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Special Education |

Why Choose EIU?


About the Program

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Major Requirements


Why Choose EIU

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Current Student Resources

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Field Experience

The field experience we offer prepares you for work with the full spectrum of learners with disabilities; this includes:

  • Autism
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Behavior Disorders
  • Specific Learning Disabilities.

While part of our program, you'll be provided opportunities for field experiences in school and agency settings. You'll see individuals across the severity spectrum with mild to profound disabilities and from a wide age range of 5 to adulthood.

You don't go through these field experiences alone, either. They're supervised on-site by faculty members acting as a “coach” and evaluator. Field experiences are part of your coursework, with a minimum of 400 hours needed prior to student teaching.

Field Experiences Extend Learning

Integrated Learning image

Field experiences provide great hands-on experience.



Integrated Learning

Learning by Teaching


Special Education master's degree candidate Kayla Napue discusses the program's strengths as well as the valuable mentoring opportunities she has experiences


Everything you'll learn in the classroom is integrated into what you'll experience in professional settings and activities.

Service is a major part of what we do. Each fall, the day-long Special Olympics Family Festival is a special Saturday for our candidates, while the spring Area 9 Special Olympics take place right here on EIU's campus. In March, faculty and students take the “Polar Plunge” together to raise money for Special Olympics.

Our candidates also participate in bingo nights at area group homes and attend holiday parties with group home residents. We take part in food drives, clothing drives, and fundraising activities to support programs in the community for individuals with disabilities.

Special Ed majors volunteer in a local equestrian for individuals with disabilities program and also volunteer with Dragonfly, an organization for individuals with autism. Majors also participate in the “Best Buddies” program.

Special Olympics



Volunteer Opportunities

Student Council for Exceptional Children

Student Council for Exceptional Children

The Student Council for Exceptional Children seeks to support the mission of the international organization, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), by helping to prepare future educators for roles as advocates as well as teachers.


Candidates and faculty engage in volunteer activities and activities of the two student organizations. All candidates must complete 16 volunteer and 30 service learning hours.  In addition, candidates are expected to participate in other varied activities:

  • Participation in SCEC/Sigma Rho Epsilon
  • Dances, bingo and other organized activities with individuals with disabilities
  • Best Buddies/Big Brothers Big Sisters/Natural Ties
  • Polar Plunge and other fundraising events

Sigma Rho Epsilon

Sigma Rho Epsilon activity

At the March Sigma Rho Epsilon monthly meeting, members were taught by Dr.Huisinga how to create a new teacher resource. They coined the named 'Makeand Takes'. They were made by using decorative duck tape around zip lock bags arranged in a square formation, leaving the tops of the bags open. The final product can be used for a variety of different activities in the classroom. For example, a teacher could slip different vocabulary words into all of the zip lock pockets and provide the student with a fly swatter to hit the correct word. Another example, numbers could be placed in every slot and have the student throw a ball at the correct number when asked.


Teaching Excellence

Faculties in the Department of Special Education model teaching excellence. Faculties in the Department of Special Education hold terminal degrees in Special Education or closely related academic areas. Faculties hold licensure in special education or related academic areas, such as reading, and have taught in school settings or provided services to individuals with disabilities and their families in agency and hospital settings five or more years.

Teaching excellence is the cornerstone of Eastern Illinois University and the Department of Special Education. Teaching is the primary area of evaluation of all faculties for retention, tenure, and promotions. In addition to teaching faculty are involved in professional research and service serving as role models of professional commitment and excellence. Faculties present research on refereed conference programs at the state and national level and serve on varied journal editorial boards. Faculties serve as officers and committee members at the local, state, and national levels of the profession. Faculties professionally volunteer in various roles and join in volunteer activities with students across the each academic year.

Dr. Rebecca Cook

Dr. Cook models teaching excellence in the undergraduate and graduate courses she teaches. Dr. Cook received the Illinois Teacher Education Division of the Council For Exceptional Children “Distinguished Teacher Educator Award” in recognition of her teaching excellence.


Faculties have been recognized for their excellence at the university, state and national levels. Dr. Rebecca Cook received the “Illinois Teacher Educator of the Year Award.” Dr. Bernadette Laumann received the “Illinois Early Childhood Division of the Council of Exceptional Children, Jeannette McCollom Award for Service in Early Childhood Special Education.” Drs. Cook, Hooser, and Shank have each received the College of Education and Professional Studies, “Ronald G. Gholson Faculty Service Award.” In addition, Dr. Kathlene Shank, Chairperson of the Department has received the Eastern, “Luis Clay Mendez University Distinguished Service Award;” The Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Administrators in Special Education, “Harrie C. Selznick Distinguished Service Award;” The Larry B. Vuillemot Leadership Award, Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education;” and the Teacher Education Division of Council for Exceptional Children-Merrill Teaching Excellence in Higher Education Award.”


Rewarding Career


Special education is a rewarding career. Eastern's special education program is a strong one, carrying an excellent state and national reputation. Nationwide, professionals prepared in special education are in high demand.

In Illinois and across the nation, we have a shortage of special education teachers. Candidates who are geographically flexible generally have no difficulty finding employment, and our most recent alumni survey shows 98 percent of graduates have secured full-time positions. The majority of the remaining 2 percent simply did not seek full-time employment.