Tabatha Titus noticed when her son, Ian, turned two, he was having problems communicating. A specialist diagnosed Ian with autism.
It was because of Titus' background as a parent and teacher that she was asked to be on an advisory board to develop a program for Bowling Green State University. The program would teach students how to educate children, including those with special needs.
"When they have a child with a disability walk in their door, it's then that they say, 'What do I do with this child? And so now they won't have to worry about that. They are going to know," said Titus.
The Inclusive Early Childhood program will start this fall and it is truly a groundbreaking program because it offers a dual degree. Students will have both general education and a special education license. And the program is intense with 16 to 18 hours every semester for four years.
Titus said the key to the program is keeping children with special needs in the general classroom and not separating them.
"We know that evidence-based, research-based practice, these kids need to be included with their peers and grow with their peers and learn with their peers. So these teachers that are coming through this program now are truly going to know how to meet every child's need," explained Titus.
Mary Murray is the Associate Dean in the College of Education and said that more than 430 students have already enrolled in the program. She said school districts want more of a collaborative classroom, and that graduates of the program will be in demand.
"We know that our students would go to the top of the list as far as getting jobs because they have this special education piece and the general education piece. Now they can choose whether they want to be a general education teacher or a special education teacher, but they are prepared for both," said Murray.
Titus said teachers know their chances of having a special needs child in their classroom is growing.
"They understand that they are going to have children with differences in their classrooms with exceptionalities and I think they want to be prepared," she said.