What Is an IFSP?

If your young child has a visual impairment, you may have found that a program of early intervention services will help you meet her needs. Once your child has been found eligible for these services, you will be meeting with the professionals who will provide them to discuss the specific needs of your child and your family. This team will create a document known as an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP, which is mandated by Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), describes your child’s current situation and prescribes the services needed to support both your child’s development and your family’s efforts to help her development. The IFSP explains the following:

  • Why your child needs services
  • What kind of services will be provided
  • Who will provide them and how often
  • Where the services will be provided

Services Provided

A wide range of services may be provided through early intervention, depending on your child’s needs, including:

  • Audiological services to determine your child’s hearing ability
  • Vision services to assess whether or not he has usable vision and what sort of low vision devices he may require
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Special education services
  • Medical and nursing services
  • Nutritional services
  • Psychological and social work services
  • Health services necessary for your child to benefit from other early intervention services
  • Family training, counseling, and home visits
  • Transportation to enable your child and family to receive early intervention services
  • Respite care and other family support services

The law requires that early intervention services be provided in what are considered “natural environments”—that is, places where your child would normally be found. These might include your home, a child care center, or a preschool, rather than in a service provider’s office or at a vision care agency.

What’s Included in the Plan?

The first step in writing the IFSP will be for the members of your child’s team to conduct various types of assessments to identify your child’s individual strengths and needs. As part of the assessment process, the team members will talk to you about your child and your hopes and concerns about her. The IFSP will include information about your child’s current level of development in the following areas:

  • Physical development
  • Cognitive development
  • Communication development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Adaptive development
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Overall health

The plan must also include information about your family’s concerns, priorities, and resources for promoting your child’s development.

Based on the information that has been gathered, the team, of which you are an important member, will then decide and write into the IFSP

  • the main outcomes expected for your child;
  • ways in which your child’s progress will be measured;
  • specific services that will be provided, their frequency, and how they will be delivered;
  • the environments in which services will be provided;
  • the dates and duration of services; and
  • steps that will be taken to support your child and family’s transition out of early intervention services.

As part of this process, a service coordinator is assigned to help your family by making sure that the IFSP is put into effect and to coordinate the services outlined in the plan. The IFSP team needs to meet a minimum of once every six months to review the plan and make any changes that are needed.

The IFSP and the Family

Your baby’s needs can’t be separated from the needs of the rest of the family. In recognition of this, early intervention services are designed to support your family as well as your child. There are other reasons why early intervention so strongly involves the family, including:

  • You, as a parent, are your child’s best teacher. Your family needs to continue working with your child at home on the lessons and skills that the early intervention team has introduced. This process is called reinforcement.
  • Repeating at home the lessons and skills your child is in the process of learning will help him to learn new activities and information more effectively and to develop new skills.

To make the most of early intervention, discuss what you believe is important for your child to do and to learn with the service coordinator and other professionals working with your child. You have the right to request services that will help your child to succeed in reaching those goals. You can also ask these professionals about other sources of information that you think you need.