Developing the IFSP:
Page 3 of 13
Overview of developing IFSPs with families
Once a child’s eligibility for
early intervention has been established by a Local Infants and Toddlers
Program in Maryland, an individualized
family service plan (IFSP) is developed.
The following overview gives
a summary of the critical steps in developing an IFSP with a family.
a family’s priorities, concerns, and resources.
data collected during a child’s evaluation/assessment.
- Identify functional outcomes with parents.
- Select measurable criteria to define when an outcome
has been achieved.
- Describe strategies for achieving each
- Discuss which formal and informal supports/services
can assist families to achieve desired
- Once an IFSP is implemented, assess
progress towards achieving family/child
well as overall family
satisfaction with their participation
in early intervention.
1. Revisit a family’s priorities, concerns, and resources. Parents’ comments
about family and child interests, their resources, and their priorities
for the activities and routines in which they want their child to participate
guide the conversation for selecting IFSP outcomes and family/child
supports and services. This discussion should begin with a planning
conversation with families in preparation for a child’s
Family/community activities and routines are the context for natural
learning opportunities in which young children develop social competence,
master their environment, and acquire information and experience. In preparation
for the IFSP, explore with families where a child and family spend their
time, along with the activities they do in these places, would like to
do, or improve upon (Rosenketter & Squires, 2000). A routines-based
interview can guide this discussion (McWilliam, 1992; in press).
2. Review data collected during a child’s evaluation/assessment
with families. A comprehensive
evaluation and assessment collects information from multiple sources about a child’s
and family’s interests,
strengths/resources and challenges/concerns. These sources include
quantitative tests, as appropriate, and qualitative methods such
as natural observation of a child with
family members in familiar situations. This data is helpful when
how to enhance a child’s participation in specific family and
community activity settings.
3. Identify functional outcomes with parents. Outcomes
are the changes that families would like to see for their children or
themselves as a result of their participation in early intervention. Functional
outcomes, written in language understandable to each family, identify
the desirable knowledge, skills and/or behavior that a child or family
members will acquire to ensure a young child’s successful participation
in daily life (Pretti-Frontczak & Bricker, 2000). Functional
outcomes promote a child’s (McWilliams, 2002):
Social competence, including:
- understanding and expressing emotions
- forming friendships
- interacting with family members/peers becoming a member of a
Mastery over environment, including:
- caring for one’s self
- navigating spaces and places
- using tools, toys and objects purposefully in specific
Engagement for learning, including:
- focusing on information from body/environment
- adapting to familiar and novel situations in specific activity settings
4. Select measurable criteria to define when an outcome has been
achieved. Criteria enables all team members to know when an outcome
is achieved to the satisfaction of parents. Criteria
must be measurable, i.e., can be seen or heard in a specific context,
and specifies how frequently a family hopes a certain action or behavior
5. Describe strategies for achieving each outcome.
Strategies clarify how intended outcomes will be achieved; not which early
intervention services will be provided. Effective
strategies build on a child’s and family’s interests and
surroundings and involve routines/activities, materials/toys/pets, interactions,
hobbies/leisure and one’s environment. They should identify how
early intervention providers and other community resources will support
family members to reach intended outcomes as well as specify the actions
family members will take. Talking about strategies with families provides
an opportunity to think about the places and spaces where a child can
practice and generalize skills, and leads to discussing which formal and
informal community resources can be used to reach desired outcomes.
6. Discuss the formal and informal supports/services
which can help families achieve their desired outcomes. Before
listing early intervention services on the IFSP, it is important to ask
“Who has the expertise to support family members in achieving specified
child and family outcomes?” rather than trying to decide whether
a child needs therapy and/or special instruction (Hanft & Pilkington,
2001). Family members and early intervention providers should discuss
the variety of formal
and informal supports and services that can be helpful to families
and children in reaching desired outcomes (Trivette, Dunst & Deal,
7. Once an IFSP is implemented, assess progress towards achieving
family/child outcomes as well as overall family satisfaction with their participation
in early intervention. Progress and family satisfaction can be informally
assessed on an ongoing basis by considering these questions with family
- How much progress is a child/family making toward attaining desired
- Are family members satisfied with this progress, and their participation
in a Local Infants and Toddlers Program?
- How will modifications, if needed, be made in services and supports?
A periodic IFSP review
must be held every six months or sooner, if requested by a family to review
progress and revise outcomes as necessary. In addition, an annual meeting
must be held to evaluate the IFSP, and revise its provisions, as appropriate.
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