Sunday, April 25, 2021

Now Recruiting! What You Need to Know About The Inclusion Academy

For parents and allies of children 2 to 5

Image of young boy who uses a wheelchair. Text read: The Inclusion Academy, for parents and allies of young children


Apply today! Our Spring/Summer 2021 Cohort starts May 27

Applications are due May 14

Are you a parent or ally of young children ages 2 to 5 with disabilities or developmental delay?

Do you want to create positive experiences that help all children thrive?

Do you want to better understand disability rights and equity and learn how to be a strong advocate?

Join us as we launch our fourth cohort of The Inclusion Academy. Classes start May 27 and continue Thursdays through August 12.

If you prefer to apply by phone or require interpretation or other support, please contact Bridget:, 206-829-7016.

Below, we share the what’s and why’s of the program.



"They aren't ready for us" is something we hear often. This opportunity is about changing that.

OUR GOAL: Share information you need to support and advocate for young children AND offer space to practice and pursue disability activism. Our focus for the program is inclusive learning and disability equity.

OUR PHILOSOPHY: Disability is a type of diversity, and whether children with disabilities or developmental delay thrive depends on how society responds to and nurtures them. So we're targeting society. All children need to experience belonging and membership.

The Inclusion Academy is grounded in the science of early childhood development and the legal and research basis for inclusive learning. It is a Best Starts for Kids Innovation Fund pilot and a portfolio project of Frontiers of Innovation, the research and development arm of Harvard's Center on the Developing Child.


Washington is bottom four in the nation when it comes to helping preschoolers with and without disabilities learn and play together. This affects their development and, unfortunately, reflects community values and priorities.

Decades of research tells us inclusion helps kids learn, and neuroscience helps us understand why: Developing brains need relationship. Belonging, membership, and participation help brains build the foundation kids need for lifelong well-being.

There is even a strong legal basis for inclusive learning and civil rights protection.

Yet in Washington, preschoolers with disabilities are segregated at about twice the national rate. More so than most any other state, we create separate spaces for children with disabilities, and that is not healthy.

The Inclusion Academy is about changing that. It is about helping people understand what is going on and what is at stake, while also helping them develop strategies and practice skills to build inclusive communities.



Parents (and allies!) of children ages 2 to 5 navigating childcare or preschool, or transitioning into kindergarten.

Enrollment preference will be given to King County residents, but we will welcome people from outside the region if space allows. 

WHEN DO CLASSES MEET? Thursdays, late afternoon or early evening. We will select the time that works for most participants, based on application responses. Most classes will run 2 hours; please set aside 2.5 hours for the first one.



  • May 27: Our why, the developing brain, and what children need to thrive
  • June 3: Defining inclusion
  • June 10: Disability is diversity
  • June 17: How people frame disability (and what that means for barriers)
  • June 24: Practicing advocacy skills 1
  • July 1: Defining high quality early learning and the research basis for inclusion
  • July 8: Children’s rights - The legal basis for inclusion
  • July 15: Exploring early learning options
  • July 22: Advocacy in action – A panel of leaders
  • July 29: Navigating reality 1: The school district
  • August 5: Navigating reality 2: Helpful tools for the school years and beyond
  • August 12: Practicing advocacy skills 2 (and group celebration!)

Once classes end, we support you as you apply your learning through a project. This is where the activism starts!

ADVOCACY SKILLS COVERED: Listening; analysis; communications; vision planning; policy development; data mining; collaboration; and community building. Classes also touch on concepts like behavior as communication, person-centered planning, and universal design.

WHAT TO EXPECT: A group of about 15 people learning together and from each other. We use presentations, small and large group discussion, class activities, and reflection in our classes, and we offer additional resources online. Participants also often share resources with each other. After classes end, projects start – or as we like to think of it, activism happens. We also offer social and group learning events several times a year for people who want to stay connected.

TIME COMMITMENT: Usually six to nine months. The first three months will be spent in weekly classes. You should plan on two to three hours a week from late May through mid-August. Beyond that depends on how much time you want to put into your project.

COST: This course is free, thanks to a grant from King County's Best Starts for Kids. Participants who do community projects get a small stipend to help offset costs.

LOCATION: Classes will be held online, live, using Zoom video conferencing. They will be recorded and posted to a private website, where you can watch later if you miss a class. We share resources and class materials on this site. Class participants can reflect and post on the private site, as well.



DO I NEED TO LIVE IN KING COUNTY? No, but preference will be given to people who live or work in King County.

WILL THERE BE IN-PERSON CLASSES? We are planning for an online experience for the class portion. We hope to host learning or social events later this year where people can meet in-person, if they choose.

DO I HAVE TO ATTEND ALL THE CLASSES? No. But most of the classes rely on participation. If you know now that are going to miss more than two classes, this may not be the right time to take this course.

CAN I MAKE UP A CLASS IF I MISS IT? Yes. We record all Zoom classes and post them to a private website. We also post any presentations and handouts there. But you will miss out on small group discussions and interactive activities.

CAN I APPLY IF MY CHILDREN AREN'T AGE 2-5? Absolutely. Parents with children slightly younger or older will benefit from classes and advocacy skills development. But the focus will be on early development.

DO I HAVE TO BE A PARENT? No! Professionals, other family, and other allies are welcome to apply. Systems change relies on our collective effort, and each person lends important skills, wisdom, and experience!

WILL THIS HELP ME RESOLVE MY SPECIFIC CONCERN FOR MY CHILD? This is not a legal clinic or IEP strategy session. The Arc has a helpline if you need assistance with something specific ( and offers an IEP Parent Partner program. But completing The Inclusion Academy will help you speak to the importance of inclusion, ground you in key civil rights protections, and help you understand early learning options. You will also develop and practice advocacy skills. It is important to know, though, that The Inclusion Academy is fundamentally about shifting attitudes and practices. This type of systems change requires collective action.

No matter where you are in your child’s journey, you can expect to gain skills, knowledge, and perspective that will benefit you now and in the future.

WHO TEACHES THE COURSE? The Inclusion Academy is a program of The Arc of King County. Staff facilitators include:

  • Bridget Nickol (she/her), early learning initiatives coordinator. Bridget is a sibling of an adult with a developmental disability and has worked in area schools supporting children with disabilities.
  • Eric Warwick (she/her), community advocacy coordinator. Eric has lived experience both as a student receiving special education, and as someone who has worked in Washington schools supporting children with disabilities.
  • Ramona Hattendorf (she/her), director of advocacy. Ramona’s first career was in journalism. She transitioned to civic engagement and public policy, first as a volunteer and parent advocate in her children's schools, about 15 years ago. She has two young adult children, one with a disability and another who experienced developmental delay.


MORE QUESTIONS? Please contact Bridget Nickol, early learning initiatives coordinator at The Arc of King County,, 206-829-7016.