Associação Portuguesa de Psicologia Relacional-Histórica (Portuguese Association of Relational- Historic Psychology), Coimbra, Portugal.
Guided by the principle that scientific knowledge should serve to transform reality and create suitable conditions of life for all, the Portuguese Association for Relational-Historical Psychology (APPRH) founded a school named RITA LEAL (RLS), with a therapeutic purpose based on new perspectives for treating autism — perspectives quite different from instrumental and behavioral learning programs. The Rita Leal School (Leal, 1975/2004, 1997, 2005, 2010) is rooted in the theory that mental development is based on a mutually contingent emotional relationship, while it underwrites Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and Mediation (1930/2004, 1934/2009). Learning to read is a complex process which individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) master slowly and with difficulty. We analyzed the process of learning to read of two ASD children accompanied by peers without special educational needs, aiming to pinpoint distinct aspects of their progress. We used the Observer Software Program to collect and analyze observations of their performance, which were understood as data to be classified according to previously specified codes. We believed we could demonstrate that, especially in the case of ASD children, learning is dependent on contingent responses and adequate levels of mediation. The technical team at the RLS has continuous clinical supervision. That is because we believe this supervision is what permits the team to undergo a process of de-centering, becoming more empathic and accessible to the autists. This makes the team’s intervention more efficient, because it becomes more aware of each autist’s individual characteristics, and therefore more available to respond to the autist’s needs.
Keywords: autism, contingent emotional development, mediation, zone of proximal development