Northwest Center’s IMPACT program is working to create more inclusive pre-kindergarten education across King County. Courtesy photo

Northwest Center’s IMPACT program is working to create more inclusive pre-kindergarten education across King County. Courtesy photo

IMPACT works to promote inclusive preschooling in King County

Their goal is to reduce pre-K expulsions.

Northwest Center’s IMPACT program is working to create more inclusive pre-kindergarten education in Auburn and across King County.

Preschoolers are expelled at a higher rate than any other grade level, and Black preschoolers are expelled disproportionately. Many parents of kids with disabilities or special needs struggle to find preschools that are willing to enroll their kid, said IMPACT director Amy Bender.

IMPACT’s mission is to give teachers the tools and knowledge to accommodate all students and prevent expulsion. IMPACT is one of the programs funded by King County’s Best Start for Kids initiative, which residents recently voted to fund through a levy.

Northwest Center has specialized in inclusive education since its creation in the 1960s. Currently, Northwest Center operates two inclusive preschools in the Seattle area. Around 40% of the students at the center’s preschools have a disability.

The demand for inclusive early education was far greater than what they could accommodate in two schools, said Bender.

“We had a wait list of over 1,000 kids, and a lot of those kids on our wait list were kids with special needs,” Bender said. “We’d hear such sad stories from families who are calling, trying to get their kids in because their kids had been denied access to so many other childcare facilities because perhaps they have Down syndrome or they have a feeding tube or a wheelchair, and they can’t find anywhere to take their child.”

To address the demand for inclusive preschool, in 2018, Northwest Center created IMPACT, which stands for Inclusive Mentorship Program for Increasing Access to Childcare Team. The idea was to bring their model of inclusive education to existing early education providers rather than building another preschool that could only serve an additional 60-90 kids.

“We wanted to take the knowledge we have at Northwest Center and train the community on how to feel more confident and better support children and families,” Bender said.

They assembled a team of about six people with backgrounds ranging from early childhood education, occupational therapy, public health and psychology — and got to work. Since its inception in 2018, IMPACT has reached about 21,000 students, Bender said.

Working with educators

Sometimes something as simple as a cheap pair of noise-cancelling headphones is all a student needs to be successful in class.

Early on in the program, a preschool provider contacted IMPACT for help with a 3-year-old student who was disruptive in the classroom. A consultant visited the classroom and determined the student was likely just overstimulated by the loud and chaotic classroom environment. The IMPACT consultant gave the student some noise-cancelling headphones to try on and the student’s face immediately lit up, Bender said.

So far IMPACT has worked with three preschool providers in Auburn and 17 in the greater South King County area, Bender said. Now that the Best Start for Kids levy passed, IMPACT will continue to advance inclusive early education throughout the county, Bender said.

IMPACT works with early childhood education providers in a couple of different ways.

They offer inclusive education training and in-class consultations, Bender said. IMPACT consultants can work with administrators to develop better policy and procedures, or train teachers on how to handle challenging behaviour, Bender said.

IMPACT also addresses the disproportionate expulsion of Black students by working with educators to identify implicit biases and understand how to overcome them, Bender said. A study by the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Office found that while Black boys make up 18% of preschool students, they account for 42% of suspensions.

“We do onsite coaching and mentorship where our inclusion consultants will go out and do classroom observations and work directly with administrators and hands-on coaching in the classroom and model some new strategies for a teacher,” Bender said.

Working with IMPACT is completely voluntary, which is one of the things that makes the program more effective, Bender said.

“No one is required to work with us. Everyone wants to work with us,” Bender said. “We’re not a governing body, we’re not the state licensor, so we’re not going to get them in trouble, which allows for a much more collaborative relationship.”

Teachers and administrators report higher levels of enrolling students with disabilities or special needs after working with IMPACT, Bender said. In addition to this, administrators report that they’re less likely to expel students with disruptive behavior.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

Courtesy photo
The VRFA’s busy night: two fires, same vacant house

Two fires in one night in the same vacant house in southwest… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, who pushed for broadband funding in Washington schools. (Screenshot from murray.senate.gov)
American Rescue Plan Act funding approved for broadband investments in WA schools

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray pushed for the funding, which will benefit several King County school districts.

Courtesy photo
Rollover accident on SR 167 | Fire blotter

Between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
State offers free at-home COVID-19 tests

You can order the tests through the state’s new online portal.

Police say four boys lit fireworks in stadium concession stand

Auburn Police say four boys with fireworks caused a series of small… Continue reading

John Richardson wages war on a patch of invasive Himalayan blackberries threatening to overrun Fenster Nature Park. Photo by Robert Whale, Auburn Reporter
All for salmon: MLK Day project restores habitat

John Richardson waged war Monday afternoon on stubborn Himalayan blackberry bushes threatening… Continue reading

Sen. Mona Das, D-47
Kent Democratic Sen. Mona Das proposes 1% cut in state sales tax

Starting in 2023; Republicans voice support for Senate Bill 5932

File photo
Non-profit sponsors study on how the pandemic impacted arts and culture in Puget Sound

The study helped identify challenges faced by residents and cultural organizations in Washington

Most Read