Strength-Based Assessment for Children with Autism and Related with Disabilities in Kosovo
Ari Kokol and Faculty Mentor: Blake Hansen, Counseling Psychology and Special
Kosovo was a focal point of conflict in the wars in Yugoslavia in the late 1990s. In 2008, Kosovo
declared independence from Serbia leaving Kosovo partially recognized as an independent state
today. Due to the combination of war, ethnic conflict, and poverty, Kosovo has been left with
little resources available to meet the needs of parents and educators. Caring for children with
these types of disabilities puts a heavy strain on Kosovar Families. “For parents of children with
autism, identifying positive characteristics of the child and the relationship may be particularly
beneficial because the stressors associated with the disability are likely to be chronic, and cannot
be easily mastered.” (Steiner, 2010)
The focus of behavior assessments in special education is primarily on the behavioral problems
children exhibit (Cosden, Koegel, Koegel, Greenwell, & Klein, 2006). Functional behavioral
assessment interviews will ask questions pertaining to all aspects of problem behaviors including
how frequent, how intense, or what impact the behavior has on the people in the child’s
environment (Floyd, Phaneuf, & Wilcynski, 2005). Some of the behavioral assessments might
address this problem by including questions about positive social behaviors or successful
communication skills, but are usually asked as an afterthought (Cosden, et al., 2006). Strengthbased
assessments seek to focus fundamentally on the strengths children possess rather than their
29 parents (75.86% female) of children (51.73% male) with specific learning needs including
autism completed the questionnaires pertaining to this study. The average age of parents was
44.2 years (range= 26-59 years) and the average age of the children was 4.93 years (range= 3-21
years). Parents were paid $5 US dollars for their participation in the study.
The present study seeks to evaluate the Strength-Based Assessment of child behavior among
Kosovar families whose children have disabilities. The current study is a continuation of a
current project where interviews have been conducted in Bosnia, Albania, and Macedonia.
Research is needed to provide positive behavior support to the Kosovar families with children
that have special needs.
Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire The SDQ was a 25-item rating scale with strong
internal and external validity. The SDQ had five subscales including: emotional problems,
conduct problems, hyperactivity problems, peer problems, and prosocial strengths. The Albanian
language version of the SDQ was an approved translation available at sdqinfo.org
Strength Based Questionnaire The SBQ was a 13-item, open-ended questionnaire that included
items highlighting strengths in communication, helpful behaviors, challenging behaviors, adult
and peer relationships, and appropriate behaviors. The SBQ was translated and back-translated
by Arianna Kokol and back-translated by Blake Hansen (faculty mentor). Both had extensive
experience with the Albanian language, including the Gheg dialect that is spoken in Kosovo. We
conducted the SBQ as an interview with nine parents, and asked questions of it from 22 parents.
Analysis The SDQ was scored according to the original authors’ directions. Frequency counts of
each type of statement on the SBQ was conducted. The resulting outcome was summarized in
terms of frequency within the group of parents who completed it.
The results on the SBQ were scored by summarizing strengths and difficulties recorded by
parents. Overall, 57.1% of parents stated their children had difficulty concentrating or exhibiting
inattentive behavior and 42.9% stated their children cried frequently. On average, 28.6% of
parents reported their children’s greatest strength was helping with household chores and 57.1%
of parents reported their children’s greatest strengths in comprehension and compliance to
As in our prior studies, the results showed that the an open-ended questionnaire was more
sensitive for identifying strengths than the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Therefore,
clinicians and educators in Kosovo should use both the SDQ and our open-ended questionnaire
in order to indicate both strengths and difficulties to inform behavior adjustment.
The open-ended questionnaire is useful to parents and educators by focusing on the strengths and
positive behaviors of children with autism. Parents and Educations who continue to use the
existing SDQ coupled with the SBQ will be better-equipped to care for these children and help
them to succeed.
Carr, E. (1999). Positive Behavior Support for People with Developmental Disabilities: A
Research Synthesis. Washington DC: AAMR.
Cosden, M., Koegel, L., R., Greenwell, A., & Klein, E. (2006). Strength-Based Assessment for
Children WIth Autism Spectrum Disorders. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe
Disabilities, 31(2), 134-143.
Floyd, R.G., Phaneuf, R.L., & Wilczynski, S.M. (2005). Measurement properties of indirect
assessment methods for functional behavioral assessment: A review of research. School
Psychology Review, 34 (1), 58-73.
Mossman-Steiner, A. (2010). A Strength-based approach to parent education for children with
autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 13(3), 178-190.