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Special Education, MA or M Ed, or Graduate Certificate, Specialization in Early Childhood Special Education

special education teacher with mentally disabled preschool student

Program Description

The Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders offers a high quality, interdisciplinary online program in Early Childhood Special Education.

A variety of options are available that can lead to a graduate certificate, master's degree, education specialist or doctoral degree.

As a student in this online program, you will receive preparation as an early childhood special educator to work with infants, toddlers and preschool children with a range of delays/disabilities and their families.

Whether you are an entry-level or experienced educator in the field of early intervention, this program will increase your ability to provide services for young children with delays/disabilities and their families that are:

  • family-centered
  • comprehensive
  • interdisciplinary
  • community-based/inclusive
  • equitable
  • developmentally appropriate

The Early Childhood Special Education program is offered via distance education allowing you to take courses in the comfort of your home. As a student in this online program, you may choose to take a one or a few classes of interest, pursue the teaching endorsement or graduate certificate, or complete a graduate degree. 

Note:  A graduate certificate is awarded by the university and should not be confused with teacher certification, which is awarded by the state in which you wish to teach.


Special Accreditation

In addition to the Higher Learning Commission accreditation carried by all University of Nebraska campuses, this program is also accredited by:

  • Teacher Education Accreditation Council
  • Nebraska Department of Education

Nebraska Department of Education logo, TEAC logo

Delivery Format

Home Campus: University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Method of Delivery: 100% Online - what's this?Program can be completed fully at a distance. Courses are asynchronous, meaning students and instructor may access content at any time and do not have to be connected to the Internet at the same time. If your program includes an internship or practicum, experiences may be completed in the student's local area.

All online courses are accessed via the Internet and use a learning management system. Technology requirements may vary by program and course, but all campuses have basic recommended requirements. High-speed Internet is required.

Interaction with professors and other students may include:

  • E-mail
  • Online discussion boards
  • Phone or video conferencing
  • Other forms of electronic and print communication

Supplemental materials for some courses may include:

  • Printed material and scanned documents
  • Digital resources accessed through university libraries
  • Videos accessed via the Internet, CDs or DVDs
  • Other media

To be successful, students taking online classes should be reasonably comfortable using a computer and the Internet. Learn more about online student tips for success.

Academic Year 2015 - 2016

Tuition rates are effective for the academic year listed. Tuition is subject to change.

Nebraska Resident:

 TuitionDistance Ed. FeeTechnology FeeLibrary FeeTotal
Per credit hour$325.50$25.00$11.00$4.00$365.50
3 credit hour$976.50$75.00$33.00$12.00$1,096.50


 TuitionDistance Ed. FeeTechnology FeeLibrary FeeTotal
Per credit hour$609.00$25.00$11.00$4.00$649.00
3 credit hour$1,827.00$75.00$33.00$12.00$1,947.00

Note: In addition to the costs outlined above, students will be assessed a $20.00 registration fee each semester they enroll in courses.

Degree and Endorsement Foundation Courses:

Teaching certification and the following coursework, or equivalent courses as approved by your advisor.  If you do not have current teaching certification, you will need an additional 16+ credit hours of College of Education and Human Sciences courses as approved by your advisor.


 SPED 800 Characteristics of Exceptional Persons 
 SPED 812 Assessment Techniques for Diverse Learners 
 SPED 818 Behavior Management 
 SPED 815* Reading & Writing Disabilities:  Elementary Students

* Not currently available via distance education.  Please contact your advisor to discuss alternative options.

Required Courses for the Graduate Certificate:

You will work with your advisor to select certificate courses with an infant focus, a preschool focus, or a combination infant/preschool focus.


 SPED 860 Issues in Early Childhood Special Education     3 
 SPED 861 Infants with Disabilities and Home Visiting     3 
 SPED 863 Medically Fragile Infants 
Specialized Instruction for Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities
 SPED 960 Family and School Collaboration in Special Education     3 
 Total hours required for the graduate certificate   12

 Required Courses for the Master's Degree:


All six courses listed above as options for the graduate certificate are required for the master's degree plus the following: 18
SPED 897Q  Student Teaching:  Exceptional Learners - Early Childhood Special Education    3 
EDPS 800  Foundations of Educational Research    3 
Supportive courses of interest chosen in consultation with your advisor 12
Minimum credit hours required for the master's degree  36 
Course Name
Course #
Core Courses

Characteristics of Exceptional Persons

SPED 800
Etiology, growth and development, and characteristics of persons who differ from the norm.

Assessment Techniques for Diverse Learners

SPED 812

Prereq: SPED 201 and 303

The role of general education teachers in the primary purposes of assessment of learners with diverse needs. Knowledge and experience with interpreting norm-referenced test information as related to planning educational programs. Use of assessment information for instructional planning and evaluation. Testing accommodations and classroom grading.

Reading and Writing Disabilities: Elementary...

SPED 815

Reading and Writing Disabilities: Elementary Students

(1-3 cr, max 6) Fld. Prereq: Parallel SPED 815A For elementary education majors: SPED 201, TEAC 311 and 313. For SPED majors: SPED 201, 302, 303, and 304; or equivalent. Theory and techniques for assessing and teaching early literacy skills in small groups and one-on-one for children who struggle with literacy. A. Reading Center Practicum: Elementary Students (1-3 cr, max 3)

Behavior Management

SPED 818

For post baccalaureate students obtaining an initial teaching endorsement in mild/moderate disabilities. Course taught via Internet.

Introduction to behavior management. Analyze students’ behaviors, define and target behaviors, record and graph behaviors, and develop interventions based on positive reinforcement for improving students’ academic and social behaviors. Introduction to functional assessment, how to use reinforcement to decrease inappropriate behaviors, and guidelines for using punishment ethically and its relative effectiveness.


Issues in Early Childhood Special Education

SPED 860
Introduction to the history, philosophy, and research related to early intervention practices with children 0-5 years of age. Discussion of issues related to legal mandates, model programs, family involvement, integration, transitions, service delivery systems, teamwork and assessment for young children.

Infants with Disabilities and Home Visiting

SPED 861

Prereq: SPED 960 and permission.

SPED 861 requires a practicum in home visiting.

Assessment and intervention strategies for developing appropriate early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities. Rationale and principles for conducting home-based, family-centered, and transdisciplinary services.

Preschool Children with Disabilities in a...

SPED 862

Preschool Children with Disabilities in a Classroom

Prereq: An assessment and behavior management course; and permission.

SPED 862 requires an applied experience.

Selection, design and implementation of developmentally appropriate, activity-based interventions for preschool-age children with disabilities. Ecological assessments. Instructional factors, such as classroom environments, activity planning, selection, use and modification of strategies, home-school communications, and consulting to staff in inclusive settings.

Medically Fragile Infants

SPED 863
Unique needs, family-coping strategies, specialized medical staff, and various health-care settings of chronically ill infants and toddlers. Overview of etiology, characteristics, and developmental implications of selected medical conditions related to developmental disabilities.

Specialized Instruction for Students with Severe...

SPED 882

Specialized Instruction for Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities

Lec 3. Prereq: SPED *881 for the Severely/Multihandicapped endorsement program or SPED *862 for Preschool Handicapped endorsement program; and permission. Majors in severe disabilities must parallel with SPED 896P (1 cr). SPED *882 requires observations in schools and applied assignments. Selection, design, and implementation of best practice instruction for students with severe disabilities, multiple disabilities, or deaf-blindness.

Family and School Collaboration

SPED 960

Prereq: Professional experience or completion of one practicum and/or field experience with young children (birth to age 5) or other individuals ages 5 to 21 years who have disabilities. Functions and interactions of both family and education systems. Impact of having a child with a disability on the normal and stressed family system. Promote family-professional partnerships in assessment and intervention for the child and/or student with an IFSP/IEP. Communication skills are reviewed and practiced for effective teaming among educators and for interviewing, consulting, collaborating and coaching with family members and other community team members.

Student Teaching: Exceptional Learners - Early...


Student Teaching: Exceptional Learners - Early Childhood Special Education

(1-9 cr, max 15) Prereq: Permission Laboratory and teaching experience in the area(s) of specialization: Early Childhood Special Education

Foundations of Educational Research

EDPS 800

Prereq: EDPS 459/859 or equivalent or parallel EDPS 859. Purposes and characteristics of research process, selection of research problems in education and social sciences, critical review of published research, research ethics and institutional review, sampling methods, threats to validity in research.

Christine A. Marvin, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Guidelines for Admittance

To participate in this program the student must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.


Application Checklist

  1. Apply and be admitted to Graduate Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln if applying for the master's degree or graduate certificate.  If applying for the graduate certificate, be sure to apply as a non-degree seeking student.  If you are applying only for the teaching endorsement, you do not need to apply to Graduate Studies.
  2. Apply and be admitted to the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders (required for all options - the teaching endorsement, graduate certificate and/or master's degree.) 

If applying for the teaching endorsement:

  • Work with an advisor to have a teaching endorsement program of study outlined before submitting an application form.  The Special Education and Communication Disorders Graduate Secretary can direct you to the appropriate faculty member for advising.
  • Complete the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders application form.
  • Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST), if earning initial certificate/endorsement

If applying for the graduate certificate:

  • Complete the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders graduate certificate application form.
  • Submit three letters of recommendation
  • Submit a one-page letter of intent to explain why you want to earn this graduate certificate, how it would enhance your professional goals and future work, and how the graduate certificate coursework complements your current or most recent college degree program.

If applying for the master's degree:

  • Department application
  • One copy of official transcripts
  • GRE score
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Autobiographical statement
  • A copy of current teaching certificate (if applicable)
  • If your native language is not English, verification of English proficiency

Application Deadlines

Applications are accepted on a rolling, or continual basis throughout the year.  For more information about this program, please visit the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders website.


Online Worldwide Educational Representative

Admissions Contact
Phone: 402.472.2875

Program Contact
Name:  Jill England
Phone:  402.472.2141

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