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  • 3 “Rules to Live By” When Writing IFSP Outcomes & Goals(current)

There are many “rules to live by” when developing IFSP outcomes, and some of these rules vary from state to state. In Virginia, our IFSP Chalkboard: Know the Rulesincludes both long-term outcomes and short-term goals; in other states, only long-term outcomes are included. When you have to write both, it can be tricky to make sure that outcomes and goals are meaningful, measurable, and, of course, individualized. This really is a tall order!

Whenever we do training related to the IFSP or outcome development, we’re always asked for examples of good outcomes and goals. I’m going to try to provide a few examples and I’d love to get your feedback! These examples will be framed in the context of 3 “rules to live by” when developing outcomes and goals. Here goes:

Rule to Live By #1 – BOTH outcomes and goals should be individualized and measurable.

Bad example: Jason will use words to express his wants and needs.

Here we could plug most of the children who receive EI in where we see Jason’s name – the outcome is not individualized. We also don’t know what Jason needs to say or when we’ll know when the outcome is met.

Good example: Jason will use 15 words to ask for people and things he needs, such as his mom, dad, blankie, ball, juice, at least 5x/day  across one week.

This example helps us understand some of the family’s priorities for Jason’s communication (assuming that we asked the parents what they wanted him to say). We also know that Jason has achieved this when he has around 15 words that he uses regularly, as measured by looking across a week.

Rule to Live By #2 – Outcomes and goals should be specific to a meaningful routine or activity.

Bad example:  Jason will use and understand words, follow directions, walk, and play like other children his age.

Wow, Jason will be busy! This long-term outcome is much too full and not the least bit individualized. Too many areas of development are crammed in here.

Good example: Jason will walk across the room independently (5 ft) to get to the dog when he hears the dog’s name everyday for one week.

This outcome combines Jason’s developing motor, cognitive, and receptive language abilities. This could be a long-term outcome or a short-term goal. Being this specific does not mean that this is the ONLY thing that the parent and interventionist address. When Jason can do this specific task, we hope that it will be evidence that he is independently mobile, able to understand some words, and can follow simple directions. This activity would have also been chosen based on info from Jason’s family – perhaps they play a game with Jason, asking him “where’s Barky?” By using this meaningful activity, you help the family understand how development is interrelated and you have a great way to measure progress.

Rule to Live By #3 – Outcomes and goals should relate to each other.

Bad example: LT Outcome – Jason will walk across the room…(same as above)

ST Goal – Jason will eat three bites of textured food without choking at each meal for 2 weeks.

This short-term goal has absolutely nothing to do with the long-term outcome. If Jason needs support with feeding, then in this case, a separate long-term outcome is needed.

Good example: LT Outcome – Jason will chew a variety of textures at his meals, including chicken and other meats, without choking or gagging by feeding himself small bites at each meal for 2 weeks.

ST Goals – Jason will feed himself 3 bites of food using his finger tips or his spoon at each meal for one week. Jason will chew bits of meat without gagging or choking at two meals/day for one week. Jason will sit in his highchair to play for 10 minutes 2x/day for one week.

We can assume that Jason is struggling to eat meat (we would have asked about this before writing the outcome), that he gags a lot, and that his parents want him to start feeding himself. Jason has never been in a high chair but the family has one. The “playing in the high chair” goal might seem unrelated but it is part of getting him acclimated to the chair which will provide the support he needs to reduce his gagging and to learn to self-feed. This outcome is specific to Jason and his family’s priorities and the goals represent small steps that will help Jason achieve the intended outcome.

This is a great time to reflect on the outcomes and goals you and your team write. Do they meet these 3 rules?

What are your “rules to live by” for developing individualized and measurable outcomes and goals?

For more information, visit the VA Early Intervention Professional Development Center’s IFSP and Outcome Development page. For ideas to support your staff as they learn how to develop quality IFSP outcomes and goals, visit our Outcome Development Mini-Lesson and our Quik Reference Guide: Want to Write A Good IFSP Outcome? (PDF, New Window)

7 comments on “3 “Rules to Live By” When Writing IFSP Outcomes & Goals

  • Cori says:

    Great and simple rules to follow. I think I might name my next dog “Barky!”

  • Dana — when you state that in VA you have both long term goals and short term goals are your short term goals or strategies ? I am continually trying to help staff with outcome development.

    Will you give a quick example of what you mean by long term goal (is that your six month outcome?) and short term goal ~~ I want to make sure I am giving staff correct information


    • Great questions, Barbara. Our IFSP in VA requires both long-term outcomes and short-term goals. Including short-term goals is a state-level decision and is not required by Part C of IDEA. Our IFSP is closely linked with our payor sources (insurance, Medicaid, etc.) and is used in the place of a plan-of-care for our therapy providers. Including short-term goals helps meet payor requirements. Many states don’t include short-term goals, so unless your state (I think you’re in WV?) requires it, you might not have to include them. For us, the long-term outcome is typically a 6-12 month goal representing the family’s main priority for the child. The short-term goals are the steps the child will take to reach the outcome. Our IFSPs might have 1-3 long-term outcomes, with a few short-term goals under each.

      Here’s an example of a long-term outcome: Ryan will walk 10 feet across his living room to greet his daddy at the front door when he comes home from work each day for one week. (The goal is specific because it represents Ryan’s family’s main goal – that he learn to walk. The team will know when Ryan’s met it when he can do this activity – of walking across the living room each evening – consistently across a week.)

      Here’s an example of a short-term goal that might go under Ryan’s LTO: Ryan will pull up to stand and cruise the length of the couch (4 feet) to get to his favorite toy three times a day for one week. (The STG represents a step that Ryan will take towards learning to walk. Once he’s cruising along furniture several times a day, the goal will be met.)

      I’d love to know more about how outcomes are written in your state!

  • I must tell you how much I thoroughly enjoy reading the blogs — so great to know we are all on the same page in what we want to accomplish

  • Barbara Tucker says:

    Tomorrow is a staff training on outcomes — I am thinking that your short term goals could be strategies (yes I am in WV)

    My difficulty is I know when an outcome is not fitting the intent, however I stumble on how to help the team rewrite

    thanks Dana — I enjoy our conversations and I so enjoy reading the blogs 🙂


    • Hope your training goes well, Barbara. One of the things I’ve done when an outcome isn’t quite right is keep going back to the family’s priority and actually ask them what it would look like when the child has achieved that goal. Focusing the conversation on what the family says, rather than turning to the professional team members to write the outcome, can help the team keep their focus. It can be challenging, though, when there are other issues that the parents don’t mention as something they want to address. Then you have to balance between addressing their priority and informing them about other issues. Remember that even if you get one good outcome at the initial IFSP, that’s a place to start. You can always add more later if needed as the parents come to understand the other issues. I’ve seen this work quite well, for example, with children with sensory and communication differences. We’d write the IFSP outcome for communication, the parent’s priority, then talk more during visits about how the child’s sensory processing was affecting his communication. Eventually the team, including the parents, added an outcome addressing sensory concerns and it all came together.

      We do have what’s called a “mini-lesson” about writing IFSP outcomes on our professional development site. The mini-lesson has activities that you might be able to use for your training. You can find it here: http://www.eipd.vcu.edu/mini_lesson.html


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