Early Childhood Special Education

Doctoral Program

Department of Special Education

The Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Ph.D. degree features coursework and intensive mentoring from scholars that conduct cutting-edge clinical and translational research to improve the lives of young children with disabilities and their families. The goal of the program is to prepare the next generation of scholars and future leaders to conduct high-quality research that advances the field of Early Childhood Special Education. The doctoral program generally takes four years of full-time study to complete. Students develop their own individualized program of study in consultation with their academic advisor and the graduate advisor.

The program of study includes work in core areas including a specialization core, which focuses on early childhood special education, autism, and developmental disabilities. In addition to content and research coursework, Ph.D. students will complete a dissertation and professional activities beyond coursework. This can include supervision of student teachers, presentation at professional conferences, submitting manuscripts for publication, teaching at the undergraduate level.

Program Details

Semester Start: Fall

Deadline to Apply:
Priority: December 1
Rolling Admissions

GRE Required? No

Location: On Campus

Length of Program: 60 months, 57 hours

  • Specialization Core: 12 hours
  • Professional Core: 18 hours
  • Research Core: 18-21 hours
  • Dissertation: 6 hours minimum
  • SED 384 Overview of Early Childhood Special Education
  • PSY 394S Fundamentals of Developmental Psychology 
  • CSD 293D Developmental Language Disorders
  • CSD 350 Language and the Brain
  • CSD 318K Acquisition of Communication Abilities in Children

To gain breadth of knowledge, students must take at least one course from outside of their concentration area or outside of the department.

  • SED 695S A & B Professional Seminar (taken over fall and spring semesters of Year 1)
  • SED 398T College Teaching (Year 2)
  • SED 380 Diversity and Disability: Continuing Perspectives; or SED 380 Diversity, Equity, and Disability
  • SED 696 A and B Research Mentoring (taken over two semesters)
  • EDP 380C Fundamental Statistics – prerequisite as needed

Additional coursework must include at least two courses out of the following three:

  • Qualitative Research Design and Data Analysis
  • Quantitative Research Design and Data Analysis
  • Single-Subject Research Design

Coursework must include:

  • SED 395D Grant Writing in Education

Select other research courses in consultation with your Academic Advisor to be sure that you will fulfill research requirements in your concentration area.

All doctoral students are required to complete a dissertation. This includes conducting original research with direction from a dissertation supervisor. The dissertation will be submitted and defended to a dissertation committee consisting of faculty in the field of study.

  • SED 399, 699, or 999 R and W
Photo of faculty member Laura Estep
Assistant Professor of Practice

Engages in training and supervision of clinicians to support individuals with challenging behavior and difficulty transitioning between activities, particularly for students with autism spectrum disorders.

Photo of faculty member Lauren H Hampton
Assistant Professor

Studies how to optimize early interventions for young children with challenging behavior and communication delays including those with autism.

Photo of faculty member Mark F O'Reilly
Department Chair

Assesses and supports individuals with intellectual disabilities and develops social skill/communication interventions for children with ASD.


Photo of Lauren Hampton

Area Co-coordinator
Lauren Hampton

Laura Estep

Area Co-coordinator
Laura Rojeski

Graduate Students

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