Talks and Events

90 minute Evening Talks, All-Day Workshops, and Weekend Workshops by Susan R. Johnson MD, F.A.A,P.

1) From Cradle to Quest

A series of six, 90 minute lectures and interactive trainings that encompass the development of the infant, through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood (using Dr. Michaela Glockler's 5-pointed star approach to the development of consciousness). This approach begins with the development of the physical body during the first 7 years of life, focusing on Rudolf Steiner's foundational neurological pathways of sense of life, sense of touch, sense of balance, and sense of movement and their relationships to the development of the higher capacities of sense of thought, sense of the other, sense of hearing (deeply listening), and sense of the word (imaginative, creative inner-picturing).

This includes the development of phonetic-based reading (i.e. sounding-out words using the left hemisphere of the brain) that starts developing in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grades, and sometimes even later, if the children are gifted intellectually, intuitively, and/or artistically and/or still have unresolved cranial compressions from the birth process. Reading, predominately in the left hemisphere, by sounding-out words, allows for the creation of simultaneous, inner-picturing, of scenes and concepts in the right hemisphere. The type of early "reading" that is now being pushed in preschool, kindergarten, and even the early grades at schools other than Waldorf, emphasizes the spatial recognition of words (sight reading), which seems to require activity in the same right hemispheric area of the brain (mind) as imaginative picturing.

I have observed, during my 30 years of clinical experience, that predominately reading by sight blocks simultaneous inner-picturing, and therefore limits comprehension and a long term memory for what was read. It also severely impacts children's comprehension when reading math word problems, literature, history, poetry, earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, etc. Predominately reading by sight, also makes writing more challenging because of the difficulties related to spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. Children that predominately read by sight, mostly look at only the first and last letters of a word, and the word's overall shape and length, and then make a guess at the word's identity. Based on my experience, most of the diagnostic labels given to children such as ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, anxiety disorders, non-verbal learning disabilities, executive function disorders, etc relate to these children having been taught to predominately read by sight rather than phonetically.

I will then discuss the development of the child from 7 to 14 years of age, with the release of their vital forces (I.e. Etheric Forces) for learning, memory, and inner-picturing around 7 years of age, and then on to the development of their feeling life and heart forces (i.e. Astral Forces). This includes discussion of the 9 year change, 12 year change, and birth of their etheric heart at age 13 years.

Next comes the development of independent thinking forces from 14 to 21+ years of age, going from observation, to comparing and contrasting, to analyzing, and finally to synthesizing. Also emphasizing the need to connect their independent thinking with their heart and will forces, in order to avoid addictions and substance abuses that result when our thoughts (ideals), feelings (enthusiasm), and the actions we take in life, all become disconnected from each other.

Finally, as striving adults, we keep observing, comparing and contrasting, analyzing, and synthesizing the world around us, to more deeply develop our consciousness. In Steiner's words, we are developing " Soul Consciousness", and therefore the possibility of experiencing true freedom in our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We become more open, non-judgemental, and objective in our thinking, so our thinking is no longer just dependent on what we take-in from our senses. In our feeling life, we develop equanimity and become awe-filled and reverent, showing an intense interest, compassion, and unconditional love toward all of humanity and toward this creative world. Our feelings become freed-up from any attachments to personal likes and dislikes. Now, instead of our actions just reflecting our basic instincts, drives, or personal desires for power, money, fame, or conditional love, we become truly free, since we see the same divinity within each other and in the world around us. Now we only want to act with courage and unconditional love for the good of all.

2) What actually is at risk? A medical perspective on the impact of screens in the growing child and adolescent.

Using Dr. Michaela Glockler's, 5 -pointed-star approach to the development of the child (see #1), we will look at the disruption that screens can cause in the neurological connections between the brain and the physical body, their impact on our life forces (etheric) such as our vitality, sleep habits, overall health, and their impact on learning (specifically memory and inner-picturing). We will also explore the impact of screens on our children's soul life, with respect to their emotional life, reactivity, and development of moral values. Finally, we will look at the impact of screens and media (in all of its forms) on the development of independent thinking in the adolescent, and the adolescent's developmental task of being able to separate their biases, their likes and dislikes, from their thoughts and eventual actions (i.e. "Me" centered versus "Other"centered).

3) The 7 Essential Nutrients for a Healthy Child and a Healthy Family

Children today bring unique and often spiritual gifts into a world that can seem designed to thwart the unfolding of their inner and outer potential, their capacities of thinking, feeling, and willing, and their reverence for life. What are practical steps that we can take, as parents and teachers, that will help us to embrace our children with an active, joyful, loving lifestyle? In this talk Dr. Johnson will take us on an autobiographical journey, reviewing the seven essential nutrients and how they benefit all children and their families, as well as, heal children who have attention and learning challenges.

In this workshop we will explore in more depth the importance of Warmth, Balance in breathing, nutrition, sleep, rhythm, harmonious non-competitive movements, and most importantly, unconditional Love, in the development of the healthy child and family. Working interactively, we will share practical ideas for habits and practices that can bring more balance and harmony into daily home and classroom life.

4) Healing our Children with Attention, Learning, and Emotional Challenges

Our children, and especially our boys, are being increasingly labelled with ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and Autistic Spectrum Disorders, What is going on? How might all these disorders be related? What roles do Sensory Integration Dysfunction, unresolved cranial compressions, and brain inflammation play in the development of these disorders? What can be done to heal our children that have been labelled with these disorders?

5) Protecting the Spiritual Life of our Children
Our children need to dream, to visualize, to create inner pictures in their minds about their destiny and what contributions they wish to make in their life. To focus, to concentrate, to pay attention and to think "outside of the box" are capacities that need to be protected and nurtured in our children, especially in this time where children's minds and senses are being over-stimulated by the external pictures from video, television, and computer screens. This 1 1/2 hour workshop will look at this spiritual capacity of visualizing and creating our own pictures. We will discover what we can do to both foster and protect this capacity in our children, and learn how to strengthen this picture-making capacity in ourselves.

6) 1st Grade and Reading Readiness and the Real Dangers of Introducing Academics too Soon

When is a child ready for the tasks of first grade? When do the neurological and developmental pathways for reading, writing, spelling, and mathematics form? Are we pushing our children into "academics" too early, before their minds and capacities for learning are fully developed? Is our current educational policy of teaching sight reading in preschool and kindergarten actually creating attentional, emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges in our children? These questions will be addressed during this workshop and practical information about a child's readiness for reading will be explored.

7) How the Lower Senses are Related to the Development of Higher Capacities, such as Attention, Creative Thinking, Auditory and Visual Processing

How a child’s sense of well-being, touch, balance, and movement (proprioception) lead to the higher capacities of creative thinking, sense of the other (the ability to place ourselves in the others “shoes”), auditory processing (the ability to pay attention and listen), and the sense of the word (visual processing of abstract forms such as letters and numbers).

8) Healing Children With Attentional and Learning Challenges through Healthy Movements

How non-competitive, harmonious, and rhythmic movements form the neural pathways later used for reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, and creative thinking.

9) How to Observe Children’s Movement and their Learning Styles in the Classroom

10) The Importance of Sleep for Children and Their Families: Exploring sleep’s impact on a chiild’s ability to learn, and the parent’s ability to remain in the present moment

11) How Waldorf education develops the foundational neurological pathways for reading, writing, mathematics, and imaginative thinking

12) How Waldorf education promotes an open and inquisitive mind, a compassionate and loving heart, and a desire to selflessly serve humanity and this creative world