The First Phase: Colliding and Campaigning

The initial stage of partnership formation is awkward and wary: Fialka and Mikus compare it to a blind date, with its concomitant self-consciousness, uncertainty, and absence of trust. The dance is awkward and toes are stepped on ("colliding’). It’s not unusual for each partner to promote their own agendas with great passion and conviction ("campaigning"), with little ability to listen to the platforms espoused by others. Parents and professionals are not usually listening to one another during this phase, and there is quite a bit of jockeying for power, territorialism, obstructive behavior, and blatant salesmanship. However, the authors explain, these behaviors are not necessarily negative or deliberately difficult. Rather, "It is not at all unusual for each of the partners, during this phase, to cling to one position because it is rooted in their dreams for the child...such campaigning is actually a positive reflection of the partners’ strength of commitment to the child or the program."

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During the initial stage of partnership formation, parents often have strong feelings about their childís needs.
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During this initial partnership phase, it’s not uncommon for parents to have mixed feelings about the child’s disabilities and their responses to professional assessments. As one mother explained, "Our feelings are mixed. I find myself changing: ‘Do well...don’t do well...do well...don’t do well....’ Part of me hopes my son will let you see all his difficulties and delays so you can get him more help. Part of me hopes just as hard that you will see all his strengths and abilities – so we won’t need any more tests, any more specialists." (Fialka and Mikus, p. 18)

Fialka and Mikus have developed a list of recommendations for professionals to follow in their early interactions with parents of children with disabilities. Some key points from this list are summarized below:


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In their initial communications with parents, itís important for nurses to demonstrate their expertise by discussing long-range outcomes for the child.
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The authors caution that it’s easy to swamp the parents’ hope and sense of future possibilities when the partners are involved in colliding and campaigning. Nurses can avoid some of the negative effects during this first phase of partnership by stopping to ask for further information from the parents, and trying to understand their point of view. With a genuine effort, nurses can almost always discover areas of common vision for the child as well as similarity in their plans for intervention. As the parents begin to trust the nurse, the partners can move to the next phase of the dance.



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