Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Pee pee, poop

Let's do the Happy Dance!!!!

Grace is the only one of my three to consistently use the potty (thank you Conductive Education!) For the past two weeks she has been going pee pee like a champ. Well! ...drum roll please ... Grace has now gone poop in the potty!!! Once at CE and once at home!! So, in order to properly recognize this accomplishment we must follow the tradition started by Melanie, Billie and Jacqui.....

Never mind all the social policy all the professional politics and the colossal infrastructure that has built itself around Conductive Education, this is what it’s all about.

From Dallas Texas, Jacolyn Lieck’s blog is part of the real world in which families bring up their motor-disordered children, and love them, back each other up and, when Conductive Education shows that it can deliver the goods, fight for it (and in doing so, have make all the rest possible)

Great blog, great music.

Never forget that families are the motor of the conductive movement.

Bold step down under

Kiwis hope to register conductors as health professionals

In New Zealand, where the development of Conductive Education is largely school-based, things are just getting going again after the summer holidays (yes, it’s easy for most people in the conductive movement to forget that Conductive Education is a phenomenon of the Southern Hemisphere too). New Zealand has a long and successful tradition in the internationalization of Conductive Education and things there continue to develop apace.

A letter from Dave Ching of the New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education tells that 2008 will be a busy year, as the Foundation plans in collaboration with the New Zealand Conductors’ Association to work through the processes needed to include conductors as a new profession in New Zealand, registered under the Health Practitioners’ Competence Assurance Act. As will be appreciated, a lot of conditions and procedures will have to be sorted out but it is hoped that successfully registration might greatly improve the status of conductors in New Zealand and benefit funding.

There's an interesting paradox here, a largely school-based pedagogy registering its practitioners as health rather than educational practitioners. New Zealand experience of how this works out over the next few years will be instructive to conductivists is other countries considering their own options. The first practical implication is already apparent: the registration process will cost, and the Foundation is having to increase its budget to meet this.

There will be a National Conductive Education Awareness Week in New Zealand from 12 to 18 May, involving open days and other promotional events, for which glossy, professionally produced posters and a DVD are being prepared. The DVD has already been filmed at two schools in Christchurch with conductive units, to show Conductive Education programmes in action at the pre-school, primary-, and secondary-school levels, up to the age of twenty-one years. It is also hoped to film at the Aukland adult unit to show adults benefiting too.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Parent to parent in Florida

Powerful new website on line

Still photographs, however cute, make a poor and potentially misleading way of conveying the processes and outcomes of Conductive Education. Moving film and video marked a major breakthrough and have been an essential tool in the public interest that has resulted in the internationalisation of Conductive Education.

Recent technological advanced have democratised this medium to the service Conductive Education centres. As is generally the case in Conductive Education, it has been individual families that have taken the lead in this, through their personal sites, blogs and social networks such as YouTube. Now local centres (most of which are parent-led) are beginning to adopt this means to supplement their text-and-picture websites, to help in the recruitment of clients and raising public support.

Last spring web technology company, CTV Technologies Inc., donated an informational web site to one such centre, the Conductive Education Center of Orlando (CECO), Florida, (slogan ‘See what a child can do’). This month it has made a further such donation, bringing the centre to the forefront of applying this technology in the field of Conductive Education.

CECO’s additional web site functions as an Internet TV channel and allows the organization to upload its own self-shot videos, with the capability for full-screen viewing. The site already has nine videos on line. They give the center and its parents a way to connect much more directly with other parents who are looking for services for their children.

The footage includes some commentary by a brace of enthusiastic paediatric neurologists (sample quote: ‘one of the best programs available’). Nice too to see two conductors, Alexandra Gaudi and Judit Moncz, speaking up personally for their work.

This really does look like an important way of the immediate future for the popular and professional communication of Conductive Education of the Internet. It is of course free to do this on YouTube etc but a professional service will cost: CTV Technologies estimated that together the two sites created for CECO are worth around US$15,000.

You can judge the value of this for yourselves.

Laura Brost, Thanks to CTV, kids benefit from 2 Web sites, Orlando Sentinal, 28 January 2008

Sunday, 27 January 2008

German conference

English translation

Here is an English-language of the announcement of the German confernce announced on this blog two postings back.

Advance Notice

Invitation to Anniversary Conference

The Association for Conductors Working in Germany
is 10 years old


Pfenningparade's Conductive Education Centre in
is 5 years old

We cordially invite you to Munich on 24 - 26 October 2008

The emphasis will be on presenting aspects of the developments in Conductive Education, renewing the awareness of Conductive Education in Germany and discussion of the recognition and acceptance of Conductive Education in medical and educational spheres.

Podium discussions are planned with politicians, representatives from the health insurance companies and ministerial departments.

Professionals from the medical association will be approached to gain support for Conductive Education and form a lobby in the areas of education, paediatrics and neurology.

There will be an interesting programme on offer for parents and the possibility for children and teenagers to join Conductive Education workshops on the Saturday.

Date for registration and submissions of proposals for papers or workshops: 31 March 2008.

What does this mean?

That is what the announcement means at the linguistic level. To interpret its sense requires some explanation of what has been happening around Conductive Education in Germany over the last few years. I shall come back to this in a few days.

Watch his space.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Expansion in Gulf

Initiative in Bahrain

In operation since November, the Al Matrook Conductive Rehabilitation Centre was officially opened on 23 January by the Bahraini Minister of Social Development.

The new centre, in Duraz, will initially provide free rehabilitation and education services to children with severe disabilities, aged three to nine years. The stated long-term plan is to include young adults, by raising the maximum age limit to twenty-one. So far, thirty-nine children attend.

The centre presents an unusual public position on what is Conductive Education. A spokesman says:

This centre is mainly a mixture of normal physical rehabilitation in an educational environment. It mainly works on the concept of Conductive Education. It is a system of day-to-day education to enhance every ability the child already has to help them reach a stage of full achievement… For example, if a child has the ability to take steps, we make sure that this ability is enforced in the hope of making the best out of it.

Our main goal is to put a smile on children's faces, as well as their parents, by helping them to identify and meet the requirements of different disabilities and provide flexible and consistent services to cater to children who are not getting any kind of interaction.

The Al Matrook Centre has been set up by Bahrain’s Social Development Ministry, with input from the Conductive Rehabilitation Centre in Kuwait.


Sarah Sami (2008) New Hope for Children, Gulf Daily News, 19 January

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Sehr interessant / very interesting *

Developments in Conductive Education in the German-speaking lands have been riddled with contradictions, not least that between what have been called Pető-Pur and Pető-Lite (the analogy is to Coca Cola).

In view of its particular joint sponsorship, therefore, the anniversary conference to be held in October and announced this month, is therefore of particular interest. I shall doubtless return to this theme later but in the meantime here is the preliminary announcement and call for submissions.

Vorankündigüng der Fachtagung am 24-25. Oktober 2008

Bundesverband der in Deutschland tätigen Konduktor/Innen e.V.

Stifftung Pfennigparade Phoenix GmbH

Jubiläumsfachtagung10-jähriges Bestehen des Bundesverbandes der in Deutschland tätigen Konduktor/Innen e. V. und 5-jähriges Bestehen des Konduktiven Förderzentrums der Stiftung Pfennigparade.

Wir laden Sie herzlich ein am 24. – 26. Oktober 2008 in München (nähere Informationen folgen).p.

Schwerpunkt neben inhaltlichen Aspekten der Förderarbeit soll die weitere Bekanntmachung der Konduktiven Förderung, aber vor allem die Diskussion um die Anerkennung und die Ansiedlung im Bereich der Medizin und Pädagogik sein. Neben Podiumsdiskussionen mit PolitikerInnen, VertreterInnen der Krankenkassen und Ministerien werden auch Heilmittelverbände und Fachleute angesprochen, um die Unterstützung und die Akzeptanz zu erhöhen und eine breite Lobby für die Konduktive Förderung im Bereich Pädagogik, Pädiatrie und Neurologie zu schaffen.

Ein interessantes Programm für Eltern wird auch angeboten, ebenso die Möglichkeit eines KF-Workshops für Kinder und Jugendliche am Samstag.

Anmeldungen und Kurzfassungen für Vorträge oder Workshops können noch bis 31. März 2008 eingereicht werden.
* The allusion, for those with long memories, is to Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in

Friday, 18 January 2008

Commercial sense in Conductive Education

January Sale at Ability Camp: a pointer to the future?

In the context of present world economic conditions Western consumers are getting well used to buying their goods and services at discount rates. One way in which retailers respond to economic conditions is to hold a ‘Sale’ and there is always something to be had somewhere at a reduced price. Most consumers know that if it’s a bargain they want they should shop around – and the Internet is a good place to start looking.

There is no reason to think that Conductive Education should be any different.

A strong Loonie and a weak US Dollar

The Canadian Dollar (the ‘Loonie’) had a bad time over the nineteen-nineties and hit the bottom in 2002 at under 82 US cents. Families in the United States willing and able to travel for a Conductive Education experience often found it a positive economy to go north to Canada for what they wanted. thanks to this (to them) very favourable exchange rate. A particular beneficiary of this ‘conductive tourism’ was Ability Camp, in Picton, Ontario.

As mentioned more than once on these pages, the world has now changed and economic change affects Conductive Education as it does everything else.

The US economy has not done well in recent years. Canada’s has ridden the oil boom and the boom in other basic commodities, the value of the Loonie rising correspondingly against the euro, the pound sterling and the yen. The first surge is over now, and the Loonie has fallen back a little to around US$0.95 (giving rough parity with the pound) but the new economic balance seems set to stay, with relative strengths of the two dollars remaining at about the same level for the forseeable future.

For US families wanting to purchase Conductive Education services north of the border that could represent a hike in price of over fifty percent – not of course just in the services themselves but in all the associated costs that families who travel have to incur.

In any field, whatever benefits Canada might offer to US consumers, price will not in general one of them. On the contrary, earlier price differentials might be reversed. In other words it could be cheaper to shop around at home. As for Canadians selling goods or services in the United States, in any field, the market has got much tougher – and will probably remain so..

Ability Camp: robust response

Ability Camp is one on the longest-established Conductive Education providers in Canada (it has been going thirteen years now). It concentrates on services for cerebral palsy and strokes, but helps other conditions too, and for those who want it also offers a hyperbaric chamber. It has in common with many other Conductive Services around the world that it is parent-led but it is distinct from most in always having been a commercial venture. Over the years hundreds of children and adults have passed through its doors, many of them from the United States.

The latest email drop from Ability Camp drop reflects the new market-place condition, reporting that most families who come are struggling to find the money.

As the US dollar has fallen increasingly sharply Ability Camp has not increased prices over the last two years. As a commercial operation it is responding proactively. It speaks the language of ‘customer relations ‘ and has recently upgraded its physical facilities to provide greater added value to who choose Ability Camp over alternative facilities in North America:

Last year, we remodeled all of the bedrooms and common room (photos should be on our web site shortly.) High speed Internet is available free of charge in all rooms and each room has a telephone with an answering machine. We have also added a second classroom to the building and installed a coin-operated washer and dryer.

And now it has a Sale on, expressed in terms familiar enough at your local supermarket but not yet, I think, in Conductive Education.

We still have openings in our Feb. 11 to Mar. 14 (7—14 years old) session, which is being offered at a 25% discount.

5% discount off the next visit for families that refer new clients to the camp

Recently, many families have decided to book two sessions, usually back to back. We would like to reward this level of commitment and offer these families a 20% discount on their second session, We will also extend this discount for families taking two sessions in the same calendar year, or a family that comes with twins.

Going private in a commercial world

When Ability Camp started up in the nineties there were some in Conductive Education who rather looked down on it, as ‘private’. The high ideals of Conductive Education, this implied, could be matched only by funding from the state or through charitable organisations, preferably the former. That’s as may be, but the sad fact is that state systems have yet to deliver and many people in Conductive Education have learned to be a bit leery (or even outright distrustful) of the values and motives of state systems. As for charities, despite some remarkable contributions, Conductive Education is less and less a ‘hot’ cause for donors and in some countries the sector is becoming more bureaucratic (in the United Kingdom horrendously so). Further, students of the free lunch will not be surprised that charitable donations can come with the donors’ own agendas.

In a world where welfarist ideals are increasingly in flight and commercial relationships increasingly the norm for all sorts of personal and social activities, Ability Camp’s position begins to move towards being normal for contemporary society, raising the question of who is the deviant now.

And one has to remember that there have been other longstanding commercial concerns in the internationalization of Conductive Education. For example, Moira in Hungary and Conductive Education Support Services in the United Kingdom are long-established enterprises that over the years have adapted and evolved in response to changing economic circumstances and emerging commercial opportunities. In doing so they have helped kick-start local initiatives and made a disproportionate contribution to the development of Conductive Education services around the world.

Note that both these two enterprises are conductor-led.

Future employment for conductors

For a long time now there have been conductors who have worked as ‘self-employed’ – that is legitimately so and paying taxes etc accordingly. I am not here referring to conductors who still work in the Black Economy – nor to conductor-nannies, who might fall into either category. I know of legitimately self-employed conductors in the United Kingdom, Germany and Hungary but there are surely others too). Increasingly too I am aware of conductors operating independently in ‘consultancy’ roles, consulting to institutions or to service-users according to inclination or opportunity, and others who are seriously considering the benefits of operating in this way. Often the latter group includes conductors chaffing at the frustrations and career limitations of their work in existing institutions, where personal advancement and new, innovative ways of working might depend on a long wait for dead men’s shoes.

Social and economic change today may demand significant institutional changes in response, and require them fast. In 2002 would anyone in Canada and the United States have predicted the reversal of financial fortunes of the next six years and planned accordingly? If you can’t plan for a known world, you can at least plan to be flexible as times change. There is no a priori reason why already existing state and charitable institutions should not show the same flexibility as a commercial enterprise but many will find it hard. Can you imaging Ability Camp’s January Sale being widely emulated in many services elsewhere? But how will all this look in, say five years time? Commercial concerns can act flexibly and commercially in a way not necessarily open to all kinds of organisation. Commercial organisations that are unable to change quickly enough will die. State and charitable institutions that cannot be similarly flexible and responsive to market change, when faced with the same problems, may not die immediately but linger painfully on – but for how long and to what purpose?

State-voluntary services provided may or may not shrink in absolute terms but will have increasingly to change the ways in which they operates – they will have to be ever more ‘commercial’. But continuing expansion on Conductive Education, in terms not just of numbers but also the range of more flexible kinds of service delivery, may depend on the creation of new commercial initiatives to create employment for conductors, and depend too upon conductors themselves taking the initial initiative.


Laura Blue (2008) The Loonie takes off, Time, vol. 171, no 2, 14 January, pp. 35-8

Ability Camp:

Conductive Education Support Services:


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Rainbow: play and training

Charity takes one step and looks to next

Last September the Rainbow Centre opened the gardens around its new building. These include specialised play areas developed in conjunction with the company Hand Made Places.

This month’s issue of the magazine Special Children includes an article by conductor Magdi Kovács on how these play areas are used.

Outdoor learning plays a fundamental role in normalising a child’s development within very challenging circumstances. By taking the classroom outside, children confront an environment that potentially presents more risks…

All five conductors at Rainbow took part in the design. Individual play pieces, the ‘turnaround’ for example, were designed and made by Hand Made Places for specific learning purposes and the periscope was designed specifically to develop motor skills.

Magdi points out that the design of play equipment is often manufacturer-led, with little available straight off the shelf for children with movement problems:

However, with the Rainbow Centre innovation is the starting point… the conductors have looked at what they are trying to achieve throughout their teaching process, and what they are hoping the children will achieve.

Such play areas are a frequent enough feature of pre-school settings, including places that provide conductive services. Pictures accompanying Magdi's article show sculptured play and garden furniture that is more attractive and imaginative than is often met in such contexts.

This is the first published report about incorporating such facilities into conductive practice.

‘CEDAT’ – the Conductive Education Development and Training project

The Rainbow Centre has a five-year programme aimed at becoming a centre of excellence for the motor-disordered, recognised as the leader in its field. As well as a range of services for children with cerebral palsies it has extended into providing for conditions such as dyspraxia and aphasia in children and for adults with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and strokes.

Rainbow already runs short courses for professionals, and intends to develop these into a series of accredited training programmes in Conductive Education for health professionals, carers, parents, members of the public and others.

Rainbow’s training project is called the Conductive Education Development and Training project, CEDAT for short

Rainbow is a voluntary (charitable) centre. It is now raising money to finance its plan to set up and run a degree course in Conductive Education in collaboration with a university, to help meet the national conductor-shortage, based at the Rainbow Centre but in collaboration with other organisations and accessible to anyone in the United Kingdom.


Special Children, now under new ownership, has no Internet edition. If you want a copy of the article on play at the Rainbow Centreyou will either have go through the library system, or contact the magazine:

Magdi Kovács, Learning through play, Special Children, no 180, December/January 2008, pp. 37-9

Find out more about the Rainbow Centre at:

To read about the Rainbow Centre’s plans for conductor-training, go to:

Saturday, 12 January 2008

UK: conductor pioneer becomes charity trustee

Megan Baker House appoints Tünde Rózsahegyi

Megan Baker House is a Conductive Education charity providing in-house, outreach and training services, concentrating to date on children but soon to begin adult services as well.

Tünde Rózsahegyi is a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. In 1992 she was one of the first conductors in the United Kingdom to take up a permanent salaried position and in 1997 one of the first to teach on the conductor-training course that the Foundation established at its National Institute. Two years ago she became the first conductor in the United Kingdom to hold a tenured university appointment and her position as a conductor serving as a Trustee on the board of a Conductive Education charity is probably a first too.

Such a lot of firsts: Gratulátok, Tünde!

Friday, 11 January 2008

A short history of the conductive world

This morning I completed a short questionnaire for a small-scale research project, the final question of which read:

Please write or draw a picture to tell your story about Conductive Education.

I do not know exactly what the researcher had in mind but this is what I replied.

I cannot draw a picture of this, though a map indicating the old ‘East’, the old ‘West’ and ‘Third Word’ would be relevant, another showing the contemporary ‘North’ and ‘South’, and a third showing the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China, the likely dominant world economies in the year 2050).

At this level of generality the story is simple.

Conductive Education was developed in the Hungarian People’s Republic, a country in the ’East’, where resources (apart from people) were short but the governing official rhetoric combined with a powerful national tradition confirmed human improvability as a product of education in its widest sense. Once publicised in the West Conductive Education was enthusiastically taken up by parents of disabled children bitterly disappointed with services that actively denied them change and, wherever societies could afford it, attempts have been made by families (and a very few non-parent-led institutions) to establish Conductive Education services. Almost everywhere that this has happened in the old West it has been opposed by existing institutions and professionals.

There has been no corresponding movement in the old East. There was no tradition of democratic self-help and until recently no money either.

Not surprisingly, there has been only limited success in establishing institutionally what was originally observed and experienced in Hungary in new social contexts (Israel presents an exception). Educational services for disabled children and their families in the West continue unsatisfactory and now that Hungary has joined the EU (and is therefore fully part of the West) Conductive Education is increasingly open to the same economic and social forces as impact upon it elsewhere. The internationalisation and naturalisation of Conductive Education face real problems in the North and demand fresh ways of doing things if the approach is going to flourish in the twenty-first century

First stirrings are afoot in the South to learn from Conductive Education some way for but, whatever small individual accommodations are achieved, there is unlikely to be funding to establish anything socially meaningful in advance of development of countries’ basic health and educational services. In the BRICs (and smaller, economically atypical countries such as around the Gulf) basic services are established. Such countries may be the theatre for major future developments in Conductive Education probably not on the whole open in the West or the North (and certainly not for the forseeable future in the UK).

The implication for conductivists who want to work in the North is Churchill’s ‘KBO’, find ecological niches where you can make your own personal, individual contributions but do not expect to have much impact upon the wider system in which you work. Conductivists who want to take part in major developments in the field might do better to ‘go South’ or ‘go East’

The above account applies specifically to Conductive Education for children and their families and within this, for the sake of brevity glosses over individual details and exceptions.

Saturday, 5 January 2008


You couldn't make it up

A BBC journalist writes –

Conductive therapy assumes that people with cerebral palsy (like me) can somehow learn to overcome our movement difficulties through repeating the same tasks over and over again. So rather than adapt our homes, transport, and equipment to be accessible, we ourselves must learn to adapt. But personally speaking, I'd rather have my accessible bungalow any day of the week.
Professor Mike Oliver once wrote that if conductive therapy wasn't so sad, it would be funny. It aims to help people achieve a 'normal lifestyle' - whatever that means. After all, being regularly strung up in a cage for hours at a time may be 'normal' for the inmates of Guantanamo Bay, but it certainly doesn't constitute a normal lifestyle where I come from.
The other week, whilst being given a tour of a conductive therapy centre in Saudi Arabia, I came across a rather disturbing sight: a child with cerebral palsy, stood in a cage and being held upright with bungee cords. My guide said this treatment lasted for four to five hours a day over a few months, but was vaguer when I asked how this would benefit the child. Granted, I could see how it probably strengthened their leg muscles through increased weight-bearing, but surely there must be more humane, engaging and inclusive ways to practice standing? This poor kid looked bored rigid. 
I consider myself fortunate enough never to have been subjected to conductive therapy. Despite pressure from the special school that I went to, my mother resisted putting me through something that she saw as cruel and fought to get me a decent education instead. Years later, there's still little evidence to prove that it works. With hindsight, whilst a number of disabled friends spring to mind who found it oppressive, I can only think of one who claims to have benefited from it.
So it really does seem to me that when it comes to disabled children, anything goes...

There's more, and it gets better. Read the lot at:

Please don't write to me.

The author is Laurence Clark, a journalist and 'sit down comedian'., The webpage cited above has a facility wherby you can respond to him publicly, should you wish. If you do have anything to say to him, please put it direct.

Ouch! by the way describes 'a website from the BBC that reflects the lives and experiences of disabled people.' Its editorial team, it adds, 'is rather wonky...'

This is all such a terrible shame, that such tosh should still be appearing at the end of 2007, and under such a reputable imprimatur at that.

Does Conductive Education in countries other that the United Kingdom, I wonder, have to face this persistent irritation?

UK: very short notice

State to regulate CAM

The UK Government has found something else to regulate: complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

What has CAM to do with Conductive Education? Objectively nothing but in terms of public and professional perceptions CE is rather too close for comfort to ‘alternative treatments’.

The Government’s plans include acupuncture, the Alexander technique, Yoga and massage. There will be a Natural Healthcare Council with the power to register practitioners and strike from its register those who do not meet its standards. Initially at least participation in this scheme will be voluntary. The Council and its permanent staff will be paid for by the practitioners themselves, through a registration fee (by conductors, should Conductive Education be drawn into this). The scheme has the support of the Prince of Wales.

As far as I can see the Government is by-passing the empty gesture of ‘consultation’ on this, and it looks as though work on setting up the Council is already well under way, being expected to finish by early spring. News of this broke in the press this morning and I have not yet found an official announcement

For further details, see for example:

Doubtless there'll soon be plenty more!

So what?

So what do conductors in the United Kingdom, their employers and those who use their services, think of the possibility of being registered and controlled in this way? If they like the idea, then here’s a wonderful chance to climb on to the band-wagon and get themselves regulated? If so, they should formulate their case and lobby accordingly. If, on the other hand, they find the whole prospect deeply disturbing they should be taking considerable care to distance themselves from anything that could make them appear to be involved in ‘complementary and alternative heath’ and positioning themselves very clearly and publicly within th efield of pedagogy.

Like in most countries there are no mechanisms in the United Kingdom whereby any of these three groups, conductors, employers or service-users might discuss and work towards any sort of common opinions, on this or any other question, even within each respective grouping – never mind for the conductive movement as a whole within the country. There is effect a political vacuum within Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. Such political vacuums are not welcome to outsiders, especially officials and politicians seeking to creaty a tidy, controlled society. Should the new Council’s eye be inadvertently drawn to Conductive Education, then it will find opinions and facts on which to draw its conclusions (and perhaps decisions too), however unrepresentative or erroneous their source.

There's something deeply unwholesome about a state apparatus that finds it acceptible to seek to regulate alternatives: one step more and 'they' might be thinking of controling opposition.
It should be an interesting few months for British CE.

And now for something completely different...

Everything has a history

Nicholas Kove (born Klein Miklós) was a Hungarian Jew. After fighting in the First World War he served as a minister with Béla Kun's short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, inder the name of Köves Miklós, and fled the White Terror that followed in fear of his life. He and his family went first to Germany, then France, Italy and Spain where he opened a plastics factory in Barcelona. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War he took final refuge in England, as Nicholas Kove.

He started the company Airfix in 1939, making hollow air-filled acetate and rubber toys and other such items (hence the name ‘Airfix’), and 'invented' the Lilo inflatable bed, switching during the war to making combs. In 1947 he embraced the 'new' (i.e. ex-German!) plastic-injection technology and in 1948, almost by chance, produced his first plastic ship kit. He was a shrewd and imaginative entrepreneur and Messrs Woolworths’ determined cost-cutting was met by the notion of a poly-bagged ship kit sold as a ‘pocket money toy'. The first aircraft kit came out in 1953 and it was aircraft kits that went on to comprise the archetypal Airfix model.

Kove died in 1957 but from 1950 his partner and successor in the glory days of the company's great success was another Central European emigré, Ralph Ehrman from Leipzig. For a couple of generations Airfix kits, with the little tinlets of oil-enamel paint from the then wholly unconnected company of Humbrol, were a formative experience of many, many childhoods (at least, boyhoods). (Caddick-Adams, 2006). This happened not just in Britain but in many parts of Europe and the developed world, through a host of international business partnerships, sales and distribution agreements, and licensing agreements, and Airfix kits became internationally well known.

The world changed, not least through the arrival of videos and the early computer games in the nine-teen-seventies, and world economics were changing too. Airfix's domestic and export markets declined and in 1981 the company went into receivership and ceased trading.. It was bought up by the toy manufacturer Palitoy, a rescue of sorts, but things did not go too well and in 1986 it was taken over by its old paint-tinlet companion, Humbrol. There was a bit of a renaissance and Ward's (1996) fiftieth-anniversary celebration of the brand could conclude on an optimistic note. But social and economic changes were now proceeding with an earnest and in August last year the company, along with Humbrol, was in administration and production again ceased. It looked like the company established and developed by Kove and Ehrman had finally come to the end of the line.

In November Airfix was saved again, along with Humbrol, bought this time by Hornby.

'Hornby': there's another iconic British name, but Hornby is in fact now Hornby International Inc, an multi-national conglomerate. Never mind, Airfix is back on the market, with many of its old lines reintroduced, joined by Dr Who and Wallace and Gromit, its first twenty-first century products for a new generation of enthusiasts. Already by Christmas week a new joint Airfix and Humbrol website was launched (Airfix, 2007) to market these.

You couldn't get more 'British' than Airfix, and the first products of the relaunched company certainly maintain that image. Even though Kove and Ehrman were originally emigrés, their adopted country took their products unquestioningly to its heart, and later no one seemed to notice that with Palitoy's take-over kit-production had switched to France. Now, Airfix is even a nomination for recognition as an 'Icon of England'! (Icons of England, 2007)

So, a common enough company history today, though in this case life goes on (being widely loved plus a strong shot of nostalgia for lost youth, certainly seem to help the chances of commercial rescue). A quick glance at Airfix’s catalogue suggests that everything remains the same, but does it? We shall have to see. What was once the product of individual skills and enthusiasms again has an immediate future. A brand, a name has been saved from the dustbin of history, and continues to live a new life, as a commodity in the globalised economy.

Production has been switched to China.


Airfix (2007) Official site,

Caddick-Adams, P. (2007) ‘Airfix made me the man I am', BBC News Magazine, 26 September

Dungan, R. (2006) Airfix puts together Doctor Who deal, Toy News Online, 18 December,

Ward, A. (1999) Airfix: celebrating 50 years of the greatest plastic kits in the world. London: HarperCollins

Vote for your ‘Icon of England’

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

CE: a lesson from Bobath?

An authoritative statement

I implore you to … push on. We’ve given you what we know. Learn… look at other methods… we hand you the torch.’ (Bobath and Bobath, 1979)

These words stand as epigraph to the recent guest editorial of the prestigious international paediatric journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology (Damiano, 2007). The author of this editorial is Diane Damiano, no less prestigious in her field, having this Autumn been elected to be President of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine. Diane Damiano is a physical therapist and only the second non-physician in the Academy’s sixty-one years to hold this position.

Diane Damiano’s opinion the present state of ‘Bobath’, published as an editorial in this context, is no lightweight matter. It was Rony Schenker who sent me a copy of this article shortly after I returned from Israel. Thank you Rony, I might otherwise not have spotted it.

This tightly argued one-page article should be compulsory reading for everyone involved in the countless inter-professional wrangles between conductivists and therapists. Conductors and therapists directly involved in such fire-fights, parents desperately trying to construct informed choice in the face of self-declared experts and bemused observers, media-people, budget-holders and decision-makers who are as at sea in all this as anyone, won’t find a simple answer here. They may, however, see a balance in the positions of the two sides rather different from how the conventional wisdom of the existing system would like to have it.

Torching Bobath

I would like here to provide a link to this editorial on line but the copyright-holders, Ingenta, are not part of the open-access movement. If you want to read the article in full you will have to borrow a subscriber’s copy (your local paediatric service ought to have a copy) or obtain one through inter-library loan. More immediately you will have to make do with my own brief summary.

The author begins with a heartfelt acknowledgement of the Bobaths’ innovative methods and its long domination of neuro-rehabilitation. In recent years, however, developing understandings (for example, of cortical control) and lack of empirical evidence for the efficacy of this approach have begun to weaken this position.

Diane Demiano proposes that there have been three distinct responses to this change amongst therapists, creating rifts urgently in need of resolution.

First are those who cling fervently on to the traditional approach, continuing to practice ‘in a time warp’.

I refer to this group as the torch carriers, likening them to those who ‘carry a torch’ for someone in a romantic sense, something that is typically not reciprocated or based on present-day reality.

She regards such ‘myopic allegiance’ as emotional rather that rational.

Secondly there are those who retain the name but allowing modifications, incorporating newer methods that fit with modern thinking and assimilating newer theories and practices into their work.

I refer to this group as the ‘torch bearers’ who basically consider the Bobaths as the source of the flame, rather than the scientific knowledge they imparted.

Decisions about what stays and what goes are made by national or local groups, or even by individual therapists, so the method’s identity then becomes blurred.

Many therapists purport that they use an ‘eclectic’ approach and pick and chose techniques from multiple sources, as if there were a therapy method buffet table.

Further, she notes, other people’s innovations then get sucked into an unjustified therapeutic black hole, by being presented as part of the Bobath approach, which ‘may serve the therapists who have invested their careers in this method’ [Bobath], but not anyone else

The third response, espoused by the author among others, she terms that of ‘torch passer’.

We fully recognise that we have benefited from the legacy of the Bobaths but believe instead that they have handed us their torch of knowledge and enquiry and now it is our opportunity and responsibility to contribute to the scientific basis of therapy, before we too pass it on to the next generation.

I hope that I have done justice to her well stated position. As ever, there is no substitute for reading the original. Do try and get one.

Casting light on CE

So what has all this to do with Conductive Education?

Well, as stated at the start of this posting, here is as authoritative figure as you could find from within the ranks of physical therapy (physiotherapy), one of theirs at the top of their tree, with a trenchant and highly critical analysis of what to outsiders may look a monolithic and unmoveable institution. Be reminded: it isn’t. There will be many therapists who do not agree with what she says, fair enough, but her analysis cannot be dismissed without well substantiated argument. The letters pages in the next couple of issues of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology may prove instructive!

That aside, her analysis reminds us that everything has a history, Bobath, Conductive Education, everything, and what we perceive at any given time, in the opening years of the twenty-first century in this instance, is but one point in a long story. And stories have a beginning, and a middle – and an end.

I think that this is what Rony Schencker had in mind when she posed her awkward question towards the end of my pre-conference workshop in Rishon LeZion, about whether it might be time for people in CE to consider ‘changing the name’. Certainly there are some interesting parallels about what Diane Demiano wrote about ‘Bobath’ in her editorial with what can be said about ‘Pető’. You might like to try ‘torching’ Conductive Education in a similar way, assigning practices, people and institutions, to the same three groups as defined above.

The history of the Bobaths’ methods has of course been rather different from Pető’s approach. Not least this has been because only in the last twenty years or so has Conductive Education begun to be exposed to the harsh stimulus of the international professional-academic complex, to which the former has been subject for much of its existence. As a result, for good or for ill, the Bobaths’ approach has proceeded rather further along the line of modern professional-academic development than has Pető’s. And also for good or for ill, Conductive Education is goimng to have to catch up.

Conductive Education’s international period has seen torch-carriers aplenty and the torch-bearers now begin to appear everywhere too, creating ever greater difficulties in defining the boundaries of what constitutes Conductive Education. My personal historical analysis, expressed often enough in this blog and elsewhere, is that Conductive Education now faces a historical crisis with the emergence of a new globalised period in which it will generate and generalise new formulations of the essences of Conductive Education.

This is not quite the same as what the torch-passers are doing within Bobath therapy (nor need it be, they have their own path to tread) but it is certainly parallel enough to permit a far better modus vivendi between therapy and conduction. And it does raise the question of the ultimate historical fate of Conductive Education which, like all good stories, will have to come to an end some day. Passing on the torch of knowledge to a later generation, to be incorporated into some as yet unknown future aapproach with as yet unknown theories and unknown practices, and therefore ceasing to exist in its presently recognisable form – that, I suspect, will the time that the name will fall away, living on only in the history books.

In the meantime, as I think I replied to Rony in the workshop, my present view is that it is possibly rather early to junk about the only commonly acceptable descriptor that we currently have.

Bobath and Pető

Diane Damiano opened her editorial with a quotation from the Berta and Karel Bobath. Here to close this posting is something that András Pető wrote:

Nehmt das, was Ich begonnen habe, nutzt es und entwickelt es weiter… (Take what I have started, use it and develop it further…)

Not exactly the same, I know, but the two sentiments are very close. Perhaps the founders of both systems left a common message about future development of their respective ideas.


Bobath, K., Bobath. B. (1979) Award-acceptance speech at First Curative Foundation Awards Dinner, Milwaukee

Damiano, D. (2007) Pass the torch, please! Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, vol. 49, p. 723

Pető, A. Letter to Ester Cotton


Hope for the future

Followers of graffiti and street art will know Tel Aviv’s claim to fame as the home of the anonymous street artist, known after his iconic slogan KNOW HOPE. Stroll round the streets of Tel Aviv to see these enigmatic two words on walls and buildings, even in a main drag like King George St. This clever play on the phrase’s same-sounding but nihilistic alternative, ‘no hope’, refers to stirrings of optimism that Israel’s political balance might yet swing to a more positive and effective policy towards the future of Palestine. I have no way to know whether such optimism is justified.

Be that as it may, I have long recognised hope in the future as a vital component of Conductive Education, both in its process and its outcome. Until my few days in Tel Aviv I did not know the slogan KNOW HOPE. It does seem rather a good motto for Conductive Education.

Conference impressions

KNOW HOPE also seems rather a good phrase to sum up my lingering impressions from Tsad Kadima’s Tel Aviv conference. Like many others in Conductive Education, though excited by all sorts of individual projects and programmes around the world, over the years I have sometimes despaired of certain big trends and directions that have seemed unstoppable. As I think my previous conference blogs will have shown, I now know renewed hope.

It is a shame that more people from around the world did not make it to Israel to share this experience. On the other hand, this did cut down the ranks of the great and the good – or, to put it another way, the usual suspects. It was very visible how the old order passeth away. Increasingly now this should permit fresh voices to be heard, new faces to be seen, including those of young people who have themselves experienced Conductive Education and are now conductive adults, with their own views and contributions to the movement. Future CE conferences elsewhere, please note.

I consider myself free to say this, being in Conductive Education one of oldest of the old.

It was nice to see Reuven Feuerstein (again) holding out his hand to Conductive Education. A lot of time has passed during which this offer might have already been taken up – but it is not too late now to forge effective links. There are other such links to be explored, can Conductive Education make something of this one as token that it is now ready to move on to some of the big issues? In a world that does not always welcome what we try to do, it could be important for Conductive Education to break out of its traditional goldfish bowl and form common fronts with congruent ways of thinking about the desirability and possibility of change.

A couple of specifics gleaned from Ivan Su’s presentation on Hong Kong. The aim there is to provide a system of services viewed as a ‘through-train service’, from which children can leave at any time to attend local schools. This may or may not approximate what I call ‘dynamic inclusion’: it is possibly more straightforward integration but I do not know. Ivan’s presentation did not touch on the actual practice in Hong Kong – and he and I acknowledge our differences over this. Whatever the practice of these units, however, as a service system for children with cerebral palsy and their families what appears to have been achieved in Hong Kong, from a standing start in 1980, thirty-eight centres serving a population of just under eight-million, provision on such a scale and so co-ordinated puts to shame most societies in the already developed West.

(I cannot help but say that no one this week in England would ever evoke the rail system to symbolise a system of efficient and effective services!).

Inevitably my impressions of this conference and how these have been presented in recent postings on this blog reflect my own present mood and concerns. But then, what else is a blog for? Three-hundred or more other people at the conference will doubtless have come away with their own different views. I wish that this technology has been available to me following some of the many Conductive Education conferences that I have taken part in over the years. And I hope that others will take up the same technology to report their own experiences and impressions of conferences yet to come. Conductive Education is so in need of open reporting and comment…

A changing future?

I have come back to face the New Year reassured that there is at last a new world dawning. Conductive Education’s ‘international period’ began its life as a progressive force in its time but has become increasingly sterile and it is beyond time for being superseded by something new and exciting. This new stage is still in its bud, as yet not ripened: it would be a foolish gardrner to judge judged his crop from fruits as yet unripened on the tree (who said that?)

What is the enemy of change? Maybe change is easier to achieve in pioneer societies like, in their different ways, Israel and Hong Kong – but I gather that in both there has been opposition to Conductive Education from existing professions and institutions. Professional and institutional opposition manifests a common enough cultural given, that individuals, institutions, even society as a whole, do not welcome and respect change, either in ways of doing things or in the potentials of certain populations. But beyond that, Conductive Education should not succumb to the most invidious of all enemies of change, opposition from within. Inevitably such opposition will arise, even amongst recently ‘progressive’ tendencies: we should just not let it gain the upper hand.

It was nice to spend three days in a micro-society in which, perhaps artificially and for a moment, change appeared to attract a very different attitude.

Reintroducing Reuven

It fell to me to introduce and chair Reuven Feuerstein at a plenary session of Tsad Kadima’s conference in Tel Aviv.

As he often does, Reuven raised the occasion to the level of theatre. I sat waiting on the brightly lit podium as, on the arm of his personal assistant, he very slowly proceeded down the central aisle of the darkened auditorium. I think that many, perhaps most I the audience had little idea of who he is, and sat in silent anticipation as his assistant and I helped him mount the low platform.

I find myself in a rather strange position her today, introducing Reuven Feuerstein to an Israeli audience.

I first came across Reuven Feuerstein more than thirty years ago, before I had even heard of Conductive Education, when I was working as a psychologist in a very different field – with children from disadvantaged circumstances. Conventional psychology offered little hope for such children I had found my own alternative in the school of Vygotskii to assure me on the human capacity to change but in the English-speaking world I still felt terribly alone.

Then in the proceedings of a distant conference I spotted a presentation by Reuven and was immediately struck by his ideas, their optimism, their congruity to my own (and Vygotskii’s) – and how education and psychology preferred to ignore them. I wrote, received an immediate and courteous reply and, when we met, found a human being to match the ideas..

Today I introduce to you this remarkable psychologist, and to his ideas. Here in Israel he is a national treasure. More than that, however, you have in Reuven a one-man world heritage site.

Reuven then delivered a virtuoso performance, speaking without notes, quietly passionate, perfectly timed

What he said followed the argument of his conference summary (see the earlier posting on this blog). His central message, outlining his theoretical position, was familiar enough to those who have heard him over the years around the world – but delivered here in more concentrated form, benefiting for a largely lay audience from his leaving the detail implicit. He expounded upon the modifiability of human cognitive functioning, and paid generous tribute to how in Conductive Education he had seen modifiability exercised in a direction beyond his dreams. As always, for those who could follow to the full, it was exhilarating stuff, and I hope that those who did catch it all not would could still feel the unquenched optimism, determination and excitement.

To this usual message he added very clearly his invitation to the conductive world to work together with mediated learning. Specifically this was for the benefit of motor-disordered children who might benefit from additional intervention derived from his notion of cognitive modifiability. More generally it was strengthen both approaches by bringing together conductors’ mediational skills (which I at this point I read as what CE calls ‘facilitation’ and ‘conductive observation’) and his own theoretical formulations.

From what I heard and saw afterwards, I suspect that many left the auditorium with still with little idea of the specifics of what he was talking about – but many there seemed to have grasped that they had heard something rather important and that Conductive Education is not alone.

In the past…

I first published a brief formal note on the congruity of Conductive Education and mediated learning more than twenty years ago. This read as follows.

Whether a given theoretical position has bee directly influential in Conductive Education or not, it should be clear that any theory of the transformability of human beings might have explanatory value, whilst those that are philosophically compatible might potentially interact with Conductive Education to mutual benefit. An obvious example of a compatible theory which, though developing contemporaneously with Conductive Education, has so far had no contacts with it at all, is Feuerstein’s notion of cognitive modifiability. This derived from work with children and young people whose problems of development are superficially quite different from those of the motor-disordered, yet some at least of Conductive Education can be readily stated in Feuerstein’s terms. For example, Conductive Education appears to produce unexpected departures from an otherwise expected course of development, despite present levels of functioning and aetiologies from which our present experience predicts very limited outcomes. It can be seen as generating changes in the learning process that generalise across many areas, the new rate of change itself providing conditions for future development, with the emphasis throughout upon volitional and conscious activity. Its underlying basis is a belief in plasticity as the most characteristic feature of humanity, ensured by learning experiences that are socially mediated, reciprocal, semantic motivational. It would be interesting indeed to follow developments, both theoretical and practical, if Conductive Education were taken up by Youth Aliyah. (Sutton, 1986, p.172)

I made a number of other small gestures to indicate the commonality between the two approaches (such as Sutton, 1987) but nothing came of this. A rather more substantive intervention, a television series called The Transformers, was a three-part BBC follow-up to Standing up for Joe (see Minnis et al., 1990), the second episode of which featured Feuerstein and his work The series achieved nothing like the response of Standing up for Joe. Another try was to invite Reuven to a conference in Birmingham, in 1999). In the event he was in poor health and could not attend: we had him amongst us for a little by way of live video link but this was not enough to achieve the effects that I had hoped.

And Reuven himself had attended a World Congress of Conductive Education in Budapest – but nothing came of that!

For years Jo Lebeer in Belgium has ploughed a parallel furrow, as a confirmed conductivist (parent, neurologist and author) who, as President of the European Association for Mediated Learning, straddles the divide between Conductive Education and Feuerstein’s work like no other individual and has tried to interest both the world of Conductive Education oin this, and the wider world of special education (LeBeer, 1995)

In all, over the twenty-one years since the possibility of linking these two systems in some way was first published, nothing substantial has been achieved.

…and for the future?

Well, Youth Aliyah, the organisation within which Reuven did his formative work, was never drawn to Conductive Education. The Transformers came to early in the internationalisation of Conductive Education to divert the attention of the first pioneers: as I know from my personal experience, they had enough to do getting their own basic conductive services off the ground to divert attention and resources to collateral links. Later, the widening conductive movement as a whole has developed its own concerns.

Now Reuven and I have both urged Tsad Kadima to take up this baton. There is no reason to suppose that such a practical and theoretical link could only be made only in Israel, or necessarily only through direct contact with Reuven’s International Centre for the Enhancement of Learning Potential. I see no sign, however, for the forseeable future that that any other CE organisations are in a position to construct such a bridge, being in the same small country would certainly offer practical advantages.

What a wonderful opportunity for Conductive Education to break out of its continuing narrow association with ‘therapy’ and ‘rehabilitation’, into the wider international world of psychological intervention, dynamic assessment, child development – and ideas.

Will it, won’t it…?


LeBeer, J. (1995) Conductive Education and the mediated learning theory experience of Feuerstein, European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 10, no 2, pp. 124-137.

Minnis, F, Paul, A., Sutton, A. (1990) The Transformers. London: BBC Publications,

Sutton, A. (1986) Problems of theory. In: Cottam, P., Sutton, A. (eds) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorder. London Croom Helm, pp. 153-177

Sutton, A (1987) Two great educators: Mária Hári and Reuven Feuerstein:, Special Children, March, pp. 12-13

Workshop in Rishon LeZion

Workshop: 'Define to defend'

The pre-conference workshop was held the day before the conference as such began, in the small town of Rishon LeZion where Tsad Kadima has its major presence. The venue was situated in a pleasant suburb, a purpose-built study centre that Tsad Kadima often uses, its compact, tiered lecture hall giving a most direct contact between my audience and myself.

For ‘audience’ it had to be, owing to the amount of material to be got through, the fact that there were more than fifty people facing me and my unfortunate personal tendency to talk rather than to participate.

Each participant on arrival was presented with seven pages of lecture notes to cover the content of the day. I will publish these in full in the near future on my new Information website (for further details, watch this blog).

These notes followed a format developed for lecturing to student-conductors at NICE, in which context they have served two purposed: as an aide memoire for my listeners and a guide to myself (to help me stick to the point and to judge how the time is going). Here the notes had two additional purposes: to help structure the understandings of those many in the audience for whom English is not their first language – and to give succour to the two simultaneous translators in their booth.

There were no other aids, except what I could aim to conjure in my listener’s heads.

In the event most there seemed to have a more than adequate grasp of English and the lively multigenerational audience was a pleasure to work. Participants included parents going right back to the very first days of Tsad Kadima, conductors, associated professionals and student-conductors, along Franz Schaffhauser and Juli Horváth from the Pető Institute and a couple of home supporters from back in England.

I think that members of all these groups signalled very clearly where they recognised common concerns and were reassuring that the material presented was to their taste.

The day’s final session was opportunity for participants to comment, question and challenge, which they certainly did. I was flagging a little by then and did not note down everything that was said but two contributions in particular stuck in my mind.

First, I was asked what I thought were behind the relative success of Tsad Kadima in Israel in establishing the basis for a conductive upbringing service. I could think immediately of a couple. I referred to the video that Tsad Kadima had produced years ago, recording its first summer school on Israel. I show this to student-conductor in Birmingham, I told my audience, as one of several such videos of Conductive Education programmes around the world, to show how CE is differently manifest in different societies. And it is very obvious in that context, that a particular factor in that one video, in contrast to all the others, is what could be described at schmaltz (tellingly, there is no English word for this). Secondly, there is what I call the ‘small-country effect’, the product of compact geography and demography, the latter involving not just social cohesion but also the effects of everybody’s being apparently related to someone of significance! Both these answers seemed to ring a bell with the audience and I was asked whether the successful Israeli path to Conductive Education could somehow be ‘bottled’ and exported elsewhere. Of course, on the basis of my analysis, they could not: other societies will have to seek their own ways, based on their own strengths, constraint and opportunities.

(Upon later reflection another explanation for Tsad Kadima’s success was manifest there in the audience. This is an advantage not founded in the wider Israeli society but growing out of Tsad Kadima itself, out of the very experience of success. There in the audience I had together in the same room people who we both service-users and service-providers, some recent entrants to the system, some who had been in it since Day 1, participating in a system where, whatever its day-to-day frustrations, is palpably going somewhere. Most of al, it must surely have begun o generate its own institutional culture. Together this broadly based continuity must surely offer untold advantages. I wish that I had thought of this possible factor at the time. I would have loved to hear them talk about it.)

Secondly, I was challenged by Rony Schenker, to say whether I thought it would now be better, in view of all the uncertainties surrounding the definition and boundaries of Conductive Education, to change its name. A good question, one that I have been asked before and one to which I had no satisfactory answer on the spot. Since the conference Rony sent me a recently published article which, I suspect, may have triggered her question. It is not on Conductive Education at all – but on Bobath. It has sent me down a train of thought along which perhaps I begin to see an answer to that question emerge. I shall share the gist of this article, along with my own thoughts on it, in a forthcoming posting on this blog.

A hard few hours’ performing but, for me at least, a rewarding and pleasurable process. Why on Earth had I been apprehensive?
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