What is an IFSP?
After the child’s evaluation is complete and he or she is found eligible for early intervention services, the family and a team of providers will meet to develop a written plan for providing early intervention services to the child and the family. This plan is called the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). It is a very important document, and parents are crucial members of the team that develops it. See eligibility criteria by state for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The guiding principal of the IFSP is that the family is the child’s greatest resource and the needs of a young child are closely tied to the needs of his or her family. The best way to support children and meet their needs is to support and build upon the individual strengths of their family. This is why the IFSP is a plan for the entire family and the parents are major contributors in its development. Involvement of other team members will depend on what the child needs. These other team members could come from several agencies and may include medical specialists, therapists, child development specialists, social workers and others.
Writing an effective IFSP
Each state has specific guidelines for the IFSP. The family service coordinator can explain what the IFSP guidelines are in your state. An IFSP form is used to document IFSP meeting activities such as parents’ desired outcomes and decisions regarding service types and frequency. Each state has developed an IFSP form specific to that state’s needs, however, due to federal Part C requirements, individual state forms are similar. The State of Virginia has IFSP forms available in various languages. Additional state IFSP forms are also available.
Parents of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing should consider the following important factors as part of the IFSP discussion and documentation:
- Communication Considerations, including, but not limited to:
- The language and communication currently used in the home, such as English, native language, a combination, American Sign Language (ASL), other (must specify)
- The communication options currently used with the child, for example: “We are currently using (Listening and Spoken Language, Cued Speech, American Sign Language (ASL), English-based sign language, gestures, etc.) with our child.”
- The communication options that the family would like more information about, for example, “We are considering or would like more information about (Listening and Spoken Language, ASL, English-based sign language, Cued Speech).”
- Required support services, such as support necessary to increase the access and ability for parents and family members to become language models for the child.
- Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology can be thought of as any item that supports the child’s ability to participate actively in his or her home, childcare program, school or other community settings. These may include but are not limited to hearing aids, cochlear implants and FM systems. Information in the IFSP should include a description of the assistive technology the family is currently using as well as those assistive technologies that the family is considering and/or would like more information.
- Programming Options/Natural Environments
An explanation of all services and resources provided and explored by the early intervention team. In the IFSP, describe the supports necessary for the family to access these services, including the environment in which they may be provided. This may be in the child’s home, a school or therapy center, or a daycare facility, for example.
- In the Community
Identify the community activities in which the family would like to participate, such as playgroups, library story times, religious services, etc. Describe the resources and supports required to provide full communication access in these environments, for example, an FM system to help the child hear better, preferential seating, visual aids, interpreting services, etc.
- Proficiency of Staff
List the qualified service providers on the team who have expertise, experience and training in working with children birth to three who are deaf and hard of hearing. Be sure to note communication options, appropriate certification/credential, etc.
- Parent Training and Information Activities
Parents may ask for specific training in areas in which the parent identifies a need for self-learning, such as, but not limited to: navigating the IFSP process, developing skills to participate effectively in their child’s early intervention, and understanding transition from Part C to Part B (from early intervention to pre-school) services.