Tips from the Trenches: Preparing You for the IFSP Process
By Hearing First Team April 19, 2017
Whether you’re just starting the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) process or you’ve had an early intervention process in place for a year, it’s important to remember that as a parent, you are the captain of the LSL team for your child! Read along for information about all-things IFSP and helpful tips from the trenches of the process.
Imagine: Your audiologist just told you your baby has a hearing loss and will be referring you to an early intervention program to initiate an IFSP. You feel sad and overwhelmed because this isn’t what you planned for. You have questions about what you can even do with your baby to assure they can listen, learn and talk on par with their future hearing friends. You wonder how you can possibly start a process you know nothing about.
Then you may find yourself asking what is an IFSP and why is it necessary?
The IFSP is a written plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Part C that outlines specialized services for children under age three with developmental delays, and a child who is diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing qualifies for an IFSP. To start the IFSP process, a designated team will work with you to establish a plan that covers many topics including your child’s assessment results, their strengths and needs, your priorities and resources, goals to assist you in facilitating your child’s listening and language development as well as a list of services you will receive as part of the IFSP.
- Don’t panic when you find out these professionals are coming to your home. The IFSP team is not coming to evaluate you or your home environment. The team will be there to provide information and services for you and your child.
- Remember that you are your child’s most important teacher and you are the leader of this process.
Why Do We Have to Go Through the IFSP Process?
Because your infant or child is under age three and has been diagnosed with hearing loss, your audiologist is required to refer you to Part C, also known as early intervention services. The IFSP process is in place for you to take advantage of professional support and services during this critical window of time for your baby’s auditory brain development.
Who Provides the Services?
Your early intervention provider may be a speech-language pathologist, teacher of the deaf or, in some cases, an audiologist. It’s important to make sure your provider supports your decision to use listening and spoken language and has knowledge about hearing loss, experience with hearing technology and has worked with families who have chosen an LSL outcome.
- Ask your early intervention provider if they support or provide listening and spoken language (LSL) services.
- Ask questions about services that will help you reach the listening and spoken language outcome you want for your child.
What is My Role with the Services?
It is helpful to think of your relationship with your early intervention provider as a parent-professional partnership where your provider will work collaboratively with you to:
- Understand your family’s unique style of learning
- Guide you in understanding your child’s hearing loss and potential effects on language development
- Provide up to date information about hearing loss and technology
- Support you in management of hearing technology
- Set LSL specific goals
- Coach and guide you in the use of LSL strategies
- Help you to integrate listening and spoken language in all aspects of life
Remember, you spend the most time with your child and will have the best opportunity to practice LSL in all daily routines. Your EI provider’s role is to give you the knowledge, tools, guidance and feedback to make LSL a part of everything you do!
- Make sure your provider will be coaching you through LSL strategies to use with your child. Although they will provide guidance during sessions, you’ll make the magic happen during your ongoing natural interactions with your baby!
What’s the Purpose of Evaluating My Baby or Young Child?
Long story short, your child is evaluated in order to know if they’re meeting developmental milestones and to help monitor their progress over time. You may also wonder why your EI provider evaluates your child every six months. Typically, they’ll complete a standardized assessment at the beginning of the IFSP process and every year thereafter. In addition, they’ll complete a checklist with you every three to six months to monitor your child’s listening and language development. These assessments can tell you and your EI provider if your child is progressing appropriately in all areas of language and can help identify specific areas of need so you can address concerns as they arise.
- Throughout the process, it’s important to know if your child is meeting language and developmental milestones. Research the listening and language guidelines that are appropriate for your child.
- You should expect evaluations to show your child is making one year or more of progress in one year’s time.
Check out Cochlear’s Integrated Scales of Development tool to help monitor listening and language development.
How Do I Know What Goals to Expect?
Your IFSP team will ask you what goals you have for your child. This can seem like a daunting task and often parents aren't sure how to answer goal specific questions. To start, consider your long-term goal. If you’ve decided on a listening and spoken language path, you’ll want to set goals related to your desired outcome for your child. You’ll work closely with your provider to review evaluations and set goals in the following areas:
- Receptive Language
- Expressive Language
- Speech sound development
- Social Interaction/Conversation
Goals are usually written for application in your home environment during daily routines so they can be integrated into what you are doing all day with your baby.
- Set high expectations for your child’s listening and spoken language development.
How Often Should I Get Services?
Because the first three and a half years of life are the most important time for auditory brain development, it's beneficial for parents to receive services from a qualified provider on a weekly basis in the form of home visits, tele-intervention sessions or center based services. In addition, some centers or early intervention programs offer additional parent education classes, parent-infant groups and toddler groups that can be included as part of the IFSP services.
- If possible, request weekly services to stay on track with your child’s rapid language development and applicable LSL strategies. If your child wears their hearing technology during all awake hours, a weekly visit from a qualified EI professional should be adequate to help you reach your expected outcomes.
Remember, this important time sets the foundation for your child’s long-term language development. As a parent or caregiver, you can partner with your EI provider to make the most out of your IFSP services to assure your child reaches their full spoken language potential.
Ending Tip from the Trenches:
Looking for a final takeaway to help you manage the IFSP process? Possibly the most important tip is to expand your community of support. Hearing First offers a Family Support Community for you, family members, caregivers and friends to connect, share and grow on the LSL journey. Join the Hearing First Family Support Community to engage with other families going through the IFSP process. Hearing First also offers a Professional Learning Community for professionals, so make sure to tell your EI team about the Professional Learning Community where they can advance their own LSL practice.