What is an IFSP?
The IFSP- the Individualized Family Service Plan- is a written plan that is developed for an eligible infant or toddler (up to his third birthday) who has a developmental delay or a disability. It outlines all of the services or interventions that your child and family will receive. (An IEP- Individualized Education Plan- is for children ages 3 and up and will be discussed in another post.)
How do you know if your child qualifies for services?
In the United States, we have a federal law that is specifically geared to helping babies and children with delays or disabilities. Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a $436 million program administered by states that serves infants and toddlers with developmental delays or who have diagnosed conditions with high probabilities of resulting in developmental delays. Please see my prior posts where I explain how to have your child (birth to age 3 or ages 3 - 21) evaluated for free if you suspect that he has a delay or problem.
Once your child has been evaluated and the team (which includes parents!) has met and discussed the results of the testing, you will learn if your child is considered eligible for services. If he is, the next step is to develop the IFSP.
What’s in an IFSP?
The IFSP is specific to your child’s and family’s needs. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) says “The best way to support children and meet their needs is to support and build upon the individual strengths of their family. So, the IFSP is a whole family plan with the parents as major contributors in its development.”
NICHCY has a great explanation of the IFSP on their website (just scroll down the page). This article is so good, that it would be silly for me to change a word of it. This easy to read article will tell you:
• who qualifies for services (the diagnoses),
• what kind of services or therapies are included in an IFSP,
• who develops the plan,
• how and where services may be delivered, and
• who pays for the services.
It will also discuss the time frame (45 days) of how long is allowed from the initial referral to the written IFSP for an eligible child.
What does an IFSP look like?
NICHCY has a sample IFSP to familiarize you with what is included. You will see that it even has a section on transitioning from baby and toddler services to those programs available for children ages 3 and up.
Another place to go for more information is the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC). They have a flow chart of the IFSP process and even a referral to a video that helps families understand the process. They also have a link to examples of IFSP forms for many states.
Don’t delay with delays
In short, the IFSP is a detailed, personalized plan just for your baby/toddler and family. If your child is delayed in reaching developmental milestones or has a disability, don’t delay. Early intervention is SO important! Getting help early is a gift that you can give your child that has benefits that will last a lifetime.
Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.
Note: This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.