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Strength-Based Assessments Help Your Children Thrive

Updated: 6 days ago

During this season of IEP renewal meetings and the never-ending search for the elusive “perfect educational fit” for our 2e children, we could all use a little positivity. For caregivers of 2e students who have taken their children to one assessment after another as they attempt to uncover the best ways to support and accommodate them, a strength-based assessment can feel like a nice warm smile after a super hard day. Imagine sitting through a meeting with educational experts in which they spend the whole time telling you what your child is good at and how creative they are. Strength-based assessments are evaluations that focus on a child’s strengths, talents, and interests. They are not diagnoses from psychologists or educational professionals and they do not point out areas of deficit or weakness. By using a series of questionnaires to gather information from caregivers, teachers, and the student, a strength-based assessor pieces together information about the environment in which the child can flourish. The goal of a strength-based report is to equip caregivers with the information they need to advocate for their 2e children, find their children’s ideal educational environments, and help their children thrive in and out of school.


One way that 2e educational experts structure a strength-based report is by using the five non-negotiable environments for 2e learners – intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and creative. The strength-based assessor analyzes specific ways to modify each of these five environments to provide the support the child needs. For example, one child who received a strength-based assessment revealed that regarding his physical environment, he was more comfortable sitting in the corner of a room, in bright light, with the room at a warm temperature when working and learning. His family advocated for his teachers to help facilitate this environment for him in the classroom and his parents set up his homework space at home with these preferences in mind. Strength-based assessors also make suggestions for talent development activities and concrete ways to further develop the child’s strengths at home and in their educational setting. Another child who received a strength-based assessment talked about her love for magic. Her strength-based recommendations included exploring more activities with magic shows, including trying to perform her own. After the assessment, she designed a magic show for neighborhood children, allowing her to explore her interest area, demonstrate her expertise, create social connections, and gain self-confidence in performing for others.  


As a strength-based assessor, I’ve witnessed firsthand the value that our assessments have on improving the learning experiences for 2e students, and in turn their overall well being. It is common that families discover strength-based assessments only after every other option has been attempted with little benefit, and in many cases, negative results. Often, they come to us at a point of crisis when they just aren’t sure where to turn next. Rather than being yet another voice that tries to find the way to “fix” the child, we embrace the family and the child exactly as they are. We seek to understand not how to change them but instead, how to provide them with the environments and opportunities that allow them to shine at their brightest. We listen to the many voices in the child’s life; we develop a relationship with the child. Our assessments do not “test” the child. We create a sense of safety, radical acceptance, and a true connection that creates belonging. This process alone can positively impact some children. Shortly after a recent assessment I conducted with an 8-year-old who had arrived to me in a state of shutdown after his parents were forced to remove him from his school environment because of intense panic attacks, the mom emailed me to say, “We've seen an improvement in our son’s self-esteem through this process. He was so happy for his meetings with you, and being acknowledged as an expert on his own experience seemed to really boost his general mood.” But, our goal is not the assessment process itself. Our ultimate goal is to package the secrets we uncover on how to most effectively engage the child so that their strengths have the opportunity to shine in learning, at home, and in the individual paths that they ultimately discover for their future. 


Some parents may already be living with a strength-based mindset and others are still learning how to shift their perspectives from a focus on deficits to a focus on strengths. No matter where people are in their journeys, all parents and caregivers of 2e children could benefit from practicing the following strengths-based techniques with their kids:

  • Lean in to your children’s interests with curiosity, focusing on which skills they are able to demonstrate and which ones they seem capable of learning within their areas of interest (instead of focusing on what they need to remediate)

  • Consider your child’s individual environmental needs on multiple levels (physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and creative) and experiment with making small changes that can help them feel comfortable, confident, and able to engage, learn, and grow

  • Look for ways to help your child connect with others who share their similar interests, whether they be peers, teachers, or mentors; finding like-minded people can do wonders for 2e children’s self-esteem while allowing them to deeply explore their strengths and talents 


If you're interested in exploring strength-based assessments performed by 2e experts, you can find more information at:


If you're interested in receiving support creating strengths-based environments for home, learning, and interests with the direct help of a 2e expert, you can find more information at: Exceptionally Engaged, LLC 


 

Editor's note: REEL has put together a list of Strength-Based Assessment Tools. Download it here:


REEL Strength-Based Assessment Tools Listing
.pdf
Download PDF • 119KB

 

Amy Clark, Ed.D. is the founder and lead strategist at Exceptionally Engaged LLC where she supports parents of multi-exceptional children in creating learning experiences and home environments that allow both children and the family to thrive. She also provides mentorships for multi-exceptional individuals by supporting them through their interests and is a founding case manager for the Strength-based Assessment Lab at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity. 


Marna Wohlfeld, MA, MBA is mom of 2e children and a

doctoral student at Bridges Graduate School for Cognitive Diversity in Education. She is passionate about supporting 2e kids and their families by focusing on their strengths and interests and designing environments that help them thrive.






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