A Steiner Curative School – Nurturing Forces of Healing

I was pondering over a few matters, a few questions about the current state of affairs in the world, about education and its future manifestations if the current situation continues. Some of these thoughts were about our Special children, their challenges, their individual development and the challenges faced by their families. I would like to share these thoughts in this article.

We all know that children with special needs have difficulties in overcoming the 3 basic spiritual milestones of WALKING, TALKING and THINKING. Based on the specific nature of the difficulty, children are classified as physically or mentally impaired with specific labels of Cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, Autism, Dyslexia or Global Developmental Disorder. And the whole effort of helping such children is based on the principle of ‘normalization’ or ‘mainstreaming’ or ‘fitting into’.

I would like to bring to our consciousness, our Spiritual Principle here - Every Human Being is an individual ego, a spirit soul on Earth. As some great master said, “We are not Human Beings on a spiritual path but Spiritual Beings on a human path.” The idea of normalization or mainstreaming is not based on the principle of natural and organic development of human beings but on a developmental model from the Industrial Revolution of ‘usefulness to the society’. It does not look at Inclusion as a social reality to be lived but rather as a problem or burden to be dealt with. INCLUSION is a matter of fact, just as disability is too. It is not a government policy or an educational strategy; it is human nature; it is child nature.

Are all men equal? No, we are all different. But then, what is equality? Take a family and the role of the mother. She provides care and support and time to all her children based on their specific, individual needs. Their individual needs could be age, behavior, food, sleep etc. What is important here is to realize that the equality lies in the heart of the mother - in her attitude, in her spiritual nature - and not in the physical effort, time or space.

I remember that in my early childhood, I went every year to my village in the Salem district of Tamilnadu. I might have been about 9-10 years of age then. There were 2 streets that were completely occupied by my family members and by the larger circle of the community. There was a hearing-impaired (and thus, unable to speak) adult, about 25-30 years of age, who lived close to our home. He was called ‘Oomaiyya’ in Tamil, which literally meant ‘Mute’. He was skilled in fixing electricals and would help when people had issues in their homes with their wiring, appliances etc. He would communicate with people through his bodily gestures, hand movements and a rattling of babbling sounds. To me, it looked as if the community understood everything of what he was saying, and he understood everything of what they were saying. I remember the social harmony, the beautiful relationship between the community and this man. He was probably the only man who could freely walk into any house, speak with the women of the family and even eat with them. This image remains vivid in my memory even to this day - of an act of SOCIAL INCLUSION.

Thinking in a dry intellectual manner with too much statistical data has caused more harm to the already materialistic world. It is the Anthroposophical idea of thinking imbued with feeling- ‘a FEELING BASED THINKING’ or rather ‘a heartfelt thinking’ that can take the world forward and help individual Human Beings in their journey towards evolution of Humankind. In fact, all educational strategies with their homogenous curriculums and standard testing & assessment techniques leave little room for Inclusion of a natural order. The questions often

asked here are “Would the class teacher need more time and effort for this specific child? Would the whole classroom or the rest of the children suffer because of the slow pace of this child? This is on the one hand. On the other, I find it quite intriguing when some parents of special children refuse our programs to meet the real needs of the child - be it in an inclusive setting or a more specialized setting or even individual programs. They simply want their children to be included with the so-called ‘normal or mainstream’ children. This

is, of course, with a noble aim of maximum exposure or deriving opportunities and benefits, making up for the loss of the 3 spiritual milestones of Walking, Talking and Thinking.

While I would credit this idea with 50% of my acknowledgement, I have quite a different view on this. Any HUMAN ENCOUNTER is a 2-way stream, always. There is much to give and much to receive. The idea that Help flows from the rich to the poor, from the abled to the disabled, is a very materialistic perspective. A true meeting between 2 Human Beings or Ego Beings can only happen in the plane of equality - love, warmth and trust, if this meeting has to become an offering to the world. Such a meeting manifests as a celebration, joy and creates a reverential calm in all the people involved. 

So now, what then flows back from our special children to the ‘world of normals’? This is an interesting question to ponder. I have meditated upon such questions myself for over 30 years now. The first 15 years were spent as a conventional special educator working on a materialistic diagnosis of the human being and ticking boxes all the time to prove to my parents and strictly going by the outer security of the book. Then, I came across the works of Dr.Rudolf Steiner and the next 15 years were spent as an adventurous curative educator working on the spiritual understanding of human nature, strictly going by a life of inner reflection, hours and hours of observation and child study, and finding creative solutions, sometimes revolutionary solutions, to the challenges of daily life.

The answer cannot be a black and white, intellectual one. The Law of Spiritual Equality states that “ The more we offer physical or cognitive or even financial support to those who need them the most, the most we grow in our spiritual bank balance”. It is this spiritual bank balance that manifests as health, joy and peace in Human beings.

And this brings us to yet another question. What then, is the life mission for children with special needs? What is the purpose of their birth? Of their journey on Earth? Today, after 30 years of working with special children, I can confidently say that children with special needs are NOT at all a burden to the world. On the contrary, they have come to HEAL the world of its materialistic illness. A world that has built boundaries and tall walls of artificial and temporary safety, a false sense of security and of a luxury that kills the human will; all of which will come crumbling down in moments of human crisis.

In such moments of crisis, it is our children with special needs and their parents and their teachers and all those who come in touch with them, who will be the blessed ones; who will be well-prepared, not only to take on their individual challenges but to take on the challenges of the world. And, will be able to create HEALING FORCES for the world. They will help break the barriers of the lower ego, the walls of Independence from all social obligation and bring in the qualities of trust, interdependence and tolerance. And this they shall teach us not through instruction or discourse, but by their very being, by their inherent nature. And, herein lies the greatest task and mission of our special children.

Dear parents, let us celebrate our children with special needs with a new thinking, with a new feeling, as the greatest healers of the world. I would like to end by quoting Dr. Rudolf Steiner:

“Receive the child with reverence Educate him with love Send him forth into the world with freedom.”

And this quote is for all children, including children with special needs. I also remember another verse.

“Imbue thyself with the power of imagination. Have courage for the truth. Sharpen thy feeling of responsibility for the soul. These children come to us from the spiritual world We must learn to solve their mysteries from day to day, hour to hour.”

And these mysteries are not only for children with special needs but for all children.

Thank you.

Manivannan Ganapathy

May 10, 2020