Innovative ACCESS to Curriculum for Students with Severe Disabilities

Master's Degree and Initial Teacher Licensure Program at the University of Illinois

This 2-year program is designed for graduate students wishing to pursue full-time study at the University of Illinois to obtain initial teacher licensure in special education (LBS1) with specialized expertise in severe disabilities (i.e., severe intellectural disabilities, autism, multiple disabilities).  As a result of this program, teacher candidates will learn how to:

  • individualize the curriculum to address academic and life skills,
  • implement behavior focused interventions,
  • use curriculum and performance-based assessments to make instructional decisions,
  • create inclusive educational environments,
  • work effectively with culturally diverse populations,
  • incorporate research-based practices into teaching practices and curricula,
  • ensure positive educational and transition outcomes, and
  • build strong ties through collaboration with families, teachers, and other professionals.

Unique Features of the Program

  • Cohort Model – Teacher candidates complete the program together as a cohort across six consecutive semesters (i.e., 2 years).
  • Concentrated Coursework and Topical Seminars - Concentrated coursework prepares teacher candidates to educate students ages 3-21 in various educational contexts.  Topical seminars will address advanced skills that correspond with practicum experiences.
  • Practicum/Student Teaching Experiences - Four semesters of supervised field experiences are provided in a diverse array of schools.  Teacher candidates participate in practicum every day.
  • Externships in High Need Schools in Chicago – Each year, teacher candidates participate in a 2-day externship in the Chicago Public Schools to observe culturally diverse classrooms that include high need students with severe disabilities.
  • Optional Student Teaching in Chicago Public Schools - An optional student teaching experience in the Chicago Public Schools is available to teacher candidates who aspire to teach students with severe disabilities in high need urban schools.
  • Service Learning – In year 1, teacher candidates participate in a service learning course and implement a 6-week arts-based service-learning project that includes students with and without disabilities at 3 local high need high schools.
  • Research Experiences – In year 2, teacher candidates engage in a 2-semester research experience with faculty to learn more about evidence-based approaches to educating students with severe disabilities.
  • Traineeships – Traineeship experiences supplement coursework and practicum, and include engaging in research, teaching, and service with faculty and community members.

Who should apply

This 2 year program is designed for graduate students who are accepted into the LBSI program and express interest in developing skills to effectively educate students with severe disabilities.


This program is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.  Project ACCESS (Innovative ACCESS to Curriculum for Students with Severe Disabilities), provides program participants with:

  • Tuition waiver for all semesters except the first summer semester
  • Fee waiver of most university fees
  • Paid 9-month traineeship ($10,000)
  • Stipend for participation in the two day Chicago externship

Participants must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to qualify for funding and sign a service agreement indicating that they will teach for two years for every year of funding received.

For more information

Please contact Dr. Stacy Dymond (Program Director) at