By Annie Stuart
Your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is the written game plan for her services. By thinking ahead and bringing notes to the meeting, you’ll be better able to help shape the IFSP.
Think about these things before you meet with the team. It will help you get clear on what you need and what you have to offer. You might have questions like these: Will we need a translator for IFSP meetings? Will close family members be able to help since they live nearby? Should they be part of the IFSP team? Are our child’s communication skills or her trouble feeding herself the biggest concern? What is working well at home and what isn’t?
What is your child’s current level of functioning? What are her current needs? Team members will want to know about her physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional, and self-care skills. To help you prepare, think of examples like these: She can drink from a cup and do finger feeding, but she has trouble using a spoon or fork. She mostly communicates with gestures and single words. She is content to play alone. She quickly has temper tantrums when she’s having trouble communicating.
The IFSP will lay out concrete goals you want to achieve. In some cases, they will focus on what your child is learning. In other cases, they may focus on teaching you new things that can help your child. Here are examples of desired outcomes that parents include: Improve her communication skills so we can understand what she is saying. Improve her ability to feed herself with a spoon. Improve her ability to use the toilet so she doesn’t need a diaper during the day.
By knowing what services are available, you can help the IFSP team figure out which approaches might work best for your child. For example, is she particularly responsive to music? Some early intervention programs include music therapy, which can help build skills such as listening comprehension. Speech therapy is another type of early intervention. The IFSP will spell out who is responsible for each intervention.
Is home the best place for your child to receive services? Kids must get services in places familiar to them whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, the IFSP must explain why. The IFSP will detail the number of days or sessions each week your child will receive a service. It will also spell out how long these sessions will last. For example, perhaps the speech and language expert will work with her once a week for an hour each session to develop language skills.
When your child gets close to age 3, she will transition out of early intervention. The IFSP will include specific steps to help her transition into any other program. Your service coordinator will guide you. It may help to come up with a list of questions, though. For example, how will I know if she is ready to attend a preschool? Can I visit the preschool and meet staff and children? By asking the right questions, you’ll both be prepared!
Is your child showing signs of developmental delays? If so, you can try strategies at home and get outside help, including early intervention services. Here are some tips to try.
If your child doesn’t qualify for early intervention services, it’s not the end of the road. Learn steps you can take to advocate for your child.
Virginia Gryta, M.S., teaches and mentors students working toward master’s degrees and certification in special education at Hunter College.
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