How to Develop a Strength-Based IEP
Students with disabilities have historically encountered low expectations from educators and administrators due to the misinformation and deficit-thinking that has shaped societal understanding of disability. Strength-based IEPs are an approach to special education that challenge this limiting mindset by focusing on and utilizing the skills your child already has.
Instead of blaming a student’s lack of progress on their disability, strength-based IEPs first look outward to identify which barriers to learning may prevent a student from making further progress (e.g., communication, mobility, physical environment, sight, reading skills). Then, the IEP team uses your child’s existing strengths, abilities, and interests to think creatively about how to best minimize those barriers and increase their access to the curriculum through their strengths. No matter the academic subject, a strength-based approach helps the team develop an IEP that holistically and accurately reflects your child’s present levels so that they can continue to progress. We reached out to Dr. Caitlin Solone, education advocate, teacher educator, and faculty at UCLA, to find out how to take a strength-based approach to the IEP.
The benefits of strength-based IEPs
By not focusing on limitations or deficits, strength-based IEPs position students with disabilities as valuable, capable, and contributing members of their classrooms and school communities.
Prioritizing your child’s strengths helps educators develop appropriately challenging goals and objectives in their curriculum. It also ensures that services and supports provided for your child will work to actively enhance skills and eliminate barriers to learning.
In this clip, Dr. Solone describes how strength-based IEPs utilize your child's strengths in order to make progress in their areas of need.