Tag Archives: parent support

Teaching Students about Their Learning Strengths and Weaknesses

by Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking

Over the years, I have observed so many students get upset by the fact they had “autism” or “Asperger syndrome” or “ADHD.” While they could verbalize these terms aloud, they still didn’t seem to understand what their learning challenges actually were.

I have also observed many adults explaining to students that the reason they were having difficulty socializing, studying, and learning was because they had “autism” or “Asperger’s syndrome”, or “ADHD.” I thought this was a really abstract way of explaining to students with limited abstract thinking how best to understand their own learning challenges. I also have observed that many of our smart but socially not-in-step students were using their label as an excuse for not working at learning new ideas; they interpreted the fact that they had a diagnostic label as a reason to not continue to learn.

I have also been inspired by the writings of other professionals who describe learning abilities and challenges within a framework of “multiple intelligences” (see Howard Gardner). Essentially this means that each of us have different types of intelligences and we each have our strengths and weaknesses with regard to our own brain’s design.

Strengths and Weakness Lesson

The lesson I developed is about teaching our students and adults how to understand their social learning challenges in the context of their overall abilities and then how they can use their strengths to learn more strategies related to their weaknesses. I have done this lesson with students as young as eight years old and as old as they come.

The lesson is very simple. To save explaining it all with words, see the chart below.

Strength and Weakness Graph

Here are some basic things I do as I develop this type of chart with the student:

  1. Each chart is completely personalized for the person I am developing it with. It is not about recording test scores that purport to show competencies. The chart is about how the student perceives his or her own strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, you create the chart using any areas that are individualized to the student.
  2. To determine the ideas/areas to post on the chart, take time to talk to students and listen to what they enjoy doing and what they feel they do well.
  3. Always start by graphing out their strengths. It is good to show many perceived strengths. Again, strengths are not about listing academic tasks exclusively. If a student says she is really good at playing a specific computer game or Legos then we make that a category and talk about what number to give it on the chart.
  4. It is also important to find some areas where students perceive they are just OK – their skills are not good or bad. They perceive themselves to be similar to the average person in that area of functioning, or a “5” on the scale. With kids, you can use language such as:
    • “First tell me what you think you are really good at compared to other kids you know.” After you and the student have listed three to five areas on the chart then say,
    • “Now tell me something you are just OK at – you’re like most other kids during playing or learning.”
    • “Now tell me some things that your brain doesn’t make easy for you…things you have noticed most other people can learn easier than you.”
    • Who talks a lot in your class?
    • Who doesn’t tend to do their homework?
    • Who is really good in math?
    • Who is super friendly?
    • Who is mean?If students aren’t used to thinking about how they function compared to others, I will shift gears to explore the idea that we all think about what others around us are doing. At this point, I will ask the student to tell me things like:

    By having this discussion, you help them notice that they are aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses. This often helps them put their own abilities in perspective.

  5. If students can’t answer the questions, I go back and suggest ideas similar to my earlier conversation with them. Ultimately I am doing this to help them put their learning challenges in context. Our students with social emotional learning challenges are usually not good at spontaneously describing what they don’t do well; this is not something people usually talk about. Some ideas I ask them to consider include:
    • How do you do with keeping track of your homework assignments and doing the homework?
    • How do you do with writing paragraphs or reports (writing short responses on paper may have been a strength, while writing longer information is often a challenge)
    • How do you do making guesses about what you are reading?
    • How do you do with playing in a group?
    • How do you do with getting into a group?
    • How do you do talking to other kids?
    • Or I may just ask them about their “social skills”

    It’s important not to overwhelm students when discussing things that are harder for them to do. This is uncomfortable for most of us! Choose some main idea to explore based on what concerns exist with a particular student. At this point, students are usually willing to list these as weaknesses compared to the other areas on the chart.

  6. What to do if students rate a weakness as a perceived strength?I routinely make a chart of my brain’s strengths and weaknesses so they experience their teacher/leader admitting to weaknesses. Then, I’ll write the area they mentioned as a strength on the chart and pause there to discuss it more in the context of the others’ strengths. More often than not, students decide it should be listed as a lower number on the scale. However, I have worked with students who are genuinely afraid to list something as a weakness. In those cases I reassure them that everyone has weaknesses, including me. On rare occasions, I have said to a student, “Actually, this is an area that you are not as good at and this is why you are here today.” Then I lower the ranking on that social area on the scale compared to the other areas listed, while explaining that it is expected and OK that people have learning weaknesses.
  7. If you are familiar with the teachings of Social Thinking® you will also be able to explain how socially-based learning weaknesses (organizational skills, written expression, social relationships, reading comprehension, etc.) are all related. Making this connection with our students helps them see how they don’t have all that many weaknesses. Instead, there is a weak root system that leads to different areas of weakness. (For more information on this please read about the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking in the book Inside Out: What Makes Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits TickThis concept is also the focus of the article, Social Thinking – Social Learning Tree.”)
  8. You will find your students are usually pretty honest about themselves. It is often amazing how they are willing to talk about the fact they have strengths and weaknesses when it’s presented this way. When they have strengths in language and learning facts, we can then explain how these abilities will help them learn more information in the areas where learning is not as easy or natural to them.
  9. Once the chart is completed, I then go on to talk about what it means to have a learning disability: that the student has relative learning weaknesses compared to their strengths or even the “OK” areas of learning. Remarkably, many of our students don’t understand what learning disabilities or differences are, so they react to their weaknesses with anger rather than understanding they can usually use some of their learning strengths to help them in their weaker areas. I have worked through anger about learning differences much more successfully using this scale.
  10. You will find that your students/adults are much more willing to discuss how they learn, what they are good at, and what they are not so astute at learning in this context, compared to simply talking to them about the fact they have ASD, AS, ADHD, etc.
  11. Once you’ve reached this point with students, the next step is to discuss specific things they can work at learning to boost their area of weakness to a higher number on the scale. I also explain that they likely will never get their weak area as high as their strong areas, because their strengths are what their brain is naturally good at learning. But they can improve how they do in their weaker areas as long as they work at learning!

Once you make the chart you can refer back to it session after session. It is also a helpful tool when explaining to parents/caregivers what our students’ labels really mean in terms of their learning abilities.

A note on language: The language-based explanation, “Your brain doesn’t make this easy for you,” helps many of our students put their challenges in context. Make sure you regularly point out when they are doing things their brains do make easy for them, and not only talk about their areas of weakness or areas that need improving.

Final, final note: The “art” of teaching is critical in this lesson. Stay in step with your students emotionally while you go through this lesson. Spend some significant time talking about what they are good at and pretty good at, rather than rush to their weaknesses and then spend all your time on this area. Remember, our students are often really talented when we are not demanding they participate in socially-based situations. Take time to celebrate the many things they do well to give them the strength to talk about what they don’t do as well.

Source: https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Teaching+Students+about+Their+Learning+Strengths+and+Weaknesses&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_teachingstudentsabout

[My note: Social Thinking is a terrific resource for families and professionals dealing with children who have socializing challenges.]

for Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and spelling help in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Central Ohio Branch of IDA Conference Friday March 1, 2013

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COBIDA Annual Spring Conference

The Central Ohio Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, COBIDA is holding its annual spring conference on Friday March 1, 2013;  8 am to 4 pm at the OCLC Conference Center 6600 Kilgour Place, Dublin OH 43017


Unlocking Literacy: Teaching decoding, spelling, and vocabulary to older students.

Presentation specifically designed to give teachers numerous strategies and activities for use in the classroom or tutoring including morphology, context clues, dictionary/thesaurus use, word association, multiple meanings and figurative language.

Presented by Marcia Henry, PhD, Professor Emeritus, San Jose State University.  Past President, The International Dyslexia Association (1992-1996)


Presentation specifically designed to focus on issues that impact dyslexic children and their parents.  Areas addressed will include

 Special Education Advocacy: Doug Shank, Parent of a dyslexic child

Update: Ohio Dyslexia Legislation: Earl B Oremus, M Ed, Central Ohio Member of the Ohio Board of Regents, Dyslexia Task Force, Marburn Academy Head of School

Legal Tools for Attacking Reading: Judith Saltzman, Attorney, Hickman & Lowder Co., LPA

Unlocking Self-Esteem in Children With Dyslexia: Susan Weltner-Brunton PhD , Licenced Psychologist

Contact Casaundra Crawford, COBIDA, crcoption8@yahoo.com  or phone 216-333-5558

COBIDA PO Box 340426 Columbus OH 43234

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Verticy Learning: Home Schooling With Orton-Gillingham

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Verticy Learning is a joint initiative of Jemicy School and Calvert School.

According to the web site, Verticy Learning’s  academic program is ready for elementary and middle school students who struggle with reading, writing and spelling. 

Verticy Learning is the complete home-based academic solution specifically designed to address the needs of students with language-based learning differences.

The Verticy Learning program features Orton-Gillingham and multi-sensory learning strategies, flexible pacing by subject, and technology-based tools combined to assist students in overcoming obstacles to learning. 


The Jemicy School has educated bright, college-bound students who struggle to reach their pull potential in traditional academic programs. 

Jemicy’s highly trained, experienced faculty is proficient in various multi-sensory learning methods that have been proven in their classrooms year after year.  These methods are highly successful in helping students with dyslexia and other LLDs learn how to read, write and spell despite their learning differences.

Calvert School has stood for the best in home education for over a century.  The school prides itself on providing the finest curriculum, superior support and the best resources. 

Since 1906, Calvert School has helped parents deliver an expert home-based education. 

Calvert combines time tested curriculum materials with high-quality, innovative computer-based technology to educate students in a 21st century learning environment. 

Now Verticy leverages Calvert School’s expertise in home education to empower parents to deliver instruction with confidence.

Verticy Learning

The program empowers parents and teachers to deliver specialized instruction:

  • Course materials for a full year of instruction
  • Lesson manuals with a daily lesson plan
  • Online resources to support offline activities
  • Personal support from professional teachers
  • Additional options for enhanced support

In addition, flexible placement across four areas creates a custom experience: phonics/spelling; grammar composition; math; core subjects [science, history, literature, geography, computer skills and art.

Online and Multimedia Resources

Verticy Learning offers web-based instructional tools which are essential to success:

  • My Verticy
  • Kidspiration or Inspiration
  • Raz-Kids
  • Reading a-z
  • Bookshare
  • Aha! Math
  • Kurzweil (optional)
  • Phoneme audio library
  • Parent training video

And families all around the world are never alone with Verticy Learning. 

Educational Counselors and LLD Specialists available are experienced teachers.  They offer parents and students ongoing support throughout the year.  Every family enrolled in Verticy Learning may contact them via phone, e-mail, or through live chat to get answers to curriculum questions.

Education counselors help parents address any concerns that arise by offering alternative teaching strategies and other practical advice. 

And each course also includes a DVD with a teacher and student modeling the actual teaching techniques employed in the course.

Families may choose to enhance their academic support through the Verticy Advisory Teaching Service (ATS).  ATS is available to all Verticy students.

Through correspondence, students and parents will develop a relationship with an Advisory Teacher every 20 lessons.  The Advisory Teacher grades each student’s tests, and offers corrections, support, and encouragement. 

Enrollment in ATS includes a certificate of completion and an official transcript.

Verticy Live Tutor provides live, one-to-one interactive tutoring session via computer.  Live Tutor is conducted by learning specialists and is available to all Verticy students in 3- minute sessions.

Supplemental Learning programs are available.

The Verticy Learning curriculum is available as a comprehensive curriculum program (all subject areas).  It can also be a supplemental program focusing on phonics/spelling, grammar/composition, and/or mathematics.  

The supplemental programs can be used in a variety of ways: at home after school, with a tutor, in a school classroom or reading room, or as part of a complete curriculum for home learners.

And each supplemental enrollment still includes all of the personal support of Verticy education counselors and learning specialists.

The Verticy Learning Website is http://www.verticylearning.org.  For more information contact Kenneth Karpay kkarpay@calvertservices.org or phone 443-799-5658. 

 tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Teen Bullying Prevention: New National Web Site

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The PACER Center’s national Center for Bullying Prevention recently launched http://www.TeensAgainstBullying.org, an innovative bullying preventon resource.

At the site, teens can become a powerful part of the movement to end bullying.  Teens themselves participated in the creative process of developing the site.

Through videos, blogs, and social networking, the site’s resounding message is “the end of bullying begins with you.”

For 30 years, the PACER Center has been a parent training and information center for families of children and youth with all disabilities from birth through 21 years of age.

It is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but serves families all across the nation.   Parents can find publications, workshops, and other resources to help make decisions about education, vocational training, employment, and other services for their children with disabilities.

Its mission is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents

For example:

  • PACER provides information, support, workshops and referrals to both families and professionals.
  • PACER provides puppet programs on disability awareness and abuse prevention.
  • PACER’s Simon Technology Center provides software, adaptive devices and training to help children and young adults with disabilities learn to communicate through technology.
  • PACER provides programs for Native Americans, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Somali and Southeast Asian communities. (Many publications have been translated into Hmong, Somali and Spanish.)
  • PACER’s  Health Information and Advocacy Center provides a single source of information, including resources and support, for families whose children have disabilities and complex health care needs.
  • PACER offers consultation and technical assistance (through the Technical Assistance ALLIANCE for Parent Centers) to the over 100 parent centers across the nation funded under tyhe federal Individuals with Dsabilities Education Act  (IDEA).  This work affects 7 million children with disabilities across the nation.
  • PACER offers programs focusing on employment, grandparents and (see above) bullying prevention.

source: PACER ad in LDA Newsbriefs November/December 2009.  Visit http://www.pacer.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Central OHIO Parents’ Special Needs Connection April 2 2009

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A support group for parents of special needs children will meet in Delaware OH on April 2, 2009.

“Parent/Professional Communication: Dispelling Myths About Parent/Professional Relationships”

The goal is to learn, share information  and support each other.

  • Where —home of Molly King, 130 Big Run Road, Delaware OH 43015
  • Date —April 2, 2009
  • Time — 7: 00 to 8:30 pm
  • Speaker —Nancy Mandernach, Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD)
  • Topic — Parent/Professional Communication: Understanding the parent’s point of view, feelings and attitudes in trying to secure appropriate services; understanding the professional perspective (dispel myths about parent/professional relationships)
  • RSVP — so there will be enough materials

Contact Molly at home: 740-369-4047 or on cell: 614-581-6675, or email mking@nextgenaccess.com  

if you would like to receive direct information via email about meetings in central Ohio,  ask to be added to  Heather Endres’s mailing list.  heather.endres@gmail.com  

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com