Individualized Education Plans and Individualized Family Service Plans

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?


An IEP is a written document, ordered by federal law, that defines a child’s disabilities, states current levels of academic performance, describes educational needs, and specifies annual goals and objectives. The unique needs of each child determine what specific programs and services are required. The IEP planning process can be very confusing for both parents and professionals. Below you will find answers to commonly asked questions about the IEP process.

  • How does the IEP process start and what can I expect?
    • Talk about requesting an IEP with the child’s teacher or doctor.
    • Learn about the IEP process on the Internet.
    • Write a letter to the special education office or to the child’s school principal requesting an assessment (and date your request). Even if the child is in private school, he or she can be evaluated by the school district.
    • You should receive an assessment plan from the school within 15 days.
    • You have 15 more days in which to agree to the school’s assessment plan or request a different one.
    • You should be invited to participate in an IEP meeting within 50 days. All testing must be completed by the meeting date.
  • What is an assessment plan?
    An assessment plan is a description of the various tests (cognitive, motor/perceptual, communication, social/emotional, and educational) to be used in a student’s assessment in preparation for his or her IEP meeting. The assessment plan should:

    • Be specific regarding which tests will be given. These should be individualized tests and NOT standardized tests given in a group situation.
    • Match your child’s perceived disabilities with a test or subtest that clearly assesses that area.
    • Consider all information, including parental input and classroom performance.
  • How do I prepare for the IEP meeting?
    • Talk to your child’s teacher and doctor about their observations.
    • Request copies of school and medical records at least 7 days before the IEP meeting. Parents are legally entitled to these results.
    • Understand the test results describing your child’s current levels of educational performance, including how your child compares to other children his or her age.
    • Define for yourself your child’s problem areas and strengths.
  • What will happen at the IEP planning meeting?
    At the planning meeting, the team will review the test results to determine if your child is eligible for an IEP. If your child qualifies for an IEP, the team will be developing educational and behavioral goals for your child at this meeting. Make sure to ask any questions you may have and pay attention to what is written on the IEP form.Remember this is a legal document. You are not required to sign it if you don’t understand it or are not sure you agree with it.
  • What should the IEP include?
    • An outline of your child’s educational needs, including learning styles, teaching methods, and student-teacher ratio.
    • Written goals that match your child’s specific needs with benchmarks to determine if an IEP is working on a yearly basis.
    • Standardized measurement criteria for assessing objectives.
    • Decision on the appropriate school placement and educational strategies for your child.
    • Stated plan for how often IEP reviews will occur.


What is an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)?

An IFSP is the coordination of services that are family-centered. It is based on your child’s strengths, as well as your concerns and priorities for your child. You can participate in the process of assessment by gathering information concerning your child’s medical and developmental history, and also by making observations about his or her strengths and difficulties. The IFSP planning process can be very confusing for parents and professionals. Below you will find answers to commonly asked questions about the IFSP.

  • Who develops the IFSP?
    Along with your service coordinator, you have an active role in developing the service plan. You help decide which family members, friends, teachers, physicians, and other professionals should be included, and who will help to write the plan. You let the team know what you want for your child and for your family, and the team will work with you to achieve those goals.The IFSP should focus on your family’s concerns and priorities, and should be supportive of your family’s routine, values, and culture. It should also be clearly explained to you, and written in your family’s language, if possible.
  • How do I prepare for the IFSP planning meeting?
    To prepare for an IFSP planning meeting, you can talk with other parents, learn more about your child’s diagnosis, and list your questions and concerns to discuss with your service coordinator. It is especially important to identify needs for transportation, child care, and/or interpreters. Certain questions you may want to consider asking yourself and/or your service coordinator include:

    • What is needed for my child, and how will this be decided?
    • What services are available?
    • What are the options?
    • What will my family’s new rights and responsibilities include?
  • What can I do during the planning meeting?
    • Share information that you think is important. This could include medical records, a baby book, a growth chart, or other evaluations.
    • Talk about your child, and discuss any concerns or questions you may have about his or her development.
    • Consider how you will be involved in the processes of evaluation, assessment, and service planning.
    • Decide who should be involved, including specific family members as well as others, such as another parent, a friend, or a child care provider.
    • Consider which service delivery environment is best suited to meet your child’s needs: home, child care setting, infant development program, etc.
  • What should the IFSP include?
    • A statement of your child’s level of development, from your own observations and from formal assessment measures (if necessary).
    • A “family assessment,” which is a statement of your family’s resources and concerns as they relate to your child’s development (with your permission).
    • A statement of the outcomes you expect for your child and family, including how and when they will be achieved.
    • A statement of which early intervention services will be provided, and in what environments they will occur (such as your home, child care setting, or a school program).
    • A statement of when services will begin, how often they will be provided, and how long they will continue.
    • A plan for transitions as your child’s needs change (this must be included when your child approaches three years of age).
    • The name of your service coordinator.
  • How can I help my child meet these developmental milestones?
    Remember that the IFSP is not a finalized document. It is an ongoing process. Your child’s needs may change quickly, so your family’s IFSP should be reviewed at least every six months, and revised when necessary. If you think your services need to be changed, contact your service coordinator for an IFSP review.In early intervention, transitions happen whenever your child’s services change to better meet both of your needs. Planning for transition requires your participation. Decisions concerning your child cannot be made without you, and no change can be made to the IFSP without your consent.

* For additional information Special Education visit the Understanding Special Education website.