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USJ Launches Master’s Degree to Equip Educators to Meet Transitional Needs of Neurodiverse Learners

University of Saint Joseph. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford will launch a new master’s degree program in the fall of 2024 focused on the needs of students in post-secondary settings.


The University of Saint Joseph continues to develop important programs to better educate and equip professionals to meet growing societal needs.

USJ’s new Master in Transition and Accessibility Services in Post Secondary Settings is just such a program – created to assist K-12 special education teachers, transition and accessibility coordinators and those working in post-secondary settings to best meet the needs of neurodiverse learners, and to facilitate their successful transition into employment and community participation beyond post-secondary settings.

The MA in Transition and Accessibility Services is scheduled to begin in fall 2024. The program will be fully online and embedded within the Master of Arts in Special Education degree program.

For secondary students receiving special education, coordinated transition planning promotes success once they enter post-secondary education environments – whether that means preparing them for college, vocational training, employment, community participation, and/or independent living. In Connecticut, transitional services for children receiving special education begin at the age of 14. On college campuses, accessibility services promote inclusive environments and provide students with accommodations to remove barriers to learning.

“One of the reasons this is so important is that the protections that are in place for students in the K-12 setting change dramatically as soon as students leave that setting. There actually isn’t special education that takes place at the college level,” said Jennifer Kowitt, assistant professor of Special Education. “Students still are able to receive accommodations, but they are not protected by the same laws and that is a big shift – a really big surprise for families and for students.”

USJ’s new program will provide educators with training that will effectively bridge the gap between the special education services required for students in secondary school and the lack of support offered at many colleges and universities.

“What I think is really unique about this master’s program is that it is looking at the transition to adulthood from both sides of that important moment,” Kowitt added. “We are both thinking about the work of transition planning and the lead up to that moment when the student leaves the K-12 system, and then what takes place afterwards. What we wanted to do was link the two because we think really good work happens when the teachers in the K-12 system are able to understand what takes place after graduation, and the people who are working on the post-graduation scene better understand all of the things that took place beforehand for the student.”

Courses in the program range from Introduction to Transition Planning and Universal Design for Learning, to Autism and Neurodiverse Learners and Disability Law for Post-Secondary Accessibility and Advocacy.

“This concentration aligns with the University’s commitment to developing innovative programs that respond to the needs of society,” said Ashley Oldham, chair, and associate professor in USJ’s Department of Education. “Special Education is a legacy program at USJ with a robust alumni network and strong reputation for excellence.”

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