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.

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    • Two toddlers in a classroom with adults

      The On-Time Autism Intervention (OTAI) Project began in 2018 and is a collaboration between the Haring Center for Inclusive Education and the UW Autism Center (UWAC). Funded through a Seattle Foundation grant, OTAI’s goal is to increase equitable access to timely diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and evidence-based intervention for young children, specifically focused on children ages zero through three years, and their families across King County. OTAI’s work is guided by four pillars: collaboration, on-time autism diagnosis, on-time and ongoing parent navigation and support and on-time child-focused autism intervention. “This project is like a dream come true,” said director for the Haring Center Ilene Schwartz. “It provides an opportunity for the Haring Center and the UWAC to work together, to learn together and to benefit children and families in the community. We can integrate the strengths of both centers and build something that neither one of us could have done alone” An early autism diagnosis is an on-time diagnosis Entry into autism diagnosis and intervention services before three years of age is often referred to as “early,” but this project seeks to use evidence-based research to show that services for children from birth-to-three years old should be considered “on-time.” Their primary focus is to increase access to on-time autism intervention for all children affected by autism, with an emphasis on addressing health equity disparities by developing a framework for reaching traditionally underserved populations. To best serve birth-to-three providers and families, the OTAI Project focuses on three main areas: diagnosis, intervention and navigation. “We don’t see it as a one size fits all approach,” said clinical psychologist and director of clinical services at the UW Autism Center Jessica Greeson. “We really try to tailor to each of the communities that we work with.” Greeson leads the project’s on-time diagnosis work and partners with King County’s birth-to-three providers to improve identification of children who may need an autism diagnosis. “I can optimize the number of kids I see when I work with providers, and they offer me information about the child in advance. It’s about reducing the redundancy. Families have to fill out the same paperwork and say the same things over and over, and it’s particularly hard to do when English isn’t your first language and you have translators translating the same things that don’t make any sense the first time around. We want to make it really easy and efficient for families.” “There’s not a clear trajectory of what to do next when you’re diagnosed with autism.”Katy Bateman, Haring Center research scientist “There’s not a clear trajectory of what to do next when you’re diagnosed with autism,” said research scientist Katy Bateman, who works at the Haring Center and focuses on the navigation aspect of the project. “With autism, they diagnose you, tell you what’s important and then you get put on waitlists and families have to learn how to navigate that on their own. Birth-to-three providers are often a family’s first contact on their journey in special education and we want to make sure that they have the knowledge, resources and skills that they need to help families navigate their diagnosis.” Developing new resources that are helping families One of the most recent resources for providers and families that has come out of the OTAI Project is the On-Time Autism Intervention Podcast. Started in September 2021, the podcast, hosted by UW Autism Center staff Ashley Penny and Jessica Greenson, is targeted at parents of children three and younger who are interested in learning more about autism, autism diagnosis and autism intervention and resources for young children. Many parents of young children diagnosed with autism have little or no prior experience with autism and are looking for information and answers to help guide their early steps in this new journey, in accessible and digestible ways. The On-Time Autism Intervention Podcast provide parents with relevant information about characteristics of autism in very young children (0-3) as well as strategies for pursuing services, and transitioning into autism intervention, special education and more. “The goal is to provide parents with information that is easy to understand and specifically tailored to young children.”Ashley Penny, podcast co-host and research scientist at the UW Autism Center “The podcast is for parents of children under three and it’s a chronological podcast,” said Ashley Penny, licensed behavior analyst and research scientist at the UW Autism Center. “It starts with those first conversations with a pediatrician and what those sound like, when the pediatrician has concerns or the child has screened as having a high likelihood to have autism. Then, it looks at what birth-to-three referrals look like and the diagnostic evaluation process, what feedback sessions feel like and we have a couple of parent interviews discussing their perspectives through these processes. And we’re starting to move into what happens after diagnosis. The goal is to provide parents with information that is easy to understand and specifically tailored to young children.” Podcast episodes also provide parenting mindfulness activities and cover common myths and questions about autism and highlights two more great resources for families and birth-to-three providers. The My Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Journey Guided Planner helps families plan their first caregiving steps and tasks as they adjust to their new role. This guided planner allows families time to reflect and create a plan that is personalized and specific to their situation. It also helps families navigate the complex feelings that accompany a new diagnosis. The other resource highlighted by the podcast is the Autism Screening and Evaluation Decision Aid Booklet, which is a decision support tool for families and birth-to-three intervention providers and helps families and their care teams discuss next steps for their child who has recently been diagnosed with autism. The OTAI Podcast can be found an all podcast platforms, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Stitcher. “It’s hard to overstate how much we have learned over the last 40 years about autism and how to support caregivers and families in the first

    • Teacher and student working together at a table

      The UW Haring Center for Inclusive Education, in partnership with Cultivate Learning, achieved a significant increase in participation for Early Achievers internship opportunities this school year despite challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020-21 school year, the total number of registrants for the Early Achievers Individualized Internships was 134. Just this fall, there was a total of 173 registrants, surpassing the total number of registrants from last school year, and more are expected to participate this winter and spring. With increased access due to online flexibility, as well as course availability in Spanish, more professionals are participating in the Early Achievers internships than ever before. “We are excited to offer increased support for coaches and teachers across the state of Washington!” said Julie Lockhart, partner manager for the Haring Center. “Expulsion of students with challenging behaviors is a significant issue in early childhood education and our hope is that through equipping coaches and teachers with tools to support all learners in their classrooms, we can make a real difference in the lives of preschool children.” The Early Achievers internship opportunities began in the fall of 2014 through a collaboration between the UW Haring Center, UW’s Cultivate Learning and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF, previously named the Washington Department of Early Learning) with the goal of universal kindergarten readiness in Washington state. Early Achievers aims to improve the quality of Washington’s early learning and care programs by instituting a statewide quality recognition and improvement system (QRIS) and provides a variety of supports to teachers and providers, including professional development, coaching, internships, scholarships and resources to support each child’s learning and development. Since the QRIS inception in 2010, Cultivate Learning has been an implementation partner with Washington state holding several roles within the system that involve data collection to inform program quality ratings and coaching, creation of professional development opportunities to support early learning best practices, community engaged research and evaluation and training and consultation to Washington coaches. The main source of support to early learning and care staff through Early Achievers is ongoing coaching, with Early Achievers coaches going out in the field and working directly with teachers and providers on the use of best practices in early learning. To support this coaching, the Haring Center provides Early Achievers Individualization Internships for working with children with disabilities. These Individualization Internships are now offered virtually in both English and Spanish to Early Achievers coaches and classroom teachers and include half-day internships and mini extensions. Half-day internships are two half-day remote internships that focus on deepening knowledge in several areas related to individualizing instruction, anti-bias education, supporting social-emotional learning and addressing challenging behavior for young children with disabilities and those who learn and behave differently. “This training was excellent,” said a coach who participated in the half-day internship. “I loved the format: PowerPoint, objectives, and then viewing videos. Very practical, real-world examples.” Mini extensions are one-hour sessions, offered twice monthly, that build on knowledge learned during the internships and provide an opportunity for coaches to come together to discuss challenges they are experiencing and receive ongoing support from the Haring Center team. The mini extensions also focus on a variety of topics including social-emotional learning, trauma informed care, parent and family partnerships, inclusive large groups, anti-bias education, positive behavior support and strategies to support multi-lingual learners and children with autism spectrum disorder. These mini extensions are also responsive to the needs of coaches and teachers, so other topics are covered as requested. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Cultivate Learning has worked as a critical partner to re-envision Early Achievers into a virtual system and transitioned the QRIS to a quality recognition and improvement system. In this revised system, programs upload videos and other documentation of practice that provides data to support quality improvement and coaching. Like the Haring Center’s trainings, these supports have moved to a virtual modality which includes training, coaching, and annual institutes, all of which have seen increased attendance and participation. “The unique partnership between Cultivate Learning and the Haring Center was developed with an intentional focus on both Early Achievers coaches and classroom educators to access information from experts on supporting inclusive learning environments,” said Juliet Taylor, deputy director for Cultivate Learning. This September, the Haring Center also provided mini-Back to School professional development sessions to support coaches as they collaborated with teachers to welcome back learners and families in classrooms and programs this year. Training topics included managing the classroom, supporting and preventing challenging behavior, zoning to maximize learning and creating an inclusive community through family partnerships. This series was also available to Early Achievers coaches and teachers in both English and Spanish. Thank you to the Haring Center and Cultivate Learning staff who provide training, coaching and consultation for Early Achievers coaches and teachers and to our partners at DCYF who continue to make Early Achievers possible. By making this important program more accessible, more professionals can participate and make real, tangible change in inclusive early education practices in Washington state and beyond.

    • Sunlight streams through a tree's branches in summer.

      “I am always looking to continue my learning around the idea of inclusion — trying to define what that looks like and how I can be a part of fostering that in my school community,” says Andrea Bergan, a family support worker at John Rogers Elementary in Northeast Seattle. Bergan was among more than 175 educators from across Washington state who attended the 2021 Summer Inclusion Institute held on June 22-24 and organized by the UW Haring Center for Inclusive Education. Delivered virtually, this free interactive conference brought educator teams together to discuss, demonstrate and dive into practices for creating inclusive and equitable communities as schools begin to reopen this fall. Mornings were spent in conference sessions led by specialists from the Haring Center while afternoons were reserved for guided planning time — where teams had the opportunity to develop action plans, review resources and create systems to support equitable and inclusive work. Funds from a grant supporting an Inclusionary Practices Project spearheaded by Haring Center Project Director Cassie Martin allowed the center to provide free admission to the summer institute as well as a toolkit that was sent to all participants. Included in the toolkit were three books: Leading Equity-Based MTSS for All Students by Amy McCart and Dawn Miller; Antiracism and Universal Design for Learning by Andratesha Fitzgerald; and Flexible and Focused: Teaching Executive Functioning Skills to Individuals with Autism and Attention Disorders by Adel Najdowski. “With support from the OSPI, we were able to gather educators from across the state who were interested in learning more about how to welcome their students back to schools by implementing equity-based inclusive practices,” says Dr. Ilene Schwartz, faculty director of the Haring Center. “Every activity — from our motivational keynote opening to the story slam at the end — provided educators with opportunities to learn about evidence-based instructional practices and strategies to build school communities that welcome and support all students, families and staff.” “I’ve been making my way through the books from the toolkit, and I hope to use them to spur discussion with my colleagues,” shares Bergan. “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and receive these materials.” A new approach to participation Bergan attended the institute with two of her colleagues from John Rogers — a practice encouraged by the Haring Center. “We wanted to focus on the importance of teaming and collaboration within inclusive and equitable practices and protect time for teams to develop plans based on conference sessions. Inviting school teams to attend, including general and special education teachers, social workers, administrators, and district leaders and creating space for planning will help schools and districts implement these practices,” says Dr. Ariane Gauvreau, senior director for Professional Development and Training at the Haring Center. “It takes participation from as many people as possible at all levels of teaching and administration to effect change.” Undeterred by pandemic conditions, Haring Center staff embraced the opportunity to reach more people through a virtual institute. “Teams and teachers that may not been able to attend an in-person conference at the Haring Center due to cost and travel were able to participate — and that’s a silver lining that has enabled us to connect with more educators across the state,” says Dr. Gauvreau. “We are honored that so many teachers started their summer breaks with us.” In coming years, the summer institute may continue to be offered virtually because of this ability to reach a wider audience and encourage participation from across the state. Connecting with educator teams from different districts — and being able to share experiences and co-develop best practices — was invaluable for participants like Bergan, who strives to meet students and families where they are. Through her work at John Rogers, Bergan supports student success by advocating for family engagement in schools. Intentionally seeking student and parent input is just one way that she does this. Bergan engages families through home visits and community events, and the coordinated care that she provides ranges from one-on-one academic support to social emotional wellness and support around attendance. She also connects students and families with school district and community resources that address basic needs such as food, clothing and financial assistance as well as culturally appropriate resources. This kind of holistic, coordinated care — an approach that addresses the whole student — is intended to counter systemic barriers that adversely impact students. Indeed, the Family Support Team at John Rogers centers the work of SPS’s Seattle Excellence and Black Excellence initiatives that focus on African American boys and other students furthest from educational justice. These initiatives emphasize that this work isn’t about changing students but rather about changing broken systems in public education. This work begins by listening to families. “I have a unique role in the school which is not driven by straight data, numbers or formulas,” explains Bergan. “Instead, it’s about building relationships, listening and trying to understand. The importance of storytelling and really listening to others’ stories is the only way we can foster inclusion and build community.” “Unfortunately, this isn’t how our education system is set up so it can be very difficult to keep that focus and to encourage that focus in the day-to-day school setting,” she adds. Storytelling as advocacy As a powerful storyteller and parent advocate active in the special needs community, Bethany Moffi was the perfect choice to keynote and close the institute. A fortuitous meeting between Moffi and Haring Center Director of Applied Research Kathleen Meeker at the 2019 Division for Early Childhood Conference clenched it. There, Dr. Meeker heard Moffi speak about her journey as a parent and what it means to dream big with families, and recommended her for any speaking events at the Haring Center. “Bethany’s expertise is storytelling, and she uses that superpower in service of advocacy,” says Dr. Schwartz. “Her keynote at our summer institute inspired attendees to think deeply about the stories we’re telling as we strive to change harmful