What is the Camphill movement?

Camphill is not a therapy as such, but an approach to education and support usually offered in an educational or community-based setting.

Camphill communities can be independent residential and day schools, specialist colleges of further education or adult communities.

Although no Camphill communities exist in Australia, several Australian schools operate according to Camphill principles.

Who is the Camphill movement for?

The Camphill movement is for children, young people and adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other special needs.

What is the Camphill movement used for?

Camphill communities allow children, young people and adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other special needs including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to live, learn and work with others in an atmosphere of mutual respect and equality.

The communities provide support that’s tailored to people’s individual needs and choices. Depending on the age of their students or residents, the communities provide education, work and/or further learning. No details are available about autism-specific teaching or treatment approaches used in these communities.

Where does the Camphill movement come from?

The first Camphill community was founded in 1939 in Scotland by Dr Karl Koenig, an Austrian paediatrician and educator, and several colleagues. He was inspired by the work of philosopher and educator Rudolf Steiner.

What is the idea behind the Camphill movement?

The Camphill philosophy is that regardless of a person’s outward disability, that person’s spirit – the essential core that makes us all human – always remains whole. We all deserve equal respect and opportunities in life so that we can all fulfil our potential.

What does the Camphill movement involve?

Camphill schools offer full-term or weekly residential places, as well as day places. Young people and adults can live full time in a Camphill community.

Camphill schools use a Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner curriculum. Artistic and cultural activities are a key part of daily life. In addition, students have individual therapies tailored to their specific needs – these might include speech formation, physiotherapy, movement, therapeutic art, riding, therapeutic music, massage, play and counselling.

People involved in the students’ residential care, as well as some of the teachers, live with the students. The school households are like extended families, providing a stable home environment where social learning can develop.

Cost considerations

Camphill isn’t offered in Australia, so no information about costs is available. But schools that use the Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner curriculum charge $450-$1000 per term.

Does the Camphill approach work?

There’s no research-based evidence of the effectiveness of the Camphill approach for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disabilities.

Who practises the Camphill approach?

The international Camphill movement consists of more than 100 communities in more than 20 countries, mainly in Europe, but also in North America and South Africa.

In Australia, over 40 schools and kindergartens are registered with Steiner Education Australia.

Parent education, training, support and involvement

Because most of the Camphill program is provided by the school, parent involvement in this approach is moderate.

Where can you find a Camphill community?

There are currently no Camphill communities or schools in Australia. But there are several schools in each Australian state and territory that offer a Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner curriculum.

You could talk about these education options with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordination partner, if you have one.

There are many treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They range from those based on behaviour and development, to those based on medicine or alternative therapy. Our article on types of interventions for children with ASD takes you through the main treatments, so you can better understand your child’s options.