Tackling the IEP process through a strengths-based model remains largely ignored, even after many decades of research indicating its efficacy. However, to create a positive, inclusive school climate where the academic, social, and emotional needs of all learners are met, a strengths-based approach to crafting the goals and objectives in an IEP is key. Through this model, student’s strengths and competencies are leveraged to enhance future growth, parents are more invested in the process, and a student’s sense of value is bolstered. The stigma often felt by students with exceptionalities, along with the inference that these students are “less than,” are inherently embedded in deficit-based IEPs. This presentation presents both teachers and parents practical strategies and questions to ask so that the IEP focus shifts from what a student can not do to what a student can do, ultimately providing a pathway to greater student engagement and learning.
Working in education for 23 years, Dr. Kara A. Loftin has dedicated her career to developing and facilitating interventions and support for K-12 students with exceptionalities. As Head of School at The Craig School, she oversees an evidence-based school program that values parent-school partnerships and is grounded in Orton-Gillingham instructional practices, multi-sensory learning, whole child development, and organizational skills development. She earned a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado.