The Parent-LSL Professional Partnership
By Hearing First Team October 20, 2015
There are great parallels to be drawn between partner dancing and the parent-professional partnership that helps children who are deaf or hard of hearing reach their full potential.
Have you ever watched Dancing with the Stars?
If you have, you may have noticed that at the beginning of a season, it’s pretty obvious which people are professional dancers and which are being introduced to the sport for the first time. By the end of the season — if the coach has done his or her job right and if their partner has fully engaged — it’s a lot harder to tell! In the finale, teams are dancing beautifully together, presenting something that’s stronger than if either party had performed a solo.
Funny as it may sound, we think there are great parallels to be drawn between partner dancing and the parent-professional partnership that’s required for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to reach their full potential. Here are four ways parents and professionals who are committed to shaping a child’s future could learn from America’s favorite dance competition!
1. Remember, it takes two to tango.
If one person is sitting on the sidelines and the other is going it alone, the partnership will not succeed. Parents may find themselves in overwhelming and unfamiliar territory when this journey begins. It’s the most natural thing in the world to want to lean back and “let the pros take it from here…,” but that leaves only one person in the dance
Likewise, if the more experienced party steps on their partner’s toes, the duo becomes one-sided. Professionals can unintentionally build dependency rather than equipping and empowering parents with what they need to practice at home. In either scenario, the partnership can become weak.
2. Take time to get to know one another.
Professionals need to get to know the ins and outs of the families they serve. Coming to understand their learning style, culture, rhythms, routines, and family dynamics will help a professional better tailor their approach in equipping that family to best teach their child.
The more you can get to know your partner’s personality and preconceived notions, their background, baggage, gifts, and challenges, the stronger the partnership between them will be. And the strongest partners tend to win.
3. Partnership takes practice.
On the show, you’ll find that regardless of talent, skill, or experience — the pair has to learn to dance together. Great partners aren’t born. They’re made.
Likewise, parents and professionals have to learn to partner well. The more you practice working together to advance the child’s listening and spoken language skills, the better you’ll get.
It’s important to remember that each person in this partnership brings their own perspective and insights, as well as their own experience and ideas. With practice, you’ll discover that your outcomes are far better when you work together. And the more working together becomes a habit, the more natural that dance will feel.
4. Over time, it should become less clear who’s “leading.”
At the start of DWTS it’s clear who the professionals are. It’s the coach's job to equip their partner to the point where they’ve become so strong they look like a professional as well. A family may come into this partnership with no background or familiarity on hearing loss. Speech pathologists, audiologists, early interventionists, and other professionals who work in the hearing loss field have chosen to be at this particular dance. They’ve studied and trained and practiced in this, their chosen profession.
For one partner, this is a selected vocation. For the other, it may be a surprise. But both now share a common calling and a common mission — to help that child with hearing loss reach his or her full potential.
On the show, those disco balls aren’t awarded to individuals. They’re awarded to great teams. An amazing professional who carries their partner all over the floor doesn’t have any hope of winning. It’s only when both parties have grown together and are truly partnering well that you see outcomes worth celebrating.
Here are a few helpful ways to ensure a positive parent-professional partnership:
- Listen to each other.
- Search for ways to best support each other.
- Be open to an exchange of information.
- Acknowledge cultural and lifestyle perspectives.
- Think out loud to share significant observations.