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"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001



MCPS/Placement/Services
Preschool Education Programs (PEP)
Preschool Education Programs (PEP) provide special education services for children with educational disabilities. All children in PEP have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with learning goals and objectives based on needs identified through formal evaluation. 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-serving child with a variety of disabilities. Most children who receive PEP services 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 may also be provided.

PEP is based on the premise that early intervention is effective in remediating learning deficits and identifying strategies that will offset the impact of educational disabilities of 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 they need for kindergarten. PEP has an interdisciplinary philosophy in which all staff members working with a child contribute and share their expertise to address individual goals and objectives. Depending on a student’s needs, related services may be provided by a “plug-in” model during classroom activities, such as facilitating a language or motor circle, or they may be provided through a “pull-out” model. Teachers often integrate therapists’ techniques into the children’s classroom learning activities.

Not all components of PEP programs are at each PEP site. Whenever possible, PEP is located in a school with another prekindergarten program, such as Head Start or on-site child care center so children can participate in some learning activities with peers who do not have disabilities. Some PEP classes are located in a specialized school for children and teens with disabilities, such as the Stephen Knolls School.

For a directory of locations for each program, download MCPS Programs and Services Locations for Special Education Students, 2016-17

PEP Itinerant Services
Itinerant services are available for children who do not require a comprehensive classroom program to meet their special education needs. A special education teacher consults with staff who work with the student in a community-based setting, childcare center or preschool and/or provides direct services if needed. Related services such as speech, occupational therapy, or physical therapy are provided at local public schools.

PILOT (Providing Inclusive Learning Opportunities for Threes)
PEP PILOT is an inclusive curriculum and theme-based instructional program taught by a special educator and paraeducator. PEP PILOT classes have 12-13 children with up to 6 students who have an IEP. The remainder of the students does not have an IEP and pay a small fee to attend the class. Students served in PEP PILOT have milder disabilities and do not require a four- or five-day-per-week special education program in order to make progress on their IEP goals and objectives. PEP PILOT is two and one-half hours per day, two days per week. Most sites serve three-year-old students only.

PEP Classic
Much like community prekindergarten programs, PEP Classic is two and one-half hours per day. Three year-olds attend class four days per week (Tuesday through Friday), while four year olds attend five days per week (Monday through Friday). Typically, a class of 9-10 students is taught by a special educator and a paraeducator in a curriculum and theme-based instructional program. Related service providers and a parent educator support PEP Classic students and their families throughout the week. Assistive technology and augmentative communication activities are integrated into the classroom program by PEP staff.

PEP Intensive Needs Class (PEP INC)
PEP INC serves children with severe communication and sensory integration needs in a structured curriculum and theme-based classes with a special educator and two paraeducators. Classes are three hours per day, five days per week. Children served in PEP INC require a highly structured environment. A primary goal of PEP INC is to prepare students for a larger, less structured prekindergarten program such as PEP Classic. PEP INC classes are paired with PEP Classic classes to provide an opportunity for participation in a larger class when a child is ready for more interaction with peers. In addition to direct instruction to students, each PEP INC teacher also provides parent education to families and caregivers. Parent education is provided for a minimum of 45 minutes, two times per month. This service is provided in the home, at a childcare center or community program the student attends, or in parent and child groups such as group play dates in the community.

PEP Comprehensive (PEP-C)
PEP-Comprehensive (PEP-C) serves prekindergarten students with developmental delays in multiple areas in a special education early childhood classroom setting. Students attend school five days per week, for five hours each day. Students may have cognitive, communication, and/or social-emotional delays, yet many can navigate their environment independently [without sig physical dis]. Students receive direct instruction in a reduced-size class taught by a special educator and two paraeducators. Related services are embedded into the program and provide services to students per the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Speech-language, occupational, and physical therapists collaborate closely with the classroom instructional staff. Students follow the MCPS prekindergarten curriculum using specialized strategies, including assistive technology, frequent reinforcement, consistent routines, and other accommodations per the IEP. Students require significant repetition of concepts and multiple opportunities for reinforcement in order to generalize skills—a basis for the five-hour instructional day. Classes are located in regular elementary schools, providing opportunities for interaction with non-disabled peers and appropriate school-side events.

Comprehensive Autism Preschool Program (CAPP)
The Comprehensive Autism Preschool Program (CAPP) serves students with autism, ages 3–5, who need a highly structured, repetitive educational approach across all instructional and behavioral areas. CAPP provides approximately four hours per day of 1:1 discrete trial instruction and two hours of typical prekindergarten experiences, using a variety of systematic behavioral strategies. Through a combination of small and large group instruction, skills taught in the discrete trial context are practiced and expanded in natural settings. Emphasis is placed on providing an in-class, transdisciplinary model of service delivery so that all staff are trained to implement the recommendations of related service providers.

PEP Collaboration
The collaboration class is a combination class with students from the MCPS pre-Kindergarten program. The class is co-taught by both an early childhood teacher and the special education PEP teacher. In an effort to provide all students an opportunity to learn with non-disabled peers, the PEP students are grouped with pre-K students and spend their instructional day in either the PEP classroom or in the pre-K classroom. The PEP teacher and the pre-K teacher provide differentiation of instruction toward the PEP student’s IEP goals and objectives. Team members from the PEP and Pre-K program co-plan and implement a collaborative program which includes the recommended related services on the PEP student’s IEP.

Visit the Montgomery County Public Schools website for a list of elementary schools with preschool education programs.

Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in grades K-12.

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