A Parent's Guide to Understanding the transition from an IFSP to an IEP in Chicago Public Schools
Your child is growing up.
Your child’s third birthday may only be months away. And not only are you dealing with all that is a busy and curious two-and-a-half-year-old child, but you are also approaching an important transition. As you move towards your child’s next birthday, you may be wondering what will become of your child's Illinois Early Intervention (EI) services.
What happens to my child’s EI services in the state of Illinois as they approach their third birthday?
As your child grows up, the services in our state and school districts are designed to move with their changing needs. As an EI services recipient, your child was referred and identified as needing medical or clinical services such as therapies to address their developmental needs. Their goals and services were outlined in your Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
While the goals of each discipline that served your child differed, the primary purpose of all EI services is to close developmental gaps in one or more areas. There is much research on the role of early intervention in helping young children form foundational cognitive, communication, or physical skills that set them on the path to realizing their greatest potential.
Beyond your child’s third birthday, however, the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools (or your local school district) are the agencies responsible for special education services. There is a shift of sorts from looking at babies and toddlers with developmental or medical needs to considering education services that support preschool-aged children.
All of these changes with your little one might have you feeling anxious—and we can understand why. They’ve perhaps bonded with their speech therapist, and .they’re progressing steadily with their goals. So, naturally, you want assurance that they’ll transition to services that will continue moving them forward.
The law requires that your EI team begin transition planning six months before your child’s third birthday to allow plenty of time to determine if your child is eligible for early childhood special education services through Chicago Public Schools. Some children will meet the criteria for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP); however, others may not meet the district's requirements for their defined programs. Eligibility for an IFSP doesn’t mean automatic eligibility for an IEP, so the sooner the team can gather the information (review of past reports, district criteria, and any new evaluations through the school district) the sooner an eligibility determination can be made.
What happens if my child qualifies for one or more related services?
If your child is found eligible for an EC program, then you and your IEP team will create goals for an IEP. An IEP review is scheduled annually; however, you can request a review or revision at anytime. Factors affecting a child’s education, such as social/emotional changes, a move to another neighborhood, or a new diagnosis may necessitate bringing your child’s education team together sooner than the annual meeting.
If you find that your child qualifies for one or more related services you’ll be invited to help develop your child’s first IEP. Here are some questions to ask your IEP team during your initial meeting to help you feel assured and informed about the upcoming services transition.
How will I receive informal communication and progress updates from each service provider or teacher, and what is the best way for me to communicate with each team member? Every parent likes to stay in-the-know, and service providers and educators appreciate involved families. By asking this question, both you and the school-based IEP team can work out a communication plan that keeps everyone informed.
What will a typical day look like for my child? If your child will be entering a full-day program, with all the services and goals talk at an IEP meeting, it can be hard to imagine how an IEP translates to a day in your child’s life of receiving early childhood services. The answer to this question will help you visualize your child in their new day-to-day routine.
Why was “this” chosen instead of “that” as part of my child’s IEP? There are many ways to serve children who need IEP services. The IEP team’s answer to this question will help you feel confident that the services and delivery models selected are the best fit for your child’s needs.
What happens if my child doesn’t qualify for Early Childhood programs?
Some children may not meet the eligibility criteria for EC programs to continue a service continuum through state-offered programs. No doubt, it can be frustrating to know that while you know your child still has progress to make in one or more areas, you feel you’ve hit a public services dead end. If your child is found ineligible, your EI Service Coordinator will guide you toward other possible community programs and activities.
Where do private therapy services fit into the picture?
You may have a friend whose child receives therapy in-home or at a community therapy center, and you’ve wondered if private therapy is an option you should, or can pursue, in addition to looking at your local school district for options to help your soon-to-be preschooler.
Here at BMS Pediatric Therapy Group, we love our work with preschool-aged clients. They certainly make our work full of fun and laughter! Children may solely receive private therapy services or receive them in addition to school-based speech-language therapy.
In a private speech therapy model, an evaluation would determine if we can render a communication-based diagnosis. Areas we frequently evaluate and observe with preschoolers are:
-Social/pragmatic skills, gestures, and play
-Language Expression and Comprehension (how your child puts words together to communicate)
-Speech Sound Production (Articulation)
-Fluency and Stuttering
After a formal evaluation, we will give you a report of our findings. If we recommend therapy services, we’ll also review the communication goals for your child and our recommended therapy schedule to begin working on those goals. We believe in family-centered services delivery, where we all work together to help your child happily engage all the “jobs” of being a preschooler—playing; communicating their wants, needs, and emotions; expanding their understanding and expression of concepts; and exploring the bright world around them!
We work with families who use insurance benefits and others who choose private pay. In-network, we provide speech-language therapy services for BCBS of Illinois PPO and United Healthcare PPO. We can also provide documentation for other families to file for reimbursement with out-of-network providers.
At BMS Pediatric Therapy Group, we understand change can feel uneasy, but we’re here to help you celebrate your growing and developing child.
We provide in-home therapy services to families in the Chicagoland area and online teletherapy services to all residents of Illinois. We are committed to helping children find the joy of communication and supporting families to feel equipped and empowered. Please contact us today for a complimentary screening or to speak to us about services.