An Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) is the document that outlines the services your child and family will receive through the early intervention system. Parents are expected to play a large role in the development of the IFSP. They are expected to discuss their child’s and family’s capabilities as well as goals for their child and family.
Because having a deaf or hard of hearing child and early intervention are new to most families, often families don’t know where to begin. It might be helpful to start with thinking and making some notes about some of the topics that will be covered by the IFSP. Here are some of those topics:
- What your child is doing now – how s/he communicates his/her wants and needs, what s/he is doing physically, how s/he is learning, and anything else you notice. You know your child better than anyone. Your information and insights are valuable.
- What your family – including extended family members and friends – can do to support your child. They don’t need to be “experts.” They can help with what they already know, and they can learn what they need to know.
- Your hopes for your child to grow, learn, and communicate. Every parent has dreams for their child. What are yours?
- Questions and concerns that you have.
One very important area for deaf and hard of hearing children is language. Deaf and hard of hearing children are at risk of developing language delays. Therefore, discuss with your child’s early intervention providers how to make sure your child’s language develops appropriately. This could include having your child receive services from specially trained professionals as well as learning about activities you and your family can do with your child. Your child’s early interventionists and IFSP should support your child’s language development in whatever mode (signed, spoken, or both) your family chooses. If your child has additional disabilities, the IFSP should address those as well.
Further, if you or your family needs some kind of training to support your child’s development – such as American Sign Language classes – the IFSP should include that.
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers for your child or family. No one expects you to! You and the early intervention professionals serving your family are a team. Together you will develop a plan for your child and family to help your child achieve his/her developmental outcomes.
You know a lot about your child and you have a lot to share with early intervention professionals. Through the early intervention system, you, like all parents, can help chart your child’s future.