Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP): Purpose & Goals

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  • 0:03 Early Intervention in…
  • 1:12 Basics of an IFSP
  • 1:55 Whan Does an IFSP Include?
  • 3:38 Transitioning From an IFSP
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Federal laws ensure all children receive a free, equitable education. These laws begin protecting children with special needs at a young age. This lesson describes the Individualized Family Service Plan and the services it offers.

Early Intervention in Childhood

Brain research shows that young children's brains are growing and developing quickly. Because the brain is 'plastic,' meaning it can change and be impacted by experiences, early interventions for children with special needs are vital.

Early Intervention (EI) refers to services used to promote the development of a child with special needs. When young children are diagnosed with physical, emotional, cognitive, or other deficits in development, such as a hearing impairment or autism, families are offered resources and support.

One such support service offered to children with developmental delays is called the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). Created by U.S. Public Law 99-457 and part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an IFSP serves children from birth to age three. What is an IFSP and how does it work? Let's use an example family.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis have a young child, Bella, with a speech delay. They're meeting with a preschool teacher who will help them navigate their choices. Let's listen in.

Basics of an IFSP

Having a young child with special needs can be stressful for a family. Ms. Smith, a teacher helping the Davises with their child, tells them that the IFSP helps them make a plan for Bella to support her delays. They will build a team of professionals who can identify needs and offer support for them.

Ms. Smith explains that to start, various screenings are used to provide an initial assessment of the child's current developmental level. This data will be used to write goals and outline how these goals can be reached. A service coordinator will be assigned to the family to assist and guide them throughout the process. Mr. and Mrs. Davis like the idea of a coordinator helping them figure things out but are confused about what exactly an IFSP will entail.

What Does an IFSP Include?

Ms. Smith reassures the Davises that they are the center of their child's world and play an important role in Bella's development. The IFSP requires their help in setting intervention and support goals. In fact, many services are provided at home with both the family and child receiving support in the child's first three years. Here's how the process works:

Initial Screening

The initial screening determines the child's current levels of functioning in several areas, including cognitive, physical, speech and language, psychosocial, and self-help.

Team Meeting

A team of professionals then meets with the family to assess their resources, prioritize in terms of goals and hope for the child's future, and address concerns they may have about the same areas.

Writing the IFSP

Once these areas are identified they write goals, or major expected outcomes, for both the child and family. These IFSP goals must include criteria and procedures that determine whether a goal is met and a timeline that guides this process.

For example, after Bella's screening it may be determined she is six months behind her peers in speech development. Then the family and team's hopes and concerns are considered as they write a goal of increasing her spoken word vocabulary from 20 to 50 words. The team needs to be specific. They include what specific interventions will help Bella reach this goal, such as weekly therapy, and when they want this new goal to be met, such as six months. The IFSP requires information on how often the services are provided, the intensity of the program, where it's being held, and how services are delivered. They will also help the Davis family with methods of assisting Bella's goal at home.

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