Master of Science in Special Education – Early Childhood Special Education

(Note: The School of Education is not currently accepting applications or admitting new students into this program.)

The Early Childhood Special Education master’s program will prepare you to teach and work with infants, preschoolers, and children birth through grade three who need specialized support at a very young age to be successful. You will learn to communicate and collaborate effectively with families and other educational professionals and community partners as you implement evidence-based practices to support young students in need of special education.

In addition to your coursework, you will complete two supervised field experiences with guidance from university supervisors, mentor teachers and faculty advisors (i.e., 150 – 300 hours of hands-on experience within early childhood settings).

This 39-credit program combines coursework and two supervised internships to develop your competencies in:

  •   Understanding the legal issues and federal requirements involved in educating young students with disabilities
  •   Assessing and evaluating young students’ performances using formal and informal assessments
  •   Collecting and analyzing data to make evidence-based decisions across academic and behavioral domains in the early years
  •   Developing effective and innovative individualized instructional programs appropriate for very young children with complicated learning issues
  •   Managing and charting challenging student behaviors
  •   Collaborating effectively with fellow educators, parents, communities, itinerant teachers and other specialists, and students, whenever possible.
  •   Reflecting on your own ethical practices while becoming a lifelong member of the special education professional community

In addition to passing all required courses, graduate students are required to:

  •   Pass Praxis Exam II in special education
  •   Complete a comprehensive examination
  •   Conduct a graduate student project and present the findings

We’re thrilled that you’re interested in our program and invite you to take the time to further explore the details below. If you have any questions please contact us or, if you’re ready, apply today.

Contact Us

Faculty Contact
Dr. Laurie deBettencourt

Academic Coordinator
Camilla Mika-Simms


Completion of online application

  •   Submission of application fee
  •   Submission of official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended (Cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or better)
  •   An essay describing your goals and how the program will assist you in meeting those goals uploaded
  •   A current resume or CV uploaded
  •   Two letters of recommendation from individuals who can speak to your work with children with disabilities sent to admissions office sent to office of admissions
  •   Submission of passing scores on Praxis I Core, SAT, ACT, or GRE (For information on passing score requirements, please refer to the Maryland State Department of Education website)

Applicants will be invited for interview will be asked to provide a written response to a prompt and will be asked to “audition” by responding to classroom scenarios provided by faculty interviewers.

For more information on the application process, please view the SOE admissions page.



9 Credits

882.511 Human Growth and Development: A Lifespan Perspective

Students consider an overview of the physical, social, and emotional aspects of human development throughout a person’s lifespan. The course considers developmental theory, and reviews current areas of research. (3 credits)

871.501 Introduction to Children and Youth with Exceptionalities

Students investigate the major areas of exceptionality addressing the characteristics and educational needs of students with a broad range of special instructional needs. Students review incidence and etiology, diagnostic and instructional services, educational continuum of programs, and findings of recent research. (3 credits)

884.500 Introductory Processes and Acquisition of Reading

This course is intended for students seeking initial teacher certification at the early-childhood and elementary levels. Participants examine the processes of language and reading development, including the impact of phonemic awareness and how the brain responds to reading acquisition. This course provides an introductory foundation for further study of specific strategies, materials, and assessment techniques in reading instruction. (3 credits)


871.510 Legal Aspects, Service Systems, and Current Issues in Special Education

This online course reviews litigated and legislated standards for special education and related services for persons with disabilities. Students explore current issues in the provision of services for persons with disabilities, including inclusion, the response to intervention (RTI), and regulations for eligibility. (3 credits)

871.513 Applied Behavioral Programming

This course focuses on the methodology of applied behavior analysis, including how the principles of behavior can be used to make changes and improvements in classroom behavior. Observational methods, single-subject designs, behavior promotion and reduction, and generalization strategies are reviewed in relation to the needs of students with disabilities. Students assess and develop individual behavior projects that demonstrate their ability to design, implement, and evaluate behavioral support programs in an ethically responsive manner. (3 credits)

871.512 Collaborative Programming in Special Education

This course focuses on collaboration themes common to various educational settings: interpersonal communication, problem solving, cultural diversity, teamwork, and family systems theory. Students examine techniques that promote effective communication between teachers, school administrators and other itinerant professionals, and families of students with special needs. Co-teaching models that work effectively are also discussed. (3 credits)

872.500 Seminar: Current Trends and Issues in Early Childhood Special Education

This course introduces students in the Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program to the current research, policy directions and practices in the field of early childhood special education. Students acquire a broader schema for roles and responsibilities, career planning, accepted standards, contemporary practice, and organizational structures related to ECSE. Students become familiar with features of national, state, and local standards and systems of delivery of supports. Students also examine specific issues related to reform-based preschool and primary special education in Maryland. (3 credits)

872.501 Screening, Diagnosis, and Assessment of Young Children with Disabilities

The first few years of life establish initial patterns of learning, literacy, and behavior, and set the pace for subsequent development. In this course, the emphasis is on the translation of evaluation and assessment information into meaningful outcomes for young children with disabilities. Students will review instruments and procedures for screening, evaluating, and assessing the status of a young child’s cognitive development, physical development (including vision and hearing), communication development, social and emotional development, and adaptive development. (3 credits)

872.502 Instructional Program Planning and Methods: Birth-3 Years

Early intervention can have a significant effect on developmental outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families. This course will prepare students to support the facilitation of a family-centered foundation for learning and literacy in infants and toddlers. Students will focus on planning, implementing, and evaluating programs for eligible infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. Topics include: (a) a survey of curricular options for young children and families, (b) selection of family-centered treatment outcomes, (c) design of instructional activities for promoting developmental progress, (d) evaluation of program effectiveness, and (e) evaluation of family satisfaction with services. (3 credits)

872.503 Instructional Program Planning and Methods: Grades Pre-K-3

In this course, students will develop competencies in planning, administering, and reporting the results of a variety of screening, evaluation, and assessment instruments or procedures for children in pre-kindergarten through primary-level special education programs. Students will interpret test results for purposes of: (a) communicating findings to families; (b) communicating findings to colleagues; (c) individual program planning for learning and literacy; and (d) monitoring of individualized programs. Students will create strategies for effective management of resources and information related to the screening, evaluation, or assessment process at pre-kindergarten through primary levels of special education. (3 credits)

872.504 Materials for Teaching Reading to Young Children with Disabilities: Grades K-3

This course examines the variables associated with the selection and use of appropriate materials for teaching reading to kindergarten and primary-level students with disabilities. Students will create an organized, comprehensive intervention plan that effectively integrates meaningful and engaging technology and print materials to address the essential components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension) and written expression. Students will develop a print-rich classroom environment that promotes interests, motivation, and positive attitudes about literacy. (3 credits)

872.506 Instruction of Reading for Young Children with Disabilities: Grades K-3

Students will explore evidence-based techniques that can be applied in classroom reading instruction for kindergarten and primary students with disabilities. Assessment data will be used to prepare and implement instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, spelling, fluency, comprehension and organizational skills. Students will develop strategies for differentiating instruction to address the wide range of reading and related language abilities found in K-3 inclusion classrooms. (3 credits)

872.509 Assessment of Reading for Young Children with Disabilities: Grades K-3

In this course, students will select, administer, and interpret a variety of reading assessments to use as the basis to create individualized prevention and intervention strategies. These assessments will include formal and informal measures, with a focus on the diagnosis of reading problems, individualized planning for reading instruction, and implementation of such reading programs as Orton-Gillingham, the Stevenson method, phonemic awareness, the alphabetic principle, and modification of the literacy environment. (3 credits)

872.514 Development of Young Children with Disabilities

This course examines typical and atypical development of young children, with a special emphasis on the etiology of developmental disabilities. Biological and environmental influences on young children are explored within the context of family and culture. (3 credits)

872.810 Internship: Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education

This internship provides supervised field experiences in early-intervention or preschool special education programs for young children with disabilities in the age range of birth to five-years. Internship sites and activities are individually selected according to student interest and training needs. (3 credits)

872.811 Internship: Preschool and Primary Level Special Education

This internship provides supervised field experiences in special education for children in the age range of three to eight years. Field sites and activities are individually selected according to student interest and training needs. (3 credits)


Flexibility is allowed in scheduling and is determined in consultation with your advisor and can be completed within a 5 year timeline

Fall I

  •      Current Trends and Issues in Early Childhood Special Education (872.500)
  •      Instructional Program Planning and Methods: K-3 (872.503)

Spring I

  •   Development of Young Children with Disabilities (872.514)
  •   Legal Issues (online)  (871.510)

Summer I

  •   Collaborative Programming in Special Education (871.512)
  •      Screening Diagnosis and Assessment (872.501)
  •   Internship I (872.810)

Fall II

  •   Instructional Program Planning and Methods: Birth to 4 (872.502)
  •   Assessment of Reaching for Young Children K-3 (872.509)

Spring II

  •   Instruction of Reading for Young Children (872.506)
  •   Applied Behavioral Programming (871.513)

Summer II

  •   Materials for Teaching Reading to Young Children with Disabilities: K-3 (872.504)
  •   Internship II (872.811)