Early childhood mental health is a child's (birth to 5 years) growing ability to experience, regulate, and express emotions. They learn to develop close, secure relationships with peers and caring adults. Children begin to explore and learn from their surroundings, pay attention, and follow directions. Early childhood mental health is the same as social-emotional development. Head Start and Early Head Start programs partner with local professionals and other programs to ensure children, families, and staff have access to prevention and intervention services (Office of Head Start definition).
At Tri-County Head Start, each participating child has the opportunity to receive various developmental screenings to assess any potential delays or concerns. The screening process allows staff to identify individuals who may need extra support, or access to additional resources. The inclusive classroom environment ensures that all children are able to participate and feel comfortable with or without special accommodations. So what does an inclusive classroom look like? Teachers start by creating an environment of comfort and support where all are welcome to participate. Language is focused on the positive, and free choice allows children to seek activities in their comfort zone. On a daily basis, children enjoy a variety of sensory materials and manipulatives. Extra emphasis is put on safety, nurturing relationships and social- emotional development.Additionally, the Mental Health Specialist works closely with our families to navigate the system and access necessary resources. Building the relationships between the child, teachers, family members and service providers is a key role for the Mental Health team.