“Nature is a medecine”
Aránzazu Plaza is a counselor and therapist specialized in learning, integration and behavior difficulties, trained in INPP to address Neuromotor Immaturity, formed in Waldorf Pedagogy, Waldorf Support Pedagogy and Waldorf Emergency and Trauma Pedagogy, formed in Pedagogy Pickler, University Specialist in Systemic Family Therapy, Social Educator, Anthropologist, trained in humanist therapies, Enneagram and Gestalt, trainer of trainers, she is currently part of the teaching team of the Waldorf Support Pedagogy training in Spain and the Madre de Día training team of the Waldorf house in Alicante, and is also a pedagogical advisor for several schools linked to the Waldorf pedagogy. This course has begun its collaboration with the Fundació Sa Llavor.
Question: When did your interest in pedagogy start?
Aránzazu: Since I went to school. I loved attending classes. In summer I was one of those who wanted to go back to school.
Did you receive a Waldorf education?
No. I studied EGB in the 70s and the curriculum was quite nice with childhood. In the sense that we did many things with our hands: we wove, we built electronic circuits, we drew, we painted and in the playground we played with dirt, sticks, stones, water, mud … Now most of the playgrounds or parks are covered in cement.
And your social vein? When did it arise?
In sixth grade I moved to a religious school. There I decided that I wanted to be a missionary. Either I played to teach or I played to help someone.
What were your favourite subjects?
Mathematics and philosophy. I was determined to be a teacher of one of that two subjects. Then, in COU, I went to see a school counselor, who actually disoriented me. How are you going to get to teach with your qualifications? You are going to be an engineer. But I didn’t want to be an engineer, I wanted to teach.
You had a strong vocation…
Yes, but he told me, if you study engineering you can teach math, physics, drawing … So I got into telecommunications engineering. But then I went through the eighteen-years old crisis…
And what happened?
I always volunteered, and at that time I was volunteering teaching how to read and to write to gypsy men who wanted to get a driving license… I loved it. So I left engineering and began to study social work, but always with a vocation in education.
How did you discover Waldorf pedagogy?
One day a friend told me: you have to train in Waldorf pedagogy, because you are already a Waldorf pedagogue and you don’t know it. And that is what I did. I studied Waldorf pedagogy for teachers. The classroom experience was fine but I really wanted to make accessible Waldorf pedagogy to girls and boys with difficulties. Then I did the Waldorf Support Training and there I found myself as a fish in water.
And you discovered the INPP (Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology) …
One of my Waldorf support pedagogy teachers was Laura Pellico, director of the Institute of Neurophysiological Psychology. A large part of support pedagogy is based on motor development. But sometimes there are aspects of neurological immaturity that interfere with this motor skills and that is where reflex therapy comes in. In the INPP I found a method that respected the child’s rhythm, was not invasive and compatible with Waldorf pedagogy.
In the current education the IQ is highly valued, shouldn’t there be something similar to the body quotient?
The archetype of the human being has a tripartite formation: think, feel and act. All three have the same importance. If we give more importance to one of them we are educating in the imbalance with the damage to the health of the girl or the boy.
Sometimes we forget that the body is there …
The body is the place we inhabit and has memory. It is also a tool. Through the body we communicate with the world. If we do not consider the body we are leaving aside what places us in the world. The problem of many girls and boys is that they have not managed to inhabit the body in its entirety. There are girls and boys who draw characters without feet and without hands because they have not managed to inhabit the limbs. The bodily is not developed.
And that can be seen through the drawings…
The drawing expresses a lot, but not by itself. You always have to watch how they move, how they play, how they look, how they speak, … During the valuation, in the therapeutic process, I perform a battery of exercises and games very extensive at the end of which the body perception that has the girl or the boy is very real and then the drawings can express from there.
How does the therapeutic process focus with children?
There is an initial question, which is a greeting: hello, who are you, what do you want to show me, what do you need and always ask permission, always. I let him know that I am here, that if there is something you want to tell me I will be here to listen to you, to see you, to be with you and to accompany you. Cause the therapeutic process is an accompaniment. It is the child’s own forces and family system the ones that do everything. I am a witness.
You talked about the memory of the body …how important is childbirth in the child’s development?
Huge, more than is socially considered. In fact there are many cases with which I work done there has been obstetric violence. Childbirth is a threshold, and as such, leaves a very powerful body and mood imprint. That footprint determines the link with life. More than 90% of children who attend with learning problems have suffered a problem at the time of delivery.
Yes. Then I began to investigate. The primitive patterns of movement that develop throughout the embryonic and fetal stage need birth labor to reach its maximum expression and if that does not happen, such as in a C-section, they are not integrated into the neuromotor system and don’t allow more autonomous movements. Generally these children may need therapy for the integration of primitive reflexes.
What do these reflexes consist of?
Primitive reflexes are automatic movements that occur in the baby’s development process, such as the sucking reflex or the palmar reflex … Let’s consider this one. The palmar reflex is one that causes the baby’s hand to close when something presses on his palm. If this continues and does not incorporate it can cause problems in the movements of the hand, wrist and fingers when writing or grabbing the pencil and it can also hinder fine motor skills.
And for babies to develop properly, what do they need?
Emily Pickler discovered that nature is endowed and, if there are no obstacles, by itself develops everything we carry within us. The simplest aspects of daily life are very important. If he has been enough on the ground, with a good bond and good accompaniment, loved, in a safe physical and emotional space and with permission and possibility to be autonomous, develop all your abilities, moves arms, legs, neck, stands his head, turns, crawls, sits, crawls, leans for stand up…
The force of gravity which you so often speak…
The force of gravity is fundamental to develop in this world the will to be alive. Being born is an act of will, beginning to stand up is an act of will … our whole life is an act of expression in the face of the forces of gravity and higher density.
So if a baby skips any of these steps… does this have any consequences later?
Sometimes there are other factors that can help integrate what was not done at the time: through free play, a Waldorf nursery, a respectful family environment that has allowed the child to swing, climb, or parents who care for touch and do skin to skin with the baby after a C-section … all this achieves wonderful results. Otherwise, reflex therapy can make a great contribution.
Let’s talk about the relationship of children with nature and this fear of adults regarding children climbing trees, getting wet with rain, climbing rocks…
I recommend nature as a medicine. Some authors are talking about nature deficit syndrome. Nature heals us and helps us develop.
You have to climb the trees, then.
The contact with water heals us, the contact the earth heals us, the contact with the air heals us, the contact with the light heals us. If there is no contact with nature, diseases appear. In our current era there are many diseases of the nervous and immune system and this is related to this nature deficit. Climbing trees develops dexterity, balance, strength and touch.
How important is touch?
Touch is of vital importance. It is how we perceive our limits and the limits of the world. If that has not developed it is not possible to contact the other or develop empathy, communication, active listening … which is all we are asking teenagers of.
Maybe adults should also take a look at ourselves…
In the treatments I do I always consider the family. I don’t work only with the child. Never. That would be very limited. Adults have wounds and when they are parents they emerge. If parenting does not address that, it can be frustrating. I accompany the families and welcome the wounded childhoods within the adults.
It makes sense…
There are backpacks that we have been bringing from our ancestors. Children can be the alarm voice of what has been transmitted from generation to generation.
So a learning problem can be an opportunity to empty that backpack…
More than emptying that backpack, the job is to embrace that backpack. Open it, see what there is and embrace each of the things in that backpack, identifying and naming them. Because once we integrate them, they no longer weigh. In this way we can continue with our path of parenting with all our whole energy.