waldorf special needs education

What Does it Mean to Be Human?

On many winter Sundays you can find me at our local ski mountain, as a ski instructor. Our wonderful nonprofit is a winter playground to our communities’ children and families. I have had the pleasure of teaching many of our community children to ski over the last two seasons.

Last Sunday was different, as I was asked to teach a young man that doctors told his parents would likely not walk, or talk much less ski. G, as I will refer to him, was born 12 weeks premature and with a brain bleed that was shunted. I met G, now age 19 and his mom last Sunday, and spent over two hours helping my new friend make turns in the freshly fallen snow.

“...the people in ancient times were aware that everything in the human being is connected not only with the things that develop on Earth but also with everything that the eye can see when it turns towards the heavens.” - Rudolf Steiner, What is Necessary in These Urgent Times, (CW196)

I found myself with a broad smile as I guided my new friend down our ski trails. I look forward to meeting him tomorrow and learning more from a boy that many thought would never communicate. In him, you can see how much we do not understand and how much we have yet to learn.

“Our task is to discover the real difference between those processes in the human organism that we call disease processes—which are basically quite normal, natural processes, even though specific causes must precipitate them—and the everyday processes that we call healthy. We must discover this radical distinction, but we shall not be able to do so if we cannot take up a way of looking at human beings that really leads to their essential nature.” —Rudolf Steiner, Introducing Anthroposophical Medicine (CW 312)

Autism: Meet Me Who I Am

The ‘autism puzzle” is a great unsolved mystery of our times.
— Lakshmi Prasanna & Michael Kokinos

A few days ago, just outside of my hometown of Cody, WY, skeletal remains that appear to belong to an ancient mammoth were discovered by a local hiker out for a walk on a sunny spring day.

This discovery was made possible after the water levels in the Buffalo Bill Reservoir were lowered in anticipation of the snow melt. As I read Autism: Meet Me Who I Am, I wondered how many of our world's sensitive children are waiting for someone to help them pull back what hides their discovery?

I had the pleasure of learning about the work of Dr. Lakshmi Prasanna and Michael Kokinos and their new book; Autism Meet Me Who I Am, published by Steiner Books in February 2018. 

In this wisdom-filled look into over ten years of autism research, Lakshmi and Michael take you along on their journey of discovery to hear the laughter, see the smiles, and read the words of children with autism in India. It is through these children that Lakshmi and Michael are able to teach us so much.

It is apparent that Lakshmi and Michael's research became more than merely clinical observations but allowed the authors to become messengers from a magical sensory world where children with autism live. The stories of children with severe autistic symptoms are expressed by their caregivers and eventually for many through their own words.

"To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self…” Thich Nhat Hanh

I recently spoke with Michael and Lakshmi about their book. I could feel how this critical work of healers and messengers is what Hanh described as an expression of their deepest selves.

In a rare glimpse of how work based in love and compassion has transformed the lives of its researchers, Lakshmi and Michael invite you into their world on behalf of the children. This book is an in-depth dive for parents, teachers, physicians, and therapists into the homes and lives of children with autism in India. Using this book as your guide may help you design support and interventions for the children with autism in your life.

The book begins with the stories of the researchers themselves. As with any hero's journey, each was drawn into the lives of these children in different ways. Lakshmi’s story of a physician started with a vision of better care for mothers and children in Hyderabad, India.

Michael’s journey began with his training as a physiotherapist in Melbourne, Australia as he would search to find the missing answers of the mind/body connection in his early classes. His questioning ultimately led him to the field of neurology where he describes his work with patients paralyzed after experiencing strokes. This gave him a rare understanding of patients whose body and mind connection was impaired. 

I find that the book Autism: Meet Me Who I Am is not about fixing children with autism, but rather creating conditions within which these children can bloom and share their messages with the world.

If you would like to learn more about Lakshmi and Michael’s work on behalf of the children, you can listen to an interview with Chris Bamford at Steiner Books, or purchase a copy of the book