Anthroposophical curative education and social therapy exists all over the world
Anthroposophically inspired curative education and social therapy has existed for over 80 years. The first activities and institutions appeared in the 1920s. Belonging to the many fruits of Rudolf Steiner’s spiritual scientific research, there are now over 650 institutions in 45 countries.
The movement had very modest beginnings: a small living community near Iena (Therigen), a special class in the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart and a group of children at Dr Ita Wegman’s clinic, which became the well-known Sonnenhof at Arlesheim, near Basel.
Anthroposophical curative education and social therapy have an international network, representatives of which from all over the world work together in many fields. Through exchanges of experience between different professional groups, through meetings and international conferences on specialised themes, and through trainings and research, they contribute to the development of practical concepts and methods. This exchange of knowledge and experience plays a very important role.
The institutions are official organisations addressing people with special needs. They are in dialogue with public professions and society at large. Integrated in the social system, they benefit from the support of public funds. They are open to all, independent of origin, worldview or religion.
Rüdiger Grimm is secretary to the Curative and Social Therapy Conference of the Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland, and curative education professor at the Alanus College for Art and Society in Alfter, near Bonn, Germany. He has published “A Compendium of Anthroposophical Curative Education”, Ernst Reinhardt Press, Munich.
The I at the Centre
The heart of anthroposophical curative education is respect for human dignity. A special place is given to the arts and to shared living for people with special needs.
As with all education, both as regards its training and practice curative education is always based on clear values and rules; but active involvement with children and adolescents with special needs a special commitment and a healing attitude.
Every human being can be educated
It belongs to this attitude to know that every human being can be educated, to respect the dignity and to uphold the rights of people with special needs. These three principles are not only accepted by all those who represent anthroposophical curative education, but also applied successfully in the day-to-day work of educational institutions and living communities. Three elements in particular show the major influence this pedagogy has had on the development of thinking and behaviour in the field of special education. At the same time, they illustrate the innovative potential of this approach.
Art is essential
Firstly, artistic experience and creation occupies a very important place in Rudolf Steiner’s approach. In anthroposophical curative education nobody doubts the place accorded to artistic activity, especially for people with special needs. The contemplation and use of art is an integral part of daily life in all anthroposophically inspired institutions. Secondly, the importance of shared living for people with special needs, which is the characteristic of Camphill and other anthroposophical village communities, where the principle – originating in Denmark – of leading as normal a life as possible has been developed and realised in very concrete ways. Lastly, the idea that a person’s handicaps do not touch his individuality or his dignity, but only his envelope, his interface with his environment.
Dialogue with non-anthroposophists
These are the values that anthroposophical curative education represents in its dialogue with non-anthroposophical practitioners in the field, and with training centres and scientists. Whether through its work in shared living communities or its emphasis on the use of art, anthroposophical curative education provides a valuable contribution and orientation.