Putting Your IFSP Into Action

Where will the services for your child and family be provided?

Typically, early intervention services areprovided within your family’s natural environment. Theterm natural environment refers to those settings that yourfamily has identified as typical or normal for your family,meaning home and community settings where yourfamily’s everyday routines and activities occur. Thesesettings reflect your family’s lifestyle, interests, culture andschedules. Natural environments are those places that areroutinely used by your family and typically developingchildren and represent a wide variety of locations suchyour home, neighborhood, child care setting, parks,recreation centers, stores, buses, malls, museums,libraries, places of worship, etc.

Services are to be provided in natural environments unless your child’s needs cannot be met there. In choosing services, it is important to think about those natural environments where your child learns best. When deciding about the location of services, you and your IFSP team should consider all of the natural environments in your community.

If a service cannot be provided in a natural environment, the IFSP team must describe the reasons for choosing a setting that is not inclusive and steps to help your child receive the support to succeed in his or her everyday activities and routines.

Natural environments do not only refer to a “place”. Although location is important, it is only one part of quality early intervention practices. Other essential characteristics include; why the service is being provided, what the service is, who is providing it, when it is being provided, and how it is being provided. All of these elements are critical in supporting your child’s development and learning.

Who provides the services for your child and family?

Many times more than one person is needed tomeet all of your child and family needs. Your early interventionteam may include different types of specialists.These specialists will change as your concerns and yourchild’s needs change.

Your service coordinator can help you to coordinate your team of early intervention specialists and the services they are providing. Always remember, you and your family are the most important members of your early intervention team.

The Early Intervention Team may include any of the persons:

  • Early Childhood Special Education Teacher
  • Early Childhood Mental Health Specialist
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Pediatrician or other Physician
  • Nutritionist
  • Audiologist
  • Service Coordination
  • Teachers for Visually or Hearing Impaired
  • Family Therapist
  • Social Worker
  • Psychologist

Note: A definition for each specialist is available at www.eicolorado.org, or ask your Service Coordinator for a copy.

Early intervention team members can also include other people the family chooses such as friends, neighbors, relatives, or childcare providers. If the provider does not speak the primary language of your family or child, an interpreter may be provided.

How will your child and family services be delivered?

Services are usually delivered to your child intwo ways:

  • Directly to your child by a therapist or other early intervention specialist—This person will also consult with the family and, if appropriate, with other people like childcare staff or other service providers about how to support your child’s development and learning in daily routines.
  • Indirectly to your child through consultation with the important people already in your child’s life.—This consultation occurs by specialists working with family members and others involved in your child’s life (for example, childcare providers, friends, etc.) and instructing them how to support your child’s development and learning throughout the day.

How can you change your services?

I. Review Outcomes:
As your child and family change, you will also want to change the outcomes you are working toward. Your service coordinator may suggest an IFSP review, or you may request a review at any time, even if your IFSP was recently completed. You and your service coordinator will look at your current IFSP, discuss what has changed and how this affects your child’s and family’s outcomes. Progress toward current outcomes and any new outcomes are recorded on the IFSP.

II. Review Services
Sometimes new outcomes are likely to be achieved by changing the specific techniques your service provider uses or that you learn to teach your child, without any change to your early intervention team members, or the type, frequency, or location of services. At times, you may add or delete a certain service, or plan to have it more or less often. This review of services is recorded on the IFSP. Your consent must be given before any services change.

How are your child and family’s outcome measured?

Progress information is important to thosewho are trying to help your child and family. ResultsMatter is the name of the child and family outcomesmeasurement system in Colorado.

States are required to report outcomes data for children and their families served in publicly funded early childhood programs. This child outcomes data is the percent of infants and toddlers with IFSPs who demonstrate improvements in:

  • Positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships)
  • Acquiring and using knowledge and skills (including early language)
  • Taking appropriate action to meet their needs

Results Matter oversees the collection of this non-identifiable data, meaning your name, child’s name, date of birth or any other information that identifies your child, is not included. The early intervention providers working regularly with your child and family gather this information. The data is collected shortly after your child enters into the early intervention program, at each annual review of the IFSP, and when your child exits out of the Early Intervention program.

In addition, family outcomes data is gathered once per year through a statewide survey, usually in the spring. Your service coordinator will provide information to you about simple steps to complete this family outcomes survey. This family outcomes data is collected to ensure that families:

  • Understand their children’s strengths, abilities and special needs;
  • Know their rights and effectively communicate their children’s needs;
  • Help their children develop and learn;
  • Have support systems; and
  • Have access to services, programs and accommodations.

The information from this family outcomes survey is used to document the effectiveness of early intervention programs and to identify if families are benefiting from the services their children have received.

How can you help your child?

You know your child best. Early intervention specialist(s) will enjoy learning from you about your child’s interests, what helps him or her learn, and what he or she would rather avoid.

Together, you will develop ways to help your child. You will learn from—as well as teach—the early intervention specialist(s) working with your child.

Parenting is not always easy, especially when you may need some unique skills to help meet your child’s development and learning. You are your child’s first and best teacher and advocate. As a parent being an advocate for your child, you will have to understand and tell professionals, relatives, and friends about your family’s priorities and concerns. Communicating with others about your child can sometimes be frustrating—especially when they have a different point of view or do not seem to understand you.

What are your responsibilities?

Your most important responsibility is to be an active member of your early intervention team. This means sharing information, actively taking part in developing the IFSP, and getting involved when the early intervention specialist are with you and your child.

Active participation is easier if you work with the early intervention staff during their visits. Hold or sit close to your child and practice new teaching techniques and ways of learning together. Even though days are busy, it is important for you and child to block out this time so you can really focus on learning more about supporting your child’s development. Early intervention services are like coaching sessions where you learn new ways of teaching and supporting your child’s development. You can then work on goals with your child during playtime, meals, bath time, and other daily activities when the early intervention specialists are not with you. Try to make learning fun for your child!

Early intervention services are flexible and adjustable. If your child is not making the progress you expect and have planned for, discuss this with your service coordinator. You are the expert on your child so talk with your early intervention team and service coordinator about new things you see your child doing, or things you expected to see that he is not yet doing, so that you can plan together for changes.

How can you get the most out of your Early Intervention visit?

I. Before Your Visit

  • Be prepared. Make sure you schedule your visit when you can be there and not have a lot of distractions. Decide how brothers and sisters will be involved or plan an activity for them.
  • Plan the agenda. Let the Early Intervention staff know what you want to discuss at your visit. Remember or write down any questions that you may have since your last visit.
  • Be ready to share what has happened since your last visit. Think about or make a list of anything you think is important to share such as a trip to the doctor or changes in routine. Think about what suggestions have worked well and those that have not worked so well.

II. During Your Visit

  • Ask questions. Make sure you understand what is being said. If you are not sure why something is being done, just ask. If it helps, ask for things in writing.
  • Ask for a demonstration. Ask to be shown anything you don’t understand. Practice strategies together during the visit. Hands-on instruction is the best way to learn.
  • Discuss ideas for carry over between visits. Practice time between visits is just as important as the visit itself. Be sure to talk about ways to use the strategies and activities during everyday family activities.

III. After Your Visit

  • Try things out. Try out the suggested activities. What is working? What isn’t?
  • Make a note of it. Remember to make a mental note or keep a notebook for questions that may come up between visits.
  • Have fun. The best teaching and learning occurs when you and your child are having fun.

How do you handle disagreements about services?

There may be times when you and your early intervention team cannot reach an agreement about services. The disagreement may be about such things as:

  • The types of early intervention services included in your IFSP;
  • Who will provide the services;
  • Where the services are provided; or
  • How often the services are provided.

It is important that you first try to settle these differences by talking with your service coordinator and with staff of the local early intervention program. Often you can negotiate or work out a change that will meet your needs and preferences. If you continue to disagree, you may consider mediation and/or an administrative hearing. Your service coordinator can help you with the different ways to settle disagreements.

Mediation is a process that allows you and the agency staff to talk about the details of your disagreement with an impartial, trained mediator. The mediator is a person who will work with you and the agency staff to find a solution to the disagreement. It is an informal process, and nothing is written unless you reach an agreement. You are encouraged to consider this option first as mediation works well in many situations. However, you are not required to use mediation and you can stop the mediation at any point if you feel it is no longer helpful.

An administrative (due process) hearing is a more formal process that allows you and the Community

Centered Board to present your positions before an impartial, trained administrative hearing officer. A due process hearing is conducted much like a court hearing. The hearing is provided at no cost to you, but you must pay for any attorney or other advocate to represent your family. You can have an advisor present at the hearing. The advisor can be legal counsel or another person who knows your child. The hearing officer’s decision is final unless you appeal the decision to the state Early Intervention Colorado office within 30 days of the decision or file a civil action in state or district court. You will be informed of the hearing officer’s decision in writing.

Requests for either mediation or an administrative hearing are made in writing to the complaint officer at the state Early Intervention Colorado office. Whether you use mediation or the administrative hearing, the process must be completed and a decision made within 30 days of your written request for settlement.

If you disagree with the resolution of any decisions concerning eligibility, if you have concerns about your other rights, or if you feel that federal or state law is not being followed, you may request that the state Early Intervention Colorado office investigate your problem. You can reach the state office by calling 1-888-777-4041 and following the prompts. A more detailed description of dispute resolution options is also available at www.eicolorado.org.

How do I get more involved?

There are many ways that you and your family can get involved with early intervention services beyond the activities specifically designed for you and your child. Early intervention services depend on your ideas and information to keep services family centered.

Think about the things that are important to you, the time you have available, and the kinds of activities that interest you. Here are some examples:

  • Serving on committees or task forces created to address a specific topic
  • Reviewing written materials
  • Responding to surveys or phone interviews about early intervention services
  • Participate with your State or Local Interagency
  • Coordinating Council (LICC)

To find out more about these and other possibilities, contact Imagine! at 303-665-7789. To find out more about the family leadership and family engagement opportunities visit www.eicolorado.org, enter the Family Section and click on the Parent/Family Involvement and Resources and Family Leadership Opportunities links.