New to Waldorf with high-functioning Aspergers child - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 03-26-2012, 01:45 PM - Thread Starter
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First off, thanks to all for allowing me to create a new post here! I tried searching in all the old posts about anything relating to Waldorf and special needs or very high-functioning Aspergers, specifically.  Little came up in the search.


We are *thisclose* to applying for our two children to go to a Waldorf "inspired" school in the fall.  Our youngest will be a perfect Waldorf student as he's bursting with creativity.  Our oldest is currently in a traditional public school in 1st grade and has high-functioning Aspergers (or Autism).  He is doing fine in the public school setting and has an IEP, but they're not really doing anything at all to assist him.  He's not really learning anything new or challenging himself at all, and to be honest, I'm not thrilled about his exposure to mainstream media.  He loves being social, so that part isn't a challenge for him.  What is a challenge is being impulsive and not getting things his way.  We've done two years of ABA therapy (& now meds, which have been something that was a last resort, but SO worth it) and he now integrates pretty well in a traditional typical classroom.


Which is why we were considering the Waldorf school.  It's technically a public charter school, so they by law can't turn down a child with an IEP.  We recently met with them and they were warm and open to us and we already know we got a spot in the lottery to get into the school.  That being said, they wanted to make sure we knew that this may not (or may) be the right fit for our son.  They say, because the day isn't detailed in how it's laid out, and that everything isn't explained or rationalized specifically, some kids who are on the spectrum have a difficult time adjusting in that setting.  I have a feeling they approach most or all kids coming in with an IEP this way, because it takes more time/money to assist these kids.


My husband and I come from the stance that our child is already academically ahead.  It's not something we encourage or even push at ALL, he just is that way.  Where he needs to grow is his creativity and ability to relate to others.  He sees things very black and white (his way or no way) and that's one reason we want to encourage him to grow in those areas.  We also love the idea of respecting others...he tends to emulate behavior and being around kids who aren't exposed to media and have a high respect for each other we think will be a GOOD thing for him.  Also, no media.  It's a proven fact that it calms children who have ADHD/ADD/HFAutism/etc so taking this new venture with our entire family might be soothing to him and all of us.  And finally, as a family, we try and live a healthy lifestyle.  This is a huge reason for us choosing aligns well with our values and to be honest, the other parents are much more like us compared to what we've witnessed in our local public traditional school.  


I guess what I'm asking is, even though I know it varies school to school, has anyone had any direct experience or know someone with a child with Aspergers who used Waldorf methods to teach IN the classroom, not at home?  How have they done?  Should I be worried that I'm not necessarily embracing his style of learning (systematic, structured, memorized) and rather trying to encourage his area he needs help?  


I'd love any thoughts.  And on a side note, all those camps that I found in the other threads wouldn't really apply to our son.  As I said, he's very high-functioning, and most people would never even guess he's slightly Autistic at all.  This is why it's so hard for us!


Thanks in advance...

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#2 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 08:16 AM
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I have been wondering whether to reply to you but did not mean to forum-crash, as I am not a Waldorf mom - but I feel bad that you haven't gotten any responses at all!

I do not know how far you have gone in applying to this Waldorf school by now or in making up your mind to do so, but if you are still looking for input, I suggest you crosspost in both the Special Needs and the Gifted Child forum, there are lots of parents with 2e (twice exceptional, ie children who have both special needs and are academically advanced ) who may have an informed opinion and maybe direct experiences with Waldorf for their children.


As the mother of a somewhat 2e child (most likely gifted, most likely not Asperger's though close enough to have it suspected) who is trying to live a TV-free, healthy lifestyle and encourage creativity in her somewhat rigid, science-and- technology-obsessed child I suggest you listen very closely to this school telling you that Waldorf may not be  a good fit for your son - I do not think they are counseling you out but stating an honest opinion on how the philosophy works or does not work for an ASD child. I think this is a very valid concern:


 They say, because the day isn't detailed in how it's laid out, and that everything isn't explained or rationalized specifically, some kids who are on the spectrum have a difficult time adjusting in that setting.


Not only does Waldorf not "explain or rationalize specifically", the traditional method actively steers away from rational explanations, preferring to let children wonder or make up their own mind about how the world works. And they actively steer away children from academics in the early years, and an interest in trains or technology (just as an example) may be actively discouraged. And there are rules (grounded in anthroposophy) to the way creativity is explored and encouraged in Waldorf schools, but again they will not be explained.

I hope there will be more input on this from people with direct Waldorf experience because we do not have any - as I feel that Waldorf does not fit my child's learning style (which sounds a lot like your child's). It does not sound like a good fit for a confirmed Aspie at all.


I realize that you are trying to create balance in your child's life but a school whose philosophy is as far removed from his learning style as you describe it  (systematic, structured, memorized) may not feel balanced for him, just like a very uncongenial environment. Would you choose a highly structured STEM school for your "perfect Waldorf child" which you knew wasn't a good fit for his learning style because you feel he needs growth in that area?


I am not sure whether you are even still around sol will pm you, may show up in your email account...


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#3 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 11:07 AM
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I would be very cautious.  I do have a child with Asperger's who is highly functional.  He wants very precise instructions, he loves predictable structure, and everything analytical.  He loves racing ahead in certain academic areas.  He likes technical approaches.  LOVES phonics for instance.  Spent weeks drawing the pronunciation symbols over and over and over...


I do not think these kinds of needs and preferences are well-supported in most Waldorf settings, and I have heard of some problematic issues with the approach to special needs children overall that comes from anthroposophical ideas. 


Waldorf includes deliberately delayed academics, symbolic and aesthetic approaches to learning, and an agenda that could make your son feel like being himself is being on the wrong track.  (We are homeschoolers.  I was intensely interested in Waldorf education and have incorporated some ideas from it, but that interest has faded over time, partly because some of it felt forced with my children.)


It might work for you but I am skeptical.



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#4 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 12:04 PM
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As others have said, I too would proceed with caution.  I have a high functioning AS child.  I am anti lots of media, pro lots of time spent outdoors, a non-consumerist and hate the way life is becoming so commercial.  Waldorf seemed perfect for my philosophy.  Well, we pulled our son out of Kindergarten a couple of terms ago and are now homeschooling.  Frankly he hated it.  Firstly I don't know what the law in the States is but here in England Waldorf teachers do not have to be state(public) school trained.  I just found that the teachers had only one idea of what a child should be like (Steiners/anthroposophy) and heaven help you if your child didn't fit that idea. They have no special needs training.  They do not keep up with current ideas, new ideas etc and I found the whole school unprofessional.  My son is very engineering minded and that was a real problem for them - he was 'too in his head'.  I was made to feel this was my fault - if only I acted differently around him then he too would become someone who loved painting and finger knitting instead.  He learnt to tell the time by himself very early but this is frowned upon in KG.  He would ask the time (I think to try and orientate and organize himself better) and they wouldn't tell him.  It seemed the teachers didn't believe in making conversation with the children and they don't look them in the eye (to keep and/or encourage a dreamy nature).  I was frequently asked to pick him up (essentially this is their only behaviour management strategy - check your school's policy on this!)  I could go on and sorry to sound so negative.  To be fair, from the outset the school did say it was not a school for aspergers children but we enrolled my son before we realised that he was.  I genuinally hope that if you decide to go ahead you will have a better experience but do ask lots and lots of questions first (It seems to me Waldorf schools generally don't like this).  The best of luck.

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#5 of 8 Old 04-26-2012, 02:55 PM
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I'm by no means an expert, and this might not be helpful to you at all, especially depending on the school itself.  Every child is very different and Waldorf isn't right for everyone. ...BUT from what I've learned as a Waldorf parent, it seems like times are changing.


Many Waldorf professionals are taking modern issues and the needs of children in current society into consideration and not necessarily sticking to dogma of the old days. There are also Educational Support professionals that are trained in "the Extra Lesson" through programs such as the Association for a Healing Education  Children at our school who receive these services seem to really thrive. The Educational Support Teacher works with therapists and doctors etc in order to foster development within Waldorf principles. Some "mainstream" methods are used as needed too.


Just something else to think about and ask questions about.

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#6 of 8 Old 06-26-2012, 06:05 PM
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Hello!  Our son has (high functioning) Aspergers and he has been in a Waldorf school since the beginning (age 4, two years of Kindergarten, and now he going to be in grade 3 this coming Sept).  I can say that Kindergarten was a slight challenge, but I think it would have been that way in any school.  He has social issues and his also very advanced academically.  When he started 1st grade, it was an amazing transformation.  He is challenged each day; Waldorf has an incredibly rich academic program.  It is also so great for him to participate in arts (beeswax, painting, knitting).  I can just say that he is not bored, the other children love him as he does them, and he is absolutely thriving.  I thought Waldorf would be a good match for our son because even though he is so smart and interested in figuring things out, Waldorf ensures that each part of the child is ready and able to learn: social, emotional, physical, etc.  Good luck with your decision, hope I helped a bit :)

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#7 of 8 Old 07-02-2012, 12:26 PM
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I found myself nodding with everything Little Bird said. Every child is different of course, but I would be very skeptical. It makes sense to want to nurture those other areas, but it may or may not be a positive experience for your son. This is my experience - I have a brother with high functioning Aspergers and he would have been very frustrated in a Waldorf setting because of how he saw the world and how he learned. Like Little Bird said, "he wants very precise instructions, he loves predictable structure, and everything analytical. He loves racing ahead in certain academic areas. He likes technical approaches." That is my brother to a T. He also struggled with hand skills and anything creative. Even in a public school setting he was very frustrated when it came to more artistic or creative projects because his would just not look like the other children's and it was just not something that was important to him. He was good friends with children who attended a Waldorf school, but it just would not have been a good experience for him. That's just his experience though, and you know your son and his needs best. I would just be very cautious approaching this.

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#8 of 8 Old 07-25-2012, 08:19 AM
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Just a FYI Melisa @ has a son on the spectrum. She can answer this question VERY well. I have 3 kids on the spectrum all thrive with a waldorf education. Before we decided to go that route my husband and I toured the local Waldorf school. I did that because my DH has aspergers and I wanted to know his feelings. He said he wished he would have went to school there. He loved how calming it was.

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