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What is an IFSP?

By Amanda Morin

At a Glance

  • An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is both a process and a document.

  • An IFSP is provided if your child is found eligible for early intervention services.

  • An IFSP can help infants and toddlers develop to their fullest potential.

When infants and toddlers need services, you may hear the term IFSP. IFSP stands for Individualized Family Service Plan. An IFSP is a written legal document that lays out the supports and services kids with developmental delays need to start catching up. 

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IFSPs are covered by special education law, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). They’re created for eligible kids from birth to age 3 who need extra help with physical, communication, self-help, cognitive, or social-emotional skills.  

The “family” part of an IFSP is important. An IFSP outlines what families need to help kids with early intervention. An IFSP takes into account kids’ present level of functioning and needs. But because young children develop skills so quickly, it’s key for family members to be involved in supporting development. 

How families get IFSPs

The IFSP process begins with an early intervention evaluation that looks at an infant’s or toddler’s skills. The evaluation also includes conversations with families about their concerns, their resources, and their needs. In fact, families must give written consent before the plan goes into action.

All the information is used together to see if a child is eligible for an IFSP. If the child is eligible, the team creates a plan of services and supports to meet the child’s — and family’s — needs. 

What’s in an IFSP?

A service coordinator will help set up and schedule services. Services can include:

Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal law that provides special education, says kids must receive services in “natural environments” as much as possible. That usually means your home or a childcare setting. 

View a sample IFSP  to see how it all comes together. 

Who’s on an IFSP team?

In addition to a service coordinator, an IFSP team must include:

  • The parent or legal caregiver

  • Other family members as requested

  • An advocate from outside the family, at the family’s request  

  • Professionals directly involved in evaluations or assessments of a child’s needs

  • Those who will provide early intervention services for a child or family

Depending on a child’s needs, the IFSP team might include specialists, like a:

  • Health care provider

  • Therapist

  • Child development specialist

  • Social worker

By law, the team needs to review the IFSP every six months and update it at least once a year. Together, they review a child’s progress and the family situation. This is to see if any changes need to be made to better support the family or whether there need to be any changes in goals or services.

Learn more about specialists who work with infants and toddlers

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom