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individualized education program / individual family service plan

If a child from birth to 3 years old is suspected to have delays in development, physical, cognitive, speech and language and the psychosocial needs of young children, a referral is made to the local Early Intervention Organizer. This referral can be made by the parents, a healthcare provider, a social services provider, a child care provider, or any professional involved in the child’s care. Once the child is evaluated and found eligible for Early Intervention Services an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) is created. E I services are family-centered and family driven. As the name suggests, the services included on the IFSP are not only intended to meet the developmental needs of the child, but of the family as well. 
Families must participate in the development of their child's IFSP. Parents have the right to agree with or reject any of the services offered. The IFSP must be reviewed every six months to monitor progress and enable adjustments, and reviewed at least once a year with the parent, service Coordinator, and EI official and service providers. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Early Intervention Services are to be received in the child’s "natural environment." Natural environments include the home, community settings, child care and preschool in which children without disabilities participate.
Turning Three - When a child turns 3 the most important determination for transition is whether the child is ready for preschool special education services. Transition from EI services to the Committee on Preschool Education (CPSE) will take place 120 days before the child becomes eligible for preschool services. The parent has a right to request a transition conference. Evaluations are done by the CPSE, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is prepared. As the child approaches school age (4 years - 9months) the CPSE will make a referral to the Committee on Special Education (CSE).
From ages 5 - 21 years old the responsibility of meeting the child's needs falls under the Department of Education. The purpose of the services the child is eligible to receive is to ensure that the child will be able to prosper in an educational setting. The IEP is a contract between the parent and the Department on Education that outlines the appropriate class size and setting, services the child will receive, goals the teachers and therapists will focus on, among other important information regarding your child’s education for the coming year. The IEP is updated in annual meetings between the child’s school IEP team and the parent. In these meetings the child’s progress and needs for further improvements are discussed and decided upon.
IEP teams are made up of individuals who bring different perspectives and expertise to the table. There's a lot of information shared at IEP meetings, and a lot of discussion. The article, linked below, describes how the meeting is scheduled, who comes, and the factors team members must consider when writing an IEP.

For an overview of special education in New York City see A Parent Guide for Special Education Services a publication of the New York City Department of Education.
For a copy in Spanish see:

In certain situations a parents may have a right to an independent evaluation at public expense.
Independent Educational Evaluations: It’s a Testy Business! will take you through whether a parent qualifies for an independent evaluation and how to obtain one.