In 2009 the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) received a $14.4 million incentive grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The grant offered MSDE the opportunity to build a seamless system of comprehensive and coordinated early intervention and preschool special education services for children birth through five. With this vision, Maryland implemented an Extended Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) Option, giving parents of eligible children the choice to remain on an IFSP after age three.
The Extended IFSP Option combines family education, service coordination, and year-round services with special instruction (educational outcomes) to promote school readiness. Services provided under the Extended IFSP must include promotion of pre-literacy, language, and numeracy skills in addition to the early intervention services offered under the original IFSP. Services are provided on a year-round continual basis and are coordinated across programs and agencies. Families are eligible for the Extended IFSP Option if the child has a current IFSP plan and is determined eligible for preschool special education services. Consistently, since implementation on February 1, 2010, over 60% of families of eligible children have chosen an Extended IFSP.
A significant achievement of the program is the increased percentage of children three years of age receiving services at home or in community early childhood environments. As of January 2016, 98% of three- and four-year-old children in the Option receive services in the natural environment. This has been supported through strong partnerships between local Infants and Toddlers Programs (LITP), local school system preschool special education services, community-based preschool programs, child care providers, and local Head Start programs.
Updated July 2019