Psychological and educational approach of the project

The ”Hermeneutic Constructivist” optic for a different look at disability.

Referring to a constructivist epistemology in clinical practice within the socio-educational services represents the opportunity to follow an approach that changes many theories and common practices in the tradition of education: we do not consider it the best perspective ever, the most effective and efficient, but rather an opportunity for knowledge and discovery of new constraints and new possibilities in educational work, whose creativity is often dampened by systems of classification, unchangeable diagnoses, educational programs, projects “objectively” functional for all people.

Educational planning, from a constructivist perspective, can be seen as an opportunity to build a change in the people involved towards more satisfactory ways of working for the person, or at least to facilitate this research.

Let’s start from a synthesis of what it means to adopt a constructivist perspective in the field of educational design by linking the theoretical assumptions with the construction of educational work:

The theoretical assumption of REALITY

Ontological reality is neither knowable nor approximate. The reality of each of us is a personal construction: the criterion of symmetry between personal construction and the ontological world is replaced by that of practicability of personal constructions (a construction is practicable to the extent that it is not hindered by constraints of the ontological world).

Personal constructions, the different visions of the world, have an intrinsic validity: every form of life is unique, self-validated and self-justified, even though it is one of the innumerable possible realizations.

How we apply it in educational work with disability:

Disability, social discomfort, mental retardation are not facts, truths, but can be considered as constructions used by the person to build a sense of himself, of others and of his relationships.

Since all constructions are personal (building oneself as a disabled person is not the same for everyone, it does not have the same implications), this construction has its own intrinsic validity, a legitimacy: through the knowledge of the person’s world, one can understand his own construction of his own disability and the implication it has.

The theoretical assumption of KNOWLEDGE

knowledge is dependent on the observer: it is not a process of reflection, nor of representation of the truth, but a process of personal construction. The knowledge of the truth, of an absolute reality, therefore has little sense: what interests us is the knowledge of personal constructions, of the reality of the person. This means that in order to know the person it is fundamental to learn how to build the world through his eyes, to put himself in his shoes, to understand his perspective, to relate.

How we apply it in educational work with disability:

to know the other through one’s own specific way of knowing: in the relationship with the other there are at stake my constructions and the constructions of the other. My knowledge is not objective, but personal. Comparison with others is an opportunity to consider other perspectives with respect to the same elements considered or other elements (TEAM WORK).

We are interested in knowing the person and not just one of the categories with which it is described: “It is a down syndrome, it is a tetraplease, it is a deep encephalopathy…”; the person and not only the symptoms, not only the list of what he is left behind in or the list of what he must learn to be normalized.

This introduces us to the concept of transitive diagnosis.

What is the purpose of a diagnosis?

Classically, it serves to define some aspects considered relevant to the person and then decide how to move: ICDH, ICF and other types of classification such as social diagnoses, are intended to create a common language, and especially to establish shared criteria of definition on the basis of which you can then decide what type of treatment or rehabilitation to apply to that category. The meaning of this diagnosis and these tools is clear within the medical and social professional contexts.

In the context of educational planning, adopting a constructivist point of view, it is more useful to consider the diagnosis as an initial description of the moment of life of the person, a not definitive moment of his history; this moment can be described by extending our knowledge to the understanding of the person and the processes of construction of what creates a personal suffering, of what satisfies him, of what he thinks has been and of what he thinks will be.

The context in which it is possible to understand the other is the relationship with the person, considered the instrument of educational work.

The theoretical assumption of PERSON

The person is “the greatest expert of himself”, of his own perspective of the world, of what he thinks, feels, wants to do, does not want to do, desires, does not want. A dynamic, non-static vision of the person can therefore be deduced.

How we apply it in educational work with disability:

Designing something that concerns a person means thinking that this person is a protagonist, denying the possibility of an expert external figure can replace it in the management of their problems or their lives.

It means that the first person to whom we ask what he wants to do and how he wants to do it is the person who is the protagonist of the project we want to build.

This choice is often difficult to share within the network of people participating in the project, especially in cases of prohibition of the person or doubts about the possibility of communicating in some way with it. With respect to this last point, we believe there is, even in the most serious cases, a possibility to understand the experience of the other.

The person is in continuous MOVEMENT of expansion, accommodation, verification of his way of functioning and living; each person continues to develop or change from the moment he is born, can therefore be considered as a form of movement.

This means never to give for definitive and static a reading /understanding of it but to consider it a modality /characteristic or a moment of its development and personal growth.

On the educational level, it means constantly questioning the hypotheses of intervention, always being ready to grasp the signs of the future, without resulting in chaos.

This has important implications in the relationship with the person, mainly in terms of Hope for the possibility of personal change.

The theoretical assumption of DISEASE, THERAPY and HEALING

The disorder represents a block of this continuous movement that is the person, of the continuous process of construction and reconstruction of his experience, to the loss of an adaptation to the environment. The therapy aims to promote in the relationship with the client an exploration of personal knowledge and especially an elaboration of alternative ways of building himself and his relationship with others, such as to allow a resolution of the problem presented, a well-being.

How we apply it in educational work with disability:

The disorder is given by the difficulty of the subject to create an alternative to the management/functioning that is showing itself not to be functional/provocative of subjective suffering (it is not able to make different choices). In this context the disorder is often identified with the disability itself and the problematic aspects as related to the diagnosis. From this point of view, the disorder is not identifiable in the disability, but in the relationships of the person in the light of his construction of “disabled self” and “other non-disabled people”.

The overcoming of the disorder therefore does not happen with the “correction” of the wrong functioning with a right one by definition, but through the creation of a new way of functioning that neither the “experts” nor the person initially have at their disposal, with the creation of new personal movement (choices) that leads to a subjectively experienced well-being.

The theoretical assumption of CHANGE

Everything that a person can do, act, think, feel is allowed and bound by his structure, by his way of seeing himself and his own context.

Fostering change therefore means building a relationship through which to UNDERSTAND the person through the EXPLORATION of personal knowledge (which can in itself already facilitate change) and above all through creative ELABORATION and the EXPERIMENTATION of alternative ways of building oneself and others that are plausible for it.

How we apply it in educational work with disability:

Building an educational project means fostering change through the construction of a RELATION with the person: INCLUDING the person’s request, what his problem consists in, how he sees his world and also us, through:

  1. EXPLORE his way of seeing the world
  2. ELABORATE and EXPERIENCE new ways of doing it that are subjectively more satisfying