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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 5

Developing Functional Outcomes

baby girl reading a bookJust what is a functional outcome? A functional outcome is what a family wants to see their child do as a result of an intervention. It may also be what they want to see for themselves in relation to the child's development. It can focus on any area of the child's development or family functioning that the family feels is related to its ability to enhance the child's development. They are positive action statements that outline what changes will occur. They are not focused on the deficits, but rather what can be. Functional outcomes become the foundation for developing strategies, activities and services to bring about those outcomes. These are some components of functional outcomes:

  • They are practical and meaningful to families and the language used to describe them is understood by all.
  • They are not written to "stop" something, but rather to promote an outcome that will be helpful to the child and family.
  • They reflect the priorities and activities of the family.
  • They link a developmental skill with what is important to the family. Answers the "What will be different?" question.
  • They improve the child's performance of a skill over many different settings.

little boy drinking from cupQuestions to ask families to help determine outcomes (Adapted from Pam Winton):

  1. If you were to focus your energies on one or two things for your child, what would it/they be?
  2. If you could change one thing about (event or area of importance), what would that be?
  3. Imagine six months down the road. What would you like to be different in terms of (event or area of importance)? Are there some things you would like to remain the same?
  4. What would you like to accomplish in 6 weeks? In six months?

A functional outcome is stated in terms of:

  1. What is to occur (the process)?
  2. What is the expected result (the product)?


The table below contains some samples of outcomes done the "old" way and how they would sound as functional outcomes in the enhanced system. Which sounds more "doable" to you?


Old Style Outcome Statements Functional Outcomes
Mary will follow a 2 step direction, such as: "put the ball in the box and bring it here. Mary will put on her shoes and get her sweater when her Mrs. Smith asks her.
Katy will crawl using a hand/knee pattern for a distance of 3 feet when placed in the correct position. In order for her to be more independent, I would like Katy to be able to get to the kitchen table from the living room.
Beth will put 5 small pellets into a small neck bottle within 60 seconds. Beth will be able to pick up and eat Cheerios with her fingers by herself.
John will produce consonant/vowel combinations with 80% accuracy. John will call "mama" or "dada" when he wants their attention.
Joseph will be able to recognize himself as the cause of an event. Joseph will play with his pop-up toy by himself.

Here are more samples of functional outcome statements:

  1. Shandell will begin walking on his own so he can increase his independence and exploring.
  2. Joel will learn to sit without help so he can play with the other children better.
  3. Maria will use single words to ask for things she wants in order make it easier for others to know what she wants.
  4. Julie will learn toileting skills so she can attend play group.
  5. Joan will learn sign language so she can communicate with Zoe better.


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