“Every life situation has its own meaning and should be valued.”
Don’t stop at appearances. See the whole being
People with special needs are not pitied or merely tolerated as outsiders. Anthroposophical curative education and social therapy do not consider them as people apart, but as belonging to social and cultural life generally, where they help them find their place.
Curative education: supporting children and adolescents in the whole of their development.
Infant education and curative education in the kindergarten and then in school provide the settings for accompanying a child in its development. Good curative education takes its start from the individual needs of the child, because people with special needs require a support adapted to their specific situation. It begins with their overall situation and resources, as well as those of their environment. It helps them, for example, to refine their movements, to work with their sensory perceptions, to express themselves through language, to manage their day-to-day life and to integrate themselves in their social context.
The heart of all development processes is the dialogue between a child and those around him. In one way or another, every child engages actively in this dialogue. This is why the approach of anthroposophical curative education is always holistic, aiming to stimulate development in every possible way.
This is also the basis on which children with special needs can develop their relationship to the world and, just as importantly, to themselves. To learn with other children is also to learn about oneself. To integrate oneself in the community, to be encouraged and supported in one’s own initiative, to grow through resistance, to tolerate and accept one’s limitations – the aim is always to progress in one’s development.
Anthroposophical curative education, like all education, has developed a number of ‘tools’ for helping children in this way. Anthroposophical medical treatment provides the key to this approach. It involves curative eurythmy, speech formation, physiotherapy and many other therapies, with art playing a major part. Order in daily life, the rhythms of the day as well as of the year – as regards both nature and her seasons and cultural life with its festivals – such things bring form, support joyfulness and encourage creativity. Kindergarten and school then become special settings in which children and adolescents can unfold their personalities.
To help them, teachers, doctors and therapists work closely together. The anthroposophical image of the human being, based on spiritual science, offers many insights into child development that, combined with an interdisciplinary approach, form the basis of individual development programmes.
Social therapy: Let go the barriers in one’s heart and mind.
To accept people with special needs, to consider them as active fellow citizens, one needs to overcome the barriers in one’s heart and mind. For many years, anthroposophical social therapy has played an important part in this field.
The people with special needs who work or live together organise their lives in their own way. Even though they have need of help, the aim is to help them achieve the greatest possible autonomy within their community and within society.
The first thing needed is to find solutions for their living situations. Every person has his own individuality, so it is important to offer a sufficiently wide choice yet one that is matched to particular circumstances. Whether protected accommodation, communal or group living, singly or in couples, each situation has a particular social impact. It is this that largely determines the degree of integration or isolation.
People with special needs very often display impressive individual resources. Even though they need much help from many domains, they can have the most special qualities and aptitudes. For example, things produced in curative homes do not need a ‘pity bonus’. They are both very artistic and very practical. Moreover, many such homes also play an important role in protecting the environment and in awakening consumer awareness.
A suitable life situation brings other benefits: the individual can also actively participate in cultural and spiritual activities. Every human being, if he wants to avoid drying up inwardly, needs culture, religious experience and spirituality. Everyone has talents that he can express and use to some degree or another in sculpting, music or theatre.
Succeeding in life
Succeeding in life depends on numerous factors. In particular, it is necessary that the crises one meets and the great questions one faces lead over into answers and solutions and that one can be counselled when needed. It is not only that one should try to see one’s way though difficult and sad events, but also recognise the part they play in one’s biography. In anthroposophical curative work, the point of departure in terms of biography is that every life situation has its own meaning and should be valued. Every individual is considered as a spiritual individuality, as an actor in his own life and not as a victim of circumstance. Everyone brings into his life his conditions of development, and takes beyond death the faculties and experiences that have often been won through struggle against strong resistance and that will continue to bear fruit. There are many things we do not understand about one another, because every life has its own, often hidden, meaning which cannot always be understood in the here and now.
Curative teachers and social therapists are companions
Like everyone else, people with special needs need the help of individuals who counsel them, accompany them, support them, put the ‘tools’ of curative education and social therapy at their disposal, at the same time as offering advice and support for their parents and relatives.
Curative teachers and social therapists who work on an anthroposophical basis get their diplomas through courses that last several years, during which they acquire the technical, personal and social skills necessary to the profession. These trainings link practical matters with life’s deeper questions. One needs the competences necessary to master day-to-day life, to care and accompany, to find the right attitude for the person before one, and to develop an image of the human being that takes account of today’s ethical, diagnostic and social challenges.
As important as technical support is the social acceptance of people with special needs. Instead of turning away embarrassed, look the person in the eyes, look beyond the unusual aspects, and see him directly as a child or an adult, as a neighbour or fellow human being. Better yet, as a friend.