A question of inner attitude. Integration in kindergarten

Petra Plützer

For a short time both of them are immersed in a joint game. As it comes to an end, the therapist, Katharina Meseck, takes Viktor by the hand. “Simon, I need you,” she says to the big pre-school boy who has just come from the room next door covered in sweat from playing. 

Simon is pleased that he can now go with Viktor into the movement room and bounce with him on the large trampoline. He holds Viktor’s hands with great care while the latter is whooping with enjoyment. Simon takes good care of Viktor and makes sure that he does not do anything which is beyond him.

Therapy is everyday living – for everyone

The Goldberg kindergarten with its three groups of fifteen children each, five of them so-called inclusion children, has a speech and movement therapist for each group.

Therapy becomes something quite natural in this way which is integrated into the normal course of the day and includes children like Simon through play.

“Viktor, can you get out of the way please,” Simon calls and jumps from the wall bars. Viktor watches wide-eyed. Later, in the wood, Viktor will immerse himself in his own game again. Because Simon is now playing super rocket with his friends. Viktor cannot keep up with that. The so-called healthy children are under no obligation whatsoever to the others. It is the child care workers who inwardly create the space for everyone. Because the art of inclusion lies in our own, inner attitude. The children’s nurses and care workers learn a great deal in their daily work together within the therapists’ group. They advise one another, can pool their observations. That creates a framework for the children in which each one with all their different characteristics can find their place. Here children with special needs are not just integrated into a group of healthy children, they are a complete part of it. The help provided by the therapists is natural and inconspicuous. Teaching the children to eat, for example, takes place at the meal with everyone. Simply everyday life. “Why can’t Lars do it yet? I’m younger than he is,” four-year-old Lea wants to know as the children are sitting together at lunch. The physically disabled five-year-old Lars is practicing holding a spoon. Uta Roosen, an anthroposophical speech therapist, is helping him. “That’s just how it is. We’re helping him so that he can soon do it as well,” she says calmly. That makes sense to Lea.

Later, as the children tidy up, she busily folds the table cloth with Lars, saying the verse that goes with it. But she is not satisfied with the result. Lars cannot fold the corners properly . At a suitable moment the care worker takes Lars’ place. He visibly enjoyed the game together, now he is happy to stop. And Lea is happy that she can finish her task properly.

These apparently simply things require a high degree of awareness among the adults in order to be able to provide the necessary soul space for all the children. Only then can difference become something quite self-evident for the children.

The children in the Goldberg kindergarten learn that being human can have many variations. The child care workers wish that their work could continue in school. They look with hope to the collaboration between the Association of Waldorf Kindergartens and the Association for Special-Needs Education as well as the Waldorf schools. Because the Association of Waldorf Kindergartens offers the framework for the member institutions to come together and exchange experiences. The new cooperation between the associations can offer advanced training and undertake public relations work. Waldorf education as such is a healing education and the best response to the newly arisen discussion in society about inclusion.

About the author: Petra Plützer is a freelance journalist and works for the Association of Waldorf Kindergartens in North Rhine-Westphalia.