Are we psychopathologizing education?


The objectives of education today in the world, and particularly in Spain, are based on a constructivist and inclusive perspective. This is reflected, for example , in the Spanish regulations , which are based on the need for a school for everyone for everyone (although the resources allocated may be insufficient).

We seek an inclusive school that aims to be the prelude to a truly inclusive society where all students participate, feel safe and learn with others.

This look that is not new, but every time tries to be more effective and real. The democratization of education as a right for all entails an increase in complexity in the classroom. On numerous occasions we find classrooms with high ratios, and, above all, with multiple diversities to attend to.

Need for support measures

The teacher, although knowledgeable about child and adolescent development and the pedagogy of learning processes, sometimes needs support, accompaniment, and guidance from educational psychologists, educational counselors, and other experts.

In this way, support measures are established for students, collected in classroom schedules but also on many occasions in individualized plans for each one of them.

In addition, we are often reminded that behind school failure is the lack of diagnosis in students with learning disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders or other difficulties.

Need for diagnosis

But this causes that on many occasions the necessary path that implies a way of working where the complete knowledge of the student leads to the maximum development of their abilities is perverted. There are so many diversities that tutors and teaching specialists may require clinical diagnoses to activate support measures.

It does not have to be this way. An education for all requires starting from the position that all boys and girls up to the age of 16 have the right to an education and that it will be inevitable to find multiple ways of learning.

Needs, not labels

In the psycho-pedagogical field we do not work with and from the diagnosis but from the supports and necessary measures for the students. The diagnosis has only the function of understanding the needs that students have. But the diagnosis that it labels, if it exists, must serve education to become flexible in its structures and broad in its resources; to be able to accommodate all ways of being, being and learning.

Even so, it is the educational system itself that distorts this premise when in order to obtain special education scholarships (in order to carry out speech therapy, pedagogical re-education and other therapies for students with specific educational support needs) medical reports of the diagnosis are required. and disability certificates. This does not help to focus on the need for support detected from the public psycho-pedagogical sphere.

Medicalization of education

In the current educational system, the figure of nursing professionals is legitimately claimed in educational centers to respond to the health-related needs of students. But this should in no case normalize that teachers know what medication students are taking, especially in the field of mental health.

Impulse control, waiting time… easily become pathological when they are difficult to manage, and we fall into the trap of thinking that pharmacology can solve them more quickly.

In this situation, the educational language becomes more and more medical and contaminates the teaching gaze. It can even make us forget the psychosocial perspective of education: not everything depends on the biological conditions of the students.

The problem of the word ‘diagnosis’

The medicalization of education, the pathological view of difficulties, ends up noticing even in the name given to some moments of educational evaluation. For example, the “psychopedagogical assessment” of the student, which is carried out by public or private psychopedagogical counseling teams, or by educational counselors. These are sometimes required only for the establishment of the final label, the diagnosis, and not so much to guide the adaptations and aids that derive from this assessment.

On the other hand, even the tests that are carried out internally at the end of primary school and for statistical purposes are called diagnostic tests. The word “diagnosis” thus becomes related to educational evaluation, when it should not.

Establishing powerful work networks between educational agents, psychopedagogues, health psychologists, paediatrics and social agents becomes necessary and essential to be able to respect and accompany individual needs. But the look must be focused on the specific support and necessary measures, on what the environment can do to respond.

Teachers, not doctors or psychiatrists

Teachers do not need to incorporate to their multiple functions that of describing symptoms, giving an opinion on the need for medication or suspecting possible diagnoses based on experience, referring students to health centers. The alert is correct, but it is not necessary to wait for the return of the diagnosis to put the aid measures into operation. It is a perversion of the system when diagnoses are requested to have them available in educational centers.

For example: when teachers detect difficulties in the acquisition of reading and writing, it is not necessary to wait for a diagnosis of dyslexia or language development disorder to modify and reinforce this area in the student presenting the difficulty. When a lack of attention span or short-term memory is observed, it is not necessary to corroborate it with a clinical diagnosis in order to plan activities that can train it.

Beings are diverse and differences are characteristics of personal development. Respecting these differences , customizing and making approaches more flexible will always be more effective, but without depending on diagnoses.

Without medical diagnoses we can also attend to these diversities, understand the individuality of being and respect the different developments and ways of learning.

Author Bio:Sylvie Perez Lima is an Educational psychologist. COPC 29739. Associate Professor in the Master’s Degree in Learning Difficulties and Language Disorders at UOC – Universitat Oberta de Catalunya