Master's in Early Childhood Special Education

Advocacy with Impact

Our community and educational systems continue to struggle to meaningfully include and meet the learning and developmental needs of all children across learning environments. The GW ECSE MA Program prepares current and future educators and interventionists to address the learning and developmental needs of young children (birth through age eight) with or at-risk for disabilities. In this program, students acquire the knowledge and skills to work as leaders and change agents within schools and community agencies.

Program Highlights & Details

  • 39 credit hours
  • Can be completed as a part-time or full-time student
  • Classes offered in the evenings
  • Includes supervised practicum and internship experiences in the field
  • Initial licensure program leading to teaching certification in early childhood education with an endorsement in early childhood special education

Why a GW Master's in Early Childhood Special Education?

Location: Unique to the the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area, our location gives students in the Special Education & Disability Studies Department access to urban or suburban; public, charter, or private schools. This allows students to examine, compare, and contrast schools with widely different student populations, structures, and demographics.
Licensure: This degree leads to initial licensure in early childhood education with an endorsement in early childhood special education (PreK through 3rd grade) in the District of Columbia.
Internship and Immersion: The program requires two field placements to strengthen knowledge and skills and advance professional interests.
Faculty:Faculty are experts in developmental and educational psychology, behavioral interventions, and special education. In addition to extensive research experience, faculty are nationally recognized educators and clinicians with experience leading innovative work in research and practice across education and health sectors.

Program Goals

Students will:

  • learn how to provide focused instruction and individualized interventions to support young children and their families across home, school, and clinical settings
  • use research-based strategies to meet the needs of developmentally diverse infants and young children
  • be strong advocates for the children and families they serve

    The following requirements must be fulfilled: 39 credits
    Students are assigned a faculty advisor who mentors them in their programs of study.

    EDUC 6114: Introduction to Quantitative Research
    SPED 6222: Legal Issues and Public Policy for Individuals With Disabilities
    SPED 6240: Family Support and Guidance in Special Education OR SPED 6100: Selected Topics.
    SPED 6261: Practicum: Methods and Materials for Young Children with Disabilities
    SPED 6266: The Development of Language and Literacy
    SPED 6268: Development of Children and Youth with Disabilities
    SPED 6269: Etiology, Symptomatology, and Approaches to Intervention with Children with Disabilities
    SPED 6290: Affective Development and Behavior Management in Special Education
    CPED 6623: Foundations of Reading Development
    SPED 6260: Developmental Assessment in Special Education
    SPED 6262: Formal Assessment of Young Children with Disabilities
    SPED 6993: Internship: Teaching Young Children with Disabilities (taken for six credits)

    Master of Arts in Education and Human Development comprehensive exam required
    Completion of the relevant teacher licensure assessments (i.e., PRAXIS) required by the District of Columbia Educator Licensure Services Office

    Visiting Assistant Professor
    Career Outlook


    Graduates are prepared to work with children in multiple settings including classrooms, inclusive classes, early intervention programs, Head Start and Early Head Start, public and private child care, the home, hospital settings and specialized agency programs.



    Program Entry: Summer, Fall
    Prerequisites: Bachelors Degree
    Campus: Main Campus

    Application Requirements

    • Online Application
    • Resume
    • Statement of Purpose
    • 2 Letters of Recommendation
    • Transcripts (unofficial)
    • Application Fee

    Practicum & Internship Experiences

    Direct experience in the field is a major component of the ECSE MA Program. Students have two field-based experiences, each with an accompanying seminar. Students have opportunities to train across an array of service delivery settings for children between birth and 8-years-old and receive mentorship and guidance from site and University supervisors. Students also complete a capstone action research project during their internship semester.

    *Additional application requirements may exist for international applicantsFor more information on any of these requirements, please visit our Admissions FAQ page.We encourage you to submit your application as early as possible. For the best chance of admission, submit your application by January 15, 2021. The second round deadline for Summer and Fall 2021 enrollment is March 15, 2021.
    Transformation Begins Here

    Learn more about the Master's in Early Childhood Special Education program located on campus (202-994-9283).

    In the News

    Rebecca Parlakian, GSEHD alumna (master's, early childhood special education) and current adjunct faculty member, published an article in the July 2018 issue of Young Children titled "Exploring Math with Infants and Toddlers: The Joys and Benefits of Math-Based Books and Language." The article is part of the Rocking and Rolling: Supporting Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families series in the journal.

    GSEHD's Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Program hosted the ECSE Professional Networking Conference on April 18, 2018. ECSE internship students presented the results of their action research projects. Projects included a single case application to reduce challenging behaviors, a mixed-methods exploration of the development of adaptations for an early childhood curriculum, and more.

    GSEHD alumnus Dr. Scott Braband (master's, education) was highlighted in The Washington Post's Fairfax’s new schools chief focuses on diversifying workforce, closing gaps. Dr. Braband started as the Superintendent for Fairfax County Public Schools this past summer.

    GSEHD alumnus Topher Kandik (master's, English and special education) published a piece on the Education Post's blog entitled Every Book You Teach Is a Political Choice. Make It a Step Towards Social Justice. Mr. Kandik was also the 2016 Washington, D.C. Teacher of the Year.

    Dr. Joan Kester and several special education and disability studies doctoral and master's students presented at the 2017 PA Community on Transition Conference. Amanda Szczerba, a master's student, co-presented with Dr. Kester in a session featuring her capstone project, "Career Development Opportunities for Students with Disabilities." Eric Duer, a recent master's graduate, presented "Entrepreneurship on a Budget." Dr. Kester and doctoral student Matthew Flanagan collaborated with Temple University and the PA Youth Leadership Network to present research findings in a session entitled "Transition Discoveries: Tools & Resources to Improve Transition Practices." Dr. Kester co-presented with Julie Stella and Matthew Flanagan, doctoral students, a session entitled "Digital Inclusion: Let's Brainstorm!"

    For more information, please request information or contact our admission office at or 202-994-9283.