ELIANT stands for people who want to live in a Europe that is culturally diverse with freedom of choice:

in questions of education, the economy, social reform, organic agriculture, and complementary and integrative medicine.

Summary – People with special needs: Necessary care and support

Workshop: People with special needs: Necessary care and support

Bart Vanmechelen, President Berufsverband Präventologen e.V. (Germany)
Dr Stefan Schmidt-Troschke, CEO Gesundheit Aktiv e.V. (Germany)

Bernard Heldt, NL (ECCE);
Bart Vanmechelen, BE (Council for Curative Education, CH);
Adrienne Thier, FR (ECCE);
Ann Naeyaert, BE (ECCE);
Paulamaria Blaxland de Lange, UK (ACESTA);
Manfred Trauwein, DE (Anthropoi Bundesverband);
Karina Huberman, BE (CEACSO);
others were excused.

Introduction by Bernard Heldt about ECCE, the European Cooperation in anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy (founded in 1992). ECCE represents persons with special needs and protects their interests at the European level from an anthroposophical perspective. Members: 30 national umbrella organizations in 18 European countries, standing for a wide range of facilities, including education, work, community-based services, family support, home help, vocational training. ECCE cooperates actively with other European NGO’s in the field of support for persons with a disability.

ECCE did contribute to the United Nations Convention on the rights of Persons with DisabilitiesUNCRPD (2006; ratified in the European Parliament 2010). Goal: inclusion - persons with and without disabilities finding with each other their own path in inclusive society. This means inclusive education – so children get accustomed to friends with a disability. And this will really be a culture change, it requires perseverance and patience. So inclusion is quite a general human task!

Then Bernard Heldt refers to curative education and social therapy, where it is already from 1924 recognised that education, working or living are beneficial to all individuals involved and to society as a whole. This approach is based on the image of man as described by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). In view of this approach all human beings have the right to contribute to society through work. Persons with special needs are no exception. Giving and receiving care, support and guidance is part of every day life. It is the foundation of a lively interaction between people, enriching society, and adding value to the quality of life. It establishes a relationship of responsibility between individuals, with or without special needs. Care and support should be an integral part of the life of the individual, because it enhances his or her quality of life. Curative education and social therapy lead to Sustainable Inclusion!

Discussion with the participants

Inclusive education - Schools can be good but there is too less knowledge about the needs of children with special needs. How to support these children and youngsters to find their path in life and in society? Sophia Beernaerts (ECAS) has said in her introduction: ‘to learn how to earn money is important. But there is more, there are many more skills to learn, such as social skills, respect, tolerance, taking up challenges, creativity.’ She said as well that to accomplish a change, you have to speak the language of the other group, the man in the street, parents.

Bernard Heldt: the idea of inclusion according to the UNCRPD needs a cultural change. If  that change takes place, inclusion can be sustainable. So the man in the street has to get accustomed to it; that is why inclusive education is so important. And that will last at least a generation! For this reason national parents’ associations are important as well! He refers to the ‘Living in the Encounter’ group from Berlin (D) which is organizing congresses for and with persons with a learning disability. In 2017 such a World Congress is being organized in Yekaterinburg in Russia.

Karina Huberman explains: the organization she represents was founded in 2014 in order to help small and medium sized associations to become independent, to find EU funding and to support them with their organizational problems. Ann Naeyaert asks her if she eventually can help a small association such as ECCE and work together. Yes, she can.

Bart Vanmechelen:
How can we work together in order to change society? In the beginning of last century persons with a learning disability were approached in a medical way; later on their problems were considered in a pedagogical way. Nowadays disability is a societal question. A language is needed to speak to the man in the street to explain disability and the needs of persons with disabilities.

Manfred Trautwein: in Germany it is difficult to reach the parents. His organization reaches people with special needs in special facilities. The congresses ‘Living in the encounter’ aim at persons with special needs, adults, in order to go out into the world. This very day (Nov 7th), there is a manifestation/event in Berlin. It is a woman with learning difficulties who speaks to the participants! He tells about the seminars, organized in Germany every 2 years for parents.

Paulamaria Blaxland de Lange states that in Great Britain the gap between reality and what is needed is becoming larger. So called normal children become more and more in need for special care. Teachers earn more if their students have good results. So no room for children with special needs. There are more and more migrants, refugees, teach us how to change society. Prisons are full of people with learning difficulties.
Paulamaria told us that Brexit motivated her stronger to collaborate on the European level and made her decide to come to the Eliant celebration. Human needs bring us together. The only association in the UK that represents curative education and social therapy is ACESTA, human need is the basis of this association.

Adrienne Thier speaks about parents and their associations, members of ECCE. These  parents’ associations have to be reached and become more involved in the work of ECCE. Building bridges is the theme now in ECCE. She and Bernard Heldt suggest to connect the parents’ associations through a conference during the festivities of the 25th anniversary of ECCE in Arlesheim (CH), 2017.

Ann Naeyaert: the work of ECCE is not so visible, the communication with the members should be improved. Exchanges between parents should show that parents do not stand alone with their problems.
Bart Vanmechelen: ECCE supports parents, relatives and children in society. He sees possible hindrances that need to be addressed on the European level: the availability of proper care solutions should be guaranteed as a right and not be depending on merely economic laws. Human dignity is far more important than money. Striving for efficiency may not result in general protocols or standardized care programs that reduce people to care objects without individual differences.

Conclusions/ Next steps
Karina Huberman (CEACSO) will invite ECCE board members to discuss how they can cooperate in order to attain goals concerning inclusion.

Bart Vanmechelen
November 2016