UNA's Collaborative Special Education Program

The Collaborative Special Education program prepares undergraduate and graduate students to work in general and special education settings with children and young adults who have varying ranges of exceptionalities. Our students attend courses together, work on numerous collaborative assignments, host activities, and complete field experiences within their courses in local classrooms. Students are actively engaged in the surrounding schools and communities to assist in providing additional support and resources to individuals with exceptionalities. Our goal is to ensure that UNA provides high-quality experiences that will best prepare students for life in the classroom.

Very Special Arts Festival

View the video from our first Very Special Arts Festival using the link below:

Click here to view the video!

One of the most popular events that the Collaborative Special Education Program organizes is the Very Special Arts Festival (VSAF). The VSAF is a one-of-a-kind event that celebrates art and discovery. Intended for students with diverse abilities and artistic skills, the festival provides an opportunity for students to experience multiple art forms. The event, designed for K-12 students with exceptional learning needs, from Florence, Lauderdale County, Muscle Shoals, Colbert County, Sheffield, Russellville, Franklin County, Decatur City Schools and Tuscumbia School Systems, will provide art activities in four areas: visual art, music, performance and sensory discovery. This will be the third year that the Collaborative Special Education Program will be planning this amazing event. Previous sponsors include Listerhill Credit Union, Bank Independent, Junior League of the Shoals, Tuscumbia City Parks and Recreation, and Muscle Shoals Recreation Center. The event has been hosted by various UNA student organizations such as COEHS Ambassadors, Kappa Delta Pi Honors Society, and Elementary Education classes.

Kids painting

Kid Jumping

Smiling kid

Batman singing

The photos above show a small glimpse into this inclusive and fun event hosted by the Collaborative Special Education Program. All of the hard work, dedication, and time that goes into planning and setting up this event is worth it to see the smiles on all of the students’ faces!

Collaborative Education Service Organization (CESO)

The Collaborative Education Service Organization (CESO) exists to perform community service and advocate for students with disabilities locally and throughout the state. In January 2018, Lion Buddies was created to provide individuals with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 18-29 the opportunity to be included in our campus community. Similar programs in the local area are not currently serving the participants in this program. The Lion Buddies helps our participants form meaningful friendships with their peers, improve their communication skills, promote self-advocacy, and assist in feeling valued by society. The CESO is responsible for planning, organizing, and hosting events for the Lion Buddies organization. The CESO tries to plan one event a month for the Lion Buddies. A few examples of Lion Buddies events are the Ice Cream Social, Game Night, Movie Night, Thanksgiving Potluck, Christmas Party, and Art at the Amp.

Smiling Crowd

Ready for a show

One of the most well-known events that the CESO hosts is Art at the Amp. Art at the Amp is hosted on UNA’s campus at the amphitheater during the spring semester, and it is open to all UNA students and faculty. This event promotes a stress-free environment full of fun painting activities. Tables are set up with canvases, paintbrushes, and lots of paint to allow students to express their creativity! CESO extends an invitation to the Lion Buddies and encourages them to participate and socialize with UNA students.

Child Painting

Face Painting

Child Painting

Child Painting

ROAR Life Skills Classes

The ROAR Life Skills Classes is currently a pilot program at UNA. These classes serve young adults with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 18-29. The Collaborative Education Graduate Assistant, Laiken Mann, teaches these classes. The ROAR Life Skills Classes aim to improve social communication and basic life skills. The goal of these classes is to help young adults with disabilities gain more independence and self-advocacy skills.

Currently, the ROAR Life Skills Classes has four participants. Each of these young adults are working on skills to improve their independence. There are two classes that these students participate in. The first class is called Social Communication. In this class students practice social skills and partake in social scenarios that they would typically experience outside of the classroom. The second class is called Personal Finance. In this class, students practice their skills with ordering food, buying groceries, and managing how much money they have.

Looking at magazines


Getting a drink

Doing homework

The Peer Mentor Program takes place within the ROAR Life Skills Classes. Currently, there are three Peer Mentors that work alongside the participants and help them in any way. These Peer Mentors help with data collection, reinforce skills and concepts on a personal level, and work diligently to ensure each student learns in their own way. Without the Peer Mentors, the ROAR Life Skills Classes would not be the same!

Group Photo

Visiting the fountain