May Blog

Not completely sure of what Pearl Nelson Child Development Center is and the services we provide? In our first blog post, we decided to interview our Director of Children's Services, MaryAnn Bickerstaff, to go answer a few questions to help you better understand who we are and what we do.


What is Pearl Nelson Center and who is it for? 

Pearl Nelson Center is an early intervention and pediatric therapy center that provides services for children who have developmental delays or diagnosed disabilities.  Our focus is upon helping each child to reach their maximum developmental potential by intervening as early as possible when the brain is most adaptable for change. Parents or caregivers play a key role in our sessions so they can learn strategies to help their children in everyday activities and routines.


What are the age ranges served and types of therapies do you provide

We serve children from infants through adolescence.  Our early intervention developmental instruction services are limited to children from birth to three years of age who qualify for services under the Florida Early Steps Program. However, physical, speech and occupational therapy services begin with our early intervention population and continue through adolescence.  


Our most recent addition, Occupational Therapy/ Vision Rehabilitation services, is primarily focused upon school-age children who are showing signs of functional vision problems that can be diagnosed by a certified pediatric optometrist.  Functional vision depends on more than just visual acuity that is screened using an eye chart.  Our eyes have to work together to focus on an object, track a moving object, or scan to find an object in the environment. Children who experience functional vision problems may avoid reading, may cover an eye while reading and experience eye fatigue, test poorly despite knowing the material, take a lot of time to complete homework assignments, lose their place while reading, see double, or skip lines or words. Vision Therapy requires multiple sessions and improvement can be realized in a relatively short amount of time.


How do parents get appointments for children?

For early intervention developmental instruction services, a child is determined eligible through the local Early Steps program by either having a diagnosed condition or by showing significant delays in one or more areas of development.


To receive physical, occupational or speech therapy services a prescription is required from the child’s doctor.  Some insurance companies or Medicaid plans also require prior authorization for treatment.  Once those two components are obtained, the Scheduling Specialist contacts the parent/caregiver when an opening for services becomes available with one of the therapists.  


Average time frame children will need therapies? 

Because each child is unique and also because of the varying ages and diagnoses when a child is referred, a child may receive services from a few months to several years.


Are inquiries confidential? 

Pearl Nelson Center must abide by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which requires that all health information be confidential, this includes inquiries about services.


How is Pearl Nelson different from other providers?

Pearl Nelson Center has three primary differences from other pediatric therapy clinics:


We are the only early intervention agency with all disciplines (developmental, physical, speech and occupational therapy)


Our pediatric therapists/developmental specialists provide services in a coordinated team approach which includes consultation with one another and the family.


Parents are not only invited, but encouraged to participate in our sessions with their children because the parents need to know strategies that they can incorporate into their child’s daily routines.  The children who will show the most progress are those who have parents/caregivers who are actively involved in their treatment plan.



Pearl Nelson Center has had the same philosophy since the beginning in 1974.  We believe in the abilities of all people and by the 1990’s brain research caught up with our beliefs and shows that 1 out of 3 children who receive early intervention services will not need special education services at
Pre-Kindergarten/ Kindergarten. 




Call us at 850-434-7755 with any other questions you may have! 



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3932 N. 10th Ave., Pensacola FL 32503
P: 850-434-2638, F: 850-438-2180