The medicalisation of learning difficulties through the prism of Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological approach

the case of the remote and mountainous areas of Chania Prefecture


  • Aikaterini Venianaki Department of Psychology, University of Crete
  • Eleni Timplalexi Department of Communication & Media Studies, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.
  • Manolis Dafermos Department of Psychology, University of Crete



medicalisation, learning difficulties, socioeconomic crisis, Bronfenbrenner's bioecological approach, remote and mountainous areas


The purpose of this study is to map the medicalisation of learning difficulties in the remote and mountainous areas in Chania Prefecture, Crete, when pupils are referred to Diagnostic Institutes to be assessed and possibly receive a learning difficulty diagnosis. It provides evidence on the fact that the learning difficulties identification procedure tends to be individually oriented and to neglect contextual dimensions, as well as the interactions between them, particularly in light of the consequences of the socioeconomic crisis in Greece. The remote and mountainous areas in Chania Prefecture, Crete, serve as a case study. Educational documents, archives, newspapers, and laws are examined, and six semi-structured interviews are conducted and analysed. The analysis yields two core themes: a. Exaggerated diagnoses: a compensatory tool and b. The emergence of the environment of the contexts: the impacts of the socioeconomic crisis. As an outcome of the analysis, it occurs that the medicalisation of learning difficulties appears to impose an obstacle to the detection of the deeper systemic, social, and political causes of these difficulties. It may also fail to sufficiently address the needs of the involved parts, namely pupils, parents, and schools. Given the implications arising from the study that indicate the systemic nature and influences of learning difficulties, the necessity for a transition towards a bioecological approach is discussed.

Author Biographies

Aikaterini Venianaki, Department of Psychology, University of Crete

Aikaterini Venianaki (PhD) is a member of the laboratory teaching staff at the Department of Psychology at the University of Crete. She worked for fourteen years at a Centre of Diagnosis and Support of Children with Special Needs (KEDDY), and was its Principal for nine years. Her background studies were in Education and Psychology. Her interests include critical educational Psychology (mostly in the field of learning difficulties). d

Eleni Timplalexi, Department of Communication & Media Studies, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Eleni Timplalexi is a Laboratory Lecturing Staff, member in NTLab, in the Department of Communication & Media Studies, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens. Post doc researcher (2015-17) in Digital Media and Theatre, Theatre Studies Department, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, awarded with an I.K.Y. Siemens Fellowship of Excellence. Her interests include performativity (mostly digital), media, theatre, gaming and innovation in education.

Manolis Dafermos, Department of Psychology, University of Crete

Manolis Dafermos is an associate professor in the epistemology of psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Crete. He holds a PhD in philosophy from the Lomonosov Moscow State University. His interests include cultural historical psychology, critical psychology, the history of psychology, and methodological and epistemological issues in the social sciences.


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How to Cite

Venianaki, A., Timplalexi, E., & Dafermos, M. (2021). The medicalisation of learning difficulties through the prism of Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological approach: the case of the remote and mountainous areas of Chania Prefecture. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 22(1), 138–180.