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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 2, Lesson 1

Developing the IFSP

Teaming continues during the development of the IFSP. Ideally, the IFSP is written by the same team of individuals that conducts the assessment. The IFSP includes information about the child's strengths and challenges, the family's goals and priorities, and strategies for addressing the family's stated concerns. The IFSP should also include functional outcomes that are based on the family's priorities and resources. Functional outcomes help the team monitor progress and determine the extent to which particular goals have been achieved.

group at workThe process of developing the IFSP involves continued collaboration and dialogue among team members. When developing goals and strategies, it is important to attend to the family's lifestyle. Practical matters such as work schedules, transportation issues, and the personal needs, preferences and priorities of family members must be considered. Respect for the family's culture is essential. The objective is to create a plan that works for the whole family.

Whenever possible, services should be creatively embedded in everyday routines, activities and places. Interventions that are meaningful and easy to execute are most likely to be successful (Pilkington & Malinowski, 2002). Moreover, when parents provide interventions in daily routines, they are more likely to attribute progress to what they do between home visits, rather than to what the professional does during home visits (McWilliam & Scott, 2001).

Implementation of Services

Services should be provided by the same team of professionals that participated in the evaluation, assessment and development of the IFSP. This ensures continuity of care. A primary service provider is designated to be responsible for facilitating communication among the various team members. The team meets on a regular basis, keeps progress notes and conducts periodic reassessments. Progress is evaluated and appropriate adjustments to the IFSP are made. Annually, an assessment of the child in all developmental domains occurs, along with development of a new IFSP by the participants in the IFSP meeting. However, a formal transdisciplinary assessment is not conducted annually unless deemed necessary by both the family and the team.

During the implementation stage:

  1. Use a child's strengths to enhance learning in the natural environment
  2. Remember that the relationship with the family is the context for intervention
  3. Offer appropriate anticipatory guidance with respect to social, emotional and behavioral issues
  4. Work cooperatively across disciplines. Be partners, not competitors (Pilkington & Malinowski, 2002).


The teaming process continues, but with a slightly different focus as the child prepares to enter a new educational setting. The same strengths-based, family-centered philosophy that guided activities during the early stages also operates when planning for transition. The team continues to honor family preferences and implement strategies in typical settings. When developing goals and strategies related to transition, the team continues to collaborate with each other and with various community agencies. Focused meetings and effective communication with community agencies (such as Head Start or a local preschool) are especially important during transition. During this stage, an effective team will provide opportunities for the child and his/her family to visit the new facility.


According to McWilliam and Scott (2001) who built on the enablement work of Dunst, Trivette and Deal (1988), one important goal of early intervention is to "enhance the competence and confidence of caregivers" so that children have "the greatest likelihood of developing to their maximal potential" (McWilliam & Scott, 2001, p.55). This process is known as enablement. The goal of enablement is to increase caregiver self-sufficiency. The concept is analogous to teaching a hungry person how to fish, rather than simply supplying food (Dunst, Trivette & Deal, 1988). Enablement can occur at any stage of the early intervention process; however, it is probably most likely to occur during the implementation of services.

Andrews and Andrews (1993) discuss techniques for enabling caregivers. They suggest that early intervention providers make a conscious effort to notice the resources that are already present and available in the family system. Providers can initiate conversations about these resources by asking simple questions such as:

  1. How did you figure out how to feed her so well? (p. 43)
  2. Where did you get that game idea? (p. 43)
  3. Or statements such as:
    You did a wonderful job engaging his attention just now. Tell me what seems to work best.

Notice how these statements are empowering to the caregiver. They encourage confidence and competence rather than dependency and passivity. This is the hallmark of enablement.


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