What is an IFSP?
An IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) is:
- A plan to obtain special education services for young children from birth through age 2
- Based on an assessment of the child’s needs and his or her current level of development in all areas
- Also focused on the concerns of the family
- Goes into detail about which services will be provided, who will be providing them, as well as where the services will be provided
- Reviewed around every 6 months to ensure that it meets the changing needs of the child and family
What happens during an IFSP meeting?
An IFSP is created during a team meeting which includes parents, family members, a service coordinator, and professionals that have conducted evaluations on the child. This meeting is facilitated by a service coordinator whose role is to help the family assess information and resources, as well as coordinate the development and implementation of the IFSP. Family members and professionals exchange information in order to determine which type of services they believe will benefit the family and the child.
During the IFSP meeting, each early intervention provider describes the results of the assessments they conducted on the child in order to paint a better picture of the needs for services that the child and family may have. Family members discuss findings and collaborate with providers to create goals which include functional outcomes.
These outcomes are family-centered and focus on a child’s performance within daily family routines. The early intervention team gathers information about the natural environments in which families and children spend their time. This could be at the family’s home, childcare center, or playground.
They also help the family identify specific activities that they do with their child or activities that they would like to do in those environments. An example of an outcome or change that a family would like to see is their child being able to eat breakfast at the kitchen table with the rest of the family. Strategies are then used to problem-solve and address factors that may be getting in the way of the child being a part of the breakfast routine. Obstacles to participation can be the child not being able to physically sit at a table without support or not being able to independently feed themselves.
Team members determine strategies to address these outcomes, as well as resources that are needed and ways of measuring progress that the child makes. In this specific situation, different disciplines can make suggestions that can be used to increase the child’s participation in the breakfast routine. For example, the physical therapist can come up with strategies to increase the infant’s ability and strength so that they are able to sit at the table. The occupational therapist that is part of this team can contribute strategies so that the child can hold the food and bring it to his or her mouth.
What’s the difference between an IFSP and an IEP?
While an IFSP focuses on both the child and family in order to obtain services that the family needs to help them promote the development of their child, an IEP or Individualized Education Plan focuses on the educational needs of the child. An IEP is provided to children ages 3 to 21, and describes special education and related services that child needs in the school setting.
Services provided through an IFSP are usually provided in the child’s “natural environment”, usually within the child’s home or a child care setting. An IEP describes services provided in the least restrictive environments (LREs) within the school setting, and team members include parents, regular and special education teachers, and other professionals who have conduced evaluations on the child or who have special expertise about the child.