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IFSP Tutorial - Developing and Implementing

Implementing the IFSP:

Essential Content for Implementing the IFSP

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Team models for providing family/child supports and services

A team approach is accepted by the early intervention profession as essential for providing comprehensive, coordinated early intervention supports and service to children and their families. Effective early intervention children and families incorporate a variety of professional knowledge and skills, and are delivered in an integrated manner. (Mcgonigel, Woodruff, & Roszmann-Millican, 1994; Lameroy & Ryan, 1998; McWiliam, 2000). The IDEA also mandates a team approach for evaluation/assessment, developing an IFSP, and service coordination. Although the IDEA mandates a team approach for these services, “it does not provide guidance concerning the roles and relationships among team members” (MCGonigel, 1991, p.12).

The summary below briefly highlights three approaches to teaming in early intervention: coaching, transdisciplinary and collaborative consultation. All three emphasize collaboration and support so that families and colleagues can acquire and apply new knowledge and skills to reach specified outcomes.


Coaching is one approach that early intervention providers can use to share their expertise with all adult learners, i.e., families and colleagues, with whom they interact on a daily basis. It is an evidence-based practice focusing on adult-adult interaction, and shifts the focus of early intervention supports/services from solely providing one-one sessions with an infant or toddler to supporting the key adults in a child’s life to help a child participate in meaningful activities. Coaching helps early intervention providers reconceptualize their role “to move to a different position alongside a parent as a coach rather than lead player” to support families in promoting their child’s participation in familiar activity settings (Hanft & Pilkington, 2000, p.2). It involves helping participants acquire knowledge and implement new skills and strategies “on the job”, whether it be parenting a young child or working in an early intervention program. Coaching offers a more structured system for jointly identifying specific behaviors or skills to be learned through feedback and modeling from a coach and builds relationships among participants through the exchange of ideas, methods, experiences, and resources (Hanft, Rush & Shelden, 2004; Dinnebeil, 2001;Gallacher, 1997; Wolfe & Snyder, 1997).



Video Clips:


The video clips are available in Windows Media Player format and Quicktime format. In order to view the clips you must have either Windows Media Player or Quicktime installed on your machine. To download the programs, click on the icon next to the program's title.

Windows Media Player


To View the video clips:

1. Choose the speed at which you can view the file. If you have a dial-up modem, then you should choose the low-speed file name. If you have a DSL or Cable Modem then you should choose the high-speed file name.

2. The video will open in the video program. (Windows Media Player or Quicktime)




Videos Below:

1. This vignette shows a special educator coaching a parent to prompt her child’s language while playing at home with grandpa participating on the sidelines. Note the educator’s position beside the mother, modeling how to use words to describe and direct the child’s own actions. The early intervention provider supports the mother’s interaction with her child, and does not direct a play session with the child herself.

Windows Media File (wmv)

High-Speed File: Kayla Video

Low-Speed File: Kayla Video (56K modem)

QuickTime (mov)

High-Speed File: Kayla Video

Low-Speed File: Kayla Video(56K modem)



Transdisciplinary: Primary coach/service provider

In a transdisciplinary or primary service provider approach (a closely related model is is a primary coach), one professional is selected by an IFSP team to work with a family to implement their IFSP and achieve desired outcomes. Selection of the primary coach is based on which team member has the expertise to help parents meet agreed upon child and family outcomes. This decision is made after a child’s multidisciplinary evaluation and assessment is completed, and family-selected outcomes, criteria and strategies have been identified. Depending on the outcomes selected by a family, and the level of experience of other team members, the discipline of the primary coach should vary from family to family, and may change as different outcomes are targeted. Flexibility and effectiveness is lost if only one discipline serves as the primary service provider, and then decides who to bring in as consulting providers, and when. A variety of professionals may be needed to contribute their expertise and experience to support families and address the range of issues presented by very young children with special needs. However, this does not mean that a child needs a variety of direct services all at the same time, with each provider working on their "own" goal. Nor does it mean that only one professional ever sees a child and family without consultation from other team members.

Early intervention team members are responsible for ongoing assessment and annual reviews. They should be available to one another through staff meetings/discussion, and in person
visits with a child and family as determined in the development of an IFSP and/or requested by the primary service providera at a later point. Some program's video family/child visits on an ongoing basis for all team members to review and suggest strategies. (Note: The vignette of Janella and her family in the video Just Being Kids illustrates this team communication strategy.)

Videos Below:

2. This video clip of “Jenni” from Just Being Kids shows a team consultation between Jenni’s primary service provider, a physical therapist, and a speech-language pathologist who suggested how the PT and Jenni’s family could prompt Jenni’s communication during play with her siblings and friends.

Windows Media File (wmv)

High-Speed File: Jenni-A

Low-Speed File: Jenni-A (56K modem)

QuickTime (mov)

High-Speed File: Jenni-A

Low-Speed File: Jenni-A(56K modem)




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