Disability Services Coordinator Orientation Guide

Coordinated Services for Children with Disabilities and their Families

The overarching mission of the Office of Head Start is school readiness—to prepare children for success in school and later in life, prepare schools for children, and prepare families for engagement in their children's education. The goal for all children in Head Start programs, including those with disabilities, is to be successful learners.

This guide can help you, as the disability services coordinator, ensure all children are fully included in every learning opportunity and families are empowered as their advocates. Part II of the guide focuses on the components of coordinated disability services. They include individualization, curriculum, health and mental health services, safety, and transitions.

Chapter VI, Individualizing Teaching and Learning, you will:

  • Understand individualization is an effective approach for all young children in center- and home-based programs
  • Find ways to create learning environments that are developmentally appropriate and culturally and linguistically responsive to all children
  • Consider that an inclusive setting ensures both access to the environment and participation in the curriculum
  • Learn how to create a coordinated approach across systems and services that will ensure a positive learning environment for children with disabilities and their families

Chapter VII, Implementing Curriculum and an Inclusive Environment, you will:

  • Understand that curriculum modifications are made as needed to ensure children with disabilities fully participate in learning opportunities
  • Find ways to ensure the curriculum includes social and emotional learning goals and is linguistically and culturally responsive to children and families
  • Consider that creating an inclusive environment is a team effort that includes families, program staff, and early intervention and special education partners
  • Learn that assessing and improving the learning environment is an ongoing process

Chapter VIII, Coordinating with Health and Mental Health Program Services, you will:

  • Understand all health and mental health program services must be available to children with disabilities and their families
  • Find ways to collaborate with the health manager and health team to meet the needs of children with disabilities and their families
  • Consider that responsive health and mental health services respect families' cultural beliefs and practices
  • Learn how quality health and mental health services are integral to a coordinated approach for children with disabilities and their families

Chapter IX, Coordinating Safety Practices, you will:

  • Understand that keeping children safe is a top priority for all Head Start and Early Head Start programs
  • Safety and injury prevention are essential in providing services to children with disabilities
  • Consider that partnering with families keeps children safe at home, and that families' ideas about what is safe or not safe reflect their cultural backgrounds and their own experiences
  • Learn why accessible facilities are integral to a coordinated approach to ensure full participation of children with disabilities and their families
  • Find ways to ensure all children with disabilities participate effectively and fully in all activities

In Chapter X, Ensuring Smooth Transitions, you will:

  • Understand families of children with disabilities have a critical role in the transition process, as mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Head Start Program Performance Standards
    • They drive planning to ensure their child receives appropriate services
  • Learn that smooth transitions between programs and into schools help children with disabilities maintain their developmental progress and reduce families' stress
  • Find ways to incorporate support for cultural and linguistic diversity into transition services
  • Consider that programs need to communicate effectively during transition planning and a coordinated approach for transition planning involves families and team members across systems and service areas