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Cognitive Fragility: after Turin, another 4 HPL Centers are opening in Piedmont to support families, schools, boys and girls


Its name is HPL CENTER - High Performance Learning, the new initiative promoted by Consult for People in Difficulty and by the Denied Rights Association, thanks to the support of Piedmont Region, aimed at families who have boys and girls with cognitive fragility.

After an experimental school year in 2021, the HPL Center in Turin is operational from September 2022 to June 2023 thanks to the contribution of Enel Cuore Onlus. Once this experience has been consolidated, thanks to a specific funding from the Piedmont Region, for the next school year the project will be multiplied in 4 other Piedmontese provinces, in collaboration with the Child Neuropsychiatry Departments of the local ASLs.

The project was presented in Turin, in the Transparency Room of the regional building in Piazza Castello 165, on Thursday, January the 26th 2023 at 11 a.m., in collaboration with the Department of Childhood of the Piedmont Region.

“It is an innovative project on which we have worked for years and which makes Piedmont a truly avant-garde region in supporting the most fragile minors - explains the Regional Councilor for the Family, with responsibility for Children, Chiara Caucino - In fact, we are facing a turning point that I would define as epochal, because we are going to deal with an important slice of students who, before, were totally ignored, creating a sort of "grey area" where the protagonist was discomfort. With this project, which will see the light in 5 Piedmontese provinces, we are giving birth to an important form of accompaniment, different from that which characterizes children diagnosed with "SLD - Specific Learning Disorder", but no less important as it will help prevent school dropout, behavioral deviations and episodes of self-harm, as well as really helping these children and their families. The presence of personalized educational projects and support teachers for subjects with undiagnosed cognitive problems such as "SLD" is also fundamental.”

The project, in fact, starts from a concrete consideration about the scientific evidence that, although the literature on the subject is not quite rich, highlight how boys and girls with Limit Intellectual Functioning are present in percentages between 2.5% and 7% of the population (Emerson, Einfeld and Stancliffe, 2010; Vianello, Di Nuovo and Lanfranchi, 2014), with a percentage that varies according to age (higher in the period of secondary school attendance) and social conditions (higher in case of unfavorable environmental conditions).

Only in the primary school age group, in the province of Turin, the clinical practice conducted by the Neuropsychiatry departments estimates that there are over 2,200 pupils with Limit Intellectual Functioning. According to a 2012 Ministry of Education directive, the incidence of the phenomenon on the school population is around 2.5%, that is about 200,000 pupils aged between 6 and 10 years who, unfortunately, are not entitled to support teacher.

In addition, clinical studies show that subjects with cognitive fragility present in adulthood a high comorbidity (including) with psychiatric disorders (Dekkert Koot, 2003; Cooper Smiley Morrison, 2007) and a correlation with social deviance phenomena that can lead to problems with justice (Mason Murphy 2002), representing a large share of the prison population.

“The project’s goal - explains Francesca Bisacco, President of the Council for People in Difficulty, a historic third sector reality in Turin, which has always been on the side of fragile and disabled people - is to help families with children who have learning difficulties. Unfortunately, these pupils aren’t entitled to scholastic support because they don’t fall within the cases certified as disabled and there is no reference legislation that regulates their situation. The “HPL Center - High Performance Learning” project aims to offer specialized support to improve their chances of inclusion and school success, preventing future abandonment, through innovative tools and methodologies, also useful for the family and the educational community that revolves around them".

In Turin the HPL Centre is hosted by the Educatorio della Provvidenza in corso Trento 13 where boys and girls taken in charge are followed twice a week. This year there are 24 places available, which is why the Council for People in Need invites families to get in touch with the HPL Center.

“The HPL project represents an excellence for the Country because through innovative methods it allows children with cognitive fragility to be supported and included in the educational fabric thus avoiding phenomena of early school leaving which, unfortunately, in recent years have recorded too high numbers"  said Nicola Lanzetta, Director of Enel Italia and Director of Enel Cuore who supported the HPL Centre in Turin for the school year 2022-2023. “This is why Enel Cuore has decided to support this virtuous initiative with enthusiasm and dedication, aware of how important it’s to create solid synergies with the best companies in the sector that support every day and passionately families and their children in the long, and often tortuous, educational path necessary for the personal growth of each individual”.


Starting from the school year 2023-2024, thanks to the support of the Piedmont Region, this experience will multiply and open 4 new HPL Centers in Alessandria, Biella, Savigliano (for the province of Cuneo) and Novara.


"There are precise parameters to access. - elaborates Dr. Barbara Urdanch, pedagogist who supervises the project - The HPL Center is aimed at primary school boys and girls, from 6 to 10 years old, who have a cognitive fragility related to what we call the "Limit Intellectual Functions". The boys and girls who come to the HPL Center find a psycho-pedagogical team of 4 people who analyze their situation, discuss it and involve the family and the school, prepare a specific Enhancement Plan for each of them and work on the areas of greater fragility, such as working memory, attention, organization... through courses that employ digital software and play-educational activities to build or strengthen the basic skills for explicit learning".

Thanks to the contribution of the Piedmont Region, the project makes all of this free available to families who have children with a neuropsychiatric diagnosis of Limit Intellectual Functioning. Once the reference HPL Centers have been contacted, the specialized teams of the HPL Centers will assess the situation of the children, interview the families and start taking charge of the pupils.

In addition to direct management, the project also aims to create greater awareness in the educational community on the theme of neurodiversity. This is why the web portal was created, which will offer in-depth materials for teachers, families and child-care specialists. In fact, atypical neurological development isn’t a disease, but a condition that simply moves away from the more common and frequent, called “neurotypical”.

“The Limit Intellectual Functions (LIF) - explains Dr. Urdanch again - is a condition that lies between the norm and intellectual disability, so we need a diagnosis by the Service of Child Neuropsychiatry. Unfortunately, we find that often family and school don’t have the tools to recognize the signals of the LIF and these boys and girls aren’t diagnosed, effectively preventing specific interventions. It’s a condition that sees the presence of an IQ between 71 and 85 (below the norm) to which is often added the presence of other disorders (comorbidities) such as Learning Specific Disorders (DSA), Attention Disorder and Hyperactivity (ADHD), speech disorders".

In its goal of networking with the educational community, The HPL Centre project also offers families the support of a legal assistance desk to make their rights enforceable and schools a specific educational path on inclusive teaching for these students.

Finally, all the boys and girls who attend the HPL Center - where they "learn to learn" - can replicate at home and school the activities learned, thanks to the support of specific and open source software.

The Turin HPL Center is open in corso Trento 13, at the Educatorio della Provvidenza, every afternoon from Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Teachers and families can contact the secretariat at segreteria.torino@centrohpl.it or at +39 351 7262356.

The territorial press conferences for the presentation of the new HPL Centres, with the inauguration of the premises in the presence of the Regional Councillor Chiara Caucino, will be held at:

  • BIELLA - Wednesday, February the 8th at 11 a.m. at the Edo and Elvo Tempia Foundation Hall in via Malta 3
  • SAVIGLIANO - Wednesday, February the 15th at 11 a.m. presso il Pantheon dei Benefattori in Vicolo Orfane 6
  • ALESSANDRIA - Wednesday, February the 22th at 11 a.m. at the headquarters of Associazione Abilitando in via Alfieri 2
  • NOVARA - Wednesday, March the 1st at 11 a.m. at the Aula Magna of the G. Castelli Institute in via Frasconi 6/A