Supporting the Inclusion of "Invisible" Children and Youth with Disabilities and their Families in Rural El Salvador

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This research was conducted by the University of Maryland, in partnership with International Partners Cassie Stern Memorial, and several stakeholders in the field.



This project was designed to investigate the needs of individuals with disabilities in rural El Salvador. Many are “invisible,” that is, rarely leave home, receive services, attend school, or participate in village life. Over the three years of the project, our objectives were to:

  • Identify persons with disabilities who stay at home, do not attend school, receive services, and/or participate in village functions;
  • Describe barriers to participation for persons with disabilities and their families and promote ways to enable their participation in community functions, improve access to services, and enhance quality of life;
  • Develop, implement, document, and evaluate activities to promote community acceptance and build the capacity to integrate children and youth with disabilities and their families in village life.

The findings of this project suggest to the need to develop and implement practical, community-based strategies for promoting acceptance and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community. In the villages in which we implemented these interventions, substantial progress was made in ways that promoted social and education inclusion. Local strategies such as the Circulos de Amigos program were especially important in a country where resources are so limited and the impact of poverty is so pervasive. Similarly, these findings argue for the importance of local training and public awareness activities to disseminate information about rights.

This video is also available in Spanish.



These tools are created as part of the research. They are linked to the research's results and contribute to make them more accessible to the stakeholders in the field.

This research developed training manuals addressed to stakeholders in the field (facilitators, volunteers, members of families), in order to raise awareness and skills of local community members on inclusion and education of children with disabilities.

Each training module is available in English and in Spanish and contains a booklet and a power point presentation. They are especially designed for training persons with limited levels of education (high school or less) and for participants who have limited knowledge regarding disability.

Module I - Concepts of Universal Design for Learning

Module II - Positive Behavior Support
Module III - Alternative Communication Strategies




… On this research

Blog article : Confronting the challenge at the intersection of poverty, disability and rurality: “Comunidades Inclusiva.” Global Campaign for Education – U.S. Coalition Action Blog 

… On the thematic
Literature review conducted as part of this applied research and presenting available research and tools on the topic of poverty and disability at the international level and more particularly the barriers to social and educational inclusion in Latin America.

1st page of the Literature review from the project SalvadorDownload the Literature review (PDF)