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Early Childhood Education and Exceptional Needs

If you have thought about teaching young children with special needs or even directing educational child care programs, then the early childhood education and exceptional needs major could be for you.

ECEEN students develop skills for working with typically developing children as well as children with exceptional needs and their families. Students are prepared to teach in Preschool (includes infants and toddlers) through Grade 3 regular or special needs classrooms. With an ECEEN degree, you can help children reach their full potential.

Students complete a program that prepares them to apply for licensure in Indiana as Early Childhood Generalist and Exceptional Needs through grade three. Students are prepared to work in pre-kindergarten classrooms, early intervention programs, and early childhood regular and special education classrooms through grade three. The Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School provides the perfect setting for these students to get lots of hands-on experience. Students complete a semester as a student teacher in a local preschool program.

Career Options

Upon graduation, an ECEEN student is qualified for teacher certification as an Early Childhood Generalist (Preschool through grade 3) and Special Needs (Preschool through grade 3).

Work settings include:

  • early intervention programs
  • early childhood classrooms
  • community education programs
  • home-based programs
  • healthcare institutions
  • government organizations

Positions include:

  • public school early childhood or early childhood special education classrooms
  • child care teacher or administrator
  • Head Start teacher or administrator
  • preschool teacher
  • family support specialist
  • special needs service coordinator


ECEEN majors take the following types of HDFS specialization courses.(Not a complete list of all required or available courses.)

  • Introduction to Family Processes
  • Introduction to Human Development
  • Diversity in Family Life
  • Guidance in Early Childhood
  • Child Development
  • Developmental Assessment
  • Health and Health Care for Children and Families
  • Language, Literacy and Social Studies in Preschool and Primary Grades
  • Mathematics in Preschool and Primary Grades
  • Science in Preschool and Primary Grades
  • Music and Movement in Preschool and Primary Grades
  • Art for Elementary School Teachers
  • Introduction to Special Education
  • Medical and Physical Management of Individuals with Multiple Disabilities
  • Approaches to Early Childhood Education
  • Curriculum Applications of Atypical Development
  • Working With Families in Early Childhood Programs
  • See myPurdue for a complete list of HDFS courses and descriptions

Experiential Learning

Several ECEEN courses include practicum components that give students opportunities to develop their skills for working with infants and young children. In their senior year, ECEEN students complete a semester of full-time student teaching that includes normally developing children and children with exceptional needs.

The Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School is a state-of-the-art facility within the department that is used extensively by undergraduate students for observation, practicum, and student teaching experiences.