The concept of resilience originates in the physical sciences. In the psychological sphere, it indicates the individual’s ability to protect him/herself and reconstruct his/her life when s/he undergoes changes or conditions of suffering. This does not just mean knowing how to resist the knocks of life, adversities and traumas but find the ability to give a meaning once more to one’s life project, redefine it starting from the difficulties, turning them into an opportunity for adaptation and change. The purpose is not to forget what has happened but to give it meaning to overcome it. It’s a process able to transform hostilities into occasions for renewal, creatively activating alternative choices and abandoning those that had become impracticable and adverse.
The Resilience Centre of the University of Stockholm has listed seven principles that make social-ecological systems more resilient and can be applied to any social system. One of these underlines that, since social systems develop continuously and they must continuously deal with and manage changes creating new balances, it is important that learning is encouraged within them.
The opportunity to develop resilience not only depends on personal resources and qualities but also on the circumstances, social-cultural and scholastic environment and, in particular, the reference people able to create relations of trust. Resilience is the result of a growth path, it is the effect of interaction between the individual and his/her environment, whether social, family, etc. This means that each individual can develop resilience, i.e. people can be educated for resilience through the strengthening of its features – ability to interact, creativity and autonomy. Educating for resilience means strengthening the ability to face the difficulties, changes and challenges of life, to relate to others effectively and react creatively to traumatic events. The opportunity to strengthen the abilities to become resilient are not only part of people who have suffered a trauma but everyone. Educating for resilience is therefore desirable in childhood but also in the different stages of development, stimulating the affective, cognitive and behaviour areas so the child learns from its errors and learns to turn them into positive action.
An educational proposal based on discussion, respect for others, promotion of free expression and co-operative action is undoubtedly a very useful form of education for resilience, especially when there are disabled children or, generally, more fragile and vulnerable children. Like the other abilities, resilience can be acquired through learning processes which must also be supported and encouraged by schools. Education for resilience leads to the strengthening of ability and is, therefore, a tool of primary prevention of psychopathological and social distress.
In the scholastic sphere, this means the promotion of activities based on co-operation, assistance and reciprocal respect, and the promotion of projects aimed at favouring socialisation, learning, personal initiative, autonomy and creativity.
According to this interpretation, the development of resilience goes hand in hand with the inclusion process which every school community should offer to guarantee full participation and the greatest possible development of all its members. The possibility of feeling that they belong to the group and reaching the highest possible level of learning should be guaranteed to all students, taking into account their different social, biological or cultural features.
Working for inclusion means assuming a wide, systemic perspective that promotes dynamic interaction between individuals and the contexts of belonging. It’s not just adapting the disabled (vulnerable) child to the context but also transforming the contexts to enable everyone to take part and improve their learning.
A school of this type reaches out towards the development of resilience and is an educating community.
Supporting the choice to include disabled people in the community, starting from the earliest years of schooling and culminating in education for resilience, helps to change their lives and those of their families and prevents the manifestation of the risk of alienation/exclusion.
These are situations marked by a life of struggles aimed at the transformation for the better of oneself and the present, led by the hope of coming out of the struggle stronger and with a better future, learning to deal with critical situations and overcome them, turning painful experiences into opportunities for growth and learning.
Education for resilience is thus at the same time education for hope that, as a projection into the future and a drive towards overcoming vulnerabilities, is closely connected with both resilience and education, anchorage to the present and extension towards the future.