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IFSP Tutorial - Developing and Implementing

Implementing the IFSP:

Essential Content for Implementing the IFSP

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Considerations for providing early intervention supports and services in group settings

Community settings for group of very young children can range from a neighborhood play group of 3 toddlers to a preschool program for 2 year olds in a religious institution to a swim program for 6 month old babies at a community pool.

All these settings are important resources for informal support networks for families because they provide multiple natural learning opportunities in activity settings that families feel comfortable in participating. The critical factor for very young children with special needs is that these learning opportunities occur with similar age peers without disabilities (Wolery & Odom, 2000). When staff in these group settings are properly supported to include children with disabilities, all children in the setting demonstrate positive effects (Bruder & Brand, 1995; Odom, 2000).

One of the most important supports needed in inclusive settings is helping staff to promote social interaction and participation between children with and without disabilities. Early intervention providers who serve children in group settings should carefully review how much time they spend pulling children into spaces and activities that are separate from the other childrens’ routines and interactions.

Early intervention providers must consider four key issues when serving young children in community-based group settings include:

  • Understanding and respecting the philosophy, curriculum and beliefs of the program personnel so that early intervention suggestions for a child complement the program’s intent and day-to-day routines;

    Leonard, with the approval of Sharmane’s parents, contacted the director of the inclusive child care program that Sharmane attended to set up a bi-monthly visit with Sharmane’s group leader, Jantelle. While talking with Jantelle about her experiences with Sharmane in, Leonard learned that she was a former LPN and felt very strongly about teaching the children to wash their hands before eating. Since he was looking for ways to increase Sharmane’s hand skills in daily activities, he asked Jantelle if she could incorporate various wrist and hand motions into hand washing and water play for all the children. Together, they thought about how Sharmane could play at the water table and sink everyday.

  • Identifying when to visit and how to collaborate with the program personnel who direct and carry out the program’s activities for children. It is important to secure the support of a director of a formal program such as preschool or child care center before making plans with group leaders for visits.

Collaborating with personnel in group settings

  • Find out when other adults have the most flexibility to talk (e.g., before and after the program, during nap or snack) as well as interact when the children are present.
  • Ask about visitor’s protocols, especially what to be called (first name, Mrs./Mr., etc) and how to respond to children’s requests for help or to play.
  • Use email, voicemail, visit notes, communication books to reinforce key messages and share observations.
  • Pitch in during all prep time and talk while getting ready for children and families to attend.
  • Offer to lead an activity as a way to demonstrate suggestions and understand the context and other adult’s role in the program.
  • Share responsibility with other adults for ensuring that all children are safe and engaged in program activities.
  • Instead of scheduling individual sessions with two or more children in a preschool or child care center, schedule a block of time to cover a portion of the schedule which presents the most learning opportunities for working on IFSP outcomes.


  • Promoting the inclusion and socialization of all children involved in the program. The following strategies can support all children in group settings (Hanft, Shelden & Rush, 2004). When family members are present, wait for them to answer questions that arise from other children and adults, or invite them to do so. Encourage family members to talk about how to handle specific situations in preparation for a child joining a community group, or later, as situations arise.



Promoting interaction of all children in group settings

  • Model strategies for other adults about including other children in all suggestions you make for a particular child e.g., sit with children and show them how to wait for a response from a child who uses gestures to communicate.
  • Invite other children to join you and the child you are visiting e.g., “Stevie, come on over and build this tower with us!” Then, as soon as possible, sit back and resist becoming the center of the children’s attention.
  • Answer questions and comments from children directly and honestly e.g., you might tell Tuyet who asks about Sonya’s wheelchair, “Sonya uses her wheelchair to get around, like you use your legs.”
  • Involve family members, if present, and a child with special needs in any discussion or questions that arise from other children. For example, after telling Tuyet about Sonya’s wheelchair, ask her to demonstrate how she moves her chair, or show how Sonya can give a ride to a doll as she is pushed herself.
  • Assist children in learning about the special interests, likes and dislikes, and communication style of a particular child e.g., “LaQuan, remember that Sonya like gentle hugs from her friends.” or “Sonya can see you if you stand close to her, like this.”
  • Encourage children to ask questions, or if they don’t, supply simple information, e.g., “Alisi, this machine helps Leila get some air to breathe.”
  • Maintaining family and child confidentiality while interacting in community settings. Before going to community programs, early intervention providers should ask parents how they would like to handle possible situations which could arise e.g., how to introduce an early intervention provider who accompanies family members to community locations frequented by others, or how to demonstrate or talk about suggestions for a child when other people are nearby.

    Debra accompanied Ian and his mom, Caryn, to their gymboree class to see how she could offer suggestions for including Ian in a greater number of activities. Debra asked Caryn if she could talk with the gymboree teacher beforehand to listen to her perspectives, and talk about having a guest in her class. Debra also asked Caryn how active a role she should take. Caryn replied that friends and family frequently attended, and that Debra should “jump in” and help Ian enjoy himself as much as possible.


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:

This video clip from Just Being Kids illustrates early intervention supports and services for Evan and his family. This clip focuses on how a father, Bob, and a child care teacher view collaborative consultation from Renee, a speech-language pathologist, to support Evan’s functional outcomes of communicating with family and peers and using a spoon independently during meals and snack.

1. Comments from dad and teacher about collaborative consultation from a speech-language pathologist

Windows Media File (wmv)

High-Speed File: Evan D

Low-Speed File: Evan D (56k modem)

QuickTime (mov)

High-Speed File: Evan D

Low-Speed File: Evan D(56K modem)









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