Project aims to meet growing demand for special education professionals

Children reading

To increase the number of highly qualified and certified professionals in the early childhood special education field, Northern Arizona University has launched a graduate level program to train scholars to meet the unique needs of children with disabilities.

NAU was awarded $1.25 million by the Office of Special Education Programs to help launch Project STRIDE, Strengthening Rural Inclusive Diverse Early Educators. During the five-year program, 25 teaching scholars will earn master’s in education degrees to help fill the demand in communities across Arizona.

“We believe this project offers individuals from rural and culturally diverse communities the opportunity to become highly credentialed early childhood special educators,” said Karen Applequist, professor of education specialties in NAU’s College of Education. “Scholars will be trained in evidence-based practices that best support young children with disabilities and their families.”

The program aims to prepare teaching professionals to educate children under age eight with differing abilities and special needs by delivering a unified curriculum.

STRIDE scholars will participate in summer orientations focused on topics such as cultural diversity and assistive technology. All coursework will be delivered online. Scholars must complete 10 credits of internship or student teaching with children with disabilities under age five.

NAU is only one of two graduate programs in the state that prepares professionals in early childhood special education. For information, contact Karen Applequist.