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Opportunities for Children with Special Needs

In October, 2011 the National Head Start Association premiered the “One Window of Opportunity” animation, sparking a discussion about how Head Start itself is a window of opportunity for children and families–and how critical it is to keep that window open in a time of growing poverty and need. As part of the Keep the Window Open campaign, Head Start parents, alumni, staff, volunteers and citizens have been invited to share their stories. We’re delighted to bring those stories to you — you’ll find more here regularly, and we hope you’ll choose to share your own.

Head Start programs across the country provide disability screening and support services to families. Here are two stories of how Head Start helped children with special needs build a strong foundation for learning.

Parent Story: Peyton’s Journey

by Kimberly Bingham
When my son went for his 3 year old check up in August of 2010, his doctor was concerned about his speech. He suggested that we take Peyton to see the speech pathologist at the school and that she would be able to evaluate him for free. The next week I scheduled a appointment for the speech pathologist to test him. After about an hour she explained that Peyton was behind in some of the areas of speech. Mainly that his expressive and receptive speech was tested at a 18 month old level. I was a little shocked and overwhelmed with the thought of something wrong with my child.

The speech pathologist recommended putting him in Head Start to allow her frequent access to him and also so he would be able to follow the other children and learn to from the older kids. Peyton was enrolled the next week and began seeing the speech therapist regularly. Through the school year he improved a lot. His speech therapist gave us ideas at home to help him and she worked with him at school. By the end of the year Peyton’s speech had improved tremendously; even though he was behind still in comparison with other children he is able to do things he couldn’t do before. As his mom I learned why he did things differently than other kids and it helped me parent him better.

This year Peyton is in Head Start again and receiving speech again. He has improved so much they think he may be able to test out of it at the end of the year. The big deal for me as a parent is that if it were not for Head Start giving Peyton the opportunity to receive speech he might not have ever gotten the chance because my health insurance does not pay for speech therapy. We feel so blessed to have this program to help my son be able to enter kindergarten at the same level as other kids and not have to play catch up. Thank you Head Start!


Parent Story: The Story of Caleb Glen Ross - a True Head Start Success Story

by Jennifer Ross
In July 2008, my son Caleb Glen Ross was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Within just a few moments our life went from having a son who was a little delayed, to having a son with a lifelong disability. He would turn 2 that September. We left the hospital that day with no information or plan and spent the next 9 months “researching” but feeling LOST, not knowing what life would look like for Caleb. Where and how would he go to school, who would be his friends, what were we going to do? Another agency connected us with the Logan Elementary Head Start, CAPE program.

It was very apparent from the time we walked through the door that this was what I had been searching for. We spent an hour or so in the classroom that day learning what they could do for Caleb, with no mention of what Caleb couldn’t do. Caleb just turned 5 and I am proud to say that when he does begin kindergarten next fall he will be far ahead of his peers who have not had the gift of being in a Head Start program. He is able to phonetically spell 4-5 letter words, knows his numbers and basic addition, and is at the reading level expected beginning first grade. I know this is due to his Head Start education.

A child with a C.P. diagnosis often needs occupational therapy for both small and large motor delays. Thanks to the teaching design of Caleb’s class his small motor tasks such as writing, using scissors, and puzzles have all been addressed and he is on target with his peers. Every Thursday Caleb receives P.T. at school. This is in addition to all of his clinical therapy. This is different though, because all of his classmates participate with him. The therapist also shares information and equipment with his teachers so that his experience at school can be as normal as possible.

Personally, I serve as our Head Start Policy Council President. This has given me a chance to develop self confidence and purpose. By far though the greatest gift we have received from the Head Start program is a blessing shared by us and all of the children in his class. He is being treated as totally equal shows Caleb and his classmate’s acceptance and inclusion. His classmates love the chance to help push him, (if he’s in the mood), don’t think twice about him crawling around the room, and don’t even question why he can’t stand to wash his hands. Even after his time here is finished, I will continue to be involved, though I will never be able to give back all that we have received.

NHSA would love to hear your story! Find out more about creating a video or writing a testimonial at You can also find get updates about the project by following us on twitter at @HeadStartWindow.

(Please note: except for minor typographical editing, stories appear as titled and written by their authors.)