What is PEP?

PEP is a special education program for children who have educational disabilities. All children in PEP have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with learning goals and objectives based on needs identified through formal testing. The goals and objectives are guides to help the staff help the child acquire skills that other children of their age already have learned. PEP is a noncategorical program, which means that it serves children with a variety of disabilities. Most children who participate in PEP classes have moderate learning delays in more than one area of development, and many of the children receive related services such as speech/language, occupational, and/or physical therapy. Parent education is also a part of the program.

PEP Philosophy

PEP is based on the premise that early intervention is effective in remediating learning deficits and/or identifying strategies to offset the impact of educational disabilities on young children. Developmental skills such as communication, exploration, movement, play and socialization are essential for all children. Some children with disabilities need specialized intervention to gain the skills necessary for kindergarten. PEP uses a model in which all of the staff members working with a child share techniques to address individual goals and objectives. These are integrated into the learning environment (usually a classroom) and also shared in activities for the child's home. The team at school, along with parents and other caregivers, work together in roles which are interdependent and interlocking. In some cases, staff members develop "co-treatment" plans in which staff from several disciplines work simultaneously with a child.

Team Components

If you visit a PEP classroom, you might see several adults in the room. The special education teacher designs the daily program which is based on preschool curriculum and is play-based (since play is the way most young children learn). The paraeducator helps the teacher implement these plans in which each child's goals and objectives are addressed. On different days, there may be a therapist in the room working with small groups or individual children. Sometimes a therapist works outside the classroom with a child individually. The therapist integrates their activities into the classroom curriculum, and the teacher integrates the therapists' techniques into the child's activities.

PEP Components

The PEP classroom program is located in selected schools throughout Montgomery County. Not all components of the classroom program are at each school. Whenever possible, PEP is located in a school with other preschool programs such as Head Start or Pre-K, so that children can engage in some learning activities with peers who do not have disabilities. In some cases, this interaction is with children who attend day care centers located in the school.

PEP Classic Program

Much like community preschools, a PEP class is a two and one-half hours per day program. Typically, a class of nine students is taught by a special educator and a paraeducator in a curriculum and play-based instructional program. Related service providers and a parent educator provide services periodically throughout the week. PEP classes sometimes serve children with significant physical disabilities. Assistive technology and augmentative communication activities are integrated into the classroom program.

PEP Intensive Needs Class (PEP INC)

PEP INC serves children with severe communication and sensory integration needs in a structured, curriculum and play-based class with related services integrated into the classroom. Class sizes are smaller than a PEP Classic, and there is a special education teacher and two paraeducators. Classes are held five days per week for three hours. The children served by PEP INC often are overwhelmed by many people or are unable to focus without a very structured environment. A major goal of PEP INC is to prepare the children for a larger class such as PEP Classic or another preschool program. PEP INC classes are paired with PEP Classic in order to provide exposure to larger classes when a child is ready for more interaction with peers.

PEP Beginnings

PEP Beginnings serves children with significant physical and/or cognitive disabilities in a five hour, five day per week program. As in PEP Classic, related services are integrated into the classroom program. Classes are smaller than PEP Classic, serving 6-7 students, and there is a teacher and two paraeducators. Many children who attend PEP Beginnings have significant school health service needs, are medically fragile, and/or require specialized feeding, such as tube feeding. Most children also require physical assistance to move, walk, or attend to instruction. The classes focus on communication and mobility; assistive technology and augmentative communication techniques are used throughout the day. PEP Beginnings is paired with PEP Classic and other preschool classes to provide exposure to larger classes when a child is ready for more interactions with peers.


Children may be eligible for the Preschool Education Program if they

  • are Montgomery County residents,
  • are between three and five years of age,
  • have a developmental delay or disability as determined through assessment,
  • meet the criteria for one or more educational disabilities as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and/or
  • need special education services.


A child is placed in PEP through a centralized special education placement process following educational testing. Referrals for evaluation (testing) are usually through Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers Program (for children under the age of 3 years) or the Child Find Unit (for children between 3 and 5 years of age).

Other Preschool Special Education Services

There are special education services and classes available for preschoolers in Montgomery County which are not administered through the PEP office. These include:

  • Pre-K Autism classes
  • Pre-K Language classes and itinerant services
  • Pre-K Vision classes
  • Classes for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

For more information about these services, contact the Child Find Unit at (301) 929-2224.

Contact Information

Preschool Education Program (PEP)
301-279-2016 or 301-279-2058

Child Find Office (Other Preschool programs)