Individualized Family Support Plan/Individual Education Plan

Families with deaf or hard of hearing infants should be enrolled in their local early intervention services by 6 months of age. An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) should be created with their Local Education Agency. The family will then receive expert support through home visits that focus on language development.

Lead-K Family Services

You might be familiar or unfamiliar with IFSP and IEP that are plan by early intervention or school to give support for your child development and education. Here are several information to help you to be better advocacy for your children.

What is an Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP)?

What is an IFSP?

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is a written document and a process that you and a group of professionals create to ensure outcomes for your child’s early intervention program. It outlines the recommended Early Child Intervention (ECI) services for your child and details when, where, and how the ECI will deliver these services. The IFSP is a cooperative effort that forms the foundations of early intervention. Think of the IFSP as a map or guidebook that helps keep you and early childhood specialists on track.

Who is an IFSP for?

An IFSP is a plan to obtain special education services for young children who have disabilities. It is provided by law to families of eligible children from birth to 3 years old.

Who Puts Together the IFSP?

Creating the IFSP is a team effort that considers parental concerns, the child’s current development level, and objective milestones. The IFSP team usually includes the following individuals:

  • You (the parent or parents)

  • Other family members (upon parental request)

  • A non-family member child advocate (upon request)

  • Service coordinator (the person who implements the IFSP)

  • Trained professionals who perform evaluations and assessments

  • Trained professionals who perform the actual ECI services

  • Teacher for the Deaf (for families with deaf baby)

In some cases, an IFSP team may include additional personnel such as:

  • Pediatric medical practitioner

  • Therapists

  • Personal care attendant

  • Child development specialists

  • Teacher

  • Social worker

What should be included in the IFSP?

Before creating the IFSP, the team must collect relevant information. During this process, you will be invited to meetings and asked to share your ideas, concerns, preferences, and priorities. Your family structure, strengths, and potential resources will help play a role in creating the plan. Be sure to brainstorm questions and take notes during meetings. If you participate in phone meetings, note the professional you spoke with and the matter discussed

Although each child is different, common elements found in IFSPs in every state include the following:

  • Information about the family and professional organizations involved in the IFSP

  • Data about your child’s current level of functioning or present state of development

  • Services that the child will receive in detail (such as projected start date, frequency of services, length of each session, duration and intensity of each treatment, and the organization responsible for paying for these services)

  • Desired outcomes or goals at the end of each service (such as “Ryan will demonstrate fine motor and oral-motor skills by gripping his sippy cup, lifting it to his mouth, and drinking without assistance)

  • Information about transition from early childhood intervention services once the child reaches the maximum age

  • Signatures and written consent from the parent or legal guardian

Can I Make Changes to the IFSP?

Yes, you can make changes to the IFSP. Most service provides review the IFSP document at least every six months, and most states require that the team update the document annually. Use these review periods to evaluate your child’s progress and make changes to the IFSP if necessary.

Can CODA child get IFSP or IEP services? Yes, they can if you are concerned about speech and want to have an assessment. You can reach your county to get an assessment to give speech support at any time if needed. You do not need to wait until your child attends school and for a teacher or professional to request assistance in your child's speech.

brochure developed by Rima Cornish

What is the difference between an IEP and an IFSP?

What is the difference?

The significant difference between an IFSP and an IEP is that an IFSP focuses on the child and family and the services that a family needs to help them enhance their child's development. The IEP focuses on the educational needs of the child. An IEP is an educational document for children ages 3 to 21. It focuses on special education and related services in schools.

Services available through the IFSP are usually provided in the child's home. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that services are to be provided in the child's "natural environment." This could include a child care setting, Early Head Start, or preschool too.

You as a family member have a different role in IEP. Your role is to support your child in the educational environment. You can express your concerns about the child related to education needs at the home and school. You and the team focus on the support the child's success in education.

Services through the IEP are usually provided at the school. A planning meeting must also define each agency's role and financial responsibility in the child's education plan. The chart on the next page illustrates the differences between an IFSP and an IEP.

You might face a challenging transition from IFSP to IEP or to any of those meeting. If you want your Deaf or CODA child to get or continue to receive any support or service (interpreter and more), you will need your child to have IEP for K-12. Sometimes, they see the success of your child learning independently and feel that your child does not need IEP, including an interpreter. Or you and your Deaf child might request to transfer to a Deaf school, and they might tell you that the child is doing fine in the mainstream and declined to allow the transfer. If you disagree with any decision made in the meeting, they do not make the final decision for your child's education need. You can fight and appeal if need.

Parent Advocacy App

The Parent Advocacy app is designed for families of deaf and hard of hearing children who attend K - 12 programs. It aids families with advocating for their children during Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, 504 meetings, and other types of school meetings.

The app is designed for you to use while on the go, while attending school meetings, or while home. It helps you to prepare for the school meeting, helps you during the meeting, and helps you to continue your efforts after the school meeting.

Be sure to use the interactive check lists to help determine what has been done and what still remains to do. Take notes while using the app , access the listed resources, and connect with collaborating organizations to deepen your advocacy efforts.

The Parent Advocacy app is a collaboration between the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University, the American Society for Deaf Children, Hands & Voices, and the National Association of the Deaf.

For questions about the app contact us at

parent-advocacy-app - Click me if you want this app

IEP Appeal

Experts who are responsible for the evaluation of children, education administrators, and parents gather together to announce evaluation results, determine types and service hours of special education and related services, and decide the extent of inclusive education and educational placement. Parents often do not agree with their child’s special education services as suggested or advised by the school. By law, parents have the right to respond assertively and legally to the evaluation results, the appropriateness of educational goals, inclusive educational placement, and various services provided by the school. When parents do not agree with or reject the school’s actions, they have several options from which to choose.

1. An attempt to reach a consensus: Parents can try to reach an agreement on the parts they are concerned with through communication with the school. Sometimes it may be a temporary arrangement. For example, the parents and the school can try a plan regarding the child’s classroom or placement and seek a new agreement after watching the student’s performance for a period of time.

2. Request for mediation: During mediation, parents and a representative of the school district (you also can bring your representative, check below) meet with a neutral third party, and then try to reach an agreement. The school may offer an alternative to resolve disputes as much as possible before entering into a legal battle.

3. Request an IEP due process hearing: If the school and parents cannot reach a decision through mediation, parents can request a due process hearing. Here, parents and the school district present written evidence about the disputed issue and have witnesses testify before a hearing officer. Hearing officers will determine how the problem should be managed (note: mediation must first be sought before an IEP due process hearing can be used).

4. Filing a complaint to the state education agency: To file a complaint, parents generally write a letter directly to the state educational institution, describing which part of the IDEA the school has violated. Within 60 days, the educational agency must resolve the complaint. With exceptional circumstances concerning the complaint, it is allowed to extend the time limit beyond 60 days. Expressing a disagreement on educational actions unilaterally decided by the school is the legal right of people with disabilities and their parents. Since there are different levels of mediation, as mentioned above, it is essential to reach an agreement through positive and logical communication. Whenever parents have an objection, it is very important for them to express their concerns through notes, written letters, or emails and keep records of the date and conversation contents.

*I strongly recommend you contact a local Deaf agency or organization to support and possibly send an advocate representative with you to the meeting.*