The Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) (page 2)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Jul 26, 2007

Steps that Lead to Effective IFSPs

  • Identify Family Concerns, Priorities, and Resources. The family's concerns, priorities, and resources guide the entire IFSP process. Early intervention should be seen as a system of services and supports available to families to enhance their capacity to care for their children. The notion of partnership between the intervention team and the family must be introduced and nurtured at this beginning point of the IFSP process. 
  • Identify the Family's Activity Settings. All children develop as the result of their everyday experiences. It is important to document valued, enjoyable routines (bath time, eating, play activities, etc.) and analyze them to see if they offer the sustained engagement that leads to learning opportunities. Likewise, it is important to identify the community activity settings (e.g., child care, gymboree, swimming) that provide opportunities for learning. 
  • Conduct a Functional Assessment. An effective assessment process 
    •  addresses the family's questions about enhancing their child's development, focusing on each family member's concerns and priorities 
    •  collects information for a specific purpose, for example, the evaluation conducted by the early interventionist at the beginning of the IFSP process determines if the child is eligible for services 
    •  reflects a complete and accurate picture of the child's strengths, needs, preferences for activities, materials, and environments 
    •  has a person familiar to the child conduct observations and other assessments in settings familiar to the child (e.g., home, outdoor play area, child care program) 
  • Collaboratively Develop Expected Outcomes. After assessment information is collected, the team meets to review the information and the family's concerns, priorities, and resources to develop statements of expected outcomes or goals. Active family involvement is essential. Collaborative goals focus on enhancing the family's capacity and increasing the child's participation in valued activities. 
  • Assign Intervention Responsibilities. After outcomes are identified, the early intervention team assigns responsibilities for intervention services that support those outcomes. An IFSP requires an integrated, team approach to intervention. Using a trans-disciplinary team model is one method of integrating information and skills across professional disciplines. In the trans-disciplinary model, all team members (including the family) teach, learn, and work together to accomplish a mutually agreed upon set of intervention outcomes. Individuals' roles are defined by the needs of the situation rather than by the function of a specific discipline. 

In a trans-disciplinary model, one or a few people are primary implementers of the program. Other team members provide ongoing direct or indirect services, such as consultation. For example, an occupational therapist can observe a toddler during meals, then recommend to the parent how to physically assist the child. 

  • Identify Strategies to Implement the Plan. This step involves working closely as a team to increase learning opportunities, to use the child's surroundings to facilitate learning, to select the most effective strategies to bring about the desired outcomes, and identify reinforcers that best support the child's learning. Implementation may involve a toddler participating in a library story hour one afternoon a week; a physical therapist showing family members how to use adaptive equipment; or a service coordinator completing the paperwork to pay for a child's transportation from his or her home to needed services. 

Intervention strategies should help promote generalization of outcomes, i.e., the child performs new skills in a variety of environments after intervention has ended. For example, both service providers and family members can encourage a child to request desired objects (e.g., toys) with gestures in numerous environments (e.g., home, playgroup, child care). 

Interventions should target several outcomes during one activity. When a child participates in an activity, he or she uses a variety of skills from a number of developmental areas. For example, during mealtimes, a toddler may use communication skills to request more juice, fine motor skills to grasp a spoon, a social skills to interact with a sibling. 

Intervention strategies should help a child become more independent in his or her world. The selected strategies might involve offering physical assistance during mealtimes, prompting the correct response during a self-care routine, or providing simple pull-on clothing to enable a child to dress without assistance. 

Interventions provided within natural environments should look like a "typical activity." For instance, a child learning to develop her fine motor skills should be encouraged to color, draw pictures, play with puzzles, build with blocks, pick up her toys, use eating utensils, play finger games, etc. Ideally, interventions should: 

  • Be embedded in everyday natural environments. 
  • Emphasize the acquisition of functional competencies. 
  • Make it possible to increase a child's participation within the environments. 
  • Include both social and non-social activities 
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