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Special Education

Seeking the origins of autism

Assistant professor, Jason Wolff leverages the power of brain-imaging data to determine the biological origins of autism. 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.

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

Masters in Special Education Program Guide recently ranked us #6 in Top 20 Most Innovative Master's in Special Education Degrees.

Programs & degrees

Graduate degrees

Teaching degrees

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:

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.

Faculty & staff

For general questions, contact

Headshot of Janet Caven

Janet Caven

Teaching Specialist, Deaf/Hard of Hearing


  • 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
David Edwards headshot

David Edwards

Lead Instructor, Emotional & Behavioral Disorders - Residency Based Program Teaching Licensure & M.Ed.


  • 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

Headshot of Veronica Fleury

Veronica Fleury

Autism Spectrum Disorder Licensures & M.Ed. Program Coordinator

Email | Lab

  • 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
Headshot of Debbie Golos

Debbie Golos


  • 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 
Headshot of Susan C. Hupp

Susan C. Hupp

Developmental Disabilities Licensures & M.Ed. Program 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
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Asha Jitendra


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

  • Materials analysis
  • Instructional and assessment analysis

Amy Kunkel


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LeAnne Johnson

Early Childhood Special Education Licensure & M.Ed. Program Coordinator

Email | Lab

  • Examining ways to motivate and engage adults in decision making that lead to adoption and implementation of interventions that effectively improve the quality and quantity of learning opportunities available to young children who engage in challenging behavior
  • Improving professional development systems to close the research to practice gap and speed the process of installing new innovations into effective, sustainable practices
  • Evaluating the efficacy of interventions addressing the social and communication needs of young children with Autism and Emotional/Behavioral Disorders
Headshot of Jennifer McComas

Jennifer McComas

Emotional & Behavioral Disorders Licensure & M.Ed. Program 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
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Scott McConnell

Email | 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
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Kristen McMaster

Special Education Program Coordinator

Email | 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

Field Placement Coordinator/Teaching Specialist

Email | Make an appointment

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Becca Pierce

Academic Behavior Strategist (ABS) Licensure & M.Ed. Program Coordinator


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


Moderate and severe developmental disabilities and children with more severe Autism Spectrum Disorders, including:

  • Understanding the social purposes served by young children's behavior problems
  • Validating instructional procedures to teach individuals with significant developmental disabilities to use augmentative communication systems
  • Using graphic communicative mode to supplement the vocal and verbal behavior produced by young children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders
Headshot of Kathy Seifert

Kathy Seifert

Learning Disabilities Licensure & M.Ed. Program Coordinator


  • Adolescent literacy
  • Effective teacher preparation
Headshot of Frank Symons

Frank Symons

Associate Dean for Research and Policy, College of Education and Human Development

Email | 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
Headshot of Rose Vukovic

Rose Vukovic

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Email | Lab

Increasing the educational and psychological well-being of students at-risk for negative life outcomes, especially in underserved or marginalized populations by:

Headshot of Jason Wolff

Jason Wolff

Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate Coordinator

Email | 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


Headshot of Kyle Wagner

Kyle Wagner


"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.”

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.

Headshot of Kelsey Young

Kelsey Young


“My research is focused on early intervention strategies for children with autism. In the future, I hope to conduct research in early identification practices in autism.”

  • Interests: Early identification of autism, including: biobehavioral markers, assessments, diagnostics
  • Work: Early intervention for preschoolers with autism