Disability Services Coordinator Orientation Guide

The Basics

The Office of Head Start has been a leader in the movement to support the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood settings. Your program is part of a large network committed to improving outcomes for young children with identified disabilities or suspected delays and their families. As a disability services coordinator, you have a critical role to play. Part I of the guide focuses on the basics of disability services in Head Start programs, including the performance standards and legislation, partnerships, recruitment and enrollment, and screening and evaluation.

In Chapter I, Diving into the Coordinated Approach and Legislation, you will:

  • Learn coordinated approach strategies for children with disabilities to help build a culture of inclusion in Head Start programs
  • Review federal legislation related to disability services
  • Find ways to use data in the program to support quality improvement
  • Consider strategies for planning that includes the voices of families and takes into account that disability services occurs across many systems and service areas

In Chapter II, Building Partnerships, you will:

  • Learn about building effective partnerships with multiple agencies and service providers
  • Understand the way an interagency memorandum of understanding (MOU) defines these partnerships
  • Consider how partnership agreements can affirm respect for children's and families' cultures and languages, and provide families with consistent information

In Chapter III, Recruiting and Enrolling Children, you will:

  • Learn about community and program self-assessment data and how these data can be used to identify families of children with disabilities and offer them access to program services
  • Consider collaborations with the local Child Find office, early intervention programs, and the school district that can support the recruitment and enrollment process
  • Understand that a Head Start grant recipient must fill at least 10% of its actual enrollment with children who have been deemed eligible to receive Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) services
  • Find ways to ensure staff, former and current parents and families, and community partners can be part of the effort to recruit and enroll children with disabilities

In Chapter IV, Screening Children, you will:

  • Learn that screening is a snapshot of a child's development to determine whether there are any concerns that require a referral for further evaluation
  • Understand that developmental screenings must be obtained or completed on all children within a specified timeframe
  • Find ways to ensure:
    • Screening tools are research-based, valid, and reliable for the population and purpose
    • Screenings are conducted by qualified personnel and are age, developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate, as well as appropriate for children with disabilities
  • Consider that a coordinated approach to screening is necessary to ensure all children with disabilities and suspected delays are identified

In Chapter V, Referring and Evaluating Children, you will:

  • Determine ways to follow a specific and timely course of action to address any identified needs based on screening results or other information
  • Understand how programs partner with families throughout the eligibility determination process
  • Learn ways to ensure the cultures and languages of families are respected during the referral and evaluation process
  • Consider that an interagency MOU with the Part B and Part C local agencies responsible for implementing IDEA should lay out the processes and procedures for referral and evaluation