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Preschool (Ages 3 to 5)

xMinds welcomes families with preschool-age children! The xMinds Preschool Parent Outreach Committee hosts a free virtual monthly discussion group and schedules in-person playground meetups to give families with autistic preschool-age children, ages 3–5, opportunities to connect. For more information, see our Events Calendar or email Committee Chair Melanie Carlos.

Useful Map Tool:  This interactive map allows you to locate any Pre-K or Elementary School special education program in MCPS. Use the drop down menu filters to find all the locations for a specific program or use the search bar to locate a specific school: MCPS Pre-K and ES Special Ed Map 

For a directory of program locations, download MCPS Programs and Services Locations for Special Education Students 2022–2023.

Note: MCPS uses the term “pre-K” for special education services and programs for children ages 3–5, who are not yet in kindergarten. As noted below, some of these programs are reserved specifically for 4-year-olds, in the year prior to kindergarten.

Decisions about MCPS services and placements for preschool-age children, ages 3–5, are made through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team process. See the Preschool IEP Road Map for information on this process. Parents and guardians are important members of the IEP team and your input is valuable. Below are some of the available placements and services: 

Comprehensive Autism Preschool Program (CAPP)

Locations: Fields Road E.S., Maryvale E.S., Roscoe R. Nix E.S., Rosemary Hills E.S., Rosemont E.S., Woodfield E.S.

The Comprehensive Autism Preschool Program (CAPP) provides highly intensive and individualized services for preschool-age children with autism. Students attend class five days per week, for six hours each day. Evidence-based practices are utilized to increase academic, language, social, and adaptive skills to provide access to a variety of school-age services and to maximize independence in all domains.

Hear MCPS staff talk about CAPP in the xMinds YouTube video below (29:19–39:11). To watch in Spanish, click here.

Preschool Education Programs (PEP)

Locations: See Page 10 for a list of elementary school locations: MCPS Programs and Services Locations for Special Education Students 2022–2023.

The Preschool Education Program (PEP) provides a continuum of services and classes for children with disabilities, ages 3–5. As noted below, some programs are specifically for 4-year-olds, in the year before kindergarten. PEP serves children with delays in multiple developmental domains that impact the child’s ability to learn. 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.

All children in PEP have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with learning goals and objectives based on needs identified through formal evaluation. Students receive related services including speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy as indicated on their IEP.  All PEP classes utilize support from a parent educator, who works closely with families to develop relationships with parents to enhance their child’s educational program. 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.

MCPS offers several different PEP classes and services, listed below. Not all types of PEP classes are located at every 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 with disabilities, such as the Stephen Knolls School. Some medically fragile students may receive services at home until they are medically cleared to attend school.

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 provides direct services or consults with staff who work with the student in community-based childcare centers, preschools, and public prekindergarten classes. Related services such as speech, occupational therapy, or physical therapy may be provided in the community school or at the local public school.

Inclusive Pre-K Classes and Early Childhood Centers

In selected schools and at two early childhood centers (MacDonald Knolls and Upcounty Early Childhood Centers), students with disabilities are enrolled in the full-day general-education pre-K or Head Start class. Instruction is provided in a co-teaching model by the classroom general education teacher and a special education teacher, along with both the general and special education paraeducators, as determined by the IEP. Up to 20 pre-K general and special education pre-K students are enrolled in a class. This class is for students who are age 4 by September 1 and are in the school year before kindergarten.


PEP PILOT provides an inclusive early childhood setting where students with mild delays learn alongside nondisabled peers. Classes have 12–13 children, with about five or six students who have an IEP. The remainder of the students do not have an IEP and pay a small fee to attend. Classes meet two-and-a-half hours per day, five days a week. The class is taught by a special educator and paraeducator. 

PEP Collaboration

PEP Collaboration is co-taught by both a general education pre-K teacher and a special education PEP teacher. The class gives students with disabilities the opportunity to learn alongside nondisabled peers. Classes meet two-and-a-half hours per day, five days per week. PEP students spend their instructional day in either the PEP classroom or in the general-education pre-K classroom. The PEP teacher and the pre-K teacher provide differentiation of instruction toward the PEP student’s IEP goals and objectives. Related services, including speech/language, occupational, and physical therapy, are provided in either classroom. This class is for students who are age 4 by September 1 and are in the school year before kindergarten.

PEP Classic

PEP Classic serves children with mild to moderate developmental delays in more than one of the following areas: pre-academic, social/emotional, cognitive, or communication.  A class of 9–13 students is taught by a special educator and a paraeducator in a special education setting. Classes meet Monday through Friday, two-and-a-half hours per day. Related services are provided as stated in the child’s IEP, including speech/language, occupational, or physical therapy. A parent educator supports 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 classroom. A class of 6–9 students is taught by a special educator and two paraeducators in a special education setting. Classes meet five days a week, two-and-a-half hours per day. Children served in PEP INC require a highly structured environment. In addition to direct instruction to students, some families receive parent education based on the needs of the child and determined by an IEP team. This service can be 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 Full Day Classes

PEP Full Day Classes serve students with moderate to severe delays and/or multiple disabilities. Students may have cognitive, communication, and/or social-emotional delays. Some students can navigate their environment independently, while others may require physical assistance to move, walk, or attend to instruction. Some students may have significant health service needs or be medically fragile (may require tube feeding, close monitoring for seizures, etc.).

Students attend for a full day, five days per week, in a special education early childhood classroom setting. (The hours are the same as the elementary school day.) Classes of 6–9 students are taught by a special educator and two paraeducators. Speech-language, occupational, and physical therapists collaborate closely with the classroom instructional staff, and their services are embedded into the program. 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. Most classes are located in regular elementary schools, providing opportunities for interaction with nondisabled peers and appropriate school-wide events.

Hear MCPS staff talk about the PEP in the xMinds YouTube video below (8:49–29:18)To watch in Spanish, click here.

Physical Disabilities Pre-K Classes

Locations: Judith Resnik E.S., Forest Knolls E.S.

Physical Disabilities Pre-K Classes serve students with physical and health-related disabilities in inclusive pre-K classrooms located at two elementary schools. These students exhibit needs in motor development and information processing. Services provided to students include special education instruction, consultation with classroom teachers, and occupational and physical therapy services.

Pre-K Language Classes

Locations: Beall E.S., Goshen E.S., Mill Creek E.S., Westover E.S.

Pre-K Language Classes are offered five days per week, two-and-a-half hours each day, for students, ages 3–5, with severe comprehensive speech-language needs. These are students who have difficulty understanding and comprehending spoken language. Students with less severe speech-language disabilities may qualify for classes that meet two days per week, for two-and-a-half hours each day, where the focus is on communication development, articulation skills, and intelligibility.

Additional Services

Assistive Technology Services

Assistive Technology (AT) Services are provided by the Interdisciplinary Augmentative Communication and Technology Team. AT services support students who are severely limited in verbal expression or written communication skills.

Speech and Language Itinerant Services

Itinerant speech-language services are offered at elementary schools throughout the county. Students typically attend small group sessions for 45–60 minutes, once or twice per week, to work on speech- or language-related goals, as indicated on their IEP.

Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy

Occupational and physical therapy may be provided to children and students with disabilities, ages 3 to 21, as part of an IEP in order to access the curriculum. It's important to note that these are strictly considered "related services" and are offered only to students receiving other services.

For information about other services for 3- to 5-year-olds, including vision services and deaf/hard-of-hearing services, see the MCPS website.

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