AUTHOR: EILEEN

Head: Head Start applications being taken for 1997

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN - Big yellow letters spell out the word "desk" on the desk. Those same yellow letters are on the floor, but spell "floor."

This is just one of the things teachers and administrators at the Head Start Center in Aberdeen do to help students put words with objects.

This year, about 640 children in Pontotoc, Lee and Monroe counties have been served by Head Start, a federally funded program for 3- and 4-year-old children that serves the child and the whole family. Now organizers are searching for children to serve next year.

Betty Harris, disabilities/mental health coordinator for LIFT Inc., a community action agency that oversees the Head Start program, said Head Start provides a variety of services to children to help them be better prepared for school.

"We look at the needs of the whole child," Harris said.

Head Start provides children with activities that help them grow mentally, socially, emotionally and physically, she said.

When a child is accepted into the program, a medical screening is performed, along with other screenings such as dental, speech and language and educational assessment, Harris said. All of this and admission to the program is free to parents who qualify.

The program also serves children with disabilities. Children with special needs are eligible for Head Start regardless of family income level. Those special needs include children who are seriously emotionally disturbed, mentally retarded, visually impaired, speech impaired, hearing impaired or other health impairments requiring special education.

Head Start also works with the nine school districts in its three-county area to help provide services to students, such as early childhood intertvention, which identifies the special needs of a child at an early age and will help them to correct the problem before attending public school, and speech pathology, to help them make the transition between Head Start and public schools.

The program also provides information to parents, conducts family needs assessments and offers mental health services for the child and family.

Children attend school in a classroom setting overseen by a master teacher and family service workers, Harris said. Transportation is offered to children who live more than one mile from the center they attend. Parents are encouraged to bring their children in so they can meet with teachers, she said.

To apply for Head Start, parents must have a certified birth certificate for the child, immunization records, a Social Security card for the child, Medicaid card, and verification of income, such as W2 forms, recent check stub or letter from employer.

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