Michael Darden

Erin Brewer

Model Special Education School Achieves Same or Better
Outcomes for Students with Autism As Programs That Require
Tuition, Test Passage

School holds 2nd annual Auction to raise ‘critical’ private funds
to support its program endowment

SEATTLE–As media and scientific reports note alarming jumps in the incidence of autism in the nation’s children, America’s handful of leading special needs schools are focused on developing ways to successfully educate the growing number of children with autism and other special needs youngsters today. Now one state-of-the-art school reveals an encouraging preliminary finding.

New research suggests that special needs programs that serve children with autism and do not require tuition for student enrollment or tests to determine student promotion can achieve either the same or significantly better educational outcomes as similar programs that require family expenditure and passage of a test for academic promotion. This is according to initial data from a study to be published in a few months by the University of Washington’s Experimental Education Unit or EEU (

Focusing on Solutions, Not Problems
“The public has been inundated with reports that autism is a growing problem. The EEU has long been one of the nation’s few, pioneering special needs schools focusing on finding solutions for educating children with autism and other special needs students,” says Dr. Ilene Schwartz, professor of special education, University of Washington, and founder of the EEU’s Project DATA (Developmentally Appropriate Treatment for Autism) Program. “Today’s results suggest that despite developmental hurdles, when we can focus on sharpening each child’s unique academic abilities, achievement happens.”

The school’s preliminary data found that about half of EEU’s students with autism go on to regular classrooms.

“The data further confirms the EEU’s historical experience that special needs students can be successfully educated without prohibitive financial costs to families and traditional programs that might leave some children behind,” explains Dr. Schwartz.

Most EEU students are Seattle residents. For this study, researchers tracked over a period of five years the academic progress of 35 children with autism. A complete report of the study’s findings and methodology will be available later this summer.

Second Annual ‘Auction’
The announcement of these results comes as the EEU prepares to hold its second annual Auction to raise funds for an endowment that the school created to help ensure the quality and survival of its programs. The EEU’s Auction takes place on Saturday, May 17, 2003, on the grounds of the school’s University of Washington campus. Last year’s event was the biggest first-time auction held in Seattle. Over 600 people attended and over $250,000 was raised in initial funds for the endowment.

Model Program’s Unique Approach
The EEU, established in Seattle in 1970, is in part a premier research and professional training center. Thousands of schools, universities, educators and communities locally, nationally and internationally have benefited from its research and programs. The EEU also serves as a national model for integrating special needs students with typically developing children. The school’s students range in age from birth through Kindergarten years (up to age seven).

Unlike all but a few programs nationwide, the EEU offers a state-of-the-art learning experience, utilizing methods now included in textbooks on special education but not yet implemented in U.S. school districts. The school blends typical and special needs students in classrooms throughout the day, not just at various intervals in the school day. At the EEU, typical and special needs students socialize with one another and gain opportunities to build critical social skills together instead of separately.

Federal Funds Support Program for Professionals Working with Autistic Youth
The EEU recently received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the school’s highly respected Professional Development for Autism (PDA) program. By providing early childhood professionals and educators with training to enhance their interaction with children with autism, PDA is designed to help increase the quality of education in school districts throughout the nation.

The EEU’s enrollment of 175 students includes 30 children with autism, a number that has doubled over the last decade. The incidence of autism in the U.S. is estimated to have increased dramatically from 1 in 2,500 children in 1990 to 1 in 500 children in 2003. Some data suggest that today the incidence is even higher, making autism a condition that is currently one of the most common and devastating childhood disorders.

Second Annual Auction Seeks ‘Critical’ Private Funds for School’s Endowment
“The federal grant for our Professional Development Program gives us a terrific boost as we confront the challenges of the current economic downturn. But the fact is for quite some time now, several conditions have forced a terrible erosion of public funds for special needs programs,” says Ilene Schwartz. “Private funding is therefore critical to aid our attempts to provide children of differing developmental abilities a chance to transition successfully to regular elementary classrooms.”

The EEU’s programs are provided at no cost to families of all backgrounds. Its primary funding comes from grants and from the Seattle Public Schools. The EEU’s annual Auction helps the organization move toward its goal to raise funds for The EEU Endowment for Children with Disabilities.

“The EEU Endowment for Children with Disabilities will ensure that early childhood education continues to improve, by providing consistent funding to recruit and retain the best EEU staff and sustain and increase effective outreach to Washington schools and beyond,” says Jennifer Annable, principal.

At the Auction, the EEU will also recognize the Human Resources Department of Microsoft for their pioneering efforts to provide health benefits coverage for private therapy for children with autism. This private therapy, in addition to the services received at special education sites like the EEU, is critical to achieve the level of instruction children with autism need to maximize their skills and potential.

Private, tax-deductible donations for The EEU Endowment for Children with Disabilities can be sent to the EEU in Seattle, care of Ms. Jennifer Annable, principal.

About the Experimental Education Unit (EEU)
The Seattle-based, privately funded Experimental Education Unit at the University of Washington is in part a school that serves as a national model for integrating special needs students with typically developing children. Since 1970, the school has helped educate children with neurological injuries and also children with developmental delays such as Down syndrome, autism, language and motor delays as well as other special needs. All EEU programs are provided at no cost to families of all backgrounds. EEU is also a renowned research institution that searches for solutions to critical issues in special education. As a premier training center, EEU provides educational programs and real-world experience for early childhood professionals from around the globe.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top