The Helpful List of Student Strengths and Weaknesses for IEP Writing

Are you a speech-language pathologist or intervention specialist looking for a list of student strengths and weaknesses for IEP writing? Speech-language pathologists and special education teachers are two examples of professionals who are responsible for the IEP writing process and iep paperwork. Writing an effective IEP is important- but not easy. This blog post provides a list of possible strengths and areas of need for students, which is one piece to consider when writing an Individualized Education Program. However, this area is extremely important as knowing a child’s individual strengths and needs is the key to making that student’s iep meaningful. You may wish to refer to weaknesses as “areas of need” or “developmental differences”. This blog post provides a definition for an IEP, explains the difference between an ETR and an IEP, and also includes some ideas for writing strengths-based iep goals. 

This blog post contains a list of student strengths and weaknesses for IEPs. This information could be useful to a speech-language pathologist, special education teacher, or other educators.

What Is an IEP?

Simply speaking, an IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a plan that is created specifically for a child, to address that child’s individual unique learning needs. 

The IEP is a legal document. 

It explains what specific annual goals, services, and accommodations the child requires in order to access and make progress in the general education curriculum. 

The IEP is a collaborative plan, and it includes input from the parent, the student (when possible), educators, and specialists (which may include related services, such as a Speech-Language Pathologist or Occupational Therapist).

The SLP might be a related service, but in other cases may be case managers.

What Is the Difference Between an IEP and an ETR?

Individualized Education Program

The IEP is based on the ETR. 

The IEP is the plan that is put in place and lists the goals, services, and accommodations that a child requires to be successful in his or her learning environment.

The iep meeting is held annually, often ending one day prior to a year past the meeting date.

Members of IEP teams are often determined by the findings from the ETR.

 For example, if a student demonstrates needs in the areas of communication and fine motor (occupational therapy), then the Speech-Language Pathologist and Occupational Therapist will form part of that team, along with other relevant educators, the student, and the parent/ guardian.

Evaluation Team Report

The ETR, or Evaluation Team Report, is a document that summarizes the results of an evaluation. 

A team of professionals may complete testing and/ or provide input for the Evaluation Team Report. This team may include educators (such as classroom teachers), special education specialists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. The ETR will also include parent input (or guardian input).

The purpose of the ETR is to identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses. An additional purpose is to identify any disabilities or areas of need and provide recommendations for iep goals. 

Speaking of goals…SLPs, check out this vocabulary goal idea bank for further reading.

Why Is It Important to Consider Student Strengths and Weaknesses When Writing an IEP?

It is very important to consider both a student’s strengths and weaknesses when writing an IEP.


First, the IEP team members want to develop reasonable and achievable goals. The student’s developmental level must be kept in mind when writing goals.

Second, considering both student strengths and weaknesses allows one to identify the best ways to teach a student.

Third, when considering a child’s strengths, one can use those strengths to promote success in other areasSo, if your student loves drawing, why not let them create their own articulation word flash cards? 

Finally, recognizing students’ strengths (and interests) can help create a positive learning environment. 

Scroll down to see a list of student strengths and weaknesses for iep writing.

Who Provides IEP Input for Strengths and Weaknesses?

The IEP is a collaborative plan, meaning that a team is working together.

This team can include the student (if possible), the student’s parent or guardian, the student’s teachers, and other educational professionals. 

These professionals might include intervention specialists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. 

Other professionals may also be included, such as audiologists and vision specialists, depending on a child’s needs.

Writing a Strength-Based IEP for Speech Therapy

Strength-based IEPs can be beneficial for a student because they focus on a student’s abilities and interests. They consider a child’s unique personality. 

A strength-based IEP can use the child’s strengths to address areas of weakness. Scroll down for some specific examples that speech-language pathologists might find beneficial!

Positive language is used when writing strength-based IEPs. 

As a parent myself, I can’t stress this enough. 

Yes, we are writing this IEP because a student has a particular need or needs, but recognizing a child’s strengths and interests goes a long way toward promoting success.

Another thing to remember is this: strength-based IEP goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Need some academic strengths? Don’t forget to include input from your student’s general education teacher. They can help you by providing their input when creating a list of student strengths and weaknesses for iep writing.

Speech-language pathologists have the unique position of often seeing students individually or in small groups, but the child’s teacher can provide a list of areas of strength observed in the classroom setting.

Strength-Based IEP Goal Ideas for Speech Therapy

Do you want to write more strength-based IEP goals? 

First, you could consider breaking down the steps into the goal you want your student to achieve.

After that, consider the strengths the student is already exhibiting while doing so.

If you wish, you could your student: “You are so amazing at (insert strength). Let’s use that to help work on (new skill).” 

Here are some ideas for speech-language pathologists. 

Articulation Strength-Based IEP Goal Ideas

When looking at articulation, phonology, or motor speech skills (such as CAS), first take a look at what that child can do. 

Then consider how those strengths can allow them to accomplish their next objective.

If your student can produce a sound in words but not sentences, your goal wording might include “will use his strength in producing the /k/ sound in words to increase his ability to produce the /k/ sound in sentences”.

Or perhaps your student could produce a vowel or dipthong in isolation, and needs to produce that vowel/ dipthong in CV or VC combinations.

Your goal could state the child can “use her strength in producing the vowel/ dipthong “oi” (as in boy) in isolation to produce the /oi/ dipthong in CV and CVC combinations”. 

When I use my vocalic r program, I often use the /er/ sound in isolation to produce all other vocalic r sounds. It is highly likely your student targeting R can say it in at least one context (prevocalic r, r blends, or other vocalic r sounds) and this is a strength to focus on! 

Or perhaps you have found they are stimulable to produce a bunched r or retroflexed r. This is excellent news and definitely a strength worth celebrating! 

Receptive and Expressive Language Strength-Based IEP Goal Ideas

Need some ideas for language?

Perhaps your student has mastered following one-step directions (the strength) but now needs to focus on multi-step directions.

Your wording could include “will use his strength in following one-step directions to increase his ability to follow multi-step directions”.

Does your student enjoy telling you stories about her weekend?

 Maybe this strength could be used to target an objective for retelling stories.

Areas to Consider

A child’s academic strength might be considered, but also strengths in other areas, such as organizational skills, study skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, creativity, communication, collaboration, leadership skills, and social-emotional skills.

These areas are beneficial to consider when creating a list of student strengths and weaknesses for iep writing.

Here is a list of areas that could be considered:

  1. Academic Skills: How is the student performing in specific subjects, such as math or science? Consider subjects that are both a strength and an area of difficulty.
  2. Organizational Skills: This area includes skills such as time management, keeping an area clean, and setting priorities.
  3. Study Skills: What techniques and strategies does the student use to learn and retain information? Effective note-taking is one example of an effective study skill.
  4. Problem-Solving Skills: This area considers how well a student can identify, analyze, and resolve challenges. 
  5. Critical Thinking Skills: Can a student think carefully, ask questions, and look at information from different angles? 
  6. Creativity: This involves the ability to come up with new ideas and imaginative ways to solve problems. Art, music, dance, and writing skills can fall into this realm. 
  7. Communication: Can a student convey thoughts, ideas, and information effectively? This can include both non-verbal and verbal methods of communication.
  8. Collaboration Skills: This area measures how well a student can work effectively with others.
  9. Leadership Skills: Can a student guide and inspire others towards a common objective? Good leadership skills also require a student to have effective decision-making and communication skills.
  10. Social-emotional Skills: This involves a student being able to understand and manage his emotions, as well as understand the emotions of others. 
  11. Self-Help Skills– Otherwise known as ADLs (activities of daily living), this area looks at how well a student can perform tasks such as hygiene, self-care, dressing, and feeding. 
  12. Mobility and Motor Skills: This area considers fine and gross motor skills.
  13. Sensory Processing Skills: How does a student process sensory input? The Occupational Therapist is a valuable resource!
  14. Social Skills: This area looks at how a student interacts with peers and adults.
  15. Behavior: Challenging behaviors, or positive behavior management strategies, might be considered. 
  16. Cognitive Skills: This area considers skills related to memory, attention, reasoning, critical thinking, executive functioning, and understanding information.
  17. Medical Needs: Are there any health conditions, medications, or medical equipment?

Can you think of any additional areas to add?

This article provides a list of 127 possible student strengths and weaknesses for IEP writing. Speech-language pathologists and intervention specialists might find this list beneficial.

Student Strength List

Here is a list of strengths of the student that could be used when writing an IEP. 

It is also helpful to find out what interests, passions, and hobbies a child has when writing the IEP. This can assist with finding additional specific strengths to include in your report. 

  1. kind
  2. helpful
  3. empathetic 
  4. curious
  5. creative
  6. energetic
  7. cooperative
  8. confident
  9. patient
  10. caring
  11. responsible
  12. persistent
  13. generous
  14. thoughtful
  15. assertive
  16. self-aware
  17. optimistic
  18. compassionate
  19. great sense of humor
  20. self-advocates
  21. respectful
  22. honest
  23. good listener
  24. conflict resolver
  25. motivated
  26. hard worker
  27. attentive
  28. stays on task
  29. positive attitude 
  30. excellent problem-solving skills
  31. follows directions
  32. works independently
  33. manages time effectively
  34. flexible
  35. uses coping strategies
  36. organized
  37. includes others
  38. excellent at math
  39. strong reading comprehension
  40. excellent memory retention
  41. excellent leadership skills
  42. exceptional skills in (provide area)

Here are some specific communication strengths that a Speech-Language Pathologist may wish to include:

  1. excellent articulation skills
  2. able to recognize and manipulate sounds (phonological awareness)
  3. effective expressive language skills
  4. excellent receptive language skills
  5. strong vocabulary skills
  6. ability to retell stories
  7. ability to create complex sentences
  8. makes meaningful and relevant associations between words
  9. demonstrates object imitation skills
  10. understands and uses figurative language effectively
  11. demonstrates the ability to categorize and classify objects
  12. imitates gestures, such as waving or actions to songs
  13. effectively uses gestures to express needs/ wants
  14. enjoys playing with toys
  15. uses gestures paired with spoken words or word approximations
  16. uses exclamations during play-based activities, such as “Uh oh!”
  17. uses a multi-modal (or total communication) approach to express wants/ needs effectively
  18. proficient at navigating AAC device
  19. effectively uses core vocabulary
  20. effectively engages in social interactions using an AAC device or communication board
  21. participates in group activities and classroom discussions using an AAC device
  22. effectively uses gestures, facial expressions, and body language to convey a message

Weaknesses List

This includes a list of possible weaknesses of the student- in other words, areas of need, or possibly even developmental differences. In keeping with positive language, I like to use a “growth mindset” approach. I frequently use the word “yet” when describing areas of need. For example, the student is not yet (enter skill or target).   

  1. difficulty planning/ organizing tasks
  2. time management difficulties
  3. difficulty with task initiation
  4. has trouble keeping track of assignments and/ or supplies
  5. struggles to complete tasks on time
  6. difficulty with maintaining an organized workspace
  7. ineffective problem-solving
  8. difficulty with sequencing
  9. spatial-awareness difficulty 
  10. struggles with analyzing information
  11. struggles with making inferences
  12. difficulty with generating new ideas
  13. demonstrates difficulty with peer relationships
  14. has difficulty paying attention or staying focused during instruction
  15. difficulty with self-advocacy
  16. interrupts 
  17. difficulty with taking turns
  18. has difficulty sharing with peers
  19. fine motor difficulties
  20. sensory processing needs
  21. challenges with managing and expressing emotions appropriately
  22.  poor impulse control
  23. struggles with transitions
  24. challenges with self-help skills (can include feeding, toileting, dressing)
  25. struggles with safety awareness
  26. engages in elopement behavior from the classroom
  27. difficulty recognizing and responding to social cues
  28. has difficulty with following the daily routine
  29. struggles with participation during group activities
  30. conflict resolution
  31. stress management
  32. difficulty in (list specific subject areas)

Here are some specific communication difficulties that a Speech-Language Pathologist may wish to include:

  1. articulation difficulties that impact intelligibility
  2. limited vocabulary
  3. reduced vocabulary comprehension
  4. difficulty with identifying the main idea and details
  5. processing difficulties
  6. difficulty following multi-step directions
  7. struggles with identifying and/ or understanding prefixes and suffixes
  8. difficulty with using derivational morphemes to change word meanings (e.g., “happy” to “happiness”)
  9. struggles with using grammatical morphemes 
  10. uses incorrect word order
  11. struggles with understanding and use of prepositions
  12. difficulty with using conjunctions
  13. struggles with understanding multiple-meaning words
  14. has trouble understanding complex sentences
  15. struggles with interpreting metaphors and similes 
  16. difficulty with understanding word relationships
  17. challenges with using appropriate volume, pitch, or rate of speech
  18. limited ability to express thoughts and needs clearly
  19. difficulty with narrative skills and story retelling
  20. limited ability to ask and answer questions 
  21. difficulty with conversational turn-taking
  22. trouble initiating conversation
  23. difficulties in understanding and using complex vocabulary
  24. challenges with understanding and use of appropriate grammar and sentence structure 
  25. difficulty understanding and/ or using idiomatic expressions
  26. not yet imitating actions with objects
  27. is not yet imitating gestures
  28. does not yet use language for a variety of communicative functions
  29. not yet imitating sounds or exclamations 
  30. struggles with engaging in imaginative play
  31. needs to increase mean length of utterance (MLU)


In conclusion, hopefully, this blog post provided a great starting point for speech therapists and other educational professionals who are writing IEPs! 

This article explained what an Individualized Education Program is, and the difference between an ETR (Evaluation Team Report) and an IEP (Individualized Education Program).

The IEP team can include the student, parent, general education teachers, and other educational professionals. All members of the team may wish to provide input on a student’s strengths and areas of need.

A student’s strengths can be used to target areas of need.

To see a list of student strengths and weaknesses for iep, simply scroll up. A comprehensive list of student strengths and weaknesses for iep writing was provided.

Many SLPs and other professionals may wish to write strengths-based ieps while creating an education plan.

Additionally, getting-started suggestions were provided for speech-language pathologists wishing to write strength-based iep goals related to articulation and receptive and expressive language.

Looking for more goal ideas?

SLPs may wish to read the following related articles:

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