IFSP – “Involved” Family
By Katie Dagenais, Florida Hands & Voices
As parents we love to talk about our children and share their accomplishments—what they’ve learned, how they are excelling, what they did at school today. As parents of a Deaf/hard of hearing child, whose development is tracked very carefully by various developmental assessments, we certainly have plenty of bragging opportunities. As parents of two-year-old Jocelyn, who is hard of hearing, my husband Todd and I have taken part in countless assessments, and happily brag about her and what she is accomplishing. Assessments such as the SKI-HI Language Development Scale, the Battelle Developmental Inventory Screening Test, and the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP), have been very beneficial for us in monitoring everything from her language to fine motor skills development. Yet while working individually with Early Steps, our speech therapist, our school district’s early interventionist, and her childcare teachers to assess her development, we have often wondered if we are really giving them all of the information they need and an accurate interpretation of her progress. Are we missing something? Are we overestimating or underestimating her accomplishments?
Of course as Jocelyn’s parents, Todd and I know her best. But while answering these assessment questions we have had to step back and think sometimes…hmm…does she really do that yet? Should she do that yet? Maybe we haven’t seen her do that yet, but have her teachers or a relative have seen that? What does it mean if she hasn’t done it yet? Does it mean a developmental delay? So many questions. As we approached the time to update Jocelyn’s IFSP—the assessment used to determine the developmental needs of children from birth to age three with special needs—we started to think about how we could make sure that her IFSP was an accurate account of her development and her needs. We knew that meant reaching out and getting additional input.
We are very fortunate here in Orlando, where we live, to have phenomenal services for Jocelyn and dedicated individuals who make up her educational team. I hoped they would be receptive to our idea. How about a group IFSP? Wouldn’t this be a wonderful opportunity to have all of her educators in one room providing input for this assessment? It took many phone calls, emails, text messages and about two weeks of tossing around dates until we found one that worked for everyone. Jocelyn’s childcare even stepped in to provide a classroom where we could bring everyone together in a central location.
As we sat down to create Jocelyn’s IFSP, we looked around the full table of all the people who have been a part of Jocelyn’s life from the time she was four months old and we were so moved. What a wonderful feeling as a parent to know that so many people care about my child! What we had hoped would be a meeting with a couple of people turned into a true conference about Jocelyn. A shout out to all of the people at the table that day—Jocelyn’s speech therapist Jen from Florida Speech, her teacher Trena from Orange County Public Schools, our Early Steps representative Grace, and from Kids Together Child Development Center, Karla, the owner, administrators Erika and Emily, and Jocelyn’s current and former teachers, Amber, Rose, and Lori. Including Todd and me that made 11 people! Oh wait, 12 actually, since our newborn son Luc was there too.
The input we received that day was tremendous and incredibly helpful in assessing Jocelyn’s development and creating her educational plan for the future. When asked about Jocelyn’s language development those who work with her weekly on her speech and language offered their thoughts. When asked about her social skills her teachers jumped in to share their observations. When asked what our goals should be for the next six months everyone chimed in to help develop our plans for Jocelyn’s future. In addition to providing valuable input for Jocelyn’s IFSP, everyone in this “educational team” walked away with valuable insight into Jocelyn’s development because they were at the table involved in the discussion.
Many have told me this is exactly how an IFSP should be developed, with all parties involved. Now having gone through this experience, Todd and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, we’re making plans for Jocelyn’s next IFSP, a few months down the road, and, yes, everyone has agreed to be there. Todd and I are thrilled. We’re looking forward to including everyone’s input in her IFSP and getting our own update on Jocelyn’s growth. Oh, and did I mention? We can’t wait to walk away with even more reasons to brag about our little girl. ~