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 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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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