Policy Resource

Maryland's Extended IFSP Option

Feb 9, 2016

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 money 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. Since implementation on February 1, 2010, approximately 67% 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. In January 2016,over 98% of three and four year-old children in the Option receive services in the natural environment. This increase 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.

MDSE invested $1.5 million of the grant money in state infrastructure and administration to support the Extended IFSP Option and the broader statewide birth through five system. These efforts included the creation of a new data system that links the intensity and type of services provided with child and family outcomes, the development of numerous resources to educate parents and professionals about early intervention and preschool services, and the provision of professional development training across agencies, systems and programs. The State also revised its evaluation and assessment best practices and implemented early learning standards for all children across the State. An independent evaluation of the Extended IFSP is currently underway. The ARRA grant supporting the Extended IFSP Option ended on December 31, 2011. As of January 2016, Maryland’s Extended IFSP Option continues to offer families the choice to remain on an IFSP beyond their child’s third birthday, if their child is determined eligible for preschool special education and related services as a child with a disability . The extension of IFSP services beyond age 3, incorporates the strength of the special education/preschool education program with the existing infants and toddlers family-centered model. The Extended IFSP Option moves Maryland toward its mission of creating a seamless birth through 5 early childhood intervention and preschool special education system of services.

For more information about Maryland’s Extended IFSP Option and Birth through Five System of Services for Children with Disabilities and Their Families visit the Maryland State Department of education website at http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/divisions/earlyinterv/infant_toddlers/ or contact Brian Morrison, Section Chief for Policy and Data, Director of the Maryland Infants and Toddler Program, Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services at brian.morrison@maryland.gov.

Updated January 2016.

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