Special Education: Special Populations (B.S.Ed.)


People with disabilities are capable of amazing things – victories that come partly from the work of caring advocates who help them achieve their potential. NIU’s experiential and research-informed Special Education: Special Populations program prepares you to become that difference-maker for people with a range of disabilities across the lifespan.

This degree enables you to practice in private organizations, community settings, agencies and other providers, but it does not qualify you for professional educator licensure in the state of Illinois.

When you are admitted to NIU to pursue the B.S.Ed. degree in Special Education you will enter directly into the major program.

  • Admission and retention in this major require a university GPA of 2.5 or above.
  • Grades of C or better are required in specific major courses.
  • Candidates who do not meet these requirements must retake the course(s).

The NIU College of Education embeds diverse, real-world learning opportunities in our programs, offering you valuable experiences you won’t get anywhere else.

  • Our faculty collaborate with students to facilitate research, service and teaching initiatives within Illinois and throughout the country.
  • Candidates progress through the program as a cohort group, developing friendships and professional partnerships that last well beyond graduation.
  • Special Education majors also enjoy hands-on experiences in our Assistive Technology lab.
  • The Special Populations program includes several early-clinical experiences and concludes with an internship in a service organization, agency or another related service provider to provide hands-on learning in an authentic setting working with individuals with disabilities.

Even if you haven’t acted, sang or danced on stage before, our amazing Penguin Players need you. As part of SESE 260 (Observations of Individuals with Disabilities in Community and/or School Settings), you can mentor a young adult with a disability who’s starring in a Broadway-style Penguin production. Unlike other observational options that meet course requirements, you’ll actually work one-on-one with your artist and build a relationship. This teaching and mentoring role provides a deeper understanding of how individuals with diverse abilities learn and how they seek to connect with others.

  • SESE 260 Observation of Individuals with Disabilities in Community and/or School Settings (1)
  • SESE 320 Disability in Film (3)
  • SESE 415 Instructional Methods for Elementary Students with Mild Disabilities: Reading, Language Arts (4)
  • SESE 416 Instructional Methods for Elementary Students with Mild Disabilities: Math and Science (3)
  • SESE 417 Positive Behavior Support and Classroom Management for Special Educators (3)
  • SESE 444 Instructional Methods and Strategies for Middle and Secondary Students with Mild Disabilities (3)
  • SESE 446 Methods for Supporting the Social/Emotional Development of Students with Emotional/Behavior Disorders (3)
  • SESE 447 Consultation, Collaboration, and Communication Skills for Special Educators (3)
  • SESE 448 Planning for the Transition from School to Employment, Career and Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities (3)
  • SESE 449 Early Field Experience in Special Education: Middle/Secondary (2)
  • SESE 460 Instructional Methods for Individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities (3)
  • SESE 461 Assistive Technology for Individuals with Autism and Multiple Disabilities (3)
  • SESE 463 Early Field Experience in Special Education: Autism and Developmental Disabilities (2)


  • REHB 426 Introduction to Topics in Rehabilitation Services (3)
  • REHB 482 Employment Services in Vocational Rehabilitation (3)
  • SESE 426 Working with and Supporting Families of Young Children with Disabilities and Special Needs (3)
  • SEVI 443 Teaching Activities of Daily Living to Persons with Visual and Multiple Disabilities (3)
  • SEVI 445 Home Management for Persons with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities (3)

Graduates of our Special Populations emphasis can work as group home supervisors and administrators, case managers for adults with disabilities, disability employment specialists, disability advocates, parent advocates, community disability specialists, directors of nonprofit organizations that support individuals with disabilities, transition specialists or coordinators and more.

"The NIU College of Education’s program offers many chances to gain experience in diverse settings, including a vast range of grade levels and disability categories. Thanks to my favorite class – Educational Interventions for Students with Diverse Abilities – I’m learning how to best support each one of my future students and their distinct skill sets."by Cameron Clark, current student