Parents who suspect their child may have a disability often find that the process for receiving services is much more complex than they anticipated. Questions and anxieties can arise, such as, “What do these acronyms being used during the meetings mean?” or “Will my child be successful if they have a disability?”
Maryland Learning Links has compiled 52 tips to help families and service providers alike hold successful and smooth IFSP and IEP meetings. One tip each week will be shared on the Maryland Learning Links Facebook and Twitter pages, and the tips will also be listed below throughout the year for your reference.
What Is an IFSP or an IEP?
To start, let’s define both of these processes. An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is both a process and document provided if your child is eligible for early intervention services. It is designed to provide you with strategies to support your child’s development during typical routines and activities that you have identified as important for your family.
Your child might need an IFSP if they have a developmental delay or have a specific health condition that could lead to a delay, including genetic disorders, birth defects, and hearing loss. IFSP plans are family-centered, with services usually provided in settings typical for children of the same chronological age. This includes the home- and community-based settings, such as a child care center.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for children determined to be eligible for special education and related services under one of 14 disability categories:
- Developmental Delay
- Emotional Disability
- Hearing Impairment, including deafness
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Disabilities
- Orthopedic Impairment
- Other Health Impairment
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech or Language Impairment
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visual Impairment, including blindness
The IEP describes goals and objectives identified and agreed on by IEP team members, including parents, for a child during the school year. Also included in the IEP are any special supports or accommodations needed to help the child make progress, and are all provided at no cost to families of children through their local school system. IEPs are designed for children ages 3 to 21; after age 14, the IEP will include the development of a secondary transition plan.
Now, let’s go through each of the 52 tips for successful IFSP and IEP meetings.
Preparing for Meetings
- Parents: Keep an open dialogue with your child care provider or your child’s teacher if they are school age. They are a valuable resource in knowing what you can expect or not in typical child development stages. They can often recommend whether testing for disabilities is needed. Contact the Maryland Infants and Toddlers Program for a screening meeting to begin this process.
- Even if your teacher or child care provider doesn’t immediately recommend testing, listen to your instincts. You have the right to ask for testing from the school or child care center. Send a written request for evaluation to your child’s principal that outlines your concerns. Download a letter template on this page.
Navigating the Meetings
Reinforcing the Child’s Goals