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 includes 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)