School cooperation in Italy





A Network of Snoezelen Schools is born in Italy with the aim of spreading the culture of kindness, acceptance, loving-kindness towards oneself and others; to nurture authentic relationships and develop emotional intelligence and relational skills among the new generations. The snoezelen multisensory environments represent spaces that facilitate encounters with oneself and with the ‘other’, through controlled stimulation of the senses.


On 27 May 2021, a national network of snoezelen schools will be officially established in Italy. The headmaster of the IC “Alessio Narbone”, the network’s lead school, Prof. Francesco Pignataro, after having launched an invitation to all Italian schools interested in the thought of otherness through the press and social media, in a public assembly in web conference mode, constitutes this body destined to grow. The Network is an organisational structure that creates connections between schools whose mission is to spread the snoezelen thought and philosophy within the school fabric. It comprises 37 schools of all levels spread throughout the country, from Piedmont to Sicily, from north to south.


In fact, the idea of a network came to light in 2016, when the ‘Alessio Narbone’ extended the use of the snoezelen space to all schools of all levels in the local area. The collaboration between teachers from different institutions brought out the need to understand the processes that took place inside the room. This led to the creation of the territorial network and then the opening to the national reality, with the aim of acquiring new experiences and opening up new spaces for comparison.

The Network’s objectives are:

  1. Elaboration of shared tools to monitor processes

  2. Creation of a showcase/virtual notice board of good practices

  3. Organisation of training courses with experts in the field

  4. Realisation of emotional paths

  5. Implementation of cultural exchanges for the sharing of good practices

  6. Creation of working groups


The snoezelen room within an educational institution represents a new learning environment.  It acquires a multifactorial dimension as a catalyst capable of pruning and budding emotions, processes, new sensory dimensions, inclusive relationships.

The snoezelen environment has the capacity to foster the development of the cognitive dimension because it assumes the function of an anticipatory organiser that facilitates and amplifies interest in new learning.

Snoezelen at school is that ‘place’ where to educate the new generation to welcome and let negative thoughts flow. It is the space where to understand that thoughts, especially sabotaging or unpleasant ones, are impermanent and meaningless and must therefore be removed in order to gently bring attention back to the present moment, thereby improving attentional skills and concentration.  

The Italian school is the only one in the world to have an organisation based on the principle of inclusion. The classes are heterogeneous and the pupils with special educational needs share the school curriculum with their normally-typical classmates: side by side for the entire school cycle, participating in didactic, educational and recreational moments, and learning the same contents but with methodological itineraries that are calibrated and ‘accommodated’ reasonably to the needs of each one.  The snoezelen room, within a school institution, can represent a space of freedom, non-judgmental, which encourages the meeting of different worlds that welcome each other and dialogue through unconventional languages.

The greatest difficulty encountered was finding a way for the pupil with a disability to have a fulfilling experience in the room together with his or her normotypical classmates. The result of careful observation, and the structuring of calibrated sensory pathways, allowed the pupils to recognise their disabled companion as a resource for the class, and to associate the presence of their disabled companion with the experience of well-being they had inside the room.

The room, moreover, is that place within the school where the pupil does not experience the anxiety of social judgement or performance evaluation.

Finally, it is a privileged space in which to engage in an authentic dialogue with oneself, in the here and now. Training modules for teachers on self-awareness-mindfulness practices have been launched, which, on an experimental basis, have been applied to some classes with exciting results: the pupils have welcomed with great interest and lively participation the moments of inner silence, of listening to their own bodies, of welcoming the incoming stimuli proposed by the teachers. Experiences of ‘encounters’ between non-verbal languages were carried out: snoezelen-music therapy; snoezelen-basal stimulation.

The comparison between an applied science such as ABA and the holistic environment of Snoezelen was made possible by leveraging the intrinsic motivation of the pupil.

The National Snoezelen Network, with the valuable participation of ISNA’s leading representatives, Ad Verheul and Maurits Eijgendaal, and the presence of international speakers such as Ana Lucia Frutuoso (Zensenses), Mansour Al-Shanifi and Joyce Abi Frem at the 1st National Conference held on 12 May, wants to welcome new challenges and open unexplored research horizons to be undertaken through comparison with other countries for an increasingly inclusive approach.


 “The Narbone Institute is working on the paradigm of encounter, a work of experimentation in an inclusive key as the room is not a recreational place.

Encounter is always a word that creates suggestion and evocation.  The encounter of which we speak concerns disciplines, knowledge, which generate new knowledge and new relationships in the interstices of their dialogue. Snoezelen becomes a space of freedom in which knowledge grows because it meets.

In the Snoezelen space, non-verbal languages, voice and body, music and colours meet; many varieties of experience intersect, creativity is generated.

But the room is above all the meeting of souls with bodies, of the past with the present and the cancellation of this itself.

The children in the room do not experience that moment as a succession of instants, but as an event that allows them to meet the adult, who is sometimes the teacher, sometimes the parent.

In this space freedom and necessity meet, freedom of the students to choose the objects they want to measure themselves against, but also necessity linked to their disability. A living space through which people decontextualise themselves from stereotypes, from everyday conditioning.  This is a transversal learning environment that creates a condition of well-being, of inclusion, because it makes people meet themselves, which is the greatest form of inclusion: discovering the otherness within us makes us grasp the otherness outside us.

Snoezelen is a beautiful “container”, a place of contamination but which needs the discreet, empathetic, contingent presence of the teacher, guarantor of the authentic relationship that takes place in the “here and now”. Cit. Speech by Prof. Francesco Pignataro, Headmaster I.C.S. Alessio Narbone – EmpatiaInclusa Conference. Catania, 29/11/2021