The disability services team, with the Early Childhood Development and Health Director, offers specific and comprehensive processes that identify, solidify, maintain and/or challenge the developmental abilities of the children, their parents, and staff.
The intent is to promote:
- Respect for each person as an individual with special abilities and needs
- Partnership with each person to offer opportunities for growth, as well as increase the knowledge and competence of staff, parents and the community partners
- Environments that support skill building and develop self-confidence and self-esteem
Screenings and special services
All eligible children are welcome to participate in the Head Start program and are considered for certain services that promote and assist their development. Parents are encouraged to share concerns about their child's development at the time of application. The child's teacher will be the first to assess all the children in the classroom during the first weeks, using a standardized screener.
This standardized developmental screening occurs within 45 days of enrollment. Areas screened include speech, language, motor, cognitive, social and emotional skills. The screening helps to understand the child’s development in relationship to other children their age. The screening occurs during the child’s day and through normal play activities and no special preparation is needed. In addition to these assessments a vision and hearing screening is also done for each child. Parents are informed of the results of the screening.
If a concern arises regarding a child's development, special assistance may be needed to improve development. The parent or guardian may be the one who asks, or Head Start may ask to seek the special assistance. Parents must give written permission in order for any child to be further evaluated by a professional who can determine if and which service will be helpful. Once the evaluation is complete parents will be asked to attend a meeting where the evaluation, options for assistance and possible placement suggestions will be discussed.
If the evaluation by the professional indicates the child may be eligible for services from the local school district (LEA), Head Start will assist the parent in the referral process. The assistance may be in the form of helping to set up an appointment, accompanying the parent to the appointment and/or providing transportation. Each child diagnosed as having a qualifying disability has a written individual education plan (IEP) developed by the school and usually in cooperation with Head Start (if the child attends the Head Start program). Staff supports each child’s individual needs based on the IEP.
Applications for enrollment are screened and service needs are identified. In cooperation with the family the education/disabilities/mental health manager and the health services manager will jointly plan for the needs of the family.
Children enrolled in special education or early childhood settings in addition to the Head Start classroom face unique challenges but may also experience greater benefits. Consideration must be given to ensure that both programming experiences are positive. Parent, Head Start and the school district must discuss the value of each program and determine if enrolling in two programs is appropriate.
If a child, regardless of age, is identified as having a special need during the HS program year the IEP must note whether Head Start placement is appropriate and beneficial. This discussion should keep in mind length of day, mid-day rest needs or transition and transportation issues. The child may continue in their class as long as the dual programming experience is positive
Parent, education/disabilities manager for Head Start and the school district teacher will monitor children on a regular basis to ensure that both programs continue to be appropriate placements. Modifications will be considered as necessary and could include limiting the amount of time in the day, the number of days per week, changing to a different program option in Head Start or enrolling in one program only.
Home based or combination program options should also be considered. These options provide all Head Start comprehensive services with the benefit of in-home visits from Head Start staff. The combination program offers fewer days of class time each week as well as a home visit two times a month.
Head Start fully supports school districts that implement itinerant special education services. This occurs when a school district teacher serves the child directly in the classroom. This itinerant special education service from the school district is determined through the IEP process.
It is generally not an age appropriate expectation that three-year-old children have extended day structured programming. The challenges of two structured programs may be more than they can physically, cognitively and socially handle.
It is recommended that the three-year-old child who is already in a structured program setting such as Early Childhood or ESL be offered a home visitor program, not a classroom program.
It is further recommended that in the event a classroom program is requested and then allowed, that prior to attendance, the child’s parent(s) or guardian, the education disabilities manager of Head Start, and accompanying written recommendation from the public school (with supporting documentation for the IEP) will meet to discuss the needs of the child and whether dual placement is appropriate and necessary.
The three year old will then be enrolled in the classroom if all parties agree. The child’s well-being will be monitored and reviewed on a thirty day basis with the understanding that modifications may need to be made, including limiting the amount of time in the day, the number of days per week, a home visit program or enrollment in the primary program only.
Such information regarding the dual programming of three year old children will be made available to the parent/guardian at the time the application is taken.
For more information, please contact: Lynn Hammen, Director of Early Childhood Development & Health Services via email or phone 920-450-9059.