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Kindergarten Teacher with Down's Syndrome?

Background and aims

In a video entitled "Alessandra", the Zurich specialist in special education Concita Filippini Steinemann traces the history of an Italian kindergarten teacher with Down's syndrome. The young woman is seen carefully buttoning up a boy's painting apron, smoothing out the drawing paper and turning towards the painting child. It is clear at first glance: Alessandra, the young woman with the big spectacles, is different. She seems to be closer to the child than her colleagues are. Later on, we encounter her in the Bolognese kindergarten seminar where she, accompanied by her support assistant, describes her work in simple words. A few years later, Alessandra is seen working on a daily basis in a crèche. Changing nappies, serving at table, comforting the children. She is accepted by the parents and seems to be perfectly happy.


Film author Concita Filippini Steinemann met Alessandra Fantuzzi in connection with her doctorate on the theme of the integration of disabled children in public schools in Italy. The specialist in special education with Ticinese roots wanted to see for herself how a country without special schools manages. Italy abolished psychiatric clinics and special schools in the 1970s. Since 1977l, integration in elementary schools has been stipulated by law. At first the teachers were anything but enthusiastic about the compulsory parity of treatment. In the meantime, however, it has become "normal to be different", as one of Alessandra's seminar colleagues put it.


Filippini Steinemann and the filmmaker Lukas Meyer accompanied Alessandra during her training, but they also wanted to know if the young woman would succeed in practising her vocation. By "vocation", we do not mean the work of a "normal" kindergarten teacher: for Alessandra, a new vocation was created with typical Italian creativity: play assistant. Of course, Alessandra is an exception even in Italy. How did she manage it? "Alessandra", says Filippini Steinemann, "has benefited from a 30-year-old culture of integration: regular kindergartens, regular schools, kindergarten seminars." But without a good, state-paid support assistant, even she would not have succeeded."


Video "Alessandra"; 30 minutes; for borrowing facilities see below



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