What About Me?: Recognizing and Building on Each Child's Strengths

What About Me?: Recognizing and Building on Each Child's Strengths

Frank Goode (West Texas A&M University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7732-5.ch004
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Abstract

Children with differences do not need to be fixed or cured or pitied. Children are valuable simply for the person they are and will be. Schools and school districts have sought to remediate the weaknesses of children with disabilities without focusing on or utilizing the strengths and interests of children with disabilities as the basis for individual education programs (IEP). Beginning with a pre-referral process that focuses on parent or teacher concerns for children, driving an evaluation that focuses on a child's weaknesses, leading to an IEP built on remediating weaknesses that often ignore an individual's strengths and interests, the process and end product are focused on deficits in children. This chapter will present an alternative to this model, an alternative focused on identifying and utilizing a child's strengths and interests in the development of IEPs.
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Introduction

Parents have so many emotions when they learn that their child has a disability. Certainly, parents may experience fear, sadness, feelings of a loss of control. These are all normal responses. But, as an educator with decades of experiences, it is my hope that parents also have feelings of hope, joy and excitement regarding their children’s futures. This chapter is dedicated to helping parents consider a new perspective about disabilities and the choice we all have to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses.

“Disability is a limiting word that classifies a person. We all have deficiencies and limits. I am not a disabled athlete, I am a Paralympic athlete.” (arenasports.com.br, 03 Apr 2013) – Daniel Dias

Children with differences do not need to be fixed.

Or cured.

Or pitied.

Children are valuable simply for the person she or he is and will be.

Schools and school districts have sought to remediate the weaknesses of children with disabilities, without focusing on, or utilizing the strengths and interests of children with disabilities as the basis for Individual Education Programs (IEP). Beginning with a pre-referral process that focuses on parent or teacher concerns for children, driving an evaluation that focuses on a child’s weaknesses, leading to an IEP built on remediating weaknesses that often ignore an individual’s strengths and interests., the process and end product is one focusing on deficits in children. This chapter will present an alternative to this model, an alternative focused on identifying and utilizing a child’s strengths and interests in the development of IEPs.

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Case Study: Part 1

A fourth-grade student who is well behaved is reading at a low second grade level. The student support, or pre-referral team at his school has been meeting to discuss his reading difficulties and has provided various small group and individual interventions and accommodations for him. His parents are concerned about his self-image and his reading level. The team refers the student for a Full Individual Evaluation (FIE) which the parents provide consent for conducting. The evaluator has lunch with the student to build rapport and to let the student know about the evaluation.

Evaluator: “We’re going to be doing some testing together to find out what you know, how smart you are, and where you might need some help.”

Student: “I know I’m stupid and need help in reading.”

Evaluator: “That’s why we’ll do the testing, to find out where you are strong, and where you need help. But you are not stupid.”

Student: “Well, my sister loves to read and doesn’t have any problems reading. I do, that’s how I know I’m stupid.”

This student, based on a real case, has progressed to fourth grade, struggling with reading and comparing himself to his older sister. He has heard, “You just need to try harder” so many times he has lost count. His image of smart is reading well, which is hard for him.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Deficit Model: A model of evaluation, intervention, and instruction that focuses on the weaknesses of individual children, seeking to correct their weaknesses with a minimal focus on teaching children how to recognize and utilize their individual strengths.

Outcome Data: Data that measures what results of a program or intervention. In terms of this chapter, adult outcomes such as employment rates, incarceration rates, and postsecondary education enrollment rates are cited as measures of the effectiveness of Special Education programs.

Ableism: Discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Appreciative Inquiry: A process of organizational change and development that moves from a traditional deficit driven change approach to a positive strengths-based change approach in which the inherent strengths of an organization are identified and leveraged to promote positive organizational change.

Strengths-Based Model: A model of evaluation, intervention, and instruction in which a child’s individual strengths and interests are identified and utilized by the individual to enhance their learning and development.

Neurodiversity: The belief that brain differences are natural and normal and should not be regarded as deficits. Such differences are viewed as being beneficial to communities and to society.

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