About The Otto Specht School
WHO WE ARE
Located in Chestnut Ridge, New York, The Otto Specht School offers a variety of educational programs designed to meet the needs of students with developmental delays, social and sensory sensitivities, and learning challenges. We provide developmentally appropriate academic and artistic curricula in small, individualized class settings. Artistic activities — speech and movement, visual and musical — are integral to our classroom activities, as are practical skills such as cooking, weaving, wood- and metalworking, farming and animal care.
The mission of the Otto Specht School is to make possible a self-sufficient and positive future for children with developmental delays, learning challenges and sensory imbalances who do not thrive in a typical classroom setting. To this end we provide innovative educational programming, based on the methods of Waldorf education, in a safe environment where therapeutic, social, and academic needs are addressed. We emphasize the healing nature of practical work, artistic activities, and caring for others; our children learn and work on a farm, in craft shops and with the elderly in service of the larger community. This innovative approach supports each child's individual path toward self-development and independent functioning in the world.
The Otto Specht School was initiated in 1985 as parents, teachers, and doctors recognized that the needs of certain students were not being met in more traditional school settings, including Waldorf and other private institutions. Inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s early work with his student Otto Specht, a small “homeschool” began at the Fellowship Community in Chestnut Ridge, NY. The families and teachers involved experienced great success in the development of these students, but as they aged out or were able to return to more traditional settings, the initiative ended as quietly as it had begun.
In 2003, as once again the need for an alternative educational approach was realized, the Otto Specht School initiative came to life again. This time, the need was clearly broader and more pressing as increasing numbers of students needing special care entered both public and private school systems. A commitment was made by those involved in this second iteration of the Otto Specht School to develop the program in such a way that it could soon become a viable and sustainable independent school. In September 2010, the Otto Specht School became a recognized independent private school operating under the educational charter of the Threefold Educational Foundation and School. At that time, the school’s founders and faculty made a conscious decision not to become a designated “special education” school. Without this designation, we are able to operate freely, guided by our pedagogy and understanding of child development and not hindered by state Common Core regulations.
The Otto Specht School continues to grow and develop, adding programming and therapeutic opportunities to provide the best possible educational outcomes for our students.