It’s very important to find an early childhood program that is built on respect for families with a focus on ensuring that every child has a place in the community and the best possible chance to succeed. Support, information and coordinated services in community settings are what will enhance your ability to manage the gifts and the challenges of your child.

As families transition from early intervention into preschool, the focus on the child’s strengths and inclusion in community activities continues. Preschool special education services and other community supports for young children and their families assist them in developing the skills necessary for success in school.

“Who is rich? He/she who rejoices in his/her portion.”

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)

To get the educational support you need for your child, your state will use an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IFSP guides the early intervention process for children with disabilities and their families, ensuring the child’s services are in line with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IFSP is both a plan and a process. The plan is a written document that identifies the outcomes, services and supports needed for the child and family. The process includes ongoing assessment to gather, share and exchange information between the family and the early intervention practitioners to help parents make informed choices about early intervention services, i.e. speech therapy or occupational therapy, for the child and family.

In order for the child to receive services, the parent must consent to the IFSP. Consent can be withdrawn at any time.

The IFSP is reviewed every six months or more frequently, if appropriate. Parents must participate in an annual IFSP meeting to review their child’s plan and outcomes each year to determine if any plan changes are needed.

The IFSP contains the following components:

  • A statement about the child’s functioning levels of development, based on the evaluation and assessment

  • The needed services

  • The frequency, location, provider and duration of these services

  • How much it will cost to deliver these services

  • How the costs will be covered

It isn’t enough to simply be aware that you need guidance to transition successfully from high school to the next phase of young adulthood; concrete action steps must be taken to guide and prepare you for college, a career and independent living.

In Maryland

The Maryland Department of Education is the best place for intervention during early childhood. Its division of special education/early intervention services collaborates with families, local early intervention systems and local school systems to ensure that all children and youth with disabilities have access to appropriate services and educational opportunities, ensuring every child has a place in the community and the best possible chance to succeed.

The Macks Center for Jewish Education offers MDSNAP to help Jewish families negotiate the best education plan for their children.


  • Provides free educational advocacy services for Jewish children with special needs, from birth to age 21
  • Listens to concerns and helps parents help their children
  • Assists over 200 families to navigate the special education system each year
  • Works with parents to prepare for IFSP and IEP meetings and will accompany them to these meetings
  • Educates parents about their legal rights (does not provide legal counsel)
  • Offers information, resources and referrals
  • Maintains confidentiality at all times
  • Serves as the family relations arm of the PEN Project

For more information about MDSNAP, email or call 410-735-5012.

Americans Live With an Autism Spectrum Disorder
of Children Have Been Diagnosed with a Developmental Disability