COVID-19 and the Head Start Community

Learning Throughout Transitions for Children with IFSPs and IEPs

Child reading a poster on the side of a bookcaseSupporting young children and families can be challenging during uncertain times, and even more so for children with disabilities or suspected delays. It can be hard when their routines change and they no longer receive services during a daily school schedule. While distance learning or teletherapy opportunities may provide some consistency and continuity, experiences vary depending on internet access and location. Participation may also vary due to work and family obligations. As programs plan to transition back to more typical operations, explore ways to prepare and welcome children with Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and their families.

As we move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic, programs need to follow the most up-to-date health and safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health departments. Staff should review CDC and local government websites frequently for any updates as they prepare and direct operations.

Considerations for Children with Disabilities or Suspected Delays

As programs transition back to in-person operations, decisions about the return of children with disabilities or suspected delays should be made in consultation with families and service providers, based on child needs.

Return to In-person Programming Considerations

Bringing children and families back together after an unexpected, long break will have many benefits. It will allow time for families to connect with each other, offer routines and structure for children, and prepare children and families who are transitioning to kindergarten. This also gives time to update health and medical records and other important information families will need for kindergarten registration.

Transition to Kindergarten

Programs need a collaborative, planned approach to help children successfully transition to kindergarten. This process may look different given the current crisis. Commit to collaborating with the necessary partners to ensure children and families have a positive experience as they approach a new school year.

Meeting Your Own Needs

Maintaining health, safety, and overall well-being is particularly important for adults who care for children with underlying medical issues, as these children may be more likely to develop additional complications from novel viruses. Consider these actions to support staff wellness:

  • Encourage vaccination using available program supports
  • Continue to follow all health and safety guidelines
  • Stay virtually connected with colleagues, friends, and family
  • Practice mindfulness and deep breathing
  • Maintain a consistent schedule but be flexible in times of change
  • Spend time outdoors and plan activities that will break up the monotony of daily routines
  • Ensure stable groupings do not mix outside

Remember to take care of your emotional and physical health and encourage all staff to do the same. Get vaccinated if possible. After a period of social distancing, you might have lingering concerns about physical closeness. It's important to remember that young children need physical touch to feel supported and safe, including hugs, high-fives, and comforting. Consider taking measures in addition to standard health and safety practices. For example, you might wear long-sleeved shirts or smocks that you can change throughout the day. Wash yours and children's hands frequently and talk with families about health and safety practices at home.