Head Start and Early Head Start programs promote the full and active participation of young children with disabilities and their families in activities that promote school readiness. The disabilities coordinator works in collaboration with early childhood special education (ECSE) agencies and Head Start and Early Head Start staff to individualize services for children with disabilities and their families in inclusive environments.

The Head Start Approach to School Readiness [PDF, 915KB] helps disabilities coordinators understand school readiness for families, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. This guide provides the foundation for individualizing disabilities services to support the achievement of appropriate school readiness goals of children with disabilities and their families.

Steps to School Readiness

  1. Establish Goals for Improving School Readiness Across Domains

    • Ensure program school readiness plans reflect the needs of children with disabilities.
    • Work with families [PDF, 306KB], ECES, and staff to ensure that they have input in the development of children's Individual Family Service Plans (IFSPs) and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
    • Review for alignment of IFSP and IEP goals to the general education curriculum with appropriate modifications and accommodations.
  2. Create and Implement an Action Plan for Achieving Established School Readiness Goals

  3. Assess Child Progress on an Ongoing Basis and Aggregate and Analyze Data Throughout the Year

    • Collaborate with disabilities partners and education staff to work to identify data sources to gather multidisciplinary assessment data about children with disabilities.
    • In coordination with education manager, complete developmental screenings within 45 days of child enrollment.
    • Work cooperatively and collaboratively with staff and ECES service coordinators to ensure that children's IFSP or IEP goals are being met, and that child progress and ECES services are documented.
  4. Examine Data for Patterns of Progress for Groups of Children to Revise, Develop, and Implement Plans for Program Improvement

    • Work with education leadership to disaggregate and analyze child disability data [PDF, 364KB] to make data driven management decisions.
    • Use data to implement individualized, evidence-based strategies that improve access to school readiness activities.
    • Participate as a content area leader in the ongoing development of the school readiness plan.


Getting Started

Collaboration and Inclusion

  • Program Planning and Management helps Head Start programs reflect on how they plan for the inclusion of children with disabilities.
  • A Thinking Guide to Inclusive Childcare [PDF, 2.0MB] offers ideas and strategies for early childhood programs to use to support the inclusion of children with disabilities.
  • IEP Basics includes print and video materials for sharing basic information on the IEP process with teachers and families.
  • Effective Transitions for Children with Special Needs from Preschool to Kindergarten [PDF, 656KB] describes strategies and tools for a successful transition to kindergarten for children with disabilities.

Assessment and Curriculum Planning

Stories from the Field

Last Reviewed: June 2014

Last Updated: January 14, 2015