Haring Center

The University of Washington Haring Center for Inclusive Education provides early childhood education to children with and without disabilities, conducts leading-edge research to advance inclusive learning, and trains education professionals in proven practices to develop every child’s potential. The essential support of our generous donors creates inclusive communities that empower all children to learn, play and grow together.

It is a pivotal time for advancing new discoveries in early learning and we are working to chart a course for the future. Together, we will ensure that children with disabilities receive the best foundation for a lifetime of learning and infinite possibilities. Together, we will build a boundless future. For children, for Washington, for the world.

  • Recent News

    • Haring Center researchers work with teachers, families and communities to advance inclusive education worldwide. In doing so, many serve as faculty at the UW College of Education and train the next generation of early childhood and special education experts. This year, two doctoral students working closely with Haring Center researchers received competitive national fellowships to advance their research in educational equity and inclusion. Gounah Choi, a third year doctoral candidate in special education, began her two-year fellowship with the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) in autumn 2020. Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs, NCPMI works to improve state and local program implementation of the Pyramid Model, an early childhood multi-tiered system of support that promotes young children’s social and emotional development. In her fellowship, Choi works with a faculty mentor on researching how to best support practitioners to implement the Pyramid Model through increasing family engagement in infant and toddler programs. “This work aligns with my research interests,” says Choi. “We’re looking at how to encourage family engagement in infant and toddler settings, how to support families to collaborate with teachers more, and how to support teachers to collaborate with and encourage engagement from families.” Choi explains that she is developing family engagement-specific resources and creating research summaries within her fellowship. She hopes that the materials she creates will be available to teachers and parents at the Haring Center when complete. After the fellowship, Choi plans to continue her research on family engagement in social and emotional teaching beyond infant and toddler populations into the preschool age. She currently works closely with Haring Center Researcher Angel Fettig studying parent-teacher collaborations for promoting social-emotional learning of children with disabilities or delays, particularly those from underrepresented communities. “Young children spend more time with their families than at school, so it’s really critical that families know what’s happening at school and teachers know what’s happening at home,” says Choi. “To foster that mutual understanding and consistent learning experiences across settings, the family engagement needs to come first.” Choi worked as a special education teacher for young children with autism, and as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst prior to coming to the College of Education, which she says ignited her research interest. “My students’ families were from diverse cultural groups and family engagement was a big piece to improve student outcomes.” Choi knew teachers often have a heavy workload, and she saw at the same time families were very busy. “That’s when I started thinking about the best way to promote family engagement, family participation, and teacher collaboration without putting too much pressure on both sides,” says Choi. “Family engagement can’t be put aside.” William White, who is in his fourth and final year of his doctoral degree, received one of the inaugural Start with Equity fellowships under the Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University. White will conduct, review and translate innovative research on equity in early childhood education, along with three other doctoral candidates and one postdoctoral researcher around the country. The fellowship involves mentorship and professional development throughout the academic year and concludes with a summer internship at a policymaking institution. As a Start with Equity fellow, White is researching inequities in gifted education and developing policy recommendations for districts and local, state, and federal agencies to reduce these inequities. He says he plans to bring the strength of storytelling into the policy format, and embed stories of Black male teachers in early childhood education within his policy brief. White is also the co-designer and founder of the My Brother’s Teacher project, which launched earlier this academic year with Cultivate Learning and seeks to increase the presence of Black and Brown males in early childhood education. The Haring Center will be a project site for Black and Brown males to intern and gain experience working with children. “The master narratives created by white supremacy are perpetuated every day through white teachers to Black students,” explains White. “We know the research says white teachers have lower expectations for Black students, so we need more Black teachers to counter that narrative. I bring out the goodness of what it means to be a Black male teacher — the parts we don’t hear about.” Over his four years at the College of Education, White has worked in close collaboration with Haring Center Researcher Kathleen Artman Meeker. Prior to obtaining his doctoral degree, he taught special education for ten years and saw how racial inequities impact students. “Too many times we look at inclusivity as just considering people with disabilities,” says White. “We don’t look at how a Black child who has a disability is less likely to get the services than a white child with a disability.” “This work is draining at times,” he remarks. “But at the end of the day, if I know a Black kid in some classroom is going to have a better experience, I can go to sleep.” Choi and William hope their respective fellowships will propel them further into their research interests. “I would like to pursue a postdoctoral position to gain more research experience,” says Choi. “And in the long term, I am interested in teaching teacher candidates.” White says he will continue his work with My Brother’s Teacher, expanding and diversifying the education field for all People of Color, regardless of their gender identity. “Having a deeper understanding now of how policy works, I’ll keep pushing on policymakers,” he says. “I plan to make some changes.”

    • Challenging behaviors in young children often occur at home during daily routines and activities, according to Angel Fettig, Haring Center researcher and UW College of Education associate professor. A family may be working with a professional interventionist to address these behaviors, but that professional is unlikely to be there in the moment to observe the behavior and create a support plan. With funding from the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, Fettig partnered with Erin Barton at Vanderbilt University and Hedda Meadan at the University of Illinois to support parents in reducing challenging behaviors. The research team developed a mobile software application called the Family Behavior Support app (FBSApp), targeted at parents of children ages 2-5 years who display challenging behaviors at home. “We wanted to create an accessible tool that families can use to address challenging behaviors,” says Fettig. “Based on the percentage of adults who use smartphones, an app is the best way to get that support to families.” The FBSApp uses functional assessment-based interventions, which work by determining the purpose of a particular challenging behavior and subsequently developing a plan to reduce and prevent that behavior. It begins by prompting parents to enter data about the challenging behaviors exhibited by their child. “The app guides families through which data to gather: what does the challenging behavior look like, what is its intensity, what happened right before it occurred, and so on,” explains Fettig. “We want enough information to understand the purpose of the challenging behavior, so we can identify strategies for reduction and prevention that are aligned with that purpose.” With enough data, the app’s algorithm suggests a function for the behavior, and asks the parent to confirm. If the parent thinks the suggested purpose is inaccurate, they can continue gathering data to determine the true function. Once a parent confirms the purpose, the algorithm creates a behavior support plan that matches the data gathered. “For example, if the identified purpose of the challenging behavior is to get attention, there might be one set of strategies,” says Fettig. “If the purpose is to obtain a desirable object, there are other strategies for the parent to try.” The FBSApp offers implementation support for the plan, a recording system to monitor progress in reducing and preventing the challenging behavior, and links to other family resources. The recent release of this app in the Apple Store is the result of three years of research and development by Fettig and her colleagues. After creating and refining the algorithm behind the app, they partnered with the University of Illinois computer science program to develop the software. The research team tested the app out with parents of children showing challenging behaviors, and also conducted a randomized controlled trial for the intervention. “This tool does not replace professionals who are supporting families,” emphasizes Fettig. “It is built so families can work in collaboration with professionals.” Fettig explains that data collection is one of the first steps in the process. She says the FBSApp offers an easy-to-use data collection format for families to gather data when the interventionist is not present. The families add any professionals working with their child to their account so the professionals can view the data, behavior support plan, and collaborate and provide support. “Also, during the pandemic, a lot of behavior services are provided through tele-intervention,” says Fettig. “This might serve as a tool for collaboration when providers can’t be there physically, for the parents to gather data and engage in collaborative planning and support.” “Technology promotes accessibility to the evidence-based practices we have,” Fettig continues. “Through this app, we are translating the research and strategies we use in early childhood settings into homes.” Find the Family Behavior Support App in the Apple Store, available to download for free.If you have questions or need support using the app, email bartonlabvu@gmail.com.

    • “Washington State strives to better meet the needs of all learners and families, but we need to develop the infrastructure to support early childhood special education,” says Ariane Gauvreau (PhD ‘15), senior director for professional development and training at the Haring Center. The state is seeking to do just that. One of the ways they plan to do so is with a new partnership that will redesign a framework called the Pyramid Model to center disability, race and equity. The Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children is a national framework that promotes children’s social and emotional development and prevents challenging behavior. Washington State is among those who receive technical assistance support from the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI), and a state leadership team works to ensure educators statewide use the model to support young children in our state. “The Pyramid Model provides a foundation that sets children up for success in future learning,” explains Angel Fettig, Haring Center researcher and UW College of Education associate professor. “It promotes strategies to support educators to build relationships with children and families.” “It also targets social-emotional teaching,” Fettig continues. “We’re teaching kids how to be friends, how to share, how to identify and express emotions appropriately, how to control anger and impulse, and so on. But as the state leadership team continues to lead this effort, we always come back to: ‘What about kids with disabilities? What about race and equity?” The Haring Center, in collaboration with Cultivate Learning, is leading the redesign of the Pyramid Model to promote inclusion of all children in early learning settings across Washington. “The Pyramid Model is widely-used, and it is very well-developed,” says Fettig. “The goal of the redesign is to infuse components that are critical to addressing needs in our state.” Fettig explains that the redesign will center children with disabilities and infuse equity into the strategies promoted throughout the Pyramid Model framework. “This is an exciting opportunity with so many agencies coming together to develop a system that will enable us to better serve all learners,” says Gauvreau. “We are excited to be working with our colleagues at Cultivate Learning and to partner with both the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.” Ryan Guzman, early childhood special education coordinator at OSPI, says that prioritizing the intersectionality of social-emotional development and embedded inclusionary practices will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for young children with disabilities, as well as increase access to inclusive settings, improve academic outcomes, and decrease suspension and expulsion rates for young children. “We are hopeful this collaboration will move us closer to achieving the vision that Washington State has responsive systems partnering with the adults in children’s lives to promote social-emotional health through the Pyramid Model framework, so that all children experience high-quality, inclusive early learning settings,” says Guzman. The redesign process is already underway. Experts at the Haring Center and Cultivate Learning are working to build up the Pyramid Model to enhance strategies that are effective in supporting young children with disabilities in inclusive settings, as well as racially, ethnically and culturally diverse children and families. This spring, teams are working on developing new curriculum modules to guide this. “We know that a foundation that targets social-emotional skills and executive functioning skills hard in early childhood leads to better academic outcomes for children,” explains Gauvreau. “The Pyramid Model does a brilliant job with that. Our redesign will emphasize strategies for ensuring that children with disabilities can access this important instruction in meaningful ways, and center racial equity within all content.” After the curriculum modules are complete, the Haring Center will facilitate Train the Trainer workshops across the state on Pyramid Model practices, in addition to teacher trainings and Practice-Based Coaching later in the year. The goal of these trainings is to ensure leaders across the state are confident in supporting teaching teams as they implement these practices. “These trainings will address our own implicit biases, how we interpret behavior and how educators can work toward anti-racist practices and classrooms,” says Gauvreau. The partnership hopes to continue this work into 2022 by facilitating communities of practice throughout the school year for the newly trained Pyramid Model coaches. These would involve regular meetings that provide a community for coaches to receive support, discuss problems of practice, ensure fidelity of implementation and come together with others doing similar work on a regular basis. “Partnering on this redesign to focus more on equity and inclusion means that across the state, coaches and teachers will be better prepared to understand their own biases and support children’s behavior through preventative and proactive ways,” says Dawn Williams, director of professional learning and coaching at Cultivate Learning. “Our goal is for educators to not have to dig further for strategies to support children with disabilities,” adds Fettig. “With the redesign, it will be easier for them to use the Pyramid Model for all learners.” Gauvreau explains that this partnership is a key piece in Washington State’s larger initiative to foster inclusion across all systems that serve children, families and communities, and will lead to lasting change. “The sustainability of this model is really exciting,” says Gauvreau. “Building the capacity and the sustainable systems to support this work is crucial, and we are so excited to be a part of this work.” In addition to the long-term impact, Fettig adds that the scope of this project is far-reaching. “We hope for this redesigned model to be accessible to all early childhood programs across Washington state,” she explains. “Our goal is to promote inclusion of diverse learners and improve outcomes for young children, specifically those with disabilities,” Fettig says.