Historical Highlights

Historical Highlights

In 1964, what would later become the Experimental Education Unit, then the Haring Center, began as the Pilot School, a small, school for children with neurological injuries. This school was originally funded by a gift to the UW from a parent of a child with disabilities who could not find appropriate services for his daughter in the community. The focus of the Pilot School’s work was on education, rehabilitation, and family advocacy. The program was staffed by University of Washington faculty and was originally directed by Charles Strother, a faculty member from the UW Department of Psychology. Strother was the individual responsible for recruiting Norris Haring to the UW from the University of Kansas. In 1965, the Pilot School program became affiliated with the UW’s University Affiliated Program, funded by the Kennedy Administration. This program was originally called Child Development and Mental Retardation Center (CDMRC) and the name of our program was changed at that time to Experimental Education. In 2007 the CDMRC was renamed the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD). In 1969, the program moved to its current location on south campus and was named the Experimental Education Unit (EEU). The EEU’s first director was Dr. Norris Haring and the first principal was Harold Kunzelmann. From the early days of the EEU, two practices were critical to all work carried out by researchers, teachers, and staff: Applied Research and Education Using Data-Based Decision Making.

Teachers and staff at the EEU were committed to using effective teaching practices and researching their use to teach new skills in practical settings. Many common instructional strategies, including those based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, that are widely used in the field of special education, and many of the behavioral strategies used in practice today were first implemented and studied at the EEU.

During the 1970’s, EEU researchers conducted seminal work in the areas of Down syndrome, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders. In 1971, the Down Syndrome Program (DSP) commenced. The DSP, developed by Dr. Valentine Dmitriev, was an innovative program that provided systematic early and continuous intervention that started in infancy. Educational approaches and academic programs that are used today to teach children with Down syndrome in the majority of our nation’s classrooms are based on the model curriculum that was developed as a result of this program. In the early, 1980’s, students from the inagural class of the DSP began middle school at Meany Middle School, and became the first students with Down syndrome to ever participate in an inclusive program through the Seattle Public Schools.

Throughout the 1980’s, EEU researchers continued to evaluate the efficacy of the inclusive model preschool programs developed at the EEU, and a longitudinal study of the EEU inclusive preschool curricula was initiated. The results of this important study eventually demonstrated that children of all abilities can learn together in the same classroom, and that both children with and without disabilities benefit from inclusive preschools.

In the 1990’s, important work began at the EEU in the area of early intervention for young children with autism and their families. EEU researchers, led by Dr. Ilene Schwartz, developed and evaluated methods for teaching children with autism, including strategies to promote inclusion their in everyday settings and ways to provide education and support to their families. In 1997, Project DATA (Developmentally Appropriate Treatment for Autism) began as a model demonstration program. The purpose of the project was to develop, implement, evaluate, and disseminate a school-based program for young children with autism that was effective, sustainable, and receptive to the needs of consumers (e.g., families and school district personnel). Project DATA has been replicated in school districts across Washington State and across the country.

Thanks to a generous gift from Norris and Dorothy Haring, in 2009 the EEU program expanded and became the Haring Center for Research & Training in Inclusive Education, or The Haring Center. The Haring Center is focused on research, service, and training, operating together to answer important questions in the field of special education. Faculty, teachers, and staff at the Haring Center continue to lead the way in developing and evaluating intervention strategies and practices to promote the learning and participation of individuals of all abilities and ages. To ensure that the innovative intervention strategies developed at Haring Center have a broad impact on the field of education, Haring Center staff provide resources, training, and technical assistance on best practices to practitioners worldwide and train future educators, interventionists, researchers, and leaders in the field.

Influential Faculty:

The Haring Center has been home to a number of faculty members whose research has had an important impact on the field of special education. These faculty members include: Norris Haring, Tom Lovitt, Alice Hayden, Eileen Allen, Eugene Edgar, Joe Jenkins, Owen White, Felix Billingsley, Rebecca Fewell, Ilene Schwartz, and Susan Sandall. References to select seminal publications from many of these important scholars and their collegues are listed below:

Down Syndrome Program

  • Haydn, A.H. and Haring, N.G. (1977). The acceleration and maintenance of gains in Down's syndrome school age children. In Mittler, P. (Ed.), Research to Practice in Mental Retardation, Vol. 1. Baltimore: University Park Press.
  • Hayden, A. H., and Dmitriev, V. (1975). The multidisciplinary pre-school program for Down syndrome children at the University of Washington model pre-school center. In B. Z. Frieslander, G. E. Kirk, and G. M. Territt (Eds.), Exceptional Infant, volume 3. (pp. 193-221).

Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Lovitt, T. (1993). A brief history of applied behavior analysis at the University of Washington. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26(4),563-567.
  • Wolf, M., Risley, T., & Mees, H. (1964). Application of operant conditioning procedures to the behaviors problems of an autistic child. Behavior Research and Therapy, 1, 305-312.


  • Allen, E., Benning, P., & Drummond, T. (1972). Integration of normal & handicapped children in a behavior modification preschool: A case study. In G. Semb (Ed.), Behavior analysis and education (pp. 127-141). Lawrence: University of Kansas.

Father’s Network

  • Meyer, D., Vadasy, P., Fewell, R., & Schell, G. (1982). Involving fathers of handicapped Infants: Translating research into program goals. Journal of Early Intervention, 5(1), 64-72.

Sibling Support Program

Project DATA

  • Schwartz, I., Sandall, S., McBride, B., & Boulware, G. (2004). Project DATA (Developmentally Appropriate Treatment for Autism): An inclusive school-based approach to educating young children with autism. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 24(3), 156-168.
  • Boulware, G., Schwartz, I., Sandall, S., & McBride, B. (2006). Project DATA for Toddlers: An Inclusive Approach to Very Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 26(2), 95-104.

Longitudinal Comparison Study

  • Cole, K., Mills, P., Dale, P. & Jenkins, J. (1991). Effects of preschool integration for children with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 58(1).
  • Mills, D., Dale, P., Cole, K. & Jenkins, J. (1995). Follow up of children from academic and cognitive preschool curricula at age 9. Exceptional Children, 61(4).
  • Dale, P., Jenkins, J., Mills, P. & Cole, K. (2005). Follow-up of children from academic and cognitive preschool at 12 and 16. Exceptional Children, 71(3), 301-317.
  • Jenkins, J., Mills, P., Dale, P., Cole, K., Pious, C. & Ronk, J. (2006). How special education preschool graduates finish: Status at 19 years of age. American Educational Research Journal, 43(4), 737-781.