Behavior: Social Skills, Self Esteem

strength based IEPs

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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
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Posted Apr 03, 2002 at 9:54:07 AM
Subject: strength based IEPs

"In educational situations, it is essential that parents understand
the nature of the weak areas, what skills need to be learned to
strengthen those areas, and how the strong areas can be used to help
remediate the child's weak areas."


Subject: Do teachers' lesson plans reflect children's IEP goals and

the IEP journey are listed below in question form. Answering yes to
these questions and the ones posed in a later section (reviewing the
IEP) indicates that our destination may be in sight.

Do teachers' lesson plans reflect children's IEP goals and
Is the staff person responsible for teaching an objective(s)
monitoring the child's progress as indicated on the IEP?
Are the periodic reviews taking place as scheduled or as needed?
Are related services being provided as indicated on the IEP?
Has an IEP meeting been scheduled to discuss expected changes in
objectives, goals, services, and/or placement?
Does instruction focus on the child's strengths and needs?
Are team members working together to implement IEP goals and
Have friendships and natural supports been facilitated within the
school and community for full implementation of the child's program?
Has the team made appropriate instructional modifications in order to
support the child's participation in integrated school and community

Using the PEPSI
to identify Student Strengths and Growth Needs
Once a PEPSI profile is established, there is a graphic
representation of a student's strengths and weaknesses. Use the
following example of a seven year old youngster to practice looking
for student strengths and areas that might be important to focus on
as part of an individual education plan.

Area Strengths Build-ons
Physical Good large muscle coordination
Dresses self
Prints own name
Not washing hands after toileting
Needs help tying shoes
Runs out of energy before tasks are completed

Emotional Very trusting
Enjoys helping when asked
Tattles to solve problems with peers
Has frequent tantrums
Very stubborn, willful

Philosophical Wants to be praised
Usually tells the truth
Very loving
Bossy with others
Takes others' things and cries when confronted
No recognition of others' needs

Social Likes to please the teacher
Loves to organize things
Tends to interact with adults or play alone

Intellectual Counts to ten
Writes own name when asked
Reads twenty sight words
Likes to copy from the board
Preschool grade level work
Five minute attention span
Not able to follow two consecutive directions

Now, write two objectives for each of the PEPSI areas. Stay focused
on strengthening the student's potential. Try to address one of the
objectives toward strengths the student already has.
















Building on a Child's Strengths
When I'm called upon to assist a child who is struggling in
school, I find the spotlight is often focused on a child's
weaknesses. This is particularly common for the child with poor
social skills, communication skills, learning disabilities, and/or
any other disability. Children with disabilities already feel they
are different. It is up to us to teach all children that different is
not bad, and that each of us has special strengths. We can help that
process along by showcasing every child's special interest and

Years of remedial effort have been poured into fixing what's
broken, the deficit, rather than capitalizing on the strength and
what works. In other words, if a child can't read, hours are spent
teaching that child with methods that didn't work in the first place.
If there are behavior issues, the same punitive measures are used
over-and-over, yet there's no improvement.

When the spotlight shifts onto areas where your child shines, in
his/her areas of strengths and personal interest, there are often
very dramatic changes in work effort and negative behaviors often
dramatically diminish.

Child psychologist and recognized authority on ADHD, Dr. Robert
Brooks, developed the term "islands of competence" in reference to
these areas of strength. I interpret his concept in the following

Everyone has strengths, but sometimes they're not obvious. We must
find those areas of strength and build on them. Every person must
feel they are making a contribution to their environment. If we
accept both these concepts, the obvious thing to do is to build upon
them. Every child must feel important and every child must taste
Once academic needs are determined and appropriate services are in
place, it's extremely important to begin building self-confidence and
self-reliance. It's essential to have a concerted effort both at home
and at school, with clear communication between the school officials
and the parents.

Dr. Brooks likes for each of his young patients to have a special
job at school in an area related to the child's interests and needs.
It can be something like feeding pets or taking attendance to the
office monitor. This can take creativity and ingenuity, but it's

The schools I visit are sometimes resistant to this effort. After
all, only recently has there been such emphasis on this positive
approach to resolve behavior issues or low self-esteem problems.
Sometimes school personnel look at us like we've lost a few screws.
But it works! Inappropriate behaviors diminish, the child walks
taller, often begins to show improved self-confidence, and
demonstrates reliability. He feels needed and recognized for his

Sadly, the child with a disability that impacts behavior and
social skills is often the last picked to help out with different
tasks. In reality, it's one of the single most effective tools to
help your child gain self-confidence.

The focus of scholastic effort must also be on the child's
strengths. Following, are just few examples and suggestions for
compensating effectively for weaknesses and building on strengths.

If your child has excellent verbal skills and creativity, but writing
is a struggle, you might ask for daily use of a computer. If a child
demonstrates such a need, (and I see this often in ADHD and learning
disabilities), than the school is responsible for providing that
assistive technology. Remember your child doesn't have to settle for
the broken computer in the corner of the room (which happens all too
frequently). Any needed equipment must be in working order and be
made available in the regular learning environment. If you're
concerned about the condition of equipment, you can stipulate in any
504 plan or IEP that the equipment be in working order and located in
an area immediately accessible to the student.
Perhaps your child grasps math concepts, but has difficulty
performing the actual calculations on paper. A calculator is a great
assistive device for such children. There might be complaints that
the child has to first learn math the "old fashioned way." Practical
experience has taught me that if a child can't perform very basic
math calculations by, say, the fifth grade, it will probably always
be somewhat difficult. Is he/she going to suddenly become proficient
in this area when an adult or count fingers? Most likely not. This
person will buy a calculator for as little as $5.00 and finally
become successful in performing practical arithmetic calculations.
Why not start early to help the person with a math disability
progress rapidly with the concepts by using a calculator to bypass
the disability? This is not to say a child should not continue to
work on mastery of calculations as well.
Or take the fifth-grader who's struggling with second-grade spelling,
perhaps spending as much as two hours a night trying to learn a list
of twenty words. The most common modification, if any is made at all,
is to cut the list in half. What if we let that child spend spelling
time becoming computer literate? With the use of a spell checker and
word processor program to offset organizational difficulties and
spelling difficulties, children suddenly blossom into creative
A child who is very distractible in the classroom can show dramatic
improvement when work is produced on a computer. Headphones can also
enhance learning. Many children with ADHD tend to lose the thought
somewhere between brain and pencil, but are excellent writers when
using a computer. There seems to be an instant direct connection
between brain and screen. Organizational skills show improvement.
Problem solving skills are also honed on the computer, bypassing
faulty circuitry that gets in the way of real learning. In each of
these instances weaknesses are diminished by technology that levels
the playing field for people with disabilities. The spotlight then
shifts from the writing weakness to the content strengths.

An excellent way to actively involve all those invested in the
inclusion process is to implement the MAPS process when developing
the child's IFSP/IEP. MAPS stands for Making Action Plans or the
McGill Action Planning System. The Kansas State Board of Education
has available a manual and videotape which describes the actual MAPS
process in detail entitled MAPS: A Plan for Including All Children in
Schools (1990). The MAPS manual and videotape might prove to be
helpful in developing strategies for creating a user friendly and
functional IFSP/IEP for children attending inclusive early childhood
programs. Information presented in the MAPS manual is geared toward
older students, however we have found that by using a modified MAPS
system we have been able to create IFSP's/IEP's which are built upon
the child¹s strengths and prove to be functional within the inclusive

2. What happens next?

Development of Goals and Objectives

Goals and objectives should be based on assessment, and should focus
on using a student's strengths and interest to address areas of
identified need. The best objectives contain specific information
about what we want a student to achieve, how instruction will support
the mastery of the goal, and are measurable.


IDEA 1997 brings several changes to the IEP and the IEP team. Not
only will the role of the IEP team dramatically increase, the IEP
will move from a deficit-based educational plan to one that is
strength-based. IDEA 1997 is based on the belief that the majority of
students with disabilities can participate in the general education
curriculum to varying degrees.


The student's areas of strength and need. Whereas a statement of
needs identifies the student's weaknesses, a statement of strengths
identifies the student's own "tools" which can be used to address the
weaknesses. The basis for these statements should be the description
contained in the IPRC's statement. These statements might take the
form "Student demonstrates significant strength in..." and "Student
requires significant instruction/ support to ...."For
example, "Student demonstrates significant strength in auditory
learning"; "Student requires significant instruction/support to
develop reading skills."

Goals for the student. Goals should be based on the strengths and
needs of the student and represent the best prediction of what the
student should be able to accomplish by the end of the school year

The IEP is a written document outlining the who, what, when,
why, where and how of instruction and related services that
are to be provided to a student with disabilities. IEPs are built
upon the strengths of individual students and are
designed to help each student achieve success in school, at
home, at work, and in the community.

The IEP Implementation Checklist
p The IEP has been shared and discussed with appropriate staff
members and service providers.
p Instruction focuses on the student's strengths and needs.
p Instruction reflects stated IEP goals and objectives.
p Identified modifications and accommodations are being provided.
p A designated IEP team member is monitoring the student's progress.


Strength Based Planning

Identify the strengths and resources of the student and student's
family and use these strengths and resources to develop an effective
IEP and / or other service plan. One full day offered once in the
fall and once in the spring.

Target Group: Administrators, SPED teachers, social workers, FSWs,
Counselors, CSSS, 504
Site: District
Trainer: Felix Training Institute

D. Exceptionally Appropriate Practices
1) Writes IEPs using a strength-based approach

Strength-based assessments

Create Strength-based Functional Behavior Assessments/Interventions
Train on the development of Strength-based IEP's

A good IEP has objectives that focus on a student's strengths and aim
for positive outcomes

The result of the teamwork is and IEP that embraces John's strengths
and the team's goals

Based on the child's needs while building upon the child's strengths,
the team drafts both annual
goals and short term learning outcomes.

The focus of the IEP should be the development of strategies to build
on the child's strengths in order to remediate weaknesses and build
self-esteem. Educators agree that the best strategy for helping the
child with learning disabilities is to concentrate on strengthening
the child's existing abilities, while working steadily to improve
weaker skills. For example, if the child has excellent verbal skills
but is totally frustrated putting thoughts on paper, the IEP might
specify that his reports be given orally. If the child is strong in
math and poor in reading, the IEP might specify having him coach a
classmate who is struggling with math; reading support might include
reading two key paragraphs in the sports section of the newspaper
each night to a parent.

5. What are the individual's strengths, gifts and abilities?
So often when educational teams get together, they dwell upon the
things that the individual cannot do as opposed to identifying and
building upon the strengths and abilities of the individual. The
facilitator asks the participants to review the list which described
the individual as a way to identify some of his or her strengths and
unique gifts. In addition, they are instructed to think about what
the individual can do, what he or she likes to do and what he or she

This full-day workshop is designed develop participants' skills in
the implementation of research-validated educational programming
for students with Autism and other significant disabilities according
to IDEA `97. It is intended for all staff working
with this population in an elementary through secondary environment.
First, participants will learn to develop and monitor IEP's using a
strength-based approach, implement proactive behavior and
integration plans, and identify the major research-validated
strategies used with this unique population.

The student's areas of strength and need. Whereas a statement of
needs identifies the student's weaknesses, a statement of strengths
identifies the student's own "tools" which can be used to address the
weaknesses. The basis for these statements should be the description
contained in the IPRC's statement. The statements might take the
form "Student demonstrates significant strength in…" and "Student
requires significant instruction/support to …" For example, "Student
demonstrates significant strength in auditory learning"; "Student
requires significant instruction/support to develop reading skills."

Goals for the student. Goals should be based on the strengths and
needs of the student and represent the best prediction of what the
student should be able to accomplish by the end of the school year.


Based on the child's needs while building upon the child's strengths,
the team drafts both annual goals and short term learning outcomes.

A child's strengths should be a part of any IEP and these strengths
should be drawn upon when developing goals and objectives.

Strengths should be identified in all five areas described on page 1.
In addition, strengths should not be limited to only academics and/or
physical abilities. They can, and should, include interests skills,
hobbies, peronal traits, etc.


* Matt is great at basketball.
* Dylan is trying really hard to talk.
* Benjamin knows how to use the computer.
* Emily likes to play board games with other girls.
* Nicole can read 4th grade textbooks.


Strength-Based IEP
Sharon Gage

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Joined Aug 15, 2020
Posts: 69136

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Posted:Apr 07, 2002 11:27:11 PM

I completely agree.

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