In a nutshell…

Child assessment for the purpose of developing child outcomes must describe how children participate in everyday routines at home, childcare, or any other setting in which they spend significant time. While a “test” may identify a delay in a developmental domain (e.g. lack of a pincer grasp), assessment about everyday routines tells us when and how skills are used during a child’s day, the potential learning opportunities for practicing skills, and ways to monitor progress in everyday activities. Not every delay impacts a child in the same way and not every family will choose to prioritize the same skills. We need to know what each child and family do during the day if we are to capture assessment data that will truly guide us in writing functional outcomes for individual children and their families. The tool used in Nebraska to gather information for child and family assessment is the Routines Based Interview (RBI).

Key principles to consider…

  1. Assessment for programming. Assessment practices that promote functional outcomes must involve family and/or teacher interview, and observation of the child’s participation in everyday routines and activities.
  2. Participation to determine outcomes. Failed test items are not functional child outcomes. Delays in development, in and of themselves, do not necessarily impact a child’s participation in everyday routines and activities.
  3. Family needs potentially become family outcomes and are critical to the development of the IFSP, along with assessment of child participation in everyday activities.

Why are child assessment practices so important?

We know that young children learn primarily through repeated opportunities of practice within their everyday environments; with people they know and materials with which they are familiar. They do not learn from “lessons” or sessions once or twice a week (McWilliam, 2010). Logically then, assessment that facilitates functional IFSP outcomes would come from gathering information from the family and/or childcare provider. Each has unique knowledge about the child’s participation and engagement with materials, other children, and activities in everyday routines.


NDE/NDHHS: The EI Practitioner’s Guide, December 2012; Revised 2020

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