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Using a community-based system dynamics approach for understanding inclusion and wellbeing: a case study of special needs education in an eastern African refugee camp

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Kelsey Werner, Gregory St. Arnold & Thomas M. Crea

Abstract

Background

Children with disabilities face unique challenges in humanitarian aid settings and education may provide protective measures against abuse and exploitation. There are growing calls for inclusive education of children with disabilities in formal education, but little guidance exists on how to enhance inclusion in complex and resource-constrained contexts of humanitarian settings.

Case presentation

This study used a community-based system dynamics approach to understand key stakeholders’ perspectives of the drivers and effects of inclusion and wellbeing for children with disabilities, and to elicit recommendations to enhance educational inclusion in a refugee camp in Eastern Africa. Community-based system dynamics sessions, designed based on group model building scripts and facilitated by a team of four people, took place with organization staff, community leaders, and parents and caregivers of children with disabilities. The process produced a causal loop diagram depicting the stakeholders’ perspectives of how multiple components interact in a system to drive inclusion and wellbeing of children with disabilities over time.

Conclusions

Findings indicate participants have a broad conceptualization of inclusion, highlighting the value of community interaction and importance of meeting basic needs, and also demonstrate that including children in mainstream educational settings in a complex humanitarian context requires a more nuanced approach given the lack of existing resources to support Western models of educational inclusion fully.