Aligning a Child's Functional Skills with the Breadth of the Three Child OutcomesNaomi Younggren, Lauren Barton, Robin Rooney, and Faith Scheibe Updated September 2, 2022, 11:24 AM
This document supports high-quality Child Outcomes Summary (COS) ratings by helping teams connect their observations of children's functional skills and behaviors with the three child outcomes. Effectively aligning functional skills and outcomes will help Part C early intervention and Part B, Section 619 preschool special education program teams improve their outcome measurement.
By making connections between provider and caregiver observations with the three child outcomes, it becomes increasingly natural for teams to identify a child's functional skills, align those skills to the three child outcomes, and determine an accurate and consistent Child Outcomes Summary (COS) rating.
If a member of the team is new the Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Process, they may wish to increase their knowledge by taking the basic COS Process Online Module: Collecting and Using Data to Improve Programs.
Younggren, N., Barton, L., Rooney, R., & Scheibe, F. (2022). Aligning a child's functional skills with the breadth of the three child outcomes. Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems. Retrieved from https://ectacenter.org/eco/pages/cos-align.asp
The contents of this document were developed under a cooperative agreement, #H326P170001, and a grant, #H373Z190002, from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. However, the content does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
ECTA Center Project Officer: Julia Martin Eile
DaSy Center Project Officers: Meredith Miceli and Amy Bae
Table of Contents
- Understanding the Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes
- Aligning Functional Skills with the Three Child Outcomes
- Further Considerations
- Child Outcomes Summary Process Resources
Understanding the Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes
Each of the three child outcomes encompasses an array of functional skills involved in a child's participation in day-to-day routines. Functional skills are those skills a young child uses to complete tasks and participate in everyday life. To understand a child's level of functioning, the team must know the child's intent and purpose when using a skill. Functionality is not inherent to a skill itself, but can be found in a child's meaningful use of that skill.
For example, the ability to stand on one foot is an isolated, discrete skill. Determining function is a process of asking why—Why is the child standing on one foot? Is it to put on a pair of pants, to play hopscotch with friends, or so that a caregiver can dry the other foot off after bath time?
Functional skills can be aligned to the three child outcomes. The Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes includes six bundles of functional skills associated with each of the three outcomes. The bundles help teams gather information about a child's functional skills, and align them with an outcome. The bundles are not finite lists. A consistent and thorough understanding of the Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes is necessary for teams to determine high-quality COS ratings.
The Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes includes six skill bundles for each outcome that describe the breadth of the outcome's functional skills.
Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes
The three child outcomes, measured by early intervention and early childhood special education systems, encompass functional skills and behaviors that are meaningful for a child's participation in everyday routines. They cut across developmental domains to represent the integrated nature of how children develop, learn, and thrive. The breadth of these outcomes provides a framework for describing and consistently measuring children's functional skills and behaviors across settings and situations.Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes (English) Desarrolo de los Tres Resultados Para El Niño (Español)
Expressing Own Emotions and Responding to Emotions of Others
Show pride/excitement/frustration, manage own emotions, display affection and comfort others...
Understanding Questions Asked and Directions Given
Respond to gestures/verbal requests, understand meaning of increasingly complex words/questions/directions, know and state details about self (e.g., name, age)...
Showing Safety Awareness
Avoid dangers (e.g., putting things in mouth, touching hot stove), follow safety rules across settings and situations...
Note: This awareness is less evident in very young children
How Developmental Domains differ from Skill Bundles
Early childhood typically organizes children's knowledge and skills into developmental domains. A child integrates their skills across developmental domains to participate in the activities that make up their everyday lives. While developmental domains are useful for some purposes, they often do not convey a functional use of a given skill. Additionally, all developmental domains, and many curricular-based skills inform multiple outcomes. The three child outcomes and their associated skill bundles span the developmental domains and curricular areas to reflect the integrated nature of a child's development and learning.
Outcome 2: Acquisition and Use of Knowledge and Skills includes learning language, but the communication developmental domain does not map to just Outcome 2. Observation of a child's everyday communication is likely to inform all three outcomes. To determine the outcome to which the child's language skills correspond best, teams must consider the functional purpose of the child's communication.
|Communication Domain Skills||Outcome|
|Talking with peers during play time||Outcome 1: Positive Social-Emotional Skills (including social relationships)|
|Learning increasingly complex communication skills||Outcome 2: Acquisition and Use of Knowledge and Skills|
|Communicating to express needs||Outcome 3: Use of Appropriate Behaviors to Meet Needs|
Similarly, although motor skills are often associated with Outcome 3: Use of Appropriate Behaviors to Meet Needs, depending on the purpose of a child's movement, the skill might provide information about the child's status on any of the three child outcomes.
|Motor Skill Domain Skills||Outcome|
|Moving to greet, approach, and engage a peer in play||Outcome 1: Positive Social-Emotional Skills (including social relationships)|
|Manipulating objects according to their function in purposeful pretend play||Outcome 2: Acquisition and Use of Knowledge and Skills|
|Moving around to accomplish routine tasks such as dressing and eating||Outcome 3: Use of Appropriate Behaviors to Meet Needs|
Developmental domains and curricular areas contain functional skills that can be associated with any of the three child outcomes.
Using Skill Bundles to Inform Accurate COS Ratings
Accurate COS ratings require understanding the Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes. When teams consider the full array or breadth of skills associated with each outcome and consistently align children's skills with the respective outcomes, they will produce more accurate COS ratings.
These ratings represent a synthesis of all that is known about a child's functioning in each of the three outcomes. Identifying the child's functional skills across the breadth of each outcome provides the most complete picture of the child's functioning in that outcome and, therefore, the most accurate outcomes measurement.
The following table shows the difference between two teams' consideration of Outcome 3 skill bundles. Team A bases their rating (3) primarily on how children move around, manipulate things, and eat and drink with independence. Team B bases their rating (5) on all Outcome 3 skill bundles. Team A's lack of consideration for all skill bundles leads to inaccuracies in ratings, and inconsistencies that impact overall COS data quality.
|Outcome 3: Use of Appropriate Behaviors to Meet Needs||Team A||Team B|
|Moving Around and Manipulating Things to Meet Needs||YES||YES|
|Eating and Drinking with Increasing Independence||YES||YES|
|Dressing and Undressing with Increasing Independence||NO||YES|
|Diapering/Toileting and Washing with Increasing Independence||NO||YES|
|Showing Safety Awareness||NO||YES|
Teams should consider all the skill bundles in the Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes to align functional skills with outcomes and to determine consistent COS ratings.
Aligning Functional Skills with the Three Child Outcomes
Step 1. Provide Detail
Is there sufficient detail that describes what the child is doing?
If not, the team will have to gather more information. If the information is too broad or nebulous, teams will struggle to understand the child's skills.
Information gathered about a child's skills must include rich, descriptive detail for teams to understand what the child does and does not do. When information is too broad or nebulous, teams struggle to understand the child's functional use of their skills. Having detailed observation or interview notes is essential for understanding a child's functioning and for alignment of functional skills with outcomes.
Outcome 2: Acquisition and Use of Knowledge and Skills includes learning language, but observation of a child's everyday communication is likely to inform all three outcomes. To determine the outcome to which the child's language skills correspond, teams must consider the functional purpose of the child's communication.
|Observation||Is there sufficient detail in this observation?|
|Laszlo is improving his independence.||Lacks detail — It is difficult to understand specific actions Laszlo takes that show improvement in his independence, or any function behind those actions. It is impossible to align this observation with an outcome. The team will need to make additional observations, ask more questions, and review assessment data.|
|Laszlo cleans up after snack time.||Has context but lacks detail — Important information about the context of the skill is provided, but "cleans up" is very vague. More detail is needed to understand what Laszlo is doing to align those actions with an outcome. The team must gather more details.|
|Laszlo does not dress himself.||Lacks detail — While it can be helpful to know what a child does not do, teams must also understand what actions the child takes at a time when others expect the child to be dressing themselves or performing the skills discussed.|
|After washing his hands before snack, Laszlo independently pulls a paper towel from the dispenser, dries his hands until they are almost dry, and drops the towel in the trash.||Sufficient detail and context to understand what the child does — In this note the skills are described in sufficient detail so that teams can discuss what the child is doing and why, with a shared understanding.|
If the team does not have sufficient detail to understand what the child is doing, they must gather more information.
Step 2. Convey Function
Does the detail convey the functional nature of the child's skills?
Teams must not only gather detailed information about a child's skills, but they must also gather detailed information about how the child uses those skills across the settings and situations in their day-to-day actions and interactions.
When the focus is on discrete skills or skill quality, the functional nature of a child's skills can be overlooked. If the functional nature of the child's skill is not evident, the team must gather more information to understand if the skill is used functionally.
|Observation||Is there enough context to determine skill function?|
|Portia uses a left-handed three-finger grasp with her thumb pointing in an upward position.||Detail without function — There is not enough detail to understand the context or meaningful use of the skill. The team cannot identify the function of Portia's three-finger grasp. Is it to hold her pencil when writing her name (Outcome 2), to turn the faucet on when washing her hands (Outcome 3), or to help a friend set the timer for their turn at the computer (Outcome 1)? Without the function of the skill, it is difficult to align it with an outcome.|
|Portia repeated the three-digit sequence (5, 2, 8) in order and within 15 seconds of being told the number sequence to repeat.||Detail without function — This observation provides clear detail, but lacks the context in which Portia uses the skill. Repeating random digits in sequence is an example of a test item that assesses attention and memory, but without meaningful context is not functional.|
|During a modified hide and seek game, Portia took turns with her peers to select and hide three objects from the basket and then remembered what the items were to ask a peer to go and find them (for example, go find the mitten, ball and book).||Detail with function — This note provides sufficient detail to describe what Portia did (seek, hide, and remember the three items), as well as the context (a playful game with peers) in which she used these attention and memory skills.|
If the team does not have sufficient detail to understand the function of the skill the child is demonstrating, they must gather more information.
Step 3. Unpack into Functional Skills
Does the observation of the child's functioning include multiple skills? Do the skills require unpacking to align with an outcome?
Observations and conversations with caregivers often provide information about multiple skills. When this occurs, teams must unpack the information by separating them into functional skills that can be effectively aligned with one of the three child outcomes.
|Observation||Are multiple skills observed that require unpacking?|
|Mari independently walks to the bookshelf, picks up a book, initiated contact with her dad by bringing him the book, climbs up to sit on his lap and points to the picture of the cat when her dad asks, "Where's the cat?".||Unpacking is needed — This observation identifies several functional skills. By unpacking this information, the team can align the different functional skills with outcomes.
|Cyprus's teacher shared how Cyprus independently stood up from a squatting position, walked independently over to the water table, gave a cup to the peer playing next to him, and responded to the teacher's question "Is the water cold?" by nodding his head and signing the sign for cold.||Unpacking is needed — The teacher's observation needs to be unpacked to identify the functional skills.
|After washing his hands before snack, Laszlo independently grasps and pulls a paper towel from the dispenser, dries his hands until they are almost dry and drops the towel in the trash.||Sufficiently unpacked to align with Outcome 3 — The note describes how he dries his hands, illustrating both the particular skill of handwashing and their function.|
If an observation includes multiple skills, unpack them into separate functional skills before aligning them to outcomes.
Step 4. Align with an Outcome
To which skill bundle and outcome does each functional skill align?
With detailed descriptions of a child's functional skills, sufficiently unpacked, teams can align those skills with the appropriate outcome and corresponding skill bundle.
|Observation||Is this detailed?||Is this unpacked?||Outcome||Skill Bundle|
|Talon communicates in two-word sentences, but is hard to understand. When prompted by his mom and teacher to slow down, is speech is easier to understand.||Yes||Yes||2||Acquiring Language to Communicate|
|During diaper changes, Kailee reaches up with both arms to bat at the mobile hanging above her. When positioned in the opposite direction, she will reach up with her feet to bat at the mobile.||Yes||Yes||3||Moving Around and Manipulating Things to Meet Needs|
|When her mom reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar at bedtime, Arowana can tell what happens next before her mom turns the page.||Yes||Yes||2||Understanding Pre-Academics and Literacy|
Use the skill bundles listed on Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes to align children's functional skills with an outcome.
Authentic Assessment Notes
Teams can use authentic assessment notes to align functional skills with outcomes. The way a team gathers and documents information about a child's functioning can vary greatly.
Genevieve is 23 months old. She and her mom are playing with balls in the back yard. The team aligned Genevieve's actions with specific outcomes and skill bundles. However, the information they gathered does not cover the full breadth of each outcome. By considering each outcome's skill bundles, the team can determine if they need to collect more information to fully address each outcome.
|Authentic Assessment Observation||Outcome||Skill Bundle|
|G. looked to the balls when asked "where's your ball?".||2||Understanding Questions Asked and Directions Given|
|G. got a ball when asked to "get the green ball" but she did not get the green ball.||2||Understanding Pre-Academics and Literacy|
|G. said "cars" while looking toward the toy cars.||1||Relating with Caregivers|
|G. looked to something of interest said "oh, ba", pointed at it, and looked at her mom.||2||Acquiring Language to Communicate|
|With ball in hand, G. said "ba" looking at her mom and then gives the ball to her mom.||1||Participating in Social Games and Communicating with Others|
|G. runs across the grass (no tripping or falling) to the ball thrown by her mom.||3||Moving Around and Manipulating Things to Meet Needs|
|G. looks at the large step (6 inches) but does not go down it||3||Showing Safety Awareness|
|G. does not follow her mom's cue when told to "sit on your bum." She walks back and forth then follows her mom's cue to go "over there" where the step is not so high.||2||Understanding Questions Asked and Directions Given|
|G. steps down successfully, with steady balance, on a step that is 3 inches high.||3||Moving Around and Manipulating Things to Meet Needs|
Following the four steps can help teams align a child's functional skills with an outcome.
Precursor skills underlie the development of more advanced skills that continue to be demonstrated throughout the course of a child's development. Some precursor skills are functional, aligning with one of the three child outcomes.
Depending upon their function, some precursor skills align with more than one outcome (for example, eye gaze, eye contact, or turning toward a sound). Without sufficient detail and context, some precursor skills are too general to align with just one outcome.
|Standing||Standing is a precursor skill to walking, and aligns with Outcome 3.|
|Turning toward a sound||Turning toward a sound is a precursor to more than one functional behavior, including:
Accurately aligning precursor skills requires teams to understand how the child functionally uses the skill
Broad skills (for example, self-concept, problem-solving, and communication) can align with each of the three child outcomes.
|Sense of self or self-concept||
|Language and communication||
Broad skills can be aligned with more than one outcome (for example self-concept, problem solving, or language and communication).
- The Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes includes six skill bundles for each outcome that describe the breadth of the outcome's functional skills.
- Developmental domains and curricular areas contain functional skills that can be associated with any of the three child outcomes.
- Teams should consider all the skill bundles in the Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes to align functional skills with outcomes and to determine consistent COS ratings.
- Following these four steps can help teams align a child's functional skills with an outcome:
- Provide Detail — If the team does not have sufficient detail to understand what the child is doing, they must gather more information.
- Convey Function — If the team does not have sufficient detail to understand the function of the skill the child is demonstrating, they must gather more information.
- Unpack into Functional Skills — If an observation includes multiple skills, unpack them into separate functional skills before aligning them to outcomes.
- Align with an Outcome — Use the skill bundles listed on Breadth of the Three Child Outcomes to align children's functional skills with an outcome.
- Accurately aligning precursor skills requires teams to understand how the child functionally uses the skill.
- Broad skills can be aligned with more than one outcome (for example self-concept, problem solving, or language and communication).
Child Outcomes Summary Process Resources
For further information and practice opportunities, refer to the following resources:
- Understanding Functional Skills: Background for the COS Process — This resource helps teams think about measuring a child's use and integration of functional skills to participate in their everyday routines.
- Child Outcomes Practice Scenarios (COS-PS) — The COS-PS is a collection of scenarios of children, ages 6 months to 5 years, that allow you to practice aligning information about each child with the three child outcomes and anchoring the information by age.
- Instrument Crosswalks — Crosswalks cross-reference the functional skills assessed by various published instruments with the three child outcomes required by OSEP for Part C and Part B, Section 619 programs to assess the degree to which these instruments measure the required outcomes.
- Topical COS Professional Development Activities — These activities focus on aspects of the COS Process providers frequently need additional training and support (see Assessing Functional Skills).
- Child Outcomes Summary (COS) Process Quick Reference Guide
- Developing High-Quality, Functional IFSP Outcomes and IEP Goals Training Package — This training package was developed collaboratively with staff from the ECTA Center and the Western Regional Resource Center (WRRC) in response to the need expressed from state and local providers to have specific information and resources about developing Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) outcomes and Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals.