What is an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)?
An IFSP is an Individualized Family Service Plan which serves younger children from infancy through two years old who need special services. An IFSP should guide and support the entire family as the parents are a vital part of this process. These are serving the younger children so, at this age, the parents really need to be involved and they're wanting to find the best situation for their child.
The IFSP team typically involves the parents, service coordinator, and various specialists, such as occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, or physical therapists. This might even include your family physician. There is a wide range of services that are available for a child qualifying for an IFSP such as speech services, nutrition services, and developmental therapy. Personally, I found this really helpful for my youngest son who needed speech services. The coordinator set up meetings and they came to my house for those meetings. It was a much more intimate situation than we'll talk about later on once the child is in the school.
The IFSP team will review the plan bi-annually and make revisions annually. Once a year the team will get together to come up with new goals for the coming year, but it is important to review those goals bi-annually. In addition to that, progress updates should be provided to the family quarterly. When my son had an IFSP it was really helpful, even though I'm an educator, that the therapist talked with me and told me quarterly how my son was doing and what she was working on.
It is important to note that parents are legally entitled to change or even decline services throughout the IFSP process. This is different from the Individualized Education Program which serves children age 3 to 21, which is a legally binding document. At the IFSP level, since the children are so young and the parents are involved, they can make changes at any point in time. Even though the goals might be set for a year, it is okay if the parents change their minds and say they'd actually like to see their son or daughter doing this and maybe we could work on this. Again, this is a team decision, but the parents are an intricate part of this process.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, IEP and IFSP 101: Everything You Need to Know - Planning to Implementation, by Laura Ritter, BA, MA.