Ms. Artienda’s 3-year-old PEEPS classroom.

Parents who have little children with developmental delays or disabilities often struggle to find help, either through therapy or educational support. There is county assistance available for 3-to-5-year-old children through an organization called Child Find which partners with Hillsborough County’s Pre-Kindergarten Exceptional Education Preschool Services (PEEPS). Through PEEPS, these children are given specialized instruction and/or therapy within the public school system, free of charge. Approximately 2,800 3-to-5-year-old children are currently enrolled in this program.

Hillsborough County PEEPS website states, “For many children, part-time, specially designed instruction is provided at the child’s community preschool in locations throughout the county. Additionally, developmentally appropriate classrooms designed to meet the needs of young children are located in 93 elementary schools and three exceptional centers. Teaching staff include a certified teacher and a paraprofessional (teacher assistant). The educational environment offers many opportunities for active learning experiences in key developmental areas which include language, fine and gross motor, socialization, self-help, and readiness skills. Intervention for individual special needs is interwoven into the curriculum as appropriate for each child.”

To determine eligibility for the PEEPS program, a child can either transition from the Early Steps program or a caregiver can fill out a referral to Child Find. After a referral has been made, the Early Childhood Council contacts parents/caregivers, schedules a series of evaluations/screenings and reviews current therapies for that child. After going through the assessments, if the child is determined to need additional help, he or she is referred to Exceptional Student Education Services through the Hillsborough County Public Schools system, then the parents register that child for those services. Children who are found to be eligible can receive specific therapies in the public school setting. Although if it is determined that the child does not qualify for services, parents are given referrals to other agencies that may be able to help.

To get more information on the Pre-Kindergarten Exceptional Education Preschool Services program, visit To start the referral process for PEEPS, go to the Child Find website at or call 813-837-7777. A parent liaison group is also available to help connect parents who are applying for this program; its website is

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Ashley Abene
Ashley Abene has written for the Osprey Observer since 2023. She has a master’s degree in writing and literature and a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from the University of South Florida. She has taught college-level writing and literature at USF and Southeastern University for over nine years. She’s a blogger at Peace Filled Family and enjoys writing children’s books. She’s also a mom to three kids, and her husband has been serving in the military for over 20 years.