IFSP: What It Is and How It Works

By Annie Stuart

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 your infant or toddler develop to her fullest potential.

You’ve just found out your child is eligible for early intervention. What’s next? An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). An IFSP is both a process you go through and a document that you and a team of specialists develop to assist you and your child. Here’s what you need to know.

The Difference Between an IFSP and an IEP

An IFSP is a plan that guides and supports your efforts to boost your child’s development up to age 3. An Individualized Education Program (IEP), on the other hand, is a plan for special education and related services for children ages 3 to 21.

IFSP: A Plan for the Family

Think of the IFSP as the foundation—and road map—for your family’s involvement with early intervention services. It clearly lays out what services your baby or toddler should receive and what results you and the team hope to achieve for your child.

A key principle of early intervention is that services occur in a natural setting—where you and your child feel most comfortable. This is usually your home, but it could also be a place like a nearby community center.

The IFSP takes into account your child’s present level of functioning and needs. It focuses on what you need as a family to best support your child. What are your priorities for your child and your family? What are your concerns? What are your resources? The IFSP builds on the individual strengths of each family member. Together, this all helps personalize the plan for your family.

You must give your written consent before the plan goes into action. You know your child best. If you feel a certain service isn’t right for your child, you can decline it at any time. This won’t hurt your child’s chances for receiving other services.

The IFSP Team

Who puts together the IFSP? The IFSP team must include:

  • You (the parent or parents)

  • Other family members, if you request it

  • An advocate from outside the family, if you request it

  • A service coordinator, who helps puts the IFSP into action

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

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

Depending on your child’s needs, the IFSP team might include specialists such as a:

  • Medical practitioner

  • Therapist

  • Child development specialist

  • Social worker

Updating the IFSP

The team reviews the IFSP every six months and must update it at least once a year. You and the team review your child’s progress and your family’s situation together. This can help determine whether you need to make any changes in goals or other aspects of the IFSP.

You’re a big part of the IFSP process. Explore tips on what to include in an IFSP. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to advocate for what your child needs.

Key Takeaways

  • An IFSP outlines the services your family and your baby or toddler will receive.

  • Be prepared to help develop, review and revise the IFSP.

  • Before you give your written consent, make sure the IFSP is designed to best help you and your child.

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