The Inclusion of Students With Disabilities: Challenges for Italian Teachers During the Covid‐19 Pandemic

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

The Inclusion of Students With Disabilities: Challenges for Italian Teachers During the Covid‐19 Pandemic


  • Maddalena Colombo Department of Sociology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • Mariagrazia Santagati Department of Sociology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy


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Abstract:  In March 2020 all schools in Italy were closed due to the Covid‐19 pandemic, and the novelty of distance learning was introduced. During the 2020–2021 school year, pre‐primary and primary schooling was carried out in situ, while secondary education was re‐organized into a mixed system, with students spending 50% of their time attending classes from home, in distance learning. This reconfiguration was a challenge to students, teachers, and parents, affecting the learning experience of the most vulnerable students and students with disabilities, particularly. It necessarily brought into question Italy’s “progressive” legal framework for “school inclusion.” The scope of the present article is to analyze the teaching activities carried out with students with disabilities in Italy during the first wave of the emergency lockdown and their consequent challenges for school inclusiveness. An overview of the Italian inclusive model in education and the national measures adopted to guarantee the right to education during times of school closure/restriction is outlined. We have sought to test the hypothesis that distance learning may introduce many risks for inclusion (resulting in a “downgrading inclusion,” that is, a decline of the level of inclusion already reached for students with disabilities), but it may also present an improvement in how teachers address these students and their needs. To this end, after reporting data from the available studies on this target, we provide insights from a web questionnaire submitted to a non‐probabilistic sample of nearly 150 primary and (lower and upper) secondary school teachers. Results showcase that, though with a general worsening of school inclusion, in some cases, teachers were actually able to support students with disabilities and their families in a new, customized, empathetic, and more attentive manner.

Keywords:  Covid‐19; distance learning; Italy; school inclusion; school lockdown; school–family relationship; students with disabilities; support teachers; vulnerable students

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v10i2.5035


© Maddalena Colombo, Mariagrazia Santagati. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.