Pediatric Therapies & Developmental Instruction

Arc Gateway's experienced pediatric professionals provide services through the Pearl Nelson Center for children who have, or are at risk of, developmental disabilities. The children reach their potential in a fun and safe environment while learning and playing with friends. 


The Pearl Nelson Center provides speech, occupational and physical therapy as well as developmental instruction by infant toddler developmental specialists.


As the largest early intervention provider in the community for Part C/Early Steps, with a team of highly skilled therapists and infant/toddler developmental specialists, we continue to provide outstanding pediatric services.


In 2013, we provided services to 552 children with 90% demonstrating progress in their development as evidenced through semi-annual evaluation updates. While research indicates that early intervention can reduce the effect of a disability by 30%, at Pearl Nelson Center we saw 35% of our children discharged needing fewer services - or no special services at all.


Children thrive in a fun, safe child-centered environment that allows them to learn through play. Their senses are stimulated by using indoor or outdoor playground equipment and interacting with their peers during group activities. At Pearl Nelson Center, your child will have the opportunity to learn, grow and achieve great things with the help of our pediatric experts.


For more information, please call 850-434-7755




What makes us special?

  • Offer spacious therapy rooms for treatment in a family-friendly environment
  • Provide early intervention services to infants and children up to age three who are at risk of developmental delays
  • Offer therapies from infancy through adolescence
  • Comprehensive team approach to intervention
  • Help families transition from developmental instruction to public school services
  • Provide family activities and festivals
  • Serve as a liaison between parents and doctors and between parents and community agencies
  • Community education for local child-care providers, physicians and other agencies
  • Partner with local schools and child-care centers for on-site speech therapy

How to receive services

To receive pediatric therapies (physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or speech therapy) at Pearl Nelson Center, referrals can be made by your child's physician. Referrals for infant/toddler developmental instruction services must come through the Early Steps Program at Sacred Heart Health System.

Contract Position Available

Pearl Nelson Child Development Center, an early intervention program and pediatric therapy clinic at The Arc Gateway located at 916 E. Fairfield Dr. is looking for experienced pediatric occupational and speech therapists with Florida license to work in a contract position.  Become a part of our dynamic multi-disciplinary team including physical, occupational, speech and developmental therapists. Candidates must be willing to be a provider with Children's Medical Services/ Early Steps. Perks  include a flexible schedule, competitive contract rates, electronic records and billing, and working with some of the cutest kids around!  One year prior experience required.  Prior experience treating children ages, birth to three years is preferred.


In 1954, Mrs. Pearl Nelson, along with other parents in Pensacola, began a grassroots effort to provide education for children with special needs. Today, thanks to the efforts of committed parents, dedicated professionals and caring community members, the Pearl Nelson Child Development Center provides early intervention services to children with or at risk of developmental delays or disabilities. Our family-centered early intervention services can positively impact a child's development and reduce the child's need for costly long-term services.

Meet our Children's Services Director

MaryAnn Bickerstaff

(850) 434-7755 x 224



Bachelors of Arts Degree in Special Education/ Habilitative Science

University of West Florida (1986)


MaryAnn has been with the Pearl Nelson Center since 1986 working initially as an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist before taking on supervisory duties of the Developmental Specialists and eventually becoming the Director in 1990. She has enjoyed seeing the benefits of early intervention services first hand over the years as many of the children she first provided services to, are now adults living and working in our community. She is proud of the growth of the pediatric therapy services and the coordinated team approach the program emphasizes.

Making a difference in the lives of the families served by PNC has been her passion throughout her professional career.


MaryAnn enjoys spending leisure time with her family (husband David and children Emily, Nathan, & Keegan), supporting her children in their extracurricular/ athletic activities, going to the beach, and visiting with her large extended family.

Pearl Nelson Child Developmental Center

916 East Fairfield Drive

Pensacola, FL 32503

850-434-7755 (p)

850-469-0858 (f)


Please Note: Entrance to parking is located on 10th Ave

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The Arc Gateway is a proud partner agency of the United Way of Escambia County

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© The Arc Gateway, Inc.
3932 N. 10th Ave., Pensacola FL 32503
P: 850-434-2638, F: 850-438-2180