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Special education

Wolff part of team identifying autism biomarkers in infancy

Jason Wolff in his office

In a first-of-its-kind study, a national team of researchers, including assistant professor Jason Wolff, used MRIs, brain measurements and a computer algorithm to accurately predict autism before symptoms set in. Read more.

Help all students get the support they need to succeed

Improve outcomes for individuals who require specialized support to achieve success throughout their lifespan. At the University of Minnesota, we are committed to engaging in meaningful research—and to bridging research and practice—to improve the lives of children and families in diverse contexts, and to have a lasting impact on teacher education, leadership, and policy. Watch videos on our research in special education.

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U.S. News & World Report recently rated our program #8 in the nation among special education graduate programs.

We were recently ranked the #6 "Most Innovative" master's degree by Masters in Special Education Program Guide.

Programs & degrees

Graduate degrees

Doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.)

Conduct research in special education and train other researchers and special educators.

Master's of Arts (M.A.)

Conduct research and work toward your Ph.D.

Teaching degrees
Master's of Education/licensure (M.Ed.)

Become licensed to teach individuals with disabilities from birth to age 21.

Bachelor's of Science (B.S.) with Academic Behavioral Strategist (ABS) licensure

Earn your degree and teaching license in four years. Upon graduation, you'll be certified to teach students with mild-moderate disabilities in K-12 and 18-21 transition programs

Teaching licensures

Our Academic Behavior Strategist (ABS) license qualifies you to work with students with mild to moderate disabilities. Once enrolled in the ABS licensure program, you will choose an area of moderate-severe disabilities to specialize in to add to your ABS, including:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities

We also offer core licenses which do not require an ABS license and allow for specialization in the following areas:

Professional certificate
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) certificate

Assist children and youth with ASD and their families. This program offers professional development opportunities for autism resource specialists, public and private social service agency staff, personnel at public and private schools, treatment facility personnel, and psychology and education professionals.

"After working in schools for five years, I realized that I wanted to contribute to research and training future educators. I decided to join the department after speaking with Dr. McMaster and realizing that the program was ideal for helping me achieve my goals."

Kyle Wagner headshot

Kyle WagnerPh.D. student |

Interests: Increasing efficiency and effectiveness of academic interventions; passing current research and best practice on to practitioners.

Work: Kyle worked five years in the field as a nationally certified and Minnesota licensed school psychologist in Texas and Minnesota. Currently, he's a graduate research assistant on a grant developing data based instruction for writing and finding effective ways to train teachers to use it. Kyle's personal research focuses on the area of practice schedule manipulation in academic interventions.

Faculty & staff

For general questions, contact

Janet Caven headshot

Janet Caven

  • Language and literacy development in learners who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Effective teaching preparation to meet the needs of diverse learners using differentiated instruction and assessment
Dave Edwards headshot

Dave Edwards

  • Establishing systems to promote collaboration between staff members working in self-contained EBD classrooms
  • Alternative pathways to special education teacher licensure
  • Using Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to creative inclusive school climates for transgender and gender diverse students
Veronica Fleury headshot

Veronica FleuryAutism Spectrum Disorder licensure & M.Ed. coordinator

  • Examine how core characteristics of ASD inhibit or promote students’ ability to participate in classroom activities
  • Identify and develop instructional strategies to address early academic and social-communication difficulties for young children with ASD
  • Support parents and educators use of evidence-based practices with high fidelity in home and school settings
Debbie Golos headshot

Debbie Golos Deaf/Hard of Hearing licensure & M.Ed. coordinator

  • Developing and evaluating the effects of educational media in ASL on young deaf and hearing children's language and literacy skills
  • Examining the portrayal of deafness in media and literature from a cultural perspective and it's effects on children's identity development
  • Exploring alternative routes to literacy development, that meet the needs of visual learners, particularly deaf children
Susan Hupp headshot

Susan HuppDevelopmental disabilities licensure & M.Ed. coordinator

  • Examine cognitive development of students with severe disabilities, including deaf-blind education
  • Examine mastery motivation of children with and without disabilities and of various cultures
  • Develop and evaluate effective teacher training practices
  • Conduct teacher training to embrace inclusion of students with disabilities within general education classrooms, to design universal and appropriately differentiated instruction, and to use reflective practice as a problem strategy
Asha Jitendra headshot

Asha Jitendra

Evaluate the variables that impact children's ability to succeed in school-related tasks, including:

  • Materials analysis
  • Instructional and assessment analysis
LeAnne Johnson headshot

LeAnne JohnsonEarly childhood special education licensure & M.Ed. coordinator | Lab

  • Motivating and engaging adults in the adoption and implementation of interventions that improve the quality and quantity of learning opportunities available to young children with challenging behavior
  • Closing the research to practice gap and speeding the adoption of new innovations into practice by improving professional development systems
  • Enhancing data driven, precision oriented, problem solving through new tools for monitoring children’s development and response to intervention
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of interventions addressing the social and communication needs of young children with Autism and emotional/behavioral disorders
Amy Kunkel headshot

Amy KunkelSpecial education B.S. & ABS licensure advisor

  • Response to intervention
  • Computer-assisted instruction
  • Meta-analysis of educational research
Jennifer McComas headshot

Jennifer McComasAssociate department chair, emotional behavioral disorders licensure & M.Ed. coordinator

  • Functional analysis of problem behavior in educational and residential settings
  • Basic behavioral processes maintaining desirable and undesirable behavior, such as schedules of reinforcement, stimulus control, and establishing operations
  • Behavioral treatment of problem behavior based on concurrent schedules of reinforcement as well as antecedent stimuli
  • Analysis of academic performance of students with behavior problems
Scott McConnell headshot

Scott McConnell | Lab

  • Skills and competencies that enable pre-school aged children to learn and participate in school and other settings
  • Design, evaluation, and application of:
  • Easy-to-use tools for describing children’s current language, literacy, and other important skills
  • Interventions that support development of these skills, particularly in “non specialized” settings
  • Design and improvement of programs – from classroom efforts to comprehensive community-wide efforts – that help children of all ages develop fully
Kristen McMaster headshot

Kristen McMasterProgram coordinator | Lab

Create conditions for successful response to intervention of academically diverse learners by:

  • Promoting teachers’ use of data-based decision-making and evidence-based instruction
  • Developing individualized interventions for students for whom generally effective instruction is not sufficient
Charissa O'Neill headshot

Charissa O'NeillField placement coordinator | Make an appointment

  • Diversity in teacher preparation programs
  • Early intervention
  • Inclusive classrooms
Becca Pierce headshot

Becca PierceABS licensure & M.Ed. coordinator

  • Using the Internet as a venue of professional development for in-service teachers
  • Using curriculum-based measures to inform educational programming
Christine Peper headshot

Christine Peper

  • Transition planning and programming
  • Self-determination
  • Student participation in IEP meetings
  • Special education in due process
  • Developmental disabilities - access and participation in the general education curriculum
Kathy Seifert headshot

Kathy SeifertLearning disabilities licensure & M.Ed. coordinator

  • Adult literacy
  • Effective teacher preparation
Frank Symons headshot

Frank SymonsCEHD Associate Dean for Research and Policy | Lab

  • Development, assessment, and treatment of severe problem behavior among children and adults with neurodevelopmental and emotional/behavioral disorders
  • Bio-behavior analysis of self-injurious behavior
  • Problem of pain among children and adults with significant cognitive impairments and associated developmental disabilities
  • Rett syndrome - refining measurement approaches to improve understanding of the behavioral phenotype
Rose Vukovic headshot

Rose VukovicDirector of undergraduate studies | Lab

  • Learning disorders
  • At-risk learners
  • Underserved populations
  • Early identification, intervention, and prevention
  • Social justice
Jason Wolff headshot

Jason WolffAutism Spectrum Disorder certificate coordinator | Lab

  • Early brain and behavioral development in children with autism spectrum disorder
  • Restricted and repetitive behaviors associated with autism and other developmental disabilities
  • Identifying neurodevelopmental moderators of response to early intervention
  • Integrating neuroscience with special education research