Inside: Learn how to use Student Strengths or Child Strengths on an IEP, and the importance of doing so. Plus the snippet from IDEA about a child’s strengths.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in getting our kids’ needs met on an IEP, we forget to address student strengths on an IEP.

Maybe you’re getting ready for an IEP meeting, and thinking, “What are my child’s strengths?” or “How do I know my child’s strengths?” Parents, you know your kids best!

If you do not have an IEP or disabled child, you may be more interested in the article that is just about your child’s strengths, unrelated to IEPs.

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A young man with a backpack, showcasing his student strengths, confidently walks through a building.

Make sure your kid’s or your teen’s and adolescent strengths are included as part of your parent concerns.

Student Strengths

IDEA is pretty clear about a student’s strengths being considered as part of IEP development. It’s even first on the list!

You know that your child has strengths, or your student has strengths. But sometimes, we need a little help to get our list of child strength examples.

A young woman wearing a yellow t-shirt with a backpack showcasing her student strengths in front of a sculpture.

Strengths as a Student

IDEA is pretty clear about a student’s strengths being considered as part of IEP development. It’s even first on the list!

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written plan designed to meet a child’s learning needs. It is a legally binding document that outlines the goals and objectives for a student with disabilities.

One of the key components of an IEP is identifying a student’s strengths. By identifying a student’s strengths, teachers and parents can use them to help the student achieve their goals.

Strengths can be identified in a variety of areas, including academic, social, and emotional. For example, a student may have a talent for drawing, which can be used to help them learn math by creating visual representations of problems.

It is important to note that strengths are not just academic. Students may have social or emotional strengths that can be used to help them succeed in school. For example, a student may be very empathetic, which can be used to help them build relationships with their peers.

A group of young girls with diverse student strengths sitting in a classroom.

IEP Strengths

In some sections, IDEA lists the strengths of the child as the first item. But again, we often go into IEP meetings with the mindset that the school is going to tell us “no” and we forget to address strengths or assets.

See? It’s right here. (bold mine)

(3) Development of IEP

  • In developing each child’s IEP, the IEP Team, subject to subparagraph (C), shall consider—
    • (i) the strengths of the child;
    • (ii) the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child;
    • (iii) the results of the initial evaluation or most recent evaluation of the child; and
    • (iv) the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child.
A student with IEP strengths sits at a desk showcasing their student strengths in the classroom.

Student Strengths for an IEP

And sometimes, during a meeting, we’re put on the spot. We know our kids are great students, with a lot of assets and qualities to offer the planet. But under stress, we draw a blank.

Well, no more! Maybe you want to jot these down for the IEP meeting. Or just swipe them for your IEP parent concerns letter.

Many of these were crowdsourced from our IEP parent group.

Communication, mathematics, management (for a kid?), creativity, writing, critical thinking, study skills, problem-solving, and reading are some of the main examples of student strengths that came up.

This is an area of the IEP that needs more focus and attention. I think that because so many IEP teams are worried about and focused on meeting the child’s needs, they forget to focus on the IEP strengths.

Hopefully, I have covered all of these areas and categories.

Student Strengths in the IEP

When adding your student strengths in an IEP, a team should approach this much like any other section of the IEP. The strengths should be identified, either through evaluations or anecdotal information from parents and teachers.

A team can also add strengths to an IEP by area or discipline. I listed examples below.

A young man wearing a beanie and a jacket showcasing his student strengths as he leans against a brick wall.

Student Strengths and Weaknesses List

This comes up a lot.

However, I dislike the word weaknesses. Mind you, it’s a word I use in reference to myself all the time. I’m not comfortable using it with IEP students, and here’s why.

The dictionary definition of weakness is:

a quality or feature regarded as a disadvantage or fault; plural noun: weaknesses

I prefer the term “areas of need.” I believe, on a subconscious level, that we too often associate the term weakness with the term fault.

Fault has too much negativity attached to it. A disability is never one’s fault; it’s how they were born.

And, we don’t typically look for lists of “weaknesses” to put on an IEP. The areas of need that the student should be working on should be listed in the IEP present levels.

Self awareness and being able to work on your personal weaknesses is a wonderful thing. However, many students don’t have this skill. And, if you have a situation where a child has ADHD RSD (rejection sensitivity dysphoria), pointing out a student’s weaknesses may do more harm than help.

And, a child’s “weaknesses” should be determined by IEP evaluations.

Not some resource list you found on the internet.

And so, in the spirit of that, you will not find a list of student strengths and weaknesses examples here in this article.

List of Student Strengths

Here are some examples of student strengths for an IEP, not categorized.

  1. Outstanding memory in areas of interest
  2. willingness to forgive and give people second chances
  3. Persistent in reaching his desired outcome
  4. He has a strong desire for social connection and friendship
  5. He has an excellent memory and excels in completing tasks when given clear lists or flowcharts
  6. strong negotiating skills
  7. Is curious about the world around him/her
  8. Has a good sense of time, can plan
  9. Fun fashion sense as a means of expression
  10. Sensory/tactile learner, multi-sensory learner
  11. great at finding efficiencies
  12. able to recognize when work is truly necessary
  13. Eager to learn when refocused consistently
  14. When regulated M is a sweet, considerate child
  15. Thinks out-of-the-box to find unconventional and creative solutions
  16. Generous and sharing
  17. exercises great emotional restraint when pushed to his limits
  18. Is empathetic toward the needs of others even if he cannot express
  19. Demonstrates an ability to learn
  20. Consistently processes information and responds, even though it is a delayed response
  21. ability to verbalize when he is upset or dysregulated
  22. may appear disinterested in class or not paying attention, but when questioned can regurgitate back the information that was just presented
  23. May be impulsive, but once regulated can usually identify the situation and trigger with great accuracy
  24. Can solve equations in his head, but may show frustration at having to show work
  25. enjoys sticking to a routine
  26. Can adapt to changes in daily schedule with proper warning and notification and explanation
  27. strong desire to do well and please others
  28. a happy, pleasant child when regulated
  29. is able to set realistic, achievable goals for herself
  30. Can follow 1/2/3 step directions
  31. Can follow instructions when given clear, direct language
  32. Is able to and will ask for help when needed
  33. Can make a decision given 2/3/5 choices
  34. will interact appropriately with peers
  35. communicates appropriately to peers
  36. can initiate tasks/projects
  37. working memory has improved to where she can…….
  38. can listen intently without interrupting
  39. will raise a hand and wait patiently to be called on
  40. recognizes and respects the personal space of others
  41. can do 4/5/6 volleys in a 2-way conversation
  42. can verbalize when being teased/bullied and respond appropriately
  43. will accept unsolicited adult assistance/help without resistance
  44. good sense of balance and motor planning
  45. Learns material best when moving around, gross motor movement
  46. Likes to ride his/her bike, skateboard, and/or other self-powered personal vehicles
  47. good physical health
  48. physically strong
  49. athletic abilities (elaborate)
  50. Likes to exercise and will initiate independently
  51. good physical endurance
  52. Can follow instructions/rules for games such as (give examples)
  53. is a fair loser and winner
  54. Plays musical instruments (elaborate)
  55. participates in (community activity/sports) and elaborate
  56. Is aware and will be safe in the following setting (elaborate) and will respond appropriately
  57. Can care for the family pet (elaborate)
  58. Can act appropriately around a baby or younger child
  59. Enjoys working independently or in groups
  60. is persistent in carrying out assignments or activities
  61. Keeps a personal diary or journal
  62. Understands sarcasm, enjoys telling jokes
  63. Possesses a sense of personal responsibility
  64. Has strong opinions about controversial topics and is able to verbalize them
  65. Marches to the beat of a different drummer
  66. Handles stressful events well (e.g. is resilient)
  67. Has good character (e.g. honesty, integrity, fairness)
  68. Is able to plan for the future, describe future goals
  69. Displays good common sense and decision making
  70. Explains ideas or concepts well to others
  71. Asks relevant questions
  72. Has good listening skills, without interrupting
  73. Handles verbal feedback well
  74. Is able to effectively use non-verbal cues to communicate with others
  75. persuasive in getting someone to do something
  76. assertive skills without being pushy
  77. optimistic attitude
  78. can express how he/she is feeling
  79. Can easily pick up on the emotional state of another person
  80. Enjoys socializing with others
  81. Has at least one good friend
  82. polite and has good manners
  83. able to work out his/her own conflicts with others
  84. Volunteers his/her time
  85. friendly to others
  86. good at sharing with others
  87. good personal hygiene
  88. Trusts others without being naïve
  89. liked by his peers
  90. good organizational skills
  91. good study skills
  92. able to pay close attention to details
  93. good short-term and/or long-term memory
  94. able to become totally absorbed in an activity
  95. Has traveled to other countries
  96. tolerant of others who have cultural, ethnic, or racial differences
  97. pride in his/her own cultural, ethnic, or racial background
  98. Likes to find out about historical events around the world
  99. Enjoys learning about different cultural traditions
  100. Enjoys reading books
  101. Has good reading comprehension
  102. Enjoys doing word puzzles
  103. a good writer in one or more genres
  104. good speller
  105. large vocabulary for his/her age
  106. Enjoys listening to audiobooks or to someone telling a story or reading out loud
  107. Has a chemistry set or other science kit that he/she works with at home
  108. Enjoys logical or number games or puzzles like Rubik’s cube or Sudoku
  109. aptitude for fixing machines or mechanical things
  110. Likes to create three-dimensional structures with building materials
  111. good at doing jigsaw or other puzzles
  112. able to read maps well
  113. able to visualize images clearly, can describe
  114. Gets information more easily through pictures than words
  115. sensitive to the visual world around him/her, can express verbally and respond appropriately
  116. good handwriting
  117. good eye-hand coordination
  118. enjoys hiking and/or camping in nature
  119. Likes to spend time using a computer, tablet, or smartphone
  120. uses the internet appropriately for school and entertainment
  121. Knows how to set up audio-visual or computer equipment
  122. Likes to text on the phone
  123. Enjoys social networking (e.g. blog, website, Facebook); uses appropriately
  124. Has several his/her own favorite movies or TV shows that he/she likes to talk about and can do so without manipulating the conversation
  125. Loves learning new things; will seek out knowledge
  126. good test taker
  127. loves to run

Examples of Student Strengths

A student’s strengths can fit into different categories or domains.

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There are many different types of student strengths, and each student may have their own unique combination of strengths.

Some common types of student strengths include:

  1. Academic strengths: Examples of academic strengths are the ability to excel in specific subjects or areas of study, such as math, science, literature, or language.
  2. Creative strengths: Creative students have the ability to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas, as well as their artistic and musical abilities.
  3. Social strengths: These include a student’s ability to communicate effectively (even if the communication is not verbal), work well in groups, and build positive relationships with peers and teachers.
  4. Emotional strengths: These include a student’s ability to self-regulate, appropriately deal with stress and adversity, and show empathy and kindness towards others.
  5. Physical strengths: These include a student’s athleticism, motor planning, coordination, and physical fitness.
  6. Leadership strengths: These include a student’s ability to inspire and motivate others, make decisions, and take initiative in appropriate situations.
  7. Executive functioning strengths: EF strengths include a student’s ability to manage their time, prioritize tasks, and stay organized.
  8. Critical thinking strengths: These include a student’s ability to analyze information, evaluate arguments, and solve complex problems.

Cognitive Skills or Strengths

In this area, I would include skills such as processing, communication, reasoning, and attention.

Language and Literacy Strengths

  1. Has effective communication and uses it
  2. Participates in discussions at home, at school, and with friends; non-speakers can follow along with discussions
  3. Tells stories that have a clear beginning, middle, and end
  4. Uses lots of words and likes learning new words
  5. Can answer “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” questions in conversation (or about a story)
  6. Understands jokes, puns, and sarcasm
  7. Understands the structure of sounds; can do tasks like rhyme
  8. Can sound out unfamiliar words
  9. Easily recognizes sight words
  10. Can remember details and retell stories after reading them
  11. Can make predictions based on what’s happened so far in a story
  12. Reads with expression, like the way an actor talks on TV shows
  13. Makes connections between reading material and personal experiences

Academic Skills or Strengths

Reading skills, writing skills, math or science skills, preferred subject area excellence, or study habits.

  1. Strong study skills
  2. Strong analytical skills
  3. High levels of motivation
  4. Good communication skills
  5. Ability to think critically
  6. Strong problem-solving skills
  7. Quick learning ability
  8. Ability to focus and concentrate for extended periods
  9. Strong research skills
  10. Ability to work independently
  11. Strong mathematical skills
  12. Excellent note-taking abilities
  13. Strong academic curiosity
  14. Good listening skills and processing skills
  15. Ability to interpret and analyze data and information.
  16. Has a strong number sense, like knowing which is larger and which is smaller
  17. Sees and understands patterns in nature and in numbers
  18. Remembers math facts
  19. Can do mental math
  20. Uses math concepts in the real world
  21. Understands math terms used in word problems
  22. Solves puzzles or word problems

Social Skills and Social-Emotional Strengths

Examples include being well-liked, cooperative, a problem solver, making friends easily, socializing at appropriate times during the day, having a friend pool to draw from for support, and communicating with others well.

There will be an overlap here with social skills and social-emotional. Some examples of social-emotional skills include resilience, problem solver, positivity, optimism, pleasant and easygoing, adapting easily to unexpected changes, flexible thinking, and creativity.

  1. Shares, takes turns, and can compromise
  2. Puts effort into making friends and keeping them
  3. Is a good listener
  4. Accepts differences in others
  5. Asks for help when needed
  6. Accepts personal responsibility for actions (good and bad)
  7. Can apologize when needed
  8. Has a good sense of humor
  9. Is a good winner and loser
  10. Self Awareness
  11. Self-regulation skills

Executive Functioning and Processing Strengths

Sure, lots of kids struggle in this area, but many excel. Examples of good executive functioning skills would be the ability to stay focused/on tasks, organizational skills, time management, locker and backpack organization, and planning.

  1. Working Memory Skills:  Working memory is for both long-term and short-term memory. It’s the ability to recall knowledge and use it appropriately. A child with a great memory is often able to remember instructions, people’s names, and previous learning experiences easily. This child may do well in school and remember content for tests easily. A child with strong short-term memory skills is often able to remember things for a short period of time, such as a list of items or a set of instructions.
  2. Sustained attention:  A child who can sustain their attention is able to focus on a task for a long period of time.
  3. Selective attention:  A child with selective attention skills is able to filter out distractions and focus on one task.
  4. Joint and Divided attention:  A child who is able to divide their attention is able to focus on two tasks at the same time. Joint attention is the ability to attend to what you’re told, with another person. Such as, if you are reading a book to your child, are they looking and reading along with you?
  5. Logic skills:  A child with strong logic skills is often able to see the connections between things. It’s the ability to connect the dots, as they say.
  6. Reasoning:  A child who is good at reasoning is often able to understand and think through complex problems.
  7. Visual processing: A child with strong visual processing skills is often able to easily understand and remember information that is presented visually.
  8. Auditory processing: A child with strong auditory processing skills is often able to easily understand and remember information that is presented verbally.
  9. Processing speed:  A child with fast processing speed is often able to quickly understand, complete tasks, and remember new information.
  10. Critical Thinking:   A child who is good at critical thinking is often able to see different sides of an issue and make logical decisions.

Character Strengths in a Child

Some of the other online resources that you’ve found, similar to this list of child strength examples, may include Character Strengths in a child.

Admittedly, we all look for people of strong character–in our spouses, friends, employers, and so on.

But, one concept of this really bothers me. And, it’s the concept of honesty.

I have another article about children who chronically lie or are liars. As I state in that article, I was a liar as a child. But, it was not because I am of low moral character. It was self-preservation, and I’m an enabler (raised by alcoholics). Lying is what I did to survive.

So if you are going to make note of a child’s honesty, or lack thereof, please make sure you are doing a Deep Dive on that concept to determine what is really the issue for the child. I hate seeing kids punished for this, or for it to be treated as a character flaw.

My lying was treated as a character flaw, and it took me many years to realize that I am a good person. I just needed better coping mechanisms, which no one taught me.

Here are some other “character strengths” that I found on another site, and my commentary behind them.

  1. Is honest and trustworthy (already addressed this above)
  2. Is caring, kind, and empathetic (it’s very rare to find a child who truly does not care or empathize with others; they often lack the traditional ways to show it)
  3. Helps others (do they have the skill sets to help others, to explain things, and be of assistance?)
  4. Shows loyalty (I don’t even know what this means, for students, loyal? really?)
  5. Works hard (IEP/504 students are some of the most hardworking students ever; they have to work twice as hard to get half as far; are you judging them based on the progress they’ve made, and is that really fair?)
  6. Is resilient (again, disabled students have to put up with much more than non disabled students)
  7. Shows independence (seriously? the ability to be independent is a character trait, for a disabled person?)
  8. Cooperates (an ableist society tells us that the disabled child must always concede to the abled child; rarely is the abled child thought of as ‘non-cooperative’ if he/she does not want to go along with the disabled child)

Student Strengths Checklist

Here is the above list in a PDF. If it does not appear in the window below, please click here: Student IEP Strengths PDF

Child Strengths and Student Strengths examples, by category.

Cognitive Skills Strengths

The IEP team should evaluate the student’s cognitive skills, including their ability to reason, solve problems, think abstractly, and understand complex ideas. This evaluation may include a standardized test, observations, and interviews with the student and their parents.

The team should use this information to identify the student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses and develop goals that build on their strengths while addressing their weaknesses.

Academic Strengths

The IEP team should also review the student’s academic performance to identify their strengths and weaknesses in different subjects. This review may include assessments, grades, and teacher observations.

The team should use this information to develop goals that build on the student’s academic strengths while addressing their weaknesses.

Social Skills Strengths

The IEP team should assess the student’s social skills, including their ability to interact with peers and adults, communicate effectively, and manage their emotions. This evaluation may include observations, interviews, and social skills assessments.

The team should use this information to develop goals that build on the student’s social strengths while addressing their weaknesses.

A thorough assessment of a student’s abilities is critical to developing an effective IEP that meets their unique needs. By identifying the student’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas, the IEP team can develop goals that build on the student’s strengths while addressing their weaknesses.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you identify a student’s strengths for an IEP?

To identify a student’s strengths for an IEP, teachers can use a variety of methods such as observation, informal assessments, and interviews with the student and their parents. Teachers can look for areas in which the student excels, whether it be in academics, social skills, or extracurricular activities. By identifying these strengths, teachers can build on them to help the student achieve their goals.

What are some common strengths to include in an IEP?

Some common strengths to include in an IEP include academic strengths such as reading, writing, and math skills. Other strengths to consider include social skills, communication skills, and physical abilities.

It’s important to note that strengths can vary from student to student, and teachers should take into account each individual student’s unique abilities.

How can you incorporate a child’s interests and preferences into their IEP?

Incorporating a child’s interests and preferences into their IEP can help motivate them and make learning more enjoyable. Teachers can work with the student and their parents to identify areas of interest, such as hobbies or favorite subjects, and find ways to incorporate them into the student’s learning plan.

For example, if a student loves animals, teachers can incorporate animal-themed activities into lessons.

What are some examples of academic strengths to note in an IEP?

Examples of academic strengths to note in an IEP include reading fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary skills, as well as writing skills such as grammar and sentence structure.

Math skills such as problem-solving, computation, and geometry can also be noted as academic strengths.

In what ways can a student’s social strengths be reflected in an IEP?

A student’s social strengths can be reflected in an IEP by noting their ability to communicate effectively, work well in groups, and show empathy towards others.

Teachers can also note any leadership qualities the student possesses, as well as their ability to resolve conflicts and problem-solve with others.

How should a teacher document a student’s strengths during IEP assessments?

During IEP assessments, teachers should document a student’s strengths by taking detailed notes and keeping track of any progress the student makes. Teachers can also use rubrics or checklists to objectively measure a student’s abilities in different areas. It’s important to keep accurate and up-to-date records of a student’s strengths to ensure that their IEP is tailored to their individual needs.

I hope this list gets your IEP team focused on student strengths and IEP strengths, and helps with progress!

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