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Understanding the Contents of an IFSP

An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is developed to outline the services that Early ACCESS providers will provide for a six month period of time. An IFSP is a “living” document that can change as the needs of the child and family change.

When developing an IFSP, the IFSP team must: 

  • Identify a child’s present levels of development;
  • Establish outcomes, sometimes called goals, for the child;
  • Determine how progress towards the outcomes will be monitored;
  • Determine the early intervention services and supports necessary to meet the child’s and family’s unique needs; 
  • Provide services in the child’s natural environment as much as possible; and
  • Make plans for transition out of Early ACCESS when the child turns three years old.

Resources, Priorities, and Concerns of the Family

The IFSP must include a statement of the family’s resources, priorities, and concerns. The IFSP must also identify the supports and services necessary to enhance the family’s ability to help their child grow and learn.

The Early ACCESS team, including the parent, will develop the child and family outcomes or goals based on the priorities and concerns of the family. The outcomes or goals will guide the work of the family and Early ACCESS staff so that the child can participate in everyday family and community activities.

Information about the Child’s Development

Each child under three years of age who is referred for evaluation or early intervention services and suspected of having a disability or developmental delay receives a timely, comprehensive, multidisciplinary evaluation. The evaluation information is used to determine child outcomes and services.

Establishing Child and Family Outcomes and Progress Monitoring

The IFSP must include a statement of the measurable outcomes expected to be achieved by the child and family. The outcomes must include:

  • Information on monitoring progress towards meeting the outcomes;
  • Criteria or ways to know when the outcome is achieved;
  • Strategies and activities to accomplish the outcomes; and
  • Timelines for when it is anticipated the outcome will be achieved.

The information is used to determine the progress made by the child and family and, if needed, making modifications to the IFSP.

For additional information on writing and monitoring functional, participation-based outcomes, see the following: Outcomes & Monitoring in Early ACCESS document, the Part C Tip Sheet on Progress Monitoring, and the information on outcomes from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) for Early ACCESS

For children served in Early ACCESS, the goal is to enable them to be active and successful participants during their early childhood years and in the future in a variety of settings: in their homes with their families, in child care, preschool, or school programs, and in the community.  

Early intervention supports a child’s development in three outcome areas:

  • Showing positive social and emotional skills (social relationships);
  • Acquisition and use of knowledge and skills (early language/communication and literacy); and
  • Use of appropriate behaviors to meet their needs (self-help and motor skills).

For information on Early Childhood Outcomes, watch this video (8:44 minutes) the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.  


Early Childhood Outcomes Summary

The Early Childhood Outcomes Summary process is a team process for summarizing information about a child's functioning across multiple sources of information.  The IFSP team, including the parents, considers information such as the results of observations of the child by parents or caregivers and results from direct assessments.

The IFSP team will summarize information on a child’s functioning in each of the three Early Childhood Outcomes areas.

To learn more about the process used to summarize a child’s functioning across multiple sources of information visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center where you will find modules that provide key information.

The IFSP team completes the Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) Summary when the child enters Early ACCESS and when the child exits Early ACCESS.  If the child is transitioning to early childhood special education services, the final Early ACCESS exit ECO Summary is the entry ECO Summary for early childhood special education. 

For descriptions of the Early Childhood Outcomes, watch this video from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

Early Intervention Services

Each IFSP documents the early intervention services and supports a child and their family receives to meet their unique needs. There are eight requirements a service must meet to be considered an early intervention service in Early ACCESS. 

The services must:

  1. Be provided under public supervision
  2. Be selected in collaboration with the parents
  3. Be provided at no cost to the family
  4. Be designed to meet the developmental needs of the eligible child and the needs of the family to assist their child’s development in any one or more of the following areas:
    1. Cognitive development (Examples: exploring own hands/toys, figuring out simple problems)
    2. Physical Motor development, including vision and hearing (Examples: grabbing things with fingers and hands, reaching, moving, crawling, walking, seeing, hearing)
    3. Communication development (Examples: making sounds, babbling, talking, listening, responding to others, and expressing wants or needs)
    4. Adaptive/self-help development (Examples: feeding, dressing, bathing, toileting)
    5. Social or emotional development (Examples: interacts with family and familiar adults, plays with others, follows simple rules) 
  5. Meet Iowa’s Early Learning Standards and the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C
  6. Are provided by qualified personnel
  7. To the maximum extent appropriate, are provided in natural environments, including the home or community settings in which children without disabilities participate
  8. Provided in conformity with an Individualized Family Service Plan that meets IDEA Part C requirements and rules, and are based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable


Documenting Services that are not Early ACCESS, IDEA Part C Services

Only Early ACCESS, IDEA Part C services should be listed as early intervention services on a child’s IFSP. Based on individual needs, the IFSP also must identify medical and other services that the child or family needs or is receiving through other sources, but that are neither required nor funded by Early ACCESS.  This information is recorded in the IFSP section titled Agencies/Programs Involved. Because these early childhood or family services support achieving child or family outcomes, service information is recorded as strategies (what will be done to reach an outcome and the IFSP team members responsible) in the outcomes section of the IFSP.

If the other services are not currently being provided, in the log notes, describe the steps the service coordinator or family may take to assist the child and family in securing those other services. Examples of other services the child or family might need and the service coordinator help the family connect with include:

  • Therapies from private providers
    • Music therapy
    • Hippotherapy
    • Physical therapy
  • Preparing a parent to take the General Educational Development (GED) Test
  • Continuing higher education for a parent

With parental consent, these other providers can participate as members of IFSP teams. Because these early childhood or family support services support achieving child outcomes, information is recorded in the Outcomes section of the IFSP under, “Strategies: What will be done to reach an outcome and IFSP team member(s) responsible.”

Timely Provision of Early Intervention Services

The IFSP Team must ensure the IFSP is developed and implemented in accordance with the written IFSP. Early intervention services are provided to meet the unique needs of a child and family to achieve outcomes and enhance the family’s capacity to meet the developmental needs of their child.

After written parent consent has been obtained on the Consent for Early ACCESS Services, the IFSP Team must: 

  • Continue providing a Service Coordinator to every child and family to assist and enable the child and family in gaining access to and coordinating the provision of early intervention services and other services identified in the IFSP.
  • Start providing all early intervention service(s) in the IFSP within 30 calendar days after a parent signs the consent for services. 
    • Consent for Early ACCESS Services must be signed prior to the first delivery of an early intervention service. 
    • An IFSP Meeting is not considered as the first delivery of a service. Services must be provided after the IFSP meeting is concluded. 
    • Services delivered more than 30 calendar days due to agency or service provider reasons are not being provided in a timely manner. 
    • Delay in the first delivery of a service due to family reasons is acceptable. 
  • Document in a child’s early intervention records exceptional family circumstances, attempts to provide services, and reasons appointments didn’t happen.  
  • Complete service log(s) within a reasonable period of time after early intervention service(s) or service coordination are provided to document the ongoing work between families and providers. 

Additionally, the timely receipt of early intervention services are reported as part of state and federal IDEA requirements. The date of first delivery documented on a Service Log, compared to the date of signed Consent for Early ACCESS Services, is used to determine if services are timely.

Note: The Codes & Definitions Used in the ACHIEVE System – Early Intervention is a resource which will assist in documenting the reason a service is delivered more than 30 calendar days after consent.

Early Intervention Service Log

Documentation of the provision of each early intervention service includes the following information in the service log: Session Date; Child Location; Service(s); Start and End Time; How Services are Provided. 

Additional details recorded in a service log include:

  • Documentation of  services and supports provided to meet the child and family’s needs; 
  • A summary of interventions to implement during and between visits, and 
  • Monitoring progress as written in the IFSP to determine whether modification or revision of the early intervention services or IFSP child/family outcomes is necessary.

If a scheduled session did not occur, the provider(s) must document that the appointment didn’t happen and the reason.

Natural Environments

Whenever possible, service coordinators and service providers should embed services and interventions into the child’s natural routines and within the child’s natural environments.

Natural environments are the settings that are natural or typical for a same-aged infant or toddler without a disability and may include the home, friend or relative’s home, backyard, parks, stores, or other community settings.

Early intervention services may occur in a setting other than a natural environment only if the parent and IFSP team determines that early intervention cannot be achieved satisfactorily for the child in a natural environment and must be based on the evaluation and assessment conducted and the child’s outcomes. If the parent and IFSP team determines that a specific service must be provided in a setting other than a natural environment, such as a center-based program that serves only children with disabilities, an office, or clinical/hospital settings, explanations that justify the setting that is not a natural environment must be included in the child’s IFSP.

The provisions on natural environments do not apply to services listed in an IFSP that are intended to meet the needs of a parent or other family member and not the needs of the child, such as participation of a parent in an adult support program.

IFSP Components

For additional information on the content of an IFSP is available on our Resources page.