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Preparing for an IFSP Meeting Individual Familiy Service Plan

  1. VISION, PRINCIPLES, RULES AND PLAYERS

  2. WHAT HAPPENS PRIOR TO THE FIRST IFSP MEETING? (OVERVIEW)

  3. WHY DO WE NEED TEAMS--WHAT PART DO FAMILIES PLAY?

  4. SOME IDEAS TO HELP GET READY

    • Helping families look at their concerns, goals and priorities
    • Talking with families about their concerns
    • Talking through the actual meeting
    • Helping families feel their importance

  5. THE ROLE OF THE SUPPORTING PARENT

  1. VISION, PRINCIPLES, RULES AND PLAYERS

    1. VISION
      • That new families can feel the support and hope of the IFSP process.
      • That principles of Family Centered Care are ever present within the IFSP Process
      • That new families grow in their abilities to lead teams in support of their children.

    2. PRINCIPLES
      1. The individual family service plan is a process! The meetings that take place and the paper that records this process are only parts of the process. The purpose of the process is to support families who have young children with disabilities.
      2. The IFSP process is built on the principles of Family Centered Care. The system is in place to support the families not the other way around.

    3. RULES
      1. There should be no surprises at a planning meeting. Issues such as evaluation results, the possibility of stopping or starting a service, etc. should be discussed with all parties prior to the actual meeting.
      2. Families, along with teams, set the goals. The plan is made to meet the goals.
      3. Families can decline a service without fear of not being able to get that service at a later time.
      4. Families drive the bus! Many lovely people can ride on our bus with lots of good ideas, but FAMILIES DRIVE.
      5. Any IFSP plan that is not a living document, used all the time, is not even worth writing!

    4. PLAYERS
      1. Players are defined by the team and the needs of the child and family.
      2. Some meetings of the team have required participants to fulfill rules and regulations and it is the responsibility of the services coordinator to make sure that these people are present and that families understand these regulations.
      3. Families have the primary opportunity to set up the team. Some families will want smaller teams and some people will want everyone involved present at team meetings. It is very important that the team has a global representation. If some team members cannot be present at a meeting (such as a physician) other creative ways to obtain their input should be explored. It is just as important to consider support people such as extended family and child care providers as it is to consider providers of services when setting up the team.

  2. WHAT HAPPENS PRIOR TO THE FIRST IFSP MEETING? (OVERVIEW)

    Although the IFSP Process is ongoing and any topic can be revisited at any time, prior to the first IFSP meeting a series of events does happen.


    1. OUTREACH
      Planning region teams are responsible to make sure that all families who are eligible for the services are made aware of what is available.

    2. REFERRAL
      Referrals can be made by anyone and no matter who receives the call, the services coordination agency is contacted and a services coordinator is assigned to the family.

    3. INITIAL CONTACT
      The services coordinator makes the first contact with the family within seven days of the referral. This first step is to talk with the family about their concerns and let them know what is available within early intervention for their child and family. As this relationship develops, the family begins to set up their goals.

    4. REFERRALS FOR NON-EDUCATIONAL SERVICES
      At the wishes of the family, the services coordinator starts to make referrals to services the family might need in meeting their goals. These referrals could be to agencies, medical providers or any number of community organizations. The emphasis is on natural supports which are closest to the family.

    5. MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAM (MDT)
      In order for a child and family to qualify for the early intervention program, the child must verify for special education. This verification is done by a team of professionals designated by the school district. The family is invited to participate in the MDT and provides valuable information about the child.

    6. IFSP TEAM ESTABLISHED
      Once a child is verified as eligible special education, a team is set up. In addition to the family and the services coordinator, others are added who can give help to the family in reaching their goals. Professionals with special education and skills along with others such as extended family members, child care providers or friends join the team.

    7. PRE-IFSP COLLABORATION
      Sometimes it is helpful for the services coordinator to inform team members of the goals of the family prior to the meeting so people can begin thinking of ways and resources that might be helpful to suggest to meet the goals. During this time, the services coordinator helps the family understand what will take place at the meeting and the part each person will lay (see special section on this topic within this document). The family could decide that they would like to run the meeting or the services coordinator could plan to take that role. Results of the MDT (multidisciplinary team) evaluation are shared with the family prior to the meeting so that these can become part of the planning.

    8. IFSP MEETING
      The first IFSP meeting must take place within 45 days of the first referral call unless the family slows the process. At the meeting, the services coordinator or family discuss the goals and the team talks about how the goals might be met. It is very important that the family is the primary consideration and that the family feels comfortable with the plan that is developed. An IFSP meeting can be called at any time with the whole team or just a part of the team involved with a certain goal.
  3. WHY DO WE NEED TEAMS--WHAT PART DO FAMILIES PLAY?

    In another time, professionals worked with children independently -- in other words, they worked on part of the child such as the hands, the feet or the brain. Under this new system, we look at the child as a whole person and a person who lives in a family.

    With this team work more can be accomplished by everyone and families can be much more involved.

    Families play the central role in the team. They are the reason the team exists. In the years a child is in Early Intervention a family ideally learns the skills it will need to be the life long support of the child. Families have the choice if they want to run the team or be a team member under the leadership of the services coordinator. Either way, the family sets the goals, with the advice of learned professionals, and makes sure the plan will fit with their family structure, priorities and values.

  4. SOME IDEAS TO HELP GET READY

    1. HELPING FAMILIES LOOK AT THEIR CONCERNS, GOALS AND PRIORITIES

      A wonderful scholar in the area of Early Intervention named Mary Jane Brotherson who is now at Iowa State University has proposed a very helpful circular way at looking at concerns and setting goals. Since this computer does not go in circles, I will put it in linear points, but keep in mind that you can enter the process at any point and go back and forth according to what is happening. It cannot be stressed enough that THE IFSP IS A LIVING PROCESS. Here are the steps with a note of thanks to Dr. Brotherson for her kindness in giving her permission to use her work.
      1. Define the Need or Concern (A situation is defined as a need or problem when the solution is not automatic).
      2. What Can We Do? (Brainstorming identifies a number of alternative responses that may resolve the specific need or concern).
      3. Think It Over and Decide? (Examine the positive and negative consequences for the family that lead to a course of action that builds on family strengths, resources and values).
      4. What is Your Desired Outcome? (Describes what a family wants to see happen or changes they want for their child or family).
      5. Tasks to Do and Persons Responsible? (Identifies the steps and strategies needed to accomplish the desired outcome and who is responsible for each strategy.
      6. How Is It Working? (Reviews the outcome to determine whether it was met according to the family's criteria for success).

    2. TALKING WITH FAMILIES ABOUT THEIR CONCERNS
      In over 23 years as a guidance counselor, I have found that people often find it difficult to start conversations with people they do not know, especially when the topics involve hard issues such as child's disability. I have compiled some suggestions from several sources to help supporting parents and services coordinators be more themselves in beginning relationships with new families.

      First, be yourself! The family is a group of people with human needs just like yours.

      The first goal of early conversations with a family is to develop rapport and help them feel supported. If you are nervous, think of some things of common interest to talk about prior to the conversation such as the good old Nebraska weather, a compliment on the person's appearance or home or (best) a compliment on their darling baby!
      1. Always consider their schedule and convenience in setting up meetings or even phone calls.
      2. Ask who the family would like to have present when you meet such as extended family members or others who support the family.
      3. Always explain who you are, if there is ANY doubt and how you fit into their support system. (You would not believe the amazing things new parents tell me when they explain their services coordinator's job, what their supporting parent does or who all the other people are who come into their life) Remember what it was like to be new, overwhelmed and afraid to offend! (I am now old, overwhelmed and offensive!!!)
      4. Discuss confidentiality. Assure people your conversations will be confidential.
      5. Meet in a place comfortable for conversation whenever possible.
      6. Ask every family member to share something about how they feel about the child with a disability.
      7. Without prying, gather information about:
        • How much support the family has -- especially natural supports such as family, church, neighbors, friends.
        • How the child with the disability changes the family's life.
        • How the family works and what their values and beliefs are.
        • Ask the family what they are concerned about regarding their child -- ask what their dreams are too.
        • In setting goals, help the family set priorities. Make sure they are the family's priorities, not goals put on them by you or other professionals.
        • Look for ways to compliment the family and the child. Remember how many people in their lives are focusing on fixing what is wrong.

    The following are some questions you might find helpful as conversation starters on the topics discussed above:
    • How are things going with (child's name)?
    • What kinds of things does (child's name) enjoy doing? What makes him/her happy?
    • What kinds of things do each of you enjoy doing with (child's name)?
    • What have you been told about (child's name's) disability?
    • How does that fit with what you know about (child's name)?
    • Do you need more information about (child's disability)?
    • What do you think (child's name) need help with, if anything?
    • What kinds of things have you tried that worked for (child's name)? what didn't work?
    • Who helps you out when you need help?
    • Tell me about fun events for your family? Are there things you cannot do now that (child's name) is a part of your family?
    • If you were to focus your energies on one thing for (child's name), what would it be?
    • Imagine 6 months down the road, what would you like to be different?
    • What would you like to accomplish in 6 weeks? 6 months?
    • What are some ways you've thought of getting to where you want to go?
    • Who all would need to be involved in getting done what you want to do?
    • How will you know when you've done what you want to do?
    • How long will it take to reach your goal?
    • How do the goals you are setting for (child's name) work in with the rest of your family's life?

    1. TALKING THROUGH THE ACTUAL IFSP MEETING ... (ESPECIALLY THE FIRST ONE)

      These are some things to discuss with families to assure that they will be well prepared for their IFSP meeting.
      1. Who will be there? In this regard, the family has a say in who is invited.
      2. What will be discussed? Goals should be discussed ahead of the meeting.
      3. What is everyone's role? What role does the family want to play?
      4. Where will the meeting be held? The option should be the family's if at all possible.
      5. How long will the meeting last?
      6. What can a family do if the team is not functioning well or not discussing topics of importance to them?
      7. What supports will there be for the parent during the meeting? What supports does the family anticipate needing?
      8. Make parents aware that creative problem solving is the ideal -- many times there is not best answers -- everybody's ideas are needed and helpful.
      9. Decide who will facilitate or co-facilitate the meeting and then go over the need to include everyone but also to move along.


    2. HELPING FAMILIES FEEL THEIR IMPORTANCE

      It is very common for a family of a child with a disability to feel insecure and lacking in knowledge in the presence of professionals who have had professional education and much experience working with children. It is the role of the services coordinator, the supporting parent and the whole team to encourage the parent to realize their primary role in the life of the child. Some topics that might be discussed are as follows:

      1. Despite the knowledge and kindness of the professionals, the family is the constant and the life long support of the child!
      2. The family is the keeper of information about the child that no one else knows.
      3. The plan will not fly without the family.


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  5. THE ROLE OF THE SUPPORTING PARENT

    In the life of a young family having a child with a disability, very key people are the supporting parents and the services coordinator. It is important that these people understand their roles to keep from confusing the family and causing hard feelings among the support team.

    Here are some thoughts on the differences of their roles. This is just a partial list, but hopefully, it will give the flavor of the difference.


    SERVICES COORDINATOR

    • Time limited -- ends at age 3 or when the family no longer needs her.
    • Professional relationship with responsibilities to other families and to her employer.
    • Helps family find resources and supports.
    • Paid supporter.
    • Responsible for pulling a team together.
    • Topics and responsibilities are broad but prescribed by a job description and program rules.
    • Recognizes the value of parent to parent support and gets family connected if they want it.

    SUPPORTING PARENT

    • No time limit -- many times this becomes a long-term relationship.
    • Personal relationship.
    • Offers the benefit of having been there.
    • Listens, listens, listens.
    • Offers nonjudgmental support with no other ties - some families feel more comfortable.
    • Volunteer.
    • Offers the social support of a whole family if that is desired where relationships between mothers, fathers and children are possible.
    • Topics of conversation are governed only by friendship.
    • Introduces family to other families and available group support in the community.


    BOTH

    • Bound by confidentiality.
    • Help family advocate for themselves.
    • Teach family skills needed to parent a child with a disability.
    • Talk to family about concerns and goals.
    • Can support family at evaluations and IFSP meetings.

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