For the children in the Haring Center, this sunny late July day is a day like any other. Typically developing children and children with various developmental disabilities interact with one another and learn side-by-side.
For a group of teachers, therapists, social workers and graduate students from Taiwan, however, it's a scene they're not used to seeing. In Taiwan, like in many schools here in the U.S. and in other countries, children with disabilities are separated from their classmates.
Rachel Wu, an assistant professor of education at National Taichung University in Taiwan, led the group and has worked with researchers at the Haring Center previously. She wanted to bring the practitioners and students to the Center because there is a nascent shift in her country toward the inclusive educational practices that were pioneered here and continue to be refined.
"The best way to teach them is to see the best model for inclusive education in practice here at UW and think about how to implement that model back in Taiwan," Wu said.
The 19 Taiwanese are just one of the many groups from near and far who visit the College of Education's Haring Center to learn about leading edge practices for teaching children with disabilities.
Approximately 1,000 people tour the Haring Center each year. Of those, 100 participate in the Center's formal training programs, and its staff also lead off-site consultations, coaching and training sessions that reach more than 300 people annually in schools and community agencies.
Susan Sandall, professor of education and director of UW's National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, said hosting the Taiwanese group is typical of the Haring Center's ongoing professional development and outreach activity.
"They are interested in learning about best practices for teaching young children with disabilities as practiced in the U.S.," Sandall said. "They are particularly interested in inclusion -- how to do it and how to influence attitudes."
Julie Ashmun, director of the Haring Center's Professional Development Unit, said the group from Taiwan learned about curricular modifications and embedded learning opportunities used to promote inclusion of children with special needs in the classroom. As part of the experience, they observed practices in the Center's own classrooms.
"It is important to share research across countries regarding evidence-based practices that support inclusion and also gain a cultural perspective to support our families here," Ashmun said. "This is an opportunity for us to realize our vision of a world where children of all abilities learn, play and live together."
While this is the first time a group from Taiwan has visited the Haring Center, Wu hopes to bring more teachers, therapists and social workers in the future.
Julie Ashmun, Director of the Haring Center's Professional Development Unit
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications