Social Inclusion

Brenda playground

Many children and adolescents go to school not only to learn math and grammar, but to be part of a social group. In their unstructured free time (e.g., school breaks), children meet, play, or "hang out". Such informal group activities at schoolyard is a rich opportunity for youngsters to develop emotional and social competence. 

However, not all children have access to informal group encounters. Many youngsters miss this vital learning opportunity on a daily basis, because they have difficulties joining their peers during their leisure time at school. This includes children with barriers to communication, such as hearing loss and autism. Their social participation in schools is concerning, given that most of the children with special needs have been blended into mainstream education since the implementation of “Passend Onderwijs” (Dutch law for tailored education) in 2014.

Funded by NWO and Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) affiliated fellowships, this large-scale project aims to create an inclusive school setting for children and adolescents, including those with hearing loss or autism, during their unstructured leisure time at school, thus increasing the quality and quantity of their social interactions with peers. We focus on analyzing and adapting the physical (built), social, and cultural environment at schools outside the classroom. To achieve this, a multidisciplinary collaboration is established that combines Psychology, Computer Science, Architecture, and Governance, and involves the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities, professional organisations (INTER-PSYRivierduinen), and patient associations (NVA).

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Information flyer for the "Schoolplein Project"

Computer Science

News archive on social inclusion

Also see:

Our first study on children's play using wearable sensors
Our research on autism
Our research on deafness



The unstructured leisure time at school is important for children and adolescents to learn the skills that also prepare them for later life. Youngsters, including those with autism or hearing loss, need an environment in which they feel safe and accepted, so they can participate in group activities, interact with peers, teachers, and mentors, and learn the skills necessary for optimal emotional and social development. The psychology discipline focuses on the relation between schoolyard behaviors, sociometric measures, and social-emotional functioning.

Researchers: Carolien Rieffe, Lisa van Klaveren, Adva Eichengreen, Brenda Sousa da Silva, Yung-Ting Tsou 


Computer Science

Traditionally, research on playground dynamics is based on parents’ and teachers’ observations. To obtain a broader perspective on children’s play without intruding their space and affecting their behavior, this project uses wearable sensor technology, which reveals proximity, duration, and location of social interactions at schoolyard. Moreover, based on the sensor data, algorithms will be developed for extracting patterns representing individual and social behaviors of pupils, and their use of space; thus exploring the complex interaction patterns over time and in space of prosocial behavior and its links with structural and functional changes in development.

Researchers: Mitra Baratchi (Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science), Marvin Meeng (Leiden Institude of Advanced Computer Science), Maedeh Nasri (Leiden University and Centre for BOLD Cities)



The architecture discipline focuses on a spatial interpretation of the data. The analysis will unravel the particular features and aspects of a built environment that support or impede social interaction (e.g., spatial layout, acoustics, furniture, light, colour, texture, temperature, user density and proximity, green etc.), and how these features and aspects relate to other users and hence to potential social interactions. These explanations can support the analysis and evaluation of school environments and can be further used in the design of such environments.

Researcher: Alexander Koutamanis (Faculty of Architecture & the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology)



The policy team focuses on the implementation of Passend Onderwijs (PO) in the Netherlands, targeting implementation bottlenecks in the context of two key developments in recent years linked to Dutch education and youth policy: (1) achieving an integrated model for special needs education by placing special-needs students in mainstream schools in combination with an individual support structure, and (2) decentralizing responsibilities in the context of youth policy towards municipal levels. In the context of these policy changes, teachers and school administrators are both policy subjects and policy actors. They are the key connection between policy and practice by implementing changes while interacting with students and parents.

Special attention is being paid towards this policy-practice dichotomy and the challenges inherent to this when looking at upward- and down-ward accountability in the education context. This entails questions around who has the resources and knowledge to appropriately support autistic youth in regular schools and who is accountable when it is not working. The goal is to analyze the current challenges when implementing PO in schools as well as identify strategies based on best-practice scenarios for how to move forward.

Researchers: Sarah Giest (Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University), Gyeorye Kyeorei (Reia) Lee (Institute of Public Administration, Leiden University)


News Archive Social Inclusion 

Expert meeting on interactive playgrounds: What makes a playground inclusive? 06 Dec 2021
Sensor technology in the research of social interaction  31 August 2020
 Loose-Parts Play in the First School  24 July 2020
Webinar on Sensors (Part II)  24 June 2020
 Policy on Appropriate Education in Schools  23 June 2020
 Inclusive Social Development in Schools  22 June 2020
 Welcome to our new PhD candidate Maedeh Nasri  09 June 2020
 Autism Awareness Week  27 March 2020
 Loose parts at the school playground  05 March 2020
 Measuring children's behaviour at the playground  14 February 2020
 New PhD position in school inclusion project  04 February 2020
 Bachelor internship on inclusiveness at schoolyard  19 November 2019
 New developments using sensor techniques at school playground  06 November 2019
 The Week Against Bullying: How do we stop bullying?  23 September 2019
 Kick off! The 5-year NWO project officially started  13 May 2019
 BOLD Talks: Possibilities and implications of sensor data  10 April 2019
 World Autism Awareness Day  02 April 2019
 BOLD Cities continues for another 5 years  02 April 2019
 The acoustic qualities of an inclusive school environment  07 March 2019
 Adva's talk on play in children with disabilities  25 February 2019
 Social participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing children  11 February 2019
 PhD position in autism project (closed)  04 January 2019
 NOC*NSF Sport Gala 2018  20 December 2018
 Participate in our research!  10 November 2018
 Interview with our new postdoc, Adva Eichengreen  09 August 2018
 Facilitating an inclusive school environment outside the classroom for adolescents with ASD: NWO grant awarded!  10 July 2018
 Symposium: Monitoring Social Behaviors with Information Technology  19 June 2018
 Social participation in children with hearing loss  21 May 2018
 New ways, new gains  13 February 2018
 Understanding how children with hearing loss interact  14 July 2017
 Designing a smart city together  26 January 2017
 Talk on Free Play at Kennis Café  15 December 2016