Skip to main content

Low Incidence Disabilities Program

SPED low incidence classroom

The Low Incidence Disabilities Program is led by six faculty members, including Drs. Elizabeth Biggs, Erik Carter, Alexandra Da Fonte, Robert Hodapp, Joseph Lambert, and Rachel Schles.

Within the Low Incidence Program, there are two tracks: the Severe Disabilities and the Visual Disabilities tracks.

  • The Severe Disabilities track prepares master's level scholars to teach children and young adults with autism, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, and other developmental disabilities. Our goal is to prepare future special education teachers with evidence-based strategies to enhance the learning and outcomes of students with severe disabilities.
  • The Visual Disabilities track prepares master's level scholars to teach children and young adults with visual impairments, including students with additional disabilities or deafblindness. Our goal is to prepare future teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) who are active collaborators with families and school teams. TVIs teach the expanded core curriculum for students with visual impairments and help ensure students' access to the visual environment in schools.

In both tracks we integrate evidence-based practices throughout our program, provide scholars with field experiences across age and ability levels, involve scholars in unique research-to-practice projects with their academic advisor (professional development opportunities), and focus on research-based practices and policies that increase access to the general curriculum.

We have generous funding available for students seeking initial licensure or an additional teaching endorsement. Through college scholarships, training grants, or research grants, students may receive (full or partial) tuition remission, as well as stipend support.

To apply to our program, applicants must have:

  1. Three letters of recommendation
  2. 3.0+ GPA
  3. Strong GRE scores
  4. A strong personal statement.

Review our application checklist here. You can open an application here.

Note: For the 2021 application cycle, the GRE is optional for admission to master's programs due to ongoing restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have taken the GRE and believe your scores will improve your application, you may submit the GRE with your application. For general information about the application process, contact Kelly Limina at (615) 322-8195 or

Generous funding for this training is provided by personnel preparation grants from the Office of Special Education Programs. No additional application is needed. All scholars will be considered for these funds during the admissions application review process. For more information about this grant, contact Dr. Alexandra Da Fonte ( and visit our funding opportunities page.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, the following supports are available to selected scholars:

  • Interdisciplinary, Evidence-based Approaches to Educating Students with Severe Disabilities and Special Healthcare Needs (U.S. Department of Education Training Grant; H325K180148). 
  • TIPS3 - Training Interdisciplinary Professionals to Serve Students with Severe Disabilities (U.S. Department of Education Training Grant; H325K200036).