OCALI’s Center for the Young Child: Promoting a Strong Start and Charting a Positive Course for Young Children with Disabilities

Early identification of developmental delays and entry into intervention significantly improve lifelong outcomes for young children.

“We want young children with disabilities to be represented in all early childhood initiatives in Ohio,” shares Laura Maddox, Center Director at OCALI’s Center for the Young Child (CYC). “This will ensure that all children with disabilities get the best possible start in life because early experiences impact lifelong outcomes. We do this by informing policy, creating, and sharing resources, and providing training and technical assistance so that young children (0-8) with disabilities have the foundation they need for a lifetime of learning, growth, and opportunities in their community.”

The CYC grounds its work in the latest brain science, policy, and research, representing the perspective of young children and their families when programs are being developed and deployed by the many providers and systems supporting early childhood care and education.

Center for the Young Child Staff
Center for the Young Child Staff

Partnerships are Key to Success

Effective partnerships are critical to meet the demands of diverse and complex issues, challenges, and opportunities that face Ohio’s families and young children. The CYC is an active collaborator with local, state, and national organizations and associations, bridging gaps and fostering cooperation to create and deploy high quality, state-of-the-art solutions for families and professionals who care for and educate young children.

Partnerships have been an important part of the Center’s growth and success over the years. One new partnership between the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, and Head Start is designed to support the transition of children and families receiving early intervention services to preschool services. Through this partnership, OCALI will bring targeted training to agencies providing early intervention services, local Head Start programs, and local educational agencies on transition practices, in general, and specifically on writing and managing interagency agreements to support child and transition requirements so that families experience a more seamless process.  

“This initiative is nearly two years in the making and a great example of cross-agency collaboration,” says Maddox. “We were excited when we were approached about leading the implementation of training. This work demonstrates how the CYC can support state systems in their work for families and young children. There are many excellent services and state organizations that touch the lives of children with disabilities, but they can be difficult for families to navigate and may not always work seamlessly.”

Bringing Research to Practice

The CYC brings its whole child perspective and unique partnerships together with innovative thinking to help transform early childhood policy, research, and practice. From helping to ensure young children with disabilities are considered when policy is crafted to connecting providers and professionals to new ideas and concepts, the Center’s work links research to real life.

“When we talk about the whole child perspective, it’s about looking at early biological, psychological, and social-emotional development, which are critical elements of lifelong health and well-being,” explains Laura.

Recognizing the research behind early diagnosis and intervention, it is important for early childhood care providers to have knowledge about how to identify a child with developmental disabilities. To meet this need, the CYC is developing a suite of training resources tailored to early care and education providers to promote more inclusive practices.

“Families sometimes have challenges finding childcare for young children with disabilities,” says Laura. “We’re creating resources that help providers understand how to identify developmental disabilities, including signs they may see, how to effectively talk to parents, the importance of timely referrals for interventions, and so much more.  We want providers to feel confident and competent to care for and serve all young children.”

Save the Dates: March 25–28, Hilton Easton, Columbus, Ohio

In late March, the inaugural Ohio Early Childhood Systems Conference will take place in Columbus. Focused on infant and early childhood wellness, this conference will showcase a systems approach to integrated care.

“The CYC is excited to present at and support this event,” shares Laura. “Seeing various organizations and agencies come together—from mental health, to education, to developmental disabilities, and more—helps promote the importance of the whole child approach to wellness and it showcases the various services and resources available.”

Inspiring Change

When asked about how the CYC is helping to spread OCALI’s mission of inspiring change for people with disabilities, Laura shares, “With a focus on the whole child and sharing our expertise and OCALI’s rich resources, we are able to promote out-of the box partnerships and ideas that impact families across the state. We’re committed to diving deep into understanding the needs and offering support to address the demands of diverse and complex issues that face Ohio’s families and young children.”

Resources You Can Use

Across OCALI’s Centers is a thriving dedication to early childhood development and education. Explore current learning opportunities for families and professionals to help young children, birth-8 years of age, learn and grow.