Toward Partnership: Using the Dance Metaphor to Understand Parent-Professional Partnerships How the Dance Begins Phases of the Partnership Dance More Resources 2. Listening to the Hidden Lyrics: Tuning in to Your Partner The Story of Sam The Story of Rachel More Resources 3. The Dance Manual: Essential Steps to Keep on Dancing For Parents: Essential Steps For Professionals: Essential Steps More Resources 4. When the Dance Is Complicated A Complicated Dance: When Parents Appear Angry A Few Other Points to Consider When Parents Seem to be Uninvolved or Are Absent Concluding Thoughts: We Are All People First More Resources 5. Enhancing the Dance: Partnership Notes Practical Suggestions for Professionals Partnership Notes More Resources A Dance That Matters Resources for Families and Professionals References and Selected Readings

About the Author

Janice Fialka is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and social worker with an expertise in adolescent health, parent-professional partnerships, inclusion, and post secondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. She has co-founded and directed several teen health centers in Michigan, and has previously taught at Wayne State University in the School of Social Work. She is the Special Projects Trainer for Michigan's Early On (R) (Part C of IDEA) Training and Technical Assistance. Over the past two decades, Janice has provided the keynote address and conducted workshops at numerous national and international conferences for audiences of families, school personnel, educators, social workers, early interventionists, health care providers, and community groups. Janice serves on numerous national advisory boards and has received several awards for her advocacy work, including 2007 Social Worker of the Year by National Association of Social Workers - Michigan Chapter. Janice and her husband, Rich Feldman co-produced the award winning DVD, Through the Same Door: Inclusion Includes College which was awarded the 2006 TASH Image Award for the Positive Portrayals of People with Disabilities. This film documents Micah's experiences as a college student. Micah, a rising leader in the disability movement, is part of the new wave of young adults with intellectual disabilities who continue their learning on a university campus. Janice has co-authored three books, numerous articles, and a CD of several of her poems, entitled From Puddles to PRIDE which includes her often-published poem, Advice to Professionals Who Must Conference Cases. Her website is a highly regarded comprehensive resource for parents and professionals. In 2009, Janice and her family received the Family Voices Lifetime Achievement Award in Washington D.C. for their work in advocacy and disability. Arlene K. Feldman, MA, PD, SDA, LDT/C, began her career in education in 1967, at the ripe old age of 20. The depth and breadth of her experience within the field of education is varied and extensive. She has been a general education teacher, a special education teacher, principal of a special education preschool, Director of Special Education for 20 years, and is currently an Adjunct Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Her greatest educational accomplishment, for which she was presented the Excellence in Leadership Award by the NYS Council for Exceptional Children, was the introduction and development of the Collaborative Teaching Model (co-teaching within the inclusive classroom.) in her school district. Believing in the benefits of collaboration, she is also passionate about the partnership between professionals and parents of students with disabilities. She fervently strives to inspire her graduate students, the next generation of educators, to welcome students with disabilities into their inclusive classrooms, to understand the strengths and challenges of these students, so that they, as teachers, may meet their unique needs and enable them to succeed, and to work earnestly and collaboratively with their parents, with the students as beneficiaries. Arlene and her husband, Dr. Harvey Feldman, a Developmental Optometrist, live in New York, and are the proud parents of four, grandparents of seven with two on the way, and hopefully, more to come!


"I love this book. It helps people to truly walk in someone else's footprints. This guide will show beginning teachers and other professionals how to build successful relationships with their students' parents."
-- Natalie Marston, Principal
"If parents and professionals could wear out their shoes by dancing the way Fialka, Feldman, and Mikus describe it in this book, the shoes would indeed be worth pressing against one's heart. Through stories, the authors expertly choreograph the steps families, professionals, and the children must take to foster this essential relationship-like a waltz: one, two, three." -- Robin McWilliam, Director, Center for Child and Family Research
"This book beautifully reminds us that social change happens through listening, dialogue, and engagement. Beneath our roles as professionals and parents, these authors gently help us to remember that 'we are all people first,' and through empathy we can find ways to sidestep-or dance- around many of the missteps that lead to misunderstanding and conflict. This book is a wonderful resource for anyone trying to navigate the complexities of supporting and advocating for disabled students in inclusive classrooms." -- Emma Van der Klift and Norman Kunc, Co- directors
"A mother who found her calling through fate or accident-and never looked away or glanced back-Janice Fialka is internationally renowned for her relentless, never-say-never advocacy. She and her coauthors offer hope and wisdom for parents who would see more clearly into the lives of their children-disabled or not-and for every professional who would engage them." -- Bill Ayers, Author, To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher and A Kind and Just Parent
"Rarely does a book hold such promise for promoting genuine partnerships between families of children with disabilities and the professionals who participate in their care. The real-life passages from the authors, seasoned parents, and experienced professionals infuse this work with unparalleled authenticity." -- Susan Addison, Special Educator, Retired
"The authors get right to the heart of parent-professional relationships. They deconstruct and reconstruct the difficult process of examining how parents and professionals communicate. The stories used to illustrate specific points are superb. We need this thoughtful and provoking perspective to encourage us to listen more closely to one another for the benefit our children." -- Martha E. Mock, Assistant Professor
"This book accomplishes two impressive feats. First: it conveys, through information and examples, research-based practices for building family-professional partnerships. Second: the clear, storytelling style of writing makes it impossible to put down. This is a must for anyone whose responsibilities involve working with the families of children with disabilities." -- Pamela J. Winton, Senior Scientist and Director of Outreach
"The authors powerfully illustrate the 'dance of partnership' in complex and nuanced ways. They capture how things are in the real world of relationships between parents and professionals. The stories are moving, the perspectives insightful, and practical strategies and suggestions abound. I recommend this book as a superb source of guidance and support." -- Shari Saunders, Clinical Associate Professor
"This is a book written with a quality that is both honest and sensitive. The authors force us to put aside all other issues, reminding us what is real and essential in our pursuit of genuine student learning." -- Georgina M. Terrigno, Speech and Language Pathologist
"Having attended many challenging problem-solving meetings, I know how important it is for families and professionals to keep open hearts and minds. This unique resource moves beyond the 'how to's' of effective communication and reminds us of the values that are central to any great team-generosity, creativity, and a willingness to learn from one another." -- Paula Kluth, Consultant & Author, You're Going to Love This Kid: Teaching Students with Autism in the Inclusive Classroom
"The authors capture the range of family and provider experiences, communication styles, and strategies that create effective partnerships. This book is a critically important read for families, providers, and especially for preservice students entering professions in which they will work with children and families." -- Beth Swedeen, Parent and Executive Director
"As I read this book, I realized that I kept switching back and forth from my 'professional' hat to my 'parent' hat. Helping us to switch hats is the real power of this work. The personal stories highlight well-documented themes in the literature on parent and professional perspectives. The strategies are practical and effective. This is a text I will revisit often." -- Dr. Julie Ricks-Doneen, Director, Lowry Center for Early Childhood Education
"This is a wonderful reference book to help parent and professionals 'dance the dance' together and avoid any missteps. The authors help readers understand the underlying thoughts of both the parent and the professional when they meet to set up a program. This is a sure read for both parents and education professionals." -- Filomena Bernatowicz, Teacher and member, Committee on Preschool Special Education
"The authors waltz us through steps to develop effective parent-professional partnerships using dance as a metaphor. When practiced by all participants in the dance, the result is mutual understanding and respect: the core of collaborative relationships. Theirs is a fresh approach to a much-discussed subject-a delightful invitation to dance." -- Elizabeth W. Bauer, Consultant
"In my 15 years of teaching, I have not come across a book that so eloquently describes the sensitive relationship between schools and parents as they navigate through the special education process. Using dancing as a metaphor for this delicate relationship, the authors provide an easy-to-read manual that perfectly compliments a college class or professional book study." -- Jennifer Grieco, Special Education Teacher
"This book's valuable information and insights make it a 'must read' for everyone involved in the special education process. I will refer to this book frequently as it reminds me of the often unsaid feelings and concerns of parents. The authors provide numerous useful approaches so that all parties can collaborate and do what is best for the child." -- Jacqueline Rau, Fifth-Grade Special Education Teacher
"Brilliantly written from the differing vantage points of both parents and professionals, this book shows how perceptions and assumptions can be falsely formed between 'opponents.' Use this knowledge to develop the strong partnerships necessary for parents and professionals to collaborate and support the needs of students!" -- Kathy Brill, Board Member
"So often in special education, the people involved share the same goal, yet envision a different path to achieve that goal. The authors remind us that our ultimate goal is the same. They show us how, even in the most difficult situations, we can 'dance' together in successful collaboration." -- Tara Rounds, School Psychologist, CSE/CPSE Chairperson
"This book offers important suggestions for finding a way to dance together, reminding us exactly why we are dancing-for the child. I strongly recommend this text to parents and professionals. The real-life examples will help all parties understand and empathize with each other, making it that much easier to dance together." -- Jo Spahr, Parent of a special needs child, and IEP committee member
"The parent-professional relationship can be awkward, so using the metaphor of learning to dance together to benefit children is apt. With the resources to help children shrinking, it is more vital than ever for parents and professionals to forge strong partnerships. This perspective can really help-highly recommended." -- Robert A. Naseef, Author of Special Children, Challenged Parents
"The authors have done the near impossible-they have described the process of partnership in a way that is both easily accessible and incredibly nuanced. They provide a developmental roadmap and the concrete tools we need to make partnerships work. In this book, I have finally found the resource I need." -- Ethan Lowenstein, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction
"The approach of this book is fresh, current and multifaceted without being complicated. The authors have skillfully woven multiple and complex family and professional perspectives into a well-integrated whole that is thoughtful, clear, and explicit. The material is relevant, useful, and extraordinarily helpful to a wide variety of dance partners." -- Camille Catlett, Scientist
"This book comes from the heart of an author who knows both sides. The content is relevant, immediately useful, and encourages us to think deeply about ourselves and how we can apply the information to make a difference-all evidence-based components of effective adult learning." -- Juliann Woods, Director
"The authors never forget that it is all about the children/students with disabilities-so the adults just need to figure it out! They include many subtle examples of how inclusion can work throughout the book. An important take-away message is that becoming true partners takes time and is a process." -- Peggy A. Gallagher, Professor of Early Childhood Special Education
"The authors help readers understand that relationships are about human needs and feelings and that partnerships only develop to their potential when each party can both share and listen to content and facts as well as the needs and feelings of the other. This book is destined to be a classic. Give it to someone you care about; and read it yourself reflectively." -- Michael Peterson, Director
"The authors of this book offer a welcomed, kind and needed message for both professionals and parents: slow the pace, stop and listen. The authors know we build each partnership one at a time. This is a message we desperately need to get into higher education and professional development communities." -- Mary Jane Brotherson, Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies
"This book reminds teachers and professionals to include parents in the timeline of the special education process. The information that parents contribute and different perspective they provide can help us understand the whole child. As I finished this book, I developed a more open perspective to working with parents." -- Maura Crown, Special Education Teacher
"I will use this book as a key text in my courses that include the topics of collaborative teaching, home-school partnerships, and conflict mediation. What a great book for modeling for new teachers the realities of collaboration in the IEP process and the best practices that make the process a joyful dance rather than a difficult experience." -- Jacqueline Thousand, Professor
"Using understandable, jargon-free language, the authors help professionals and parents understand each others' viewpoints. The text also provides practical tips and suggestions about how to work together collaboratively. I highly recommend this book for novice and veteran parents and professionals." -- Stephanie Smith Lee, Former Director, Office of Special Education Programs
"I found myself nodding in agreement with virtually all the points made in this book. The process is, indeed, a dance. Although one would think we have mastered dancing, each student, each family, each day brings forth a new dance. As partners and parents we need to tweak out that uniqueness in the child together." -- Jo-Anne Dobbins, Director of Pupil Personnel Services
"This book serves as a vital resource and provides essential viewpoints for professionals. The text also reminds parents how valuable their input is to the process. In the spirit of collaboration, we highly recommend this book." -- Tiiu Presutti, Special Education Teacher, Melinda Sulzbach, School Social Worker & Adrienne Hershfield, School Psychologist

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