By Samantha Di Pardo Pelosini Mota – São Paulo, Brazil
“The school’s task is not to adapt to disability, but to overcome it”. This sentence is in: Complete works: The fundamentals of defectology, by Lev Vygotsky. The author’s brilliant and revolutionary position regarding inclusion, besides meeting the demand for a more human and welcoming society, resonates with the Spiritist Doctrine’s principles of solidarity, love, justice and charity.
Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934), did his studies at Moscow University to become a professor of literature. However, as his studies progressed, he turned to evolutionary psychology, education, and psychopathology. His contribution to the education of children with special needs was fundamental for the time and, until today, it is a consensus that innovative intervention should be sought, eloquently opposing the school and social segregation of these students.
According to Vygotsky, “all children can learn to develop…. The most serious disabilities can be compensated for with appropriate teaching, for, properly organized learning results in mental development.” The author sees disability under the prism of a challenge and not as an obstacle, understanding it as a propeller of psychological and personality development, as can be seen in the excerpt: “… A physical disability or problem, whatever its nature, challenges the body. Thus, the result of a defect is invariably twofold and contradictory. On the one hand, it weakens the organism, undermines its activities, and acts as a negative force. On the other hand, precisely because it makes the body’s activity difficult, the defect acts as an incentive to increase the development of other functions in the body; it activates, awakens the organism to redouble its activity, which will compensate for the defect and overcome the difficulty. This is a general law, equally applicable to the biology and psychology of an organism: the negative character of a defect acts as a stimulus for increased development and activity”. This process of overcoming challenges in the improvement of the being is taken to the sphere of the spirit within the reincarnationist proposal of the Spiritist Philosophy. Regarding this purpose of incarnation, question number 132 of The Spirits’ Book states: “God imposes it in order to lead them to perfection: for some it is an expiation; for others, a mission. But to arrive at this perfection, they must suffer all the vicissitudes of corporeal existence: this is the expiation.”
The transmutation from hindrance to overcoming, according to the author, does not occur spontaneously but in a process of socio-genesis, marked in the concept entitled Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
Based on the conception that intelligence is not innate, but is built in constant exchanges with the environment, Vygotsky explains, in his own words, what ZPD is: … the gap between actual development level, which is usually determined through independent problem-solving, and potential development level, determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.” In light of the above, we conclude that it is this social-psychological realization of the child that will decide his/her knowledge and performance, and not the deficit itself.
The concept of ZPD harmonizes with the Divine Laws, specifically with the Law of Society, as we read in question 768 of The Spirits’ Book: “Man must progress, but he cannot do it alone because he does not possess all his faculties; he needs the contact of other men. In isolation, he becomes brutish and stultifying.
The above statements allow us to elaborate a concept of inclusion that goes beyond simply “fitting in” or adapting to an environment. It reaches the need to make the neighbor, within their field of existence, be heard, their placements be taken into consideration, participating in salutary exchanges with the other, developing a more just and less selective society. Remembering that the greater the social segregation, the greater the damage to the child’s intellectual, affective, social, and moral development.
It is paramount that the primary deficiency does not generate the secondary deficiency. In other words, the disability as itself, body function, restriction or loss of activity should not cause the secondary one, which would be the restriction of participation in life situations in the physical environment or social context.
As a mediator agent, the teacher, Spiritist educator, facilitator, or anyone else who plays this role, must study how these children interact with the world, how they organize their compensation system, and elaborate a positive, rich, creative, and forward-looking pedagogy that guarantees the student’s development and invests in their possibilities. According to Lev Vygotsky : “… it is impossible to rely on what a child lacks, what they are not. It is necessary to have an idea, even a vague one, about what they possess, about what they are”. The other’s limitation should never be a reason for stagnation of the one with whom it interacts, it is necessary to move so that overcoming occurs together and only then we will attend to what is taught in The Gospel According to Spiritism, questioning ourselves: “Let us see what means our merciful Father has placed within my reach to ease my brother’s suffering. Let us see if my moral consolations, my material support, my advice, cannot help him to overcome this trial with more strength, patience and resignation”.
The invitation is here. May each one reflect on meaningful and true inclusion, in a creative process of growth, discovery, and self-knowledge that crosses the barrier of the obstacle, becoming the struggle of humans against what limits them, in the victory of all involved.