Home » Tortellante: the workshop that teaches the art of making tortellini to children with autism

Tortellante: the workshop that teaches the art of making tortellini to children with autism

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Tortellante: the workshop that teaches the art of making tortellini to children with autism

Select the ingredients, roll out the dough, prepare the filling, carefully cut, fold and close each individual piece: make tortellini it is a skill passed down from generation to generation and a ritual in which each gesture requires patience and precision. In Modena, thanks to this ancient gastronomic art and the union of cuisine, tradition and inclusion, the Tortellantwhich is changing the lives of many boys and girls with autism spectrum disorders. He tells us about this initiative Erika Coppellipresident of the Tortellante association.

How was Tortellante born?

«The project was born in 2016. I was president of another family association and at the time my son Filippo, a boy with autism who is now 24 years old, was a student who was finishing his school career. Following the technical tables of my region for a while, I realized that in this city there was a desolate and sad void for these kids. And that, above all, with the mere welfare all the previous steps were a bit undermined».


«It was the Christmas period and here in Modena there has always been the tradition of making tortellini by hand. Precisely for December 25th, another mother, also from the board of directors, told me that her teenage son Paolo had made tortellini together with his grandmother Emilia. The light bulb went on for me there. And here’s the idea of unite the two fragilities: the grandmother who belongs to the elderly and the boy with autism, which are two worlds that in a certain sense experience the same problem. Some due to objective limits, some due to age limits, at a certain point they are a little excluded from society. Instead, their union was successful».

«To make tortellini, which best identifies our territory, we used a small room from another association. We saw that it worked and from there we started to structure it in a clearer way. This is how Tortellante was born, fromneed of us mothers to give a concrete future to our children», says Erika Coppelli.

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Tortellante is cuisine and tradition, but also a training ground for autonomy

«Making tortellini is a routine thing, which for the autistic boy becomes an almost relaxing moment. The boys they know perfectly well what the steps are obliged. From breaking the eggs to making the tortellino, there are many steps that follow and this gives them peace of mind. They don’t have performance anxiety or anxiety about understanding the context that can create confusion for them.”

«They thus become one company resource, because they do something that was disappearing a bit. Then a very peaceful family environment is created, where we chat a lot and the grandmothers talk. We started with the boys’ grandmothers and then, little by little, we expanded to include friends and grandmothers in the neighborhood. It has become a healthy thing for them too. They leave the house, they know they have a commitment and they do it willingly. And this helps them feel better.”

«Today, Tortellante is a working laboratory per forty boys. Together with them there are about forty grandmothers and grandfathers who take turns producing tortellino. It’s not just a job but it’s also a autonomy gym. This environment was conceived as the home and workshop of the craftsman, who worked downstairs and lived upstairs. Above the laboratory there is, in fact, an apartment which is used by the children to improve their individual and homemaking skills, personal hygiene and so on. They have to have the opportunity to be as autonomous as possible tomorrow».

Erika Coppelli

The project is supported by a scientific team

«In our team there is ascientific team made up of psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatric rehabilitation technicians, occupational therapists and a neuropsychiatrist. All of them work with the kids every day, support them and make sure they have a personalized life plan. Our kids are 18 to 32 years old and our therapists are 25 to 32 years old. We wanted very young professionals because they can grow together with the kids. A young team seemed like an excellent choice to us.”

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«Furthermore, the scientific team carried out a research with the University of Modena and Reggio Emiliafrom which it emerged a clear improvement, over the three years, of all twenty boys who left in 2016. So much so that we obtained, through the evaluation of two international commissions, a publication in an international journal which certifies that our project is supported by important scientific validity”.

Tortellante: the creation of a community and concrete help for families

«When you have an autistic child, more often than not the family risks becoming isolated. In this way, however, a real community has been created. Our kids hang out together, they do projects of socialising, they go to the seaside, they spend their holidays and weekends independently. This way the family feels less alone and sees the progress of their child.”

«Speaking of family, we should never limit ourselves to talking only about parents. There are also the brothers who sometimes hold this responsibility that they will have in the future, when the parents are no longer there or are elderly. And it can become a lot difficult to think of a future with free choices. I have two twins, one autistic and the other not, and I really wanted this project to help my other son too, so that one day he will only carry out a control action.”

The shop, the raw materials and the quality products

“The Bottega that we have opened is a bit like the Tortellante showcase, inside which there are the raw materials found inside our tortellini. In the shop there is also some “verbal” boy, who has the opportunity to work in contact with the public. There too, we have created a very familiar and welcoming environment. We are present in all four of Massimo Bottura’s restaurants. This means that the product is really good and it is a great satisfaction that flatters us a lot.”

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