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Ημερομηνία έκδοσης: Αθήνα 27 Ιουνίου 2018

«Η έννοια της αναπηρίας»

της Δρ. Ευθαλίας Τσεγγελίδου


«The concept of disability»


Dr. Efthalia Tsengelidou

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Η παρούσα μελέτη αποτελεί  τμήμα της  διδακτορικής μου διατριβής που πραγματοποίησα το 2013. Η μελέτη αναφέρεται στη σημασία της ψυχοπαιδαγωγικής ενσωμάτωσης, καθώς και στην ειδική και γενική οριοθέτηση της ανάπτυξης των ατόμων με αναπηρίες. Μεταξύ των ερωτημάτων που απασχολούν το χώρο της Ειδικής Αγωγής, κυριαρχεί αυτό  που αναφέρεται στην ένταξη των ατόμων με ειδικές ανάγκες μέσα στο ευρύτερο κοινωνικό σύνολο.


This study is part of my doctoral dissertation in 2013. The study refers to the importance of psycho-pedagogical integration as well as to the specific and general delimitation of the development of people with disabilities. Among the questions that concern the field of special education there is a predominant one that refers to the integration of people with special needs in the wider society.


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Conceptual delimitations


Special psychopedagogy or defectology is a science that deals with people with disabilities, the study of psychic peculiarities, their training and education, their psychological evolution and development, corrective and recuperative ways, for the existing human potential exploitation and development of their personality, for the most appropriate socio-professional integration purposes (Verza 1988; Şchiopu and Verza 1994).

Special psychopedagogy is a science of synthesis, which uses the complex information provided by medicine (pediatrics, infantile neurology, audiology, orthopedics, etc.), psychology, pedagogy, sociology, juridical sciences, in the dynamic study of the personality of all forms of disability (Verza 1988; Şchiopu and Verza 1994).

Education is a continuous, organized activity that pursues the conscious and efficient development of the individual potential depending on the requirements of the standardised social environment. Special education is a form of education adapted to the way the child develops below or above the limit of normal.

For people with disabilities and those with adaptation problems, the development involves a specific intervention process that is materialized in the provision of rehabilitation/recovery services of medical, psycho-pedagogical, socio-professional nature, as well as programs leading to physical, psychical social levels, corresponding to personal capacities, to a higher degree of personal and social autonomy (Vlad 1999).

Disabled students are seen by others as "different." For different reasons, these children/young people are not perceived as being the same as the other children. They can be different from others only in appearance, for example, through the way they communicate and in which they move, by the way they interact and relate to people around them and their environment or by the pace and the way they learn.

Special education is, basically, a subsystem of mass education and deals with the education of students with disabilities. Thus, special education assumes responsibility for individuals who cannot adapt to the normal educational system - children who deviate from the required norms and standards. Disabled students are a challenge for an educational system designed to include preschool children, so that in the next 13-14 years, they will go from high school to a faculty or a certain professional qualification and then find a job. Unlike most children, those with disabilities do not go so fast on such route, as their peers, but they give troubles to the macrosystem of education.

Above all, students with disabilities are people. They are often perceived to be people. They are often perceived as being different from others, but they should be given the right to a wide range of education, therapy and rehabilitation services provided by institutions.

Any approach to children who are seen as different from others should begin with a discussion on standards or what is considered to be normal, common, typical, which corresponds to a standard.

The Romanian concept of integration included the idea of recovery, instruction and education that maximizes the psychophysical potential of those with disabilities and prepares them for an optimal social and professional insertion (Verza 1998).

The purpose of special education is to teach, educate, rehabilitate, recover, adapt in school, vocationally and socially, children/students with disabilities and/or learning disturbances or difficulties.

Special education is practiced by teachers who are qualified, specialized and devoted to the education of children with special educational needs. This, on the one hand, must meet the needs of children's development, by properly assessing the development potential and by ensuring rehabilitation/recovery and compensation for deficiencies or disorders, learning difficulties and, on the other hand, must help the children/students with deficiencies reach the level of possible individual development as close as possible to normal development by: building up the necessary school and social learning experience, building up the skills needed for learning in school, acquiring knowledge, building up skills for social, professional and cultural life integration in the community and ensuring the chances and conditions for good development.

In school, the educational-therapeutic act aims to transmit knowledge, structuring or restructuring a skill, the formation or remodeling of character traits, a social attitude, a positive manifestation of personality.

The disabled child must perceive the situation correctly, assess it, adopt different attitudes, depending on the context. Thus, he/she can understand that others around him/her appreciate in a different manner not only environment stimuli, but also the reactions to them.

By taking incipient forms of regulation, by forming skills, they are superior ways of dealing with everybody else for the people with intellectual disabilities.

The handicap generally is given by what decreases the chances of success through a child's somatic, intellectual or psycho-functional disability or functionality.

Referring to a child, the handicapped is one whose inherited or gained physical or mental abilities are clearly inferior to children of the same chronological age, a handicap that cannot be totally removed but only recovered to a certain degree, compensated, improved, valued according to the real possibilities of the individual and the limited acquisition, retention, transfer capacity.

From the etymological point of view, the term handicap should be given the meaning of "disadvantage", the term "handicapped person" meaning "disadvantaged person"

Excessive medicalization of the term has led to the assimilation of this phrase with the "sick person" phrase, the handicap suggesting incapacity.

To overcome this interpretation, Robert Lafon (apud Popovici 2007) establishes a relationship among four concepts: deficiency - incapacity - handicap - inadequacy.

Deficiency can lead to an incapacity which, in turn, leads to a handicap, which causes the deficient person to bear the penalties of the integrating environment, which can assimilate, tolerate or reject it.

Incapacity can be considered a loss, a total or partial diminution of physical, mental, possibilities etc., as a consequence of a deficiency that leads to the nonperformance of some activities that could normally be performed.

Incapacity, regardless of its form of manifestation (physical, sensory, mental, etc.), leads to adaptation changes, to a certain type of adaptive behavior, to a highly variable functional scale, to more or less serious forms of personal, professional, social autonomy.

The handicap, according to C. Păunescu (1977), is not to a deficiency, but the relation between the "integrating potential" and the "integrative demand", which is generated by the process of adapting and integrating the living individual in all aspects. The first category belongs to the individual, the second to the physical and social environment.

The handicap does not refer to groups but to the individual as a consequence of the deficiency that prevents him/her from reaching the level of performance (personal, school, professional, social) that he/she would like to achieve or that the integrating environment requires.


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General and specific in the development of people with disabilities


When it comes to psychological development, we must note its anti-entropic character, characterized by quantitative and qualitative acquisitions, in each of the psychic domains of reference (intelligence, affectivity, language, etc.) as well as at the global level of personality. From this point of view, the development path of the disabled child generally follows the same course as the normal one (Radu 1999). Differences arise when comparing the skills and performance of a deficient child with those deemed normal for that age (according to psychogenetic and psychodynamic criteria). There are situations where obvious positive developments for professionals seem insignificant if they are related to the usual standards (for example, self-service skills training for a child with severe mental deficiency may be deemed insignificant in relation to the normal children's abilities of the same chronological age). This should not lead to redefining the criteria according to the objectives pursued, but to supplementing the reference framework with those elements which allow for a more accurate assessment of the observed developments (for example, two years of mental development slowdown at four years of biological age is not equivalent to two years of slowdown at the age of ten).

Highlighting general and specific features of development in people with disabilities should therefore take into account the following priorities:

·         Reporting each evolution observed at the defining characteristics of the disability/deficiency.

·         Taking into account compensatory and pseudo-compensatory phenomena that can modify the manifest psycho-behavioral picture.

·         Outlining the development trend by graphically recording the observed developments.

·         Highlighting the adaptive or non-adaptive value of the evolution observed at a given moment in relation to individual capacities, as well as to socio-professional requirements.

·         The hierarchy of observed evolutions in terms of their current significance (in the context of school learning, social adaptation and relationship, professional skills, etc.), but also in relation to their long and medium term impact.

·         Adjustment of the recovery educational program according to recorded evolutions. (Buica 2004)

At people with disabilities one can find both elements that are common to their overall development and which, as a rule, refer to their negative aspects as well as elements that remain specific to each category of deficiency. The commonly encountered manifestations consist of a slowdown in development, significant discrepancies between levels of growing up different psychic levels, communication difficulties and interpersonal relationships, low learning and adaptability capacity, deficiencies in the self-image. On the other hand, within each category there are specific manifestations, such as the tendency to verbalism of sight deficiencies or the concretism of thinking of the deaf who has no deaf-mute education. The particular forms of exteriorization and the handicapped effects generated depend not only on the type of deficiency itself, but also on the psycho-individual features of the given subject. In addition, the specificity of a deficiency also derives from the environmental and social context in which that person lives. Requirements relating to certain psychomotor, intellectual, linguistic or relational performance can enhance and strengthen the deficiency elements, turning them into mental and actionable patterns that are difficult to treat therapeutically. These, over time, will place their mark inadequately, as the ultimate expression of the specificity of that deficiency.

The classification of deficiencies is far from accurate. Children with severe deficiencies are characterized by a wide array of manifestations. They are usually children diagnosed with mental retardation, schizophrenia, autism or cerebral palsy. They are joined by children with behavioral disorders, sensory impairments, or those with medical problems. For some of the children, disability can be a transitory state, and during this period they need careful, specialized individual care.

Unfortunately, it is easier for us to identify these children by the degree of exclusion from ordinary educational programs. Usually their school or social integration is denied, the reasons being the lack of specialized personnel, the lack of places in the education and care institutions, the lack of methodological intervention frameworks.

Baker (1979) defined the disabled person as "the person whose capacity to independently cover the basic needs is so limited in relation to the expectations of chronological age that his/her survival is in danger."

A child with two or more of the following features is deemed severely disabled child:

·         Partial or total hearing impairment;

·         Partial or total sight deficiency;

·         Deafblindness;

·         Behavioral disorders;

·         Severe motor disabilities;

·         Severe slowdown in development;

·         Severe mental retardation;

·         Language disorders and moderate, severe or profound communication difficulties;

·         Major disorders of adaptive and social behavior.

Another classification of deficiencies is based on the severity of the mental retardation involved. It is considered that a severe mental retardation (IQ between 20 and 34) also entails a characterization of the same level of the disability as a whole. Deep mental retardation (IQ less than 20) calls for a different approach from specialists. It is estimated that about 1% of the total number of people with mental retardation has this degree of intellectual disability. A well-structured educational environment can provide people with this degree of deficiency the formation of limited, but essential, self-care skills.

Here are some characteristic features of people with severe and deep deficiencies. Children and young people with severe and deep deficiencies may have a broad picture of features that depends on the combination of existing deficiencies, the age of the child, or simply the severity of the deficiency.

There are, however, some common features that all children with deficiencies have:

·         Limited communication skills.

·         Difficulties in general physical mobility.

·         Self-care incapacity.

·         Major difficulties in the relationship with others.

·         Long-term care needs.

·         Sometimes there are tendencies of self-mutilation.

·         Self-stimulation.

·         Perseverative behaviors.

In most cases, certain medical issues accompany these manifestations. Epilepsy seizures, hydrocephalus, scoliosis or other orthopedic disorders. They should be taken into account when making the child's personalized intervention plan. Depending on the above medical issues, a multidisciplinary team is also required to provide the child with a complex, effective care.

A deficiency can significantly affect the emotional and social development of the child. This aspect involves a very limited number of interactions with those around, either children or adults, as well as an inappropriate development of self-consciousness.

Children with deficiencies interacting with others often do it in an inappropriate, inadequate way. They cannot recognize situations in which their behavior is not desirable. Their reactions are exaggerated or inadequate to the situation. They laugh indiscriminately, they undress in public, etc. These behaviors are not considered inappropriate when the child is young, but with aging, their persistence is a sign of social behavioral disorder according to their age.

Children with deficiencies do not play with other children, do not interact often with adults and do not sufficiently explore the environment. Therefore, they seem to be completely outside reality and cannot express ordinary human emotions. It takes time to catch their attention and their response to environmental stimuli is very difficult, which is a specific feature.

Some of the children with disabilities have unusual behaviors that seem to be motor reactions or body postures with no precise purpose. These are ritualistic or persevering behaviors: kneeling in front and back, waiving fingers in front of the nose or face, meaningless pirouettes or twisting surrounding objects. Occasionally, self-mutilation behaviors may occur: hitting the head on the furniture or on the wall, hair pulling, hitting and scratching his/her own body. These behaviors occur especially in children with severe mental defects or in blind children. Their high frequency is worrying, especially as it interferes with learning social behaviors and self-acceptance.

Children with deficiencies "look different" than other children because of their many difficulties. Those around them, especially those who are not familiar with the issue of deficiencies, may consider their behaviors as unacceptable or extreme, "odd". It is important for the people who work directly with these children to know that the results and behavioral changes are achieved very hard. Children continue to focus on themselves for a long time. They will manifest for a long time inadequate facial and body behaviors or expressions. Working with these children requires a lot of patience and devotion.

A real understanding of the effects that disabilities have on the general development of the child is almost mandatory for adults working directly with such children. For example, blindness greatly reduces the information a child receives from the analysis of the body language (gestures, facial) of the adult. Deafness greatly reduces the emotional information the child receives by listening to the adult voice's intonation. In addition, the child's intellectual deficit significantly affects the understanding and interpretation of the social and emotional information the child perceives.

Many children with disabilities are incapable of taking care of themselves: to dress, to eat, to keep body hygiene. They need a long training to learn these basic activities. One element is that, under a permanent control of adults, for children with disabilities it is very hard to exercise a real control over their own lives and even on their everyday behaviors.

Children with learning disabilities do not learn spontaneously. They are not able to control or adapt their mental processes to their learning tasks. Even though they have been trained and proved some knowledge, they cannot generalize learning to the new situations they face. For those living or working in the community, there is a need for permanent supervision and assistance in the living and working environment, if applicable.


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Ainscow, M. (1991). Effective Schools for All, Fullton, H. Brookes, London.

Ainscow, M. (1994). Special Needs in the Classroom. A Teacher Education Guide, Jessica Kingsley Publisher, UNESCO, Paris.

Ainscow, M. (1999). Understanding the development of Inclusive Schools, Falmer Press, London.

Buica, C. (2004). The basics of defectology, Bucharest: Ed. Aramis

Paunescu, C., Muşu, I. (1997). Integrated special psychopedagogy, Bucharest: Ed. Prohumanitate.

Popovici, D. V. (1999). Elements of integration psycho-pedagogy, Bucharest: Pro Humanity

Popovici, D.V. (2007). Theoretical and practical guidelines in integrated education, Arad: Un

Radu, G. (1999). Psychopedagogy for the Development of Disabled Schools, Bucharest: E.D.P.

Radu, G. (2000). Psychopedagogy of mentally disabled school children, Bucharest: Ed. Prohumanitate.iv. Aurel Vlaicu

Verza, E. (1988). Some personality structures in the psychology of mentally disabled. Problems of defectology, University of Bucharest: 11-26.

Vlad, E. (1999). Evaluation in the educational-therapeutic act, Bucharest: Ed. Prohumanitate.


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