Being Strength Based is Important

This post has been kindly shared with us by Jeffrey Guenzel, CEO of the International Council on Development and Learning (ICDL), originally posted on Jeff's Blog, October 27 2021

This is an important concept and one that I think people often say, but don’t necessarily follow through on.  Earlier today someone said that they were addressing a behavior because it was “dysfunctional”.  

What does that mean?  Who is defining the “dys” in that judgement?  

Even if, from our perspective, the behavior we are seeing does not seem to be helping the individual or if the person may genuinely be stuck, it seems better to me to reframe the “dysfunctional” to “it is the most functional behavior the person has at the time.”  

The former is deficit-based and defined by behaviors and neurotypical norms.  The latter is strength-based and developmental in nature. 

I wrote the following in response to a DIR Research Forum post today about whether there is a place for stopping a child who is scripting:

The idea of stopping anything that another human is doing that is not dangerous or infringing upon the rights of others always causes me pause. Both personally and professionally. From a professional standpoint, if an individual seems stuck I always think first about what I can help them develop that can increase their internal capacities and sense of agency so that they have more options for engaging in the world most fully, but in a manner they choose. That can effectively be achieved in a strength-based DIR process of following their lead, joining, expanding, elaborating, etc.”

Part of the concept of “following the child’s lead” is starting with what a person can do and where their interests are and joining them in relationship from there.  Building the foundation.  Building internal capacities.  Expanding and elaborating.  It’s all strength-based. 

I think at times there can be pressures from the world to “fix” kids or people and to make them “normal”.  This is not DIR and not what we do in DIR. 

DIR is about development.  Helping individuals develop while understanding and respecting their individual differences and engaging in meaningful relationships that will help fuel that development. 

Jeff posed a question to his readers at the end of this blog, and we pose the same to the members of the Allied Health and Therapy Network who read this now: what does it mean to you to be strength-based?

We'll pose another one: if you're not already doing so, how might you reframe your therapy approach to make it more strength-based?

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Being Strength Based is Important