Children With Disabilities


Today, about 50 million Americans, or one in five people, are living with at least one disability, and most Americans will experience a disability at some time during the course of their lives. Some disabilities are easy to see, such as when a person uses a wheelchair or when someone has lost an arm. Other disabilities, like a developmental disability such as autism or a chronic condition like arthritis, may not be as easy to see. Some people may live with a disability all their lives. Others may have a disability when they are young or as an older adult. Different kinds of disabilities affect people in different ways. And the same disability can affect each person differently.

We pride ourselves on using evidence-based research to improve services for young children. What happens early in a child’s life is very important. Our actions become the shapers of their development, leading to stronger growth with highly differentiated development or slower growth with less differentiated development.

CDCSA has a Disabilities Service Plan that outlines staff work with community partners to deliver services to children with disabilities and their families. We do our best to ensure that programs are ready and able to include children and adults with disabilities in all activities. We also provide information and support that enables staff to contribute to program-wide efforts to effectively include children with disabilities and their families.

Since its earliest days, Head Start and Early Head Start has been committed to including children with disabilities as full participants in center-based and home-based programs. Head Start values and respects families in all their diversity—language, culture, ability, and ethnicity—and recognizes the rights of children of differing abilities to be included as full members of their community.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a preschool child with disabilities eligible for services?

Children from age three to kindergarten age are eligible if they have a substantial delay in two or more of skill areas or meet eligibility criteria for a specific listed disabling condition (autism, blindness, deaf/blind, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, speech/language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.) The rules set out specific criteria for each of these conditions.

Who is responsible for evaluating a preschool child's eligibility for services? 

Each county must have a single referral agency for parents and others to contact. The "designated referral and evaluation agency" is responsible for assuring that referred children are evaluated for eligibility. Early Intervention has primary responsibility for finding and evaluating children birth to 3 years of age. The local school districts have primary responsibility for finding and evaluating children with disabilities, 3 years of age through 21 years of age. Many school districts have elected to contract with the designated referral and evaluation agency to conduct the evaluation.

How is eligibility determined? 

An evaluation must be conducted by at least two trained people. One of the two must be trained in the area of suspected disability. The two evaluators must be from different disciplines, e.g. speech therapist and early childhood specialist: psychologist and physical therapist; pediatric nurse and autism specialist, etc. Parent consent for evaluation is required for an initial evaluation and before any intelligence or personality test is given. The eligibility decision is made by a "multidisciplinary team" (MDT). The team is comprised of a specialist in the area of the suspected disability, a service provider or teacher, and an evaluation specialist. The MDT must review all evaluation data and prepare a written report documenting eligibility. This report will be reviewed with the child's parents prior to or during the initial Individualized Family Service Plan birth to 3 years of age (IFSP) m eeting/ Individualized Education Plan 3 years of age to 21 years of age(IEP).