Michael H. Epstein
University of Nebraska
Association in Behavioral Health
Deficits, problems, and pathologies! Deficits, problems, and pathologies! When children and youth are referred for specialized services, professionals typically label and describe them in terms of the deficits, problems, and pathologies they present. Deficit-oriented terms such as "conduct disordered," "depressed,""psychotic," and "socially maladjusted" are oftentimes used to describe children. In special education, mental health, and other social service disciplines, there exist numerous instruments that assess the emotional and behavioral disorders of children. While many of these instruments have strong psychometric properties and are useful in identifying a childs situation, these instruments tell us very little about a childs strengths, competencies, preferences, resources, and supports.
Education and social service plans that are based on the deficits, problems, or pathologies of children direct the attention of professionals to only one view of the child. Specifically, they tell us what a child does poorly. As Kral (1989) stated, "If we ask people to look for deficits, they will usually find them, and their view of the situation will be colored by this. If we ask people to look for successes, they will usually find it, and their view of the situation will be colored by this" (p. 32). Strength-based assessment directs the professional to identify and build upon the existing strengths and skills that the child and family presents.Next Section
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