The Otto Specht Program: A Blend of Anthroposophic Medicine, Therapies and Waldorf Methods of Teaching

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By: Jeanette Rodriguez
Just next door to the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, New York, is the Otto Specht program at the Fellowship Community, which operates as a home-schooling support program within a service community setting. Here the use of anthroposophic remedies and therapies are utilized directly with the Waldorf curriculum to serve special needs children.

There are nine students representing grades 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. All of the children receive their age-appropriate Waldorf main lesson and curriculum specialty classes such as handwork, music, painting, art, gym, eurythmy, woodwork and clay. The curriculum for each grade is expanded to encompass the wide variety of work-based activities designed to meet the students individual needs. The children participate in activities such as cooking, farming, maintenance, animal care, chicken care, garden work, and other seasonal tasks. Participating in these activities in a working care community is all part of the learning. At the heart of these endeavors is the knowledge that the care for the elderly members lies at the center of the community.

What does a day look like for a child in the Otto Specht Program?

Fourth-grade teacher Karina Haedo begins each day with the morning verse, songs, and poems related to the main lesson studies in local history. Incorporated in this opening time are movement exercises which challenge and support the needs of the students. Afterwards an hour is dedicated to community tasks. With the autumn harvest over, wintertime brings maintenance, cleaning, cooking pancakes for the kindergarteners, moving wood and combating snow to the forefront! A time dedicated to math and language art skills follows the physical work, and then snack and recess. At 11 am, the main lesson is taught. Before lunch the students feed the chickens and gather the eggs. The afternoon concludes with both an artistic activity such as handwork, painting, music or drama, and eurythmy or gym.

One important aspect of the Otto Specht program is the opportunity for each child to receive one-on-one attention throughout the day to address their individual styles of learning and interacting. There must be limb skill, social and communicative learning as well as academic learning for the child to experience success. The use of anthroposophic therapies such as therapeutic eurythmy, massage, therapeutic movement and extra lesson work, along with remedies, are woven into each child’s day with the indications coming from the doctor and therapists.

Crucial to the foundation of the overall work is the recognition and understanding that the child’s lower senses must be attended to very carefully and very deeply. A child cannot be expected to move on to abstract accomplishments if there is a lack of a healthy development of the lower senses. Often, a different kind of daily rhythm is needed to awaken limb activity in such children so they can penetrate their body more completely in order to free the cognitive forces needed for learning. The children in the Otto Specht program are active much of the day in tasks that involve a great deal of limb activity. The teachers are ever mobile in their lesson structure, knowing that balanced, healthy breathing is essential to a healing education.

Those of us blessed to experience anthroposophy and Waldorf education as doctors, therapists, educators and parents know this education is meant for all children. The question lies in how to bring this essential, healing education to all children, especially for those whose gifts make being home in their body more challenging. The challenges force us to work together. The challenges also force us to wake up and be inwardly active in the present. Therein lies the gift of the challenges—the potential of the present. The Otto Specht program is committed to forging a path so all children can find their way to their humanity, and greatest potential, through the wisdom of a Waldorf education.

In July 2008, the Otto Specht program sponsored “Forging a Path,” a conference for doctors, therapists and educators on exploring ways of working with today’s children and the challenges we face in providing what is needed for them. The keynote speakers were Gerald Karnow, MD and Bruno Callegaro, MD. With over 100 attendees, the conference was well-received and supported. Mark your calendar—July of 2010—for the next “Forging a Path” conference in Chestnut Ridge, New York.

Jeanette Rodriguez is the Director of the Otto Specht program, email

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