Haring Center

June 27, 2019

In Memory: Norris Haring, Pioneer in Inclusive Education

Dr. Norris Haring, a pioneering researcher and advocate for children and adults with disabilities, passed away on June 27, 2019, at age 95. 

Through his research, Haring’s development of cutting-edge instructional and behavioral strategies established the University of Washington College of Education as an international leader in advancing inclusive education. Many of the inclusive practices developed by Haring continue to be widely used in the field of special education. 

A member of UW’s faculty for nearly 40 years, Haring was founding director of the Experimental Education Center on Human Development and Disability, which would later grow into the Haring Center for Applied Research and Training in Inclusive Education. 

Ilene Schwartz, the Haring Center’s current director, said Haring helped create the first pathways for children with disabilities to become self-sufficient and successful. In the early 1980s, children with Down syndrome who participated in an early intervention program developed by UW researchers became the first students to enter an inclusive program with typically developing students in Seattle Public Schools. 

“Dr. Haring is internationally recognized for drawing attention to educational development and offering some of the first proof that education directly affects behavior,” Schwartz said. “He was a visionary. He saw that we can create a world where children of all abilities live, work and play together.”

Born in a small town in Nebraska, Haring earned his master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his doctorate from Syracuse University. He taught at the University of Kansas before joining the UW faculty in 1965. 

Shortly after arriving at UW, Haring helped launch a pilot school to aid children with neurological injuries whose families couldn’t find appropriate services in the community. Staffed by UW faculty, the pilot program focused on education, rehabilitation and family advocacy and would later be renamed the Experimental Education Unit.

Under Haring’s leadership, the EEU was one of the first programs in the country that worked to meet the needs of children with learning and severe disabilities. It demonstrated that preschool children with Down syndrome could learn to read and that inclusive educational environments benefit all students. 

A gift from Haring and his wife, Dorothy, enabled the EEU to expand and become the Haring Center in 2009. The world-class center for applied research, service and professional training focuses on answering the most important questions in the field of special education and disseminating best practices in inclusive education throughout the state of Washington and beyond.  

Haring served as the founding president of TASH, the first international organization devoted to addressing the needs of people with severe disabilities, and was the founding president and first editor of the Journal of the American Association for the Education of the Severely and Profoundly Handicapped.

“One of the most inspiring and lasting lessons that we have learned from Dr. Haring is the importance of treating every person with respect,” Schwartz said. “That means that every student, teacher, family member and community member must have access to the services and supports that they need to be their best selves.  He always assumed that students would learn and be successful, we just needed to discover the best ways to teach them. “

In addition to helping create the Haring Center, the Dr. and Mrs. Haring endowed two fellowships to support graduate students in special education who work at  the Haring Center.