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Learn More About Exchanging Information about Child Participation and Skills in Routines

Exchange Information about Child Participation and Skills in Routines

Early Steps and Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Child Outcomes 


As part of the early intervention program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Actthe U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) requires that all state early intervention programs, including Florida's Early Steps, report information under three child outcome areas. This information helps families, providers, local and state Florida Early Steps programs, and OSEP learn if children enrolled in Early Steps make progress during their time in the program. Listed below are the three child outcomes.   

  1. Children have positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships):

  2. Children acquire and use knowledge and skills (including early language/ communication and early literacy); and  

  3. Children use appropriate behaviors to meet their needs.  


A key characteristic of the three child outcomes areas is that they are functional. Functional outcomes refer to skills and behaviors that are meaningful and useful to infants and toddlers in their everyday routines at home or other places in the community. Learn more about skills and behaviors linked to each of the child outcomes.  


Sources of Information about Child Participation and Skills in Routines 


Information about child participation and skills in routines is gathered and exchanged from multiple formal and informal sources. Examples of formal and informal sources of information are described below. 


Formal Sources of Information Examples 


  • Norm-Referenced Assessments. One type of formal source of information is a norm-referenced assessment. Norm-referenced assessments compare a child's participation and skills to those of same-aged peers. In Florida, the Battelle Developmental Inventory– 2nd edition (BDI-3; Newborg, 2020) is a formal assessment instrument used by some local Early Steps programs to determine a child's eligibility for Early Steps. Recommended practices in early intervention assessment acknowledge that norm-referenced assessments alone are insufficient for developing functional IFSP outcomes, progress indicators, and strategies.  

  • Curriculum-Based Assessments. Curriculum-based assessments (CBAs) are another type of formal information source. These assessments provide information about developmental and functional skills a child can do or is not yet able to do. The developmental and functional skills represented on curriculum-based assessments reflect content found in early childhood curricula or early learning foundations or standards. Examples of curriculum-based assessments used in Early Steps are the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children (AEPS—3rd ed., 2022), the Hawaii Early Learning Profile for Infants and Toddlers (HELP; Parks Warshaw, 2006), and Developmental Programming for Infants and Young Children (DPIYC; Rogers et al., 1981). 

  • Curriculum-Based Measures (CBMs) or Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs). CBMs or IGDIs are another type of formal information source. These assessments provide information about a child's current skills and progress on sets of skills linked to important growth and development outcomes such as moving around, talking, interacting with others, and solving simple problems. The assessments are brief (e.g., 6 min). They involve an assessor who provides a caregiver with a standard set of toys and facilitates child-caregiver interactions with these toys. Examples of IGDIs used in Early Steps include the Early Communication Indicator (ECI; Walker & Carta, 2010); Early Movement Indicator (EMI; Greenwood & Carta, 2010); Early Social Indicator (ESI; Carta & Greenwood, 2010); and Early Problem-Solving Indicator (EPSI, Walker & Greenwood, 2010).  

  • Judgment-Based Rating Scale Instruments Completed by Caregivers or Providers. Another type of formal information source used to gather information about a child's participation or skills is a judgment-based rating scale instrument completed by caregivers or providers. These assessments are "judgment-based" because they involve people who know a child well and who have observed the child across time, people, and places. Assessors ask respondents to read a participation or skill statement and then make a "judgment" about if they have seen the child use the skill, how often they have seen the child use the skill, when they have seen the child use the skill, or how well the child uses the skill. For some of these instruments, the child's skills reported by the caregiver or provider can be compared to those of same-age peers. Examples of judgment-based rating scale instruments used in Early Steps are the Vineland Adaptive Behaviors Scales (Sparrow et al., 2016), the Ages and Stages Questionnaires: Social-emotional (Squires et al.,2015), the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (Fenson et al., 1993), and the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile – Infant/Toddler Checklist and Caregiver Questionnaire (Wetherby & Prizant, 2002).   


Informal Sources of Information Examples 


Often referred to as authentic- or routines-based assessment, gathering information about a child's participation and skills through "informal" sources is particularly useful for embedded intervention. Informal sources of information about child participation and skills include:  

  1. Observation of a child by caregivers or others during typical routines 

  2. Interviews with caregivers or others about child participation and skills in everyday routines and activities 

  3. Documentation through video or other means of a child's participation and skills 


Example questions a service coordinator or provider might discuss with a caregiver about their child's participation and skills across each of the child outcome areas are: 



  • What does your child do when they first see you in the morning? 

  • What does your child do to gain their brother's attention during playtime? 


  • How does your child let you know they want more to eat during snack? 

  • What does your child do if they see you hide a toy from them during play? 


  • How does your child move to get a toy they want during playtime? 

  • What chores or things does your child help with around the house? What do they do during them? 


Child Outcome Summary (COS) Process 


The Child Outcomes Summary (COS) process is a systematic method used by a team familiar with a child, including caregivers, to review and integrate multiple formal and informal sources of information about a child's participation and skills in each of the three OSEP child outcome areas. The COS process is not an assessment – it is a way to summarize other sources of information already gathered and exchanged about the child's participation and skills in routines across the three child outcomes areas.   


The process results in a summary rating of a child's participation and skills for each outcome area. The team collaboratively identifies the ratings based on a child's participation and skills within and across regular routines and activities compared to the child's same-age peers to help inform a child's COS rating. Learn more about the COS rating scale: COS 7-point Scale and COS Decision Tree.


In Florida, for outcomes reporting, COS ratings are made at two points, at a minimum-- when the child enters the program and when the child exits the program. Florida uses a child's COS rating at their entry and exit from Early Steps as part of their annual report on child outcomes to OSEP. As part of FL-EPIC and embedded intervention, teams can also complete the COS periodically to track a child's progress in learning skills. Learn more about the COS process in Early Steps: ESSO COS Implementation Guidance Document and Example Tools/Measures to Inform COS Ratings.


Link Information about Child Participation in Routines with FL-EPIC 


Information integrated through the COS process can be used to make informed decisions about functional IFSP child outcomes, 3- and 6- month progress indicators, and strategies linked to child and family routines. Caregivers and providers can also use this information to help identify their child's priority skill (WHAT in the 5Q Framework), routines (WHEN WHERE WHO in the 5Q Framework), strategies (HOW in the 5Q Framework), and WHY the skill, routine, and strategy (WHY in the 5Q Framework) that will be the focus of caregiver coaching in FL-EPIC. Check out the IFSP Example.

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