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Comparison and Contrast between IFSP and IEP



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    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 or IDEA is an instructive-related decree implemented by the government in order to address educational concerns of learners experiencing disabilities and other difficulties. The act covers programs and activities that will be executed by stakeholders in order to realize the goals and objectives of IDEA. These programs and activities include detection and prevention through early intervention, and specialized curricula and services specifically targeting needs and concerns of learners with disabilities. Educational curricula are also framed under two plans directed by IDEA, the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and the Individualized Education Program. This article will attempt to compare the two plans in order to identify similarities and differences and determine the capability of each plan to accomplish the goals and objectives of IDEA.

                The purpose of the IFSP is directed towards the need of family members to become involved with the process of early intervention. It was designed to engage family members in identifying disabilities and difficulties and assist educational institutions and concerned public or private agencies to foster the growth and development of their children. Moreover, IFSP understands the needs and concerns of family members in the process as they face setbacks and difficulties in caring for their children with disabilities. (Bruder, 2000)

                The IFSP gathers all relevant information including the child’s rate of development in all aspects of growth and maturity, the family’s concerns regarding options and priorities in caring for their child with disabilities, available resources for the family, expected outcomes including guidelines, standards, and other conditions that the child and his family should accomplish in the process, approaches and techniques for early intervention procedures, the setting where needs and services will be provided to the child and his family, timetable for the entire process, the individual, group, or organization that will implement and manage the plan, and all necessities to foster child development for future integration to requisite educational services. (Bruder, 2000)

                The IFSP will be implemented from the child’s birth up to his third year. With relevant information pertaining to the child written down for accessibility and easy retrieval purposes, the IFSP will guide the family and partner service providers in determining what steps to take in order to accomplish expected outcomes both for the child and his family. Some techniques that families and service providers might consider to employ during the process include coordination with stakeholders, service providers who work with the government to implement IDEA, and other private groups who are deeply involved in supporting children with disabilities. (Birth to Three, 2006) Moreover, families should closely look into the formulation and implementation of specialized instruction that will provide for activities that children should accomplish in order to achieve expected outcomes. Other required services include psychological, nutritional, cognitive, audio logical and physical services, also including counseling and assistive therapies. In order to maintain the validity and reliability of the IFSP, it will be reviewed and assists regularly to determine whether it meets the specific needs and demands of the child and his family. (Birth to Three, 2008)

                The IEP is a specialized plan or program that is formulated in order to meet the basic requisites of a child who needs to undergo special education. Children who will be provided an IEP should have been diagnosed by medical and health care professionals to be experiencing disabilities, and due to this needs to become engaged with a special education program. The IEP is constructed by all stakeholders, including the parents or families, teachers practicing within the context of general education, teachers who focus on special education as a discipline, professionals who can identify and deduce individual assessments and make recommendations as to what particular programs will suit the child’s background, educational professionals who have gained in depth knowledge about special education and required resources, individuals who can dispense resources for specialized programs or activities, and professionals who will be working with the child during the transition phase. (Baumel, 2008)

                The content of the plan includes the educational abilities and performance of the child, including his cognitive skills, language skills, behavior and way of thinking, social skills, etc., measurable and realistic goals that the child needs to accomplish within a given period before transition, and the specialized programs or activities that the child is expected to be involved in to accomplish goals and objectives of special education under the context of IDEA. (Baumel, 2008)

                With the purpose and content discussed for both IFSP and IEP, their similarities and differences might have been perceived. But in order to look into the matter closely, the IFSP and IEP will be compared and contrasted thoroughly through the use of a comprehensible representation. (Clark, 2007) The similarities between the IFSP and the IEP lies in their purpose, the direction to where the plans are going, the nature of the goals and objectives, the involvement of stakeholders, especially families, the educational institution, the government, and other concerned public or private organizations. On the other hand, the differences between the IFSP and the IEP lies in the specific content of the plan, the age group targeted by the plan, the target of the plan, the kinds of services that will be employed during the entire process, and the setting or environment for early intervention and other participatory activities. The chart below will illustrate visibly the similarities and differences between the IFSP and the IEP. (Bruder, 2000)


    children 0 to 3 years of age

    individuals from ages 3 to 21


    * reveals the child’s growth and development in all fields or domains

    * the needs, demands, interests, and choices for both the family and the child

    *reveals the child’s educational development

    *the needs and demands of the child alone

    expected outcomes to be achieved within 6 to 12 months

    expected outcomes to be achieved annually


    * services aimed towards providing the needs and demands of both the child and family

    * social services, educational services and programs, health care

    * services towards providing the needs and demands of the child

    * special education services


    * setting is determined aside from a natural environment

    * setting is determined aside from the regular classroom environment


    * transitioning children to meet expectations for integration to early childhood education

    * providing specialized educational needs for children with disabilities and difficulties


    * parents or families

    * service coordinator

    * MDT representative

    * school representative for financial resources

    * service providers

    * parents or families

    * MDT representative

    * school representative for supervision

    * teacher


    *to ensure that the IFSP mirrors the needs and concerns of families

    *builds the plan to suit the capabilities and deficiencies of the family and the child

    *to ensure that the IEP is able to inform the parents or families of the child’s placement in specialized programs or activities

    * IEP maintains that parents or families should work closely with organizations or institutions concerned with their child

                Although the IFSP and IEP present a multitude of difference in their content, it is perceived that despite their diversity, they complement each other in terms of providing services needed by children with disabilities and difficulties. It is not rational to look at both the IFSP and the IEP as separates programs of IDEA because these plans have the same purpose and end up with the same outcomes – that is addressing the needs and demands of children and their families. The common ground between the IFSP and the IEP is that they look at the needs of the family or the child in order to create a plan that employs services or programs that will suit the identified necessities of the child for either integration to general early childhood programs or to special education. IEP serves as an option for IFSP if it determines that the child, after his third year, needs to engage in special education programs. Therefore, the differences between the IFSP and IEP just determine what suits the child and his family in order for IDEA to realize its goal and objectives in facilitating learning that is suitable to the child. Furthermore, their similarities solidify their stand that makes them instrumental in promoting the mission and vision of IDEA.


    Baumel, J. (2008). “What is an IEP?” Retrieved September 11, 2008, from GreatSchools Inc.


    Birth to Three. (2006). “Individualized Family Service Plan.” Retrieved September 11, 2008,

    from Birth to Three System. Website:

    Birth to Three. (2008). “What is an IFSP?” Retrieved September 11, 2008, from Birth to Three

                System. Website:

    Bruder, M. B. (2000.” The Individual Family Service Plan.” Retrieved September 11, 2008, from

    End of Life Care. Website:

    Clark, S. (2007). “First Things First.” Retrieved September 11, 2008, from ESU. Website:



    Comparison and Contrast between IFSP and IEP. (2016, Sep 09). Retrieved from

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