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Early Childhood Frequently Asked Questions

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

What roles do the members of my daughter’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team play?

The IFSP team is made up of people with the skills necessary to help your child with her specific disabilities, needs, and goals. Every team is unique and includes the parents. Some of the professionals on your daughter’s team may include:

  • An occupational therapist (OT), who understands the fine motor development issues that may affect your child’s ability to pick up an object or self-feed. The OT also knows how to adapt toys and learning materials to support your child’s play and learning, address feeding difficulties, and encourage self-help skills such as dressing.
  • A physical therapist (PT), who knows about muscle tone and movement patterns that affect balance and walking. The PT can recommend adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, advise you about options such as limb bracing and gait training, and assist with concerns such as balance or walking.
  • A speech therapist, who knows about oral-motor function and feeding difficulties. With an extensive knowledge of speech and language development, the speech therapist can recommend adaptive communication devices and help with feeding issues.
  • An early childhood special education (ECSE) teacher, who knows about young children’s early cognition, pre-academic and problem-solving skills, and early play development. The ECSE teacher can suggest ways to enhance cognitive skills through play and other daily activities. He or she also can help a child-care provider or other early education staff determine how to modify the classroom curriculum and daily activities to encourage cognitive development.

My daughter is turning 3 and moving from Part C early intervention to Part B preschool services. Her service coordinator has asked me to provide some information to help determine my child’s “outcomes” from early intervention services. I thought we were looking at progress on my daughter’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) goals, but these were different. What is she talking about?

The goals that were written into your daughter’s IFSP were developed based on your daughter’s evaluation and your concerns and priorities for her. They are unique to your daughter. The outcomes that your service coordinator is asking you about are different. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to report outcomes for all children leaving the Part C program who have received services for at least six months.

These outcomes are:

  1. Developing positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships)
  2. Acquiring and using knowledge and skills
  3. Taking appropriate action to meet needs

The purpose of this annual report is to see if Part C services are making a difference in the lives of the children and families served by the program. The outcomes data is used at the local, state, and federal level to ensure high-quality services and supports for young children and their families.

How is information on child outcomes collected?

Multiple sources of information are used to assign a rating for your child in each of the three outcome areas as defined by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Most of this information is already collected as part of determining the child’s eligibility for the program, and in developing his or her Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP). Progress is measured by comparing the child’s performance from the time he or she begins an early childhood or early intervention program to the time the child leaves that program. The process is simple, but it provides valuable information for you, your child’s teachers, and other caregivers. Parents should work together with the teacher (or a member of the early intervention team) to rate the child’s progress on the Child Outcome Summary Form.

How is this information used?

This information is required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. It is used to make improvements to local and state services, and measure the impact of government investment in early intervention. Each state is required to report on the success of early intervention programs in improving outcomes for children with disabilities and their families. In Minnesota, the Department of Education collects this information. Results are reported annually to OSEP and to local programs. The surveys are anonymous.

What is the difference between the OSEP child outcomes and the outcomes on my child’s IFSP or IEP?

The outcomes on a child’s IFSP are developed based on the unique needs of the child and the priorities established by the family during the assessment process. In contrast, the three OSEP outcomes are the same for every child. These three functional child outcomes can serve as a framework or lens for viewing a child’s functioning, and can provide valuable insight into a child’s needs that should be addressed in an IFSP or IEP. For instance, if parents have a concern regarding a delay in their child’s speech, an outcome could be written into the IFSP regarding speech development. Progress on this outcome could also be used to measure progress on Outcome 1 (children have positive social relationships). In other words, speech development is important not just for the sake of the child’s ability to talk, but also as a tool to be used in forming relationships, participating in activities, and communicating wants and needs.

The goals on a child’s IEP should reflect the child’s specific educational, functional, and developmental needs. All of these needs are also reflected in the three OSEP child outcomes. While the outcomes may be worded differently, tracking progress on IEP goals should provide information on progress toward the OSEP outcomes. This progress should lead to active and successful participation at home, in preschool, and in the community.

My 1-year-old child has been evaluated and qualifies for early childhood special education services. The service coordinator contacted me to set up a meeting to write the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and suggested that I think about family goals to include in the IFSP. I thought the IFSP was for my daughter. Why is the service coordinator talking about goals for the family?

The IFSP is a process that includes the parents as an important part of the team. It is also a written plan that includes the resources, strengths and needs of families to meet the developmental needs of their child. Because of this, it can contain goals for both the child and the family. Perhaps you would like to access child care, explore financial resources or learn more about your child’s disability. Any of these goals can be written into the IFSP, in addition to goals for your daughter.

I have just moved to Minnesota from another state. My son was on an IFSP there, but when I contacted the school district here, they told me he may not necessarily qualify for services. How can that be?

Your son may have qualified under the category of developmental delay. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows each state to determine its own definition of developmental delay, so a child may qualify in one state but not another. You have a right to request that that your son be evaluated to determine eligibility in Minnesota.

For more information, see Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).