Ilene Schwartz

For many children with special needs, ability stands in the way of making friends, having fun, attending the school of their choice or participating in their community. Ilene Schwartz, director of University of Washington's Haring Center for Applied Research and Training in Inclusive Education, is working to change this state of affairs.

Schwartz discussed the importance of inclusive education and UW researchers' work to reshape educational systems as a featured speaker at TEDxEastsidePrep 2015 in Seattle. The March 20 event brought area educators and thought leaders together to discuss topics related to the theme "Emergent Properties."

"If you want children to be helpful and inclusive," Schwartz said, "you need to create classroom and community environments that provide opportunities and teach children how to support each other, what it means to communicate with someone who has limited language skills, and how to make accommodations so that everyone can participate in an activity."

Schwartz discussed the Haring Center's research efforts, which included following a number of children with severe disabilities from preschool through high school for five years. Researchers observed children at school, in the community, and talking to their teachers and parents, with the goal of answering the question “what do children learn from being involved in inclusive education?” 

The research team identified three primary outcomes of inclusion:

  1. Membership, which describes how a student interacts with a group,
  2. Relationships, which examines one-to-one interactions, and
  3. Skills, the cognitive, communicative, social, motor and adaptive skills that are part of an educational plan for all children.

In places where inclusion isn't encouraged, Schwartz said learning becomes impossible and community can't connect.

"Inclusion is the celebration of diversity put into action," Schwartz said. "If we abandon our commitment to inclusive education and inclusive communities, we lose the rich diversity of experiences that only happen when children, families and teachers learn and participate together."


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications