16: Art as a way of improving participatory action research: an experience with youngsters with an intellectual disability and their families

This chapter describes the use of different artistic expression strategies in a participatory action research process. The protagonists of this project are young people with intellectual disabilities and their families in the context of a socio-occupational training programme at the university. The main objective of the research is to explore themes around the overprotection–autonomy continuum from the participants’ perspectives. A set of artistic techniques from different disciplines (visual art, performing art, and music) were used as a means to discuss and define the terms and their implications. Critically, this was in a participatory manner. At the beginning, the young people and their parents worked separately and independently following the same research steps and performing similar activities. The process and the methodology created opportunities to bridge the gap and increase mutual understanding that would not be possible through the daily interactions of normal life. Concrete examples are presented that highlight the benefits and difficulties of introducing activities not commonly found in a university environment. The analysis also includes a critical reflection about the possible use of art techniques in participatory action research projects with people with intellectual disabilities.

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