Art and inclusion: the impact of arts education on the world perception of people with disabilities

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SAKAGUCHI, Aline do Socorro Martins Pacheco [1]

SAKAGUCHI, Aline do Socorro Martins Pacheco. Art and inclusion: the impact of arts education on the world perception of people with disabilities. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 06, Ed. 03, Vol. 08, pp. 104-118. March 2021. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


The present study discusses art as a tool in the process of social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities and how it is practical as teaching, promotes conditions for these subjects to desert in their constructions of meaning about themselves and about their relationship with the world. So that, in order to discuss this work, we present a holistic understanding of art from the perspective of human teaching and development, pointing out concepts about the understanding of intellectual disability from a psychological and psychiatric perspective, also manifesting the Brazilian legislative and comprehensive development about social inclusion, all these aspects based on understanding the course of the construction of meaning in people with intellectual disabilities. Thus, the research was carried out by the method of bibliographic review, embodied especially by the understanding of meaning proposed by Mary Jane Spink. Therefore, the study shows its relevance in the face of a discussion in the interlocution of complex themes and little explored in the scientific literature.

Keywords: Social Inclusion, Intellectual Disability, Meaning Building.


Art strengthens its record in the history of humanity, especially by its detached character of concepts, and its essence of constant renewal, since it is reflected and ends in itself. Thus, art reverberates subjectively and thus, it can act as a mediator in the process of construction and reconstruction of meanings, in a way considerably peculiar to each subject.

The idea of constructing meaning in this study, part of Mary Jane Spink’s understanding and her discussion about how language processing in action contributes to a conscious development of the subject, and her perspective on the dynamics of social interaction, as a driving force as to how people act and react to their experiences.

In this sense, the use of artistic tools as a means of providing construction of meaning in subjects within the field of education is shown as a promising perspective of holistic development, since its configuration is sensitive to the particularities of each person.

Therefore, art is expressed as a tool that promotes inclusion, especially in the learning process. Being the inclusion conceptually defined, as a process that enables development, respecting differences and excelling at the beginning of human dignity.

This said, the proposal of this study, aims to present current concepts about intellectual disability, reflecting on artistic teaching as a way of inclusion of these subjects, and to understand if it is possible and how art enables the construction of meaning of people with intellectual disability disorder.


This research is characterized as a descriptive exploratory study of qualitative character, using as method the Systematic Bibliographic Review (RBS) in articles published between the years 2013 to 2019. This scientific method makes it possible to search and analyze articles from a certain area of science, since this type of research allows us to have a more expanded view of the theme, confront ideas or agreement existing among the authors (GIL, 2008).

For Gil (2008), bibliographic research is developed based on material already elaborated, consisting mainly of books and scientific articles, in which it is elaborated through documentary materials that is based on the contributions of several authors on a given subject.

For the construction of this work, the object of study was delimited and subsequently an exploratory research was carried out, whose purpose was to obtain a greater approximation of the theme through the reading of texts, articles, books and a set of statistical data. In the analysis of the texts, the contexts related to understanding, about teaching in arts and its repercussion in the construction of meaning for people with intellectual disabilities were evaluated, and how this impacts on their social inclusion process.

Thus, inclusion and exclusion criteria were established for the searches of the data of this literature review. Characteristics for inclusion: scientific papers published in the interval of the last 07 years; articles published in scientific journals, available in full and for public access with free download in Portuguese; articles related to the process of mental illness in the scope of intellectual disability, social inclusion and teaching in the arts. And for exclusion, the following criteria were chosen: publications in foreign languages; non-established publication period; duplicate articles.

Within the criteria, we sought material of interest in the database of electronic journals Scientific Electronic Library Online (SCIELO), Virtual Health Library (VHL) and Google Scholar. Data collection was initiated and completed during January 2020. In this process, 6 articles were selected that contributed to the production of this work, the first reading was followed by the writing in order to compress the ideas of the structure of the work. The data is in the table below specifying: title; author of the text; year of publication and database.

Table 1 – Bibliographic Research Database

title author year Database
The social function of the school under discussion, from the perspective of inclusive education. DAINEZ, D;


2019 BVS
Social and conceptual adaptive skills of individuals with intellectual disabilities. GUSMÃO, E. C. R et al. 2019 BVS
The discipline of art: A reflection for contemporary school HIRONO, L. B. 2013 GOOGLE ACADEMIC
The social look of intellectual disability in rural schools from the concepts of identity and difference PALMA, D. T;


Development indicators in children and adolescents with IQ equal to or less than 70.

Children’s feelings about intellectual disability: effects of an intervention.








Total 6    

Source: Author (2020)



The arts are one of the oldest themes in the history of mankind. The ancient oriental art, the hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt, the Greek theater, are just a few examples. So that, in contemporary society, art exercises a functionality beyond the aesthetic or artistic issue, but ultimately, as a mediator of discussions for social, cultural and educational issues.

Artistic teaching in Brazil dates back historically to the colonial period. Thus, the first reports of art applied to education, occurred through the teaching practiced by the Jesuits, which used music and small theatrical representations for the catesqueization of the natives (SILVA, 2013).

Thus, throughout our history, arts-based teaching has gained other settings. During the 20th century important social and cultural transformations occurred, so as to directly impact society’s understanding of the relevance of art in the bias of education.

Initially, artistic disciplines were more focused on technical concepts, such as drawing disciplines, manual work, singing and music, so that their functionality was applied in a more mechanistic way. Later, in the second half of the 20th century, teaching in arts began to acquire more expressive aspects, so the disciplines of fine arts, theater and dance focused more on exploring the creative potential of students (BRASIL, 1997).

Thus, through Law No. 5,692 of August 11, 1971, it is promulgated through the Guidelines and Bases of National Education that art would become officially part of the teaching context in Brazil. Thus, the text discusses in its article 7 that “It will be mandatory to include Moral and Civic Education, Physical Education, Artistic Education and Health Programs in the full curricula of the establishments of lº and 2º graus” (BRASIL, 1971). Therefore, this advance for Brazilian education started from the understanding that:

Art education provides the development of artistic thought and aesthetic perception, which characterize a proper way of ordering and giving meaning to human experience: the student develops his/her sensitivity, perception and imagination, both by performing artistic forms and in the action of appreciating and knowing the forms produced by him and his colleagues, by nature and in different cultures (BRASIL, 1997, p. 19).

Thus, according to Hirono (2013) in recent decades, teaching in arts in Brazil has undergone transformations, which today give it the premise of a teaching more focused on the learning process in the awakening of creativity and to the construction of meaning.


Conceptually, intellectual disability is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM 5, as a neurodevelopmental disorder, which is characterized mainly by the condition of the subject of functional, intellectual and adaptive deficit, which can assess the conceptual, social and practical domains of the person’s life (AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, 2014).

In the understanding of the Classification of Mental Disorders and the behavior of ICD-10, the disease is described as mental retardation and is defined in code F70, which in its conceptualization says that:

Mental retardation is a condition of interrupted or complete development of the mind, which is especially characterized by impairment of skills manifested during the development period, which contribute to the global level of intelligence, that is, cognitive, language, motor and social skills (ORGANIZAÇÃO MUNDIAL DA SAÚDE, 1993, p. 221).

The understanding of DSM 5 for ICD 10, conceptually, is designed though, using different nomenclatures, since, a Federal law of the United States, considered the terminology mental disability more appropriate than mental retardation, because it understands that the term carries in itself a stigma of prejudice.

Thus, for diagnostic purposes, the person to characterize himself within the intellectual development disorder, needs to meet three criteria, which are them:

A. Deficits in intellectual functions such as reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning and experience learning confirmed by both clinical evaluation and standardized and individualized intelligence tests. B. Deficits in adaptive functions that result in failure to achieve patterns of development and sociocultural in relation to personal independence and social responsibility. Without continued support, adaptation deficits limit the functioning of one or more daily activities, such as communication, social participation and independent living, and in multiple environments, such as at home, at school, in the workplace, and in the community. C. Beginning of intellectual and adaptive deficits during the development period (AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, 2014, p. 33).

It should be taken into account that, respecting the subjectivity of each subject, it is worth mentioning that in the context of limitation, each person will present a degree of functionality, which reflects the level of severity of the disease. This weighting is evaluated, according to the American Psychiatric Association (2014) according to the measurement of the adaptive functioning of each person. So that levels can be understood in mild, moderate, severe and deep degrees.

To better understand the differentiation of each of the degrees, a descriptive picture of each level will be exposed, considering the understanding for the conceptual, social and practical domains.

Table 2 – Levels of severity of intellectual disability

level conceptual social practical
lightweight Abstract thinking, executive function (planning, strategy establishment, setting priorities and cognitive flexibility) and short-term memory, as well as functional use of academic skills (e.g., reading, money control), are impaired. Immature in social relations. Communication, conversation and language are more concrete and immature than expected for age. There may be difficulties in regulating emotion and behaviour in an age-appropriate manner. There is limited understanding of risk in social situations; social judgment is immature, and the person runs the risk of being manipulated by others. Individuals in general

they need support to make health care decisions and legal decisions, as well as to learn how to perform a profession competently. Support is usually required to raise a family.

Moderate Continuous daily care is necessary to perform daily conceptual tasks, and other people can fully assume these responsibilities for the individual. Social judgment and the ability to make decisions are limited, with caregivers having to assist the person in decisions. Friendships with partners with normal development are often affected by communication and social limitations. There is a need for social support and communication, meaningful for success in the workplace. They often require support and learning opportunities for a long period of time. Maladaptive behavior is present in a significant minority, causing social problems.
serious Poor understanding of written language or

concepts involving numbers, quantity, time and money.

Spoken language is quite limited in terms of vocabulary and grammar. Speech and communication focus on the here and now of daily events. Language is used for social communication more than for explanations. The individual needs support for all daily activities, including meals, dressing, bathing and elimination. Maladaptive behavior, including self-injury, is present in a significant minority.
profound Some visuospatial abilities, such as combining and sorting, based on physical characteristics, can be acquired. The concomitant occurrence of motor and sensory impairments, however, may prevent the functional use of objects. Very limited understanding of symbolic communication in speech or gestures. There is a broad expression of one’s own desires and emotions by nonverbal and non-symbolic communication. It depends on others for all aspects of daily physical care, health and safety, although it may also be able to participate in some of these activities. Those without serious physical harm can help in some daily homework tasks, such as taking the dishes to the table.


It is worth noting that these concepts about intellectual disability are characterized as standards for diagnostic understanding of the disease, but never for understanding the subject. Since, the potential level of development of a person is not limited to a diagnosis, but essentially by a sum of subjective factors to his being, his life history, the environment in which he/she lives and especially their contact relationships.

Therefore, it is evidenced that the understanding of intellectual disability considers multiple factors, applied in a context different from the subject’s life, also considering the aspects of the disease from severity levels, according to the subjectivity of each one, which provides for a perspective on the limitation of development, thus not being imperative factors in the characterization of all subjects diagnosed with the disorder.


For a long time in history, man was only considered a social being if he met all the criteria that society considered reasonable to understand him as such. That is, all or all those who escaped the standard of normality, were automatically stigmatized and marginalized, and therefore not infringed on it what today is understood as basic rights of respect for human dignity.

In Brazil, through the constitution of 1988, many of these stigmas were broken in a legislative way, since, for an effective understanding of society, about these changes, it would be necessary to invest a new understanding about the disabled, especially the intellectually disabled, as subjects of equivalence of rights, of course respecting the new conception of equality, proposed in the new Brazilian magna carta , and strengthened through Law No. 8,080/90, which establishes the Unified Health System (SUS), where it promotes, through its guidelines, the right to universality, equality and equity (BRASIL, 1990).

However, in order to raise more effective social awareness about the right of disabled people and the need for social reception of these subjects, law no. 13,146 of July 6, 2015 was created establishing the status of persons with disabilities. Thus, the official understanding of the state through Article 2 of this legislation is that:

A disabled person is considered to be the person with a long-term impediment of a physical, mental, intellectual or sensory nature, which, in interaction with one or more barriers, can obstruct their full and effective participation in society on equal terms with other people (BRASIL, 2015).

Thus, the state has determined that it is everyone’s duty to respect and ensure a level playing field in the right and freedom of disabled people, in order to promote their social inclusion.

In the aspect of recognizing the subject with disabilities, Dainez and Smolka (2019) using the understanding of human development from a perspective of social interaction proposed by Vygotsky, argue that the recognition of the specificity of the organic condition of each subject is essential in the formulation of education of both the subject and society as a whole.


Art, due to its character free of apriorism, is essentially configured as a propitious tool for the heuristic development of the subject. And in the field of education, it is also formulated as a means of “the development of artistic thought, which characterizes a particular way of giving meaning to people’s experiences” (BRASIL, 1997, p. 15).

Thus, about understanding in the context of the construction of meaning, Rey (2007) points out the idea of meaning, in a categorized way. Thus, the author presents a reflection of the historical-cultural perspective, proposed by Vygotsky, as being the one that is part of the interaction between thought and language; cognitive and affective, or ultimately the relational interaction between meaning, personality and psychic life.

Although, in the understanding of the author mentioned above, the reflection on meaning was an unfinished construction in Vygotsky’s work; Rey (2007) concluded that meaning to the author was beyond language, beyond speech, but was especially for consciousness, for psychological, for emotions. And this reflection is evidenced when the author states that:

Meaning takes shape in Vygotsky’s conceptual representation in the relationship with inner speech, which he presents as a true psychological production, and not only as a function, neither of language nor of thought taken in isolation. This effort to present the complex articulation between thought, language, speech, personality and consciousness as a moving system represents, in itself, a new path for mental reconstruction (REY, 2007, p. 159).

In another perspective, Mary Jane Spink proposes a perspective of constructing meaning, from the decoding of a language of action, which is expressed through everyday social relations. So that to understand this expression of language, the author categorizes the constitutive elements into three, which are them: dynamics, form and content.

In the author’s understanding, the dynamic concerns the way communication is enunciated; forms are the characteristics given in the dialogue of communication; and the contents that are expressed as a linguistic repertoire, and which essentially allows the understanding that “content is associated in a way in certain contexts, and in other forms in other contexts. The senses are fluid and contextual” (SPINK, 2010, p. 28).

The view of this, basically what Spink (2010) proposes, is that to understand the elaboration of a construction of meaning, it is necessary that the context be considered holistically. Thus, the author conceptualizes meaning as follows:

Meaning is a social construction, a collective enterprise more precisely interactive, through which people, in the dynamics of social relations, historically dated and culturally localized, construct the terms from which they understand and deal with the situations and phenomena around them (SPINK, 2010, p. 34).

That is, for the author the subject constantly constructs meaning, since it takes place in the relationship with the other, because it is through this relationship that we can conceive the idea of rules, values, conducts. Therefore, these meanings are these meanings, which enable our interaction with the world.

In the context of social interactions, as a mediator for the construction of meanings, Viera (2015) stresses that, for the intellectually deficient subject, its social construction undoubtedly goes through concepts representative of imperfection, disability, imbalance and strangeness, which in turn conditions the emergence of feelings of anguish and insecurity, including for both parties. Thus, this relationship between stigmatized and non-stigmatized is unknown.

In this sense, Spink (2010) talks about positioning, as the way in which we come into contact with the universe of the other. This way, which directly implies the way the person will establish an understanding of himself.

With equal understanding, Palma and Carneiro (2018) emphasize that when we work on the context of inclusive education, especially in cases of intellectual disability, it is necessary to understand that there are multiple intelligences, so that cognitive skills, usually characterized as deficits in people with intellectual disabilities, are not the only way to achieve communication and response. And what will outline this process, is mainly the way I perceive and position myself before the particularities of the other.

The linguistic repertoires according to Spink (2010) are the terms or figures of language usually used, and they are adhered to in our natural process of social interaction and learning. It is interesting to point out that, when dealing with people with cognitive limitations, such as the intellectually disabled, our linguistic framework of casual use may not be valid, since the social interaction and learning process of these subjects do not permeate the same casualities of neurotypical subjects, thus conditioning the particularities of their meaning-building process.

Viera (2015) draws attention to a common fact and important reflection in the understanding of the construction of meaning in people with intellectual disabilities, given the interactional relationship in the educational context. Thus, the author in her research investigated the levels of self-perception of children with intellectual disabilities, concluded that children attribute to themselves a feeling of piety, and that this construction of meaning occurs due to the difficulty in performing activities, and mainly by how with society as a whole interacts, fostering exclusionary contexts and discrimination.

Thus, as a means of enabling different constructions of meaning in intellectual disability in the context of inclusive education, Souza and Batista (2016) emphasize that art and new technologies can be used as an alternative in the objective of overcoming limitations, since these tools promote internal development from the cultural perspective.

In addition to this understanding, Souza and Batista (2016) quoting (GÓES, 2002, p.99) state that. Understanding here fate, as being the way in which people with disabilities will behave before their experiences, thus corroborating the understanding of Spink (2010) about the construction of meaning.

The gender of speech concerns the subjective expression to the context of communication. So, the way in which I will communicate with another is based on the perception of the typical particularity to whom it is intended (SPINK, 2010).

So that, in view of this conception, Gusmão et al (2019) stresses that society as a whole, and above all, educators accurately find balance in this way of expressing themselves with people with intellectual disabilities, since they are in the position of mediators of the learning process, and can then promote fundamental discussions that enable the construction of meaning in these subjects


Art before all its plural premise, undoubtedly outlines itself as a perspective of promotion of meanings, by conducting the process of human development from the subjectivity of each subject. It is, therefore, an excellent tool in the process of learning and fostering social interactions, which in turn provides for a process of social inclusion more dynamic and empathic the particularity of each person.

In the context of intellectual disability disorder, subjects are stigmatized by widespread observance, which they are unable or limited in their development. Thus, it is necessary to broaden the view before the conception of what is implicitly related, and that is relevant to the development process of these people.

In this study, it was possible to reflect on how the dynamics in social interactions directly reflects on the construction of meaning of people with intellectual disabilities, and ultimately, it was also observed that the senses, while social construction is collective, so that the relationship also impacts the senses, with regard to the mode of interaction, also in the perspective of neurotypical people , which relate to subjects with intellectual disabilities.

Once this reflection is brought, it allowed us to understand how the elements in the communication process, cited by Spink (2010), in the context of the language of action, directly influence the way people with intellectual disabilities perceive themselves and interact with the world, being salutary to be attentive to the mechanisms we use, such as: our linguistic repertoires and speech genres that intimately can generate senses of anguish and loss in people who, because of their cognitive impairment, , are not equated with the same linguistic and expressive style as ordinary people.

Therefore, we conclude that art is a remarkable tool in the process of inclusion and construction of meaning in the context of promoting healthy development, because it essentially respects the particularized mode of expression, and empirical subjectivity in the way the subject with intellectual disability relates to the world, as the other and with himself.


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[1] Graduated in Full Degree in Pedagogy. Postgraduate in Educational Psychology with emphasis in Psychopedagogy. Master’s degree in Communication, Language and Culture.

Submitted: May, 2020.

Approved: March, 2021.

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