Strengthening our state’s education workforce is absolutely essential to delivering on the promise of inclusion.

Bill Sunderland

In Washington state, half of children with developmental disabilities will never be in a classroom alongside their typically developing peers, despite research showing that inclusive education is beneficial to all children.

A recent gift to the University of Washington’s Haring Center for Inclusive Education will support an effort to improve academic and life outcomes for children with developmental disabilities by strengthening high-quality professional development for educators and administrators across the state. The $800,000 gift from Bill and Alyssa Sunderland will strengthen the Haring Center’s Professional Development Unit, which helps schools adopt curricula and teaching methods that support the growth and success of children with and without disabilities in inclusive environments.

“The root cause of children with disabilities being denied access to inclusive classrooms is tragically simple,” said Ilene Schwartz, director of the Haring Center. “Teachers and administrators do not receive the training and support they need to implement inclusive education at scale.

“This generous gift builds on the Haring Center’s 50-year history of leadership in the field of inclusive education to respond to the urgent and unmet needs of young people and families.”

The Sunderlands, whose son Gareth was enrolled in the Haring Center’s preschool and kindergarten program after being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, noted their desire for other Washington families to have access to the same high quality care.

“There are a lot of kids and families who would benefit from having teachers who are prepared to use best practices in inclusive education,” Bill Sunderland said. “Strengthening our state’s education workforce is absolutely essential to delivering on the promise of inclusion.”

The Sunderland’s gift will bolster the Haring Center’s professional development staff so it can expand its training programs for practicing educators. During the 2018-19 school year, the Haring Center delivered training to more than 3,100 educators and administrators across the United States and internationally. Yet the regional demand for training programs far outstrips current capacity.

“With this gift, Haring Center staff will be in more schools and community organizations to coach teachers to increase their capacity to meet the needs of all children,” Schwartz said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to ensure more students receiving special education services graduate with the skills needed to live their best lives.”


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications