M.A. in Severe and Multiple Disabilities

Preparation for Teachers of Students with Severe/Multiple Disabilities

In Arizona, there is a critical shortage of qualified personnel to teach students with severe/multiple disabilities, especially in general education settings. Many of the teachers who currently work with these students are underqualified or have a teaching certification in other areas such as learning disabilities, mild/moderate mental retardation or general special education. These teachers have little or no preparation to teach students with severe/multiple disabilities.

The primary purposes of this project are to increase the supply of well-qualified teachers for students with severe/multiple disabilities and to expand and improve the content of our existing preparation program. Two groups of trainees are served by the project: full-time trainees who are working towards a master's degree and their first teacher certification, and second certificate trainees (i.e., selected teachers from the Southern Arizona school districts) who, with additional pre-service preparation from this project, will earn a second teaching certificate in severe/multiple disabilities.

Program Information

The program in Severe and Multiple Disabilities leads to a Master's degree and, with additional coursework and practicum experience, can lead to Arizona teacher certification in Severe/Profound Disabilities. The program emphasizes inclusion practices and a functional versus developmental approach to the education of children and youth with severe multiple disabilities. Students labeled multiply disabled or severely/profoundly disabled usually have the following characteristics: severe to profound mental retardation, severe physical disabilities, sensory impairments, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and health disorders. Prospective teachers in this program will be taught to effectively program for and work with students who have a wide range of severe and multiple disabilities and who represent the spectrum from early childhood to adulthood.

Academic Requirements

For full-time trainees (students), the preparation program for teachers of students with severe and multiple disabilities requires 33 units of academic coursework and extensive practicum experiences through 19 units (more than 800 hours) of practicum coursework, for completion. For the second-certificate trainees, the program requires five academic courses that can be completed during a single year. For these trainees, state certification practicum requirements are met through supervised work as part of their job. Coursework and practica are closely coordinated so that each trainee acquires knowledge-based and performance-based competencies that reflect current best practices in:

  • instruction in general education classrooms
  • collaborative teaming
  • family-centered planning
  • meaningful, individualized, and age-appropriate programming
  • community-based instruction
  • positive behavioral support

Please note that SERP 400: Survey of Special Education, Rehabilitation or equivalent (i.e., introduction/characteristics course in special education) must be taken prior to or during the first semester of the program.

Potential Scholarship Opportunities

Each year of the project, 12 trainees are awarded scholarships to enable them to study full time. In addition, five second-certificate trainees are awarded tuition scholarships. In awarding scholarships, preference is given to trainees from traditionally underrepresented groups and to those interested in working in Arizona's rural areas. The grant is funded from August 2002-July 2007. Scholarship opportunities for students applying after the grant has ended will be announced once knowledge of them is available.

Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • Grade point average of "B" or better (3.0 on a 4.0 scale)
  • Experience working with individuals with severe and multiple disabilities preferred
  • Submission of application to the Graduate College. SER Personal Date Form, and 3 professional letters of recommendation
  • Personal interview, if local, or telephone interview allowed

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Further Information

Please contact Dr. Stephanie MacFarland for more information by email or by phone at 520-621-5165.