INDIVIDUAL FAMILY SERVICE PLAN (IFSP)
Mary Beth Bruder
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) documents and guides the
early intervention process for children with disabilities and their
families. The IFSP is the vehicle through which effective early
intervention is implemented in accordance with Part C of the Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It contains information
about the services necessary to facilitate a child's development
and enhance the family's capacity to facilitate the child's development.
Through the IFSP process, family members and service providers work
as a team to plan, implement, and evaluate services tailored to
the family's unique concerns, priorities, and resources.
to IDEA, the IFSP shall be in writing and contain statements of
child's present levels of physical development, cognitive development,
communication development, social or emotional development, and
family's resources, priorities, and concerns relating to enhancing
the development of the child with a disability;
major outcomes to be achieved for the child and the family; the
criteria, procedures, and timelines used to determine progress;
and whether modifications or revisions of the outcomes or services
early intervention services necessary to meet the unique needs
of the child and the family, including the frequency, intensity,
and the method of delivery;
natural environments in which services will be provided, including
justification of the extent, if any, to which the services will
not be provided in a natural environment;
projected dates for initiation of services and their anticipated
name of the service provider who will be responsible for implementing
the plan and coordinating with other agencies and persons; and
to support the child's transition to preschool or other appropriate
Department of Education rules (1993) require that non-Part C services
needed by a child, including medical and other services, are also
described in the IFSP, along with the funding sources for those
services. The statute allows parents to be charged for some services.
If a family will be charged, this should be noted in the IFSP.
the IFSP Differs from the IEP
IFSP differs from the IEP in several ways:
revolves around the family, as it is the family that is the constant
in a child's life.
includes outcomes targeted for the family, as opposed to focusing
only on the eligible child.
includes the notion of natural environments, which encompass home
or community settings such as parks, child care, and gym classes.
This focus creates opportunities for learning interventions in
everyday routines and activities, rather than only in formal,
includes activities undertaken with multiple agencies beyond the
scope of Part C. These are included to integrate all services
into one plan.
names a service coordinator to help the family during the development,
implementation, and evaluation of the IFSP.
THAT LEAD TO EFFECTIVE IFSPs
Family Concerns, Priorities, and Resources
family's concerns, priorities, and resources guide the entire IFSP
process. Early intervention should be seen as a system of services
and supports available to families to enhance their capacity to
care for their children. The notion of partnership between the intervention
team and the family must be introduced and nurtured at this beginning
point of the IFSP process.
the Family's Activity Settings
children develop as the result of their everyday experiences. It
is important to document valued, enjoyable routines (bath time,
eating, play activities, etc.) and analyze them to see if they offer
the sustained engagement that leads to learning opportunities. Likewise,
it is important to identify the community activity settings (e.g.,
child care, gymboree, swimming) that provide opportunities for learning.
a Functional Assessment
effective assessment process
the family's questions about enhancing their child's development,
focusing on each family member's concerns and priorities
information for a specific purpose, for example, the evaluation
conducted by the early interventionist at the beginning of the
IFSP process determines if the child is eligible for services
a complete and accurate picture of the child's strengths, needs,
preferences for activities, materials, and environments
a person familiar to the child conduct observations and other
assessments in settings familiar to the child (e.g., home, outdoor
play area, child care program)
Develop Expected Outcomes.
assessment information is collected, the team meets to review the
information and the family's concerns, priorities, and resources
to develop statements of expected outcomes or goals. Active family
involvement is essential. Collaborative goals focus on enhancing
the family's capacity and increasing the child's participation in
outcomes are identified, the early intervention team assigns responsibilities
for intervention services that support those outcomes. An IFSP requires
an integrated, team approach to intervention. Using a transdisciplinary
team model is one method of integrating information and skills across
professional disciplines. In the transdisciplinary model, all team
members (including the family) teach, learn, and work together to
accomplish a mutually agreed upon set of intervention outcomes.
Individuals' roles are defined by the needs of the situation rather
than by the function of a specific discipline.
a transdisciplinary model, one or a few people are primary implementers
of the program. Other team members provide ongoing direct or indirect
services, such as consultation. For example, an occupational therapist
can observe a toddler during meals, then recommend to the parent
how to physically assist the child.
Strategies to Implement the Plan.
step involves working closely as a team to increase learning opportunities,
to use the child's surroundings to facilitate learning, to select
the most effective strategies to bring about the desired outcomes,
and identify reinforcers that best support the child's learning.
Implementation may involve a toddler participating in a library
story hour one afternoon a week; a physical therapist showing family
members how to use adaptive equipment; or a service coordinator
completing the paperwork to pay for a child's transportation from
his or her home to needed services.
strategies should help promote generalization of outcomes—i.e.,
the child performs new skills in a variety of environments after
intervention has ended. For example, both service providers and
family members can encourage a child to request desired objects
(e.g, toys) with gestures in numerous environments (e.g., home,
playgroup, child care).
should target several outcomes during one activity. When a child
participates in an activity, he or she uses a variety of skills
from a number of developmental areas. For example, during mealtimes,
a toddler may use communication skills to request more juice, fine
motor skills to grasp a spoon, a social skills to interact with
strategies should help a child become more independent in his or
her world. The selected strategies might involve offering physical
assistance during mealtimes, prompting the correct response during
a self-care routine, or providing simple pull-on clothing to enable
a child to dress without assistance.
provided within natural environments should look like a "typical
activity." For instance, a child learning to develop her fine
motor skills should be encouraged to color, draw pictures, play
with puzzles, build with blocks, pick up her toys, use eating utensils,
play finger games, etc. Ideally, interventions should
embedded in everyday natural environments.
the acquisition of functional competencies.
it possible to increase a child's participation within the environments.
both social and non-social activities
Early Intervention to Ensure Quality
ongoing and periodic evaluations are essential to any early intervention
program. An evaluation may focus on a child's progress toward obtaining
desired outcomes and upon the quality of the intervention program
itself. Ongoing monitoring of the child's progress requires keeping
records in a systematic manner in order to answer such critical
what extent and at what rate is the child making progress toward
the selected intervention strategies and activities promoting
gains in development?
changes need to be made in the intervention plan?
reviewing the IFSP provides a means of sharing results about the
child's progress and integrating these results into the plan. Part
C of IDEA requires that the IFSP be evaluated and revised annually
and that periodic reviews be conducted at least every six months
(or sooner if requested by the family). This ongoing process provides
a continual support to the family and child as they realize their
own strengths and resources to help their child learn.
W., Thurman, S.K., & Pearl, L.F. (1993). Family centered early
intervention with infants and toddlers:innovative cross-disciplinary
approaches. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
for Early Childhood. (1993). DEC recommended practices: Indicators
of quality in programs for infants and young children with special
needs and their families. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional
J.W., Lowenthal, B., and Egar, R. (1998). Preschool children with
special needs. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
C. & Bennett, T. (2000). The IFSP/IEP process: Do recommended
practices address culturally and linguistically diverse families?
(CLAS Technical Report #10). Champaign, IL: University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, Early Childhood Research Institute on Culturally
and Linguistically Appropriate Services.
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prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and
Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, under Contract
No. ED-99-CO-0026. The opinions expressed in this publication do
not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the
Department of Education.
with permission from:
The ERIC Clearinghouse
on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
The Council for Exceptional Children
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Arlington, VA 22201-5704
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