Thursday, 28 February 2008

Wilkommen / Welcome

Swiss philanthropy opens centres at home and in Mauritius

Welcome to the Ranger Foundation which is running conductive centres in Switzerland and Mauritius. The Ranger Foundation is a personal philanthropic endeavour.

The Swiss centre opened in Zug in August. It is called Second Step and it has a crisp and businesslike website in both German and English.

Second Step’s website includes a Forum – offering, I think, the first opportunity for open discussion of Conductive Education on a German-language Internet site for quite some time now.

Conductive programs are offered to children across the childhood years and to adults with acquired conditions. Adel Sopronyi is the directing conductor.

No specific information yet on the Mauritius operation, except that I think that the zwei Therapeutinen aus Europa mentioned are conductors!


Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Um abraço com amor / Love and hugs

Warm invitation from Brazil

I have just received the following tempting invitation through the email:

Bom dia,

Meu nome é Leticia e em algum momento estivemos em contato falando de Educação Condutiva.

Estou escrevendo para comunicar que estamos criando um Grupo de Estudos. Este grupo funcionará de forma voluntária, quinzenal e servirá para enriquecermos nossos conhecimentos no assunto, seja estudando ou trocando idéias e experiências.

A Educação Condutiva é uma nova opção de serviço para atender pessoas com dificuldade motoras. Em Florianópolis, no projeto Com Amor, estamos atendendo crianças com paralisia cerebral e outras dificuldades.

Para participar deste Grupo, estamos nos reunindo quinzenalmente as sextas-feiras em Florianópolis e criamos o e-mail-grupo, para informar sobre as reuniões. Aqueles que desejarem participar podem me mandar e-mail ou acessar este endereço:

A primeira reunião ocorreu na última sexta-feira dia 22 de fevereiro e falamos sobre o médico Andras Peto. A próxima reunião será no dia 7 de março e o assunto será o Instituto Pető na Hungria.

Um abraço com amor,

Leticia B. T. Kuerten

In English this means:

Good morning,

My name is Leticia and at some point we have been in contact, talking about Conductive Education.

I am writing to inform you that we are creating a Study Group. This group will meet fortnightly on a voluntary basis and serve to enrich our knowledge in the subject, either through studying or exchanging ideas and experiences.

Conductive Education is a new service option for people with movement difficulties. At the Con Amor project in Florianópolis, we take children with cerebral palsy and other difficulties.

To take part in this group: we are meeting fortnightly Friday in Florianópolis and creating an email-group so that people can know about the meetings. Those wishing to participate can send me e-mail or access this address:

The first meeting took place on last Friday, 22 February and we talked about the doctor András Pető. The next meeting will be on 7 March and the subject will be the Pető Institute in Hungary.

A hug with love,

Leticia B. T. Kuerten

Only Brazil could issue such a warm invitation to a Study Group.

Well, perhaps Austria, too.

You can't read Portuguese?

No matter, Google and Babel Fish find it no problem. If you haven't used machine translation before, then this is an easy way to try it out.

Google Language Tools

Babel Fish

Monday, 25 February 2008

Sheffield Wednesday

Will Sheffield City Council do the decent thing this Wednesday?

Why, oh why are existing official bodies (almost everywhere) so categorically opposed to countenancing Conductive Education and so ready to defend the status quo?

This is one of two wider questions that jumped out at me on reading the proceedings of the recent Debate on Conductive Education in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

I suppose that I could also advance a milder version of this question:

Why, oh why do existing official bodies (almost everywhere) make so little effort to stimulate and cherish the fragile flower of Conductive Education, seeming sometimes instead to hunt out every (for them) minor difficulty that might be placed in its way?

Wednesday coming should be the final decision day on the lease of the building that PACES has been developing for years as the base for its unique community-based approach to creating conductive services. I seem to have been hearing about the saga of this still undecided lease for years too.

Have a look at Norman Perrin’s blog for the latest episode in this toe-curling story of bureaucratic obstructionism.

Perhaps ‘maladministration’ would be a better word in our supposedly brave new world of joined-up services, statutory-voluntary partnership etc, etc).

Keep an eye out later in the week, to see whether Sheffield City Council finally does the decent thing.

And meanwhile in Northern Ireland…

A brilliant debate last week and in the Northern Ireland media (at least as far as I can find)… nothing. Maybe, though, following the powerful cross-party advocacy of Conductive Education, behind the scenes ministers and their officials are burrowing away to incorporate change on this front into their review of ‘special educational needs’.

We shall have to wait and see.


Debate in Northern Ireland Assembly
‘Eloquent, vivid, to-the-point and heartfelt’, 23 February 2008

Norman Perrin’s blog
‘Re:Lease / Release’, 23 February, 2008

PACES Sheffield

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Eloquent, vivid, to-the-point and heartfelt

CE debate in Northern Ireland Assembly

The Hansard record of the Debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 19 February is now published on the Internet.

This ninety-minute debate was about the most eloquent, vivid, to-the-point and heartfelt display of enthusiastic support for Conductive Education by elected representatives that I have read from anywhere in the world.

Members from all parties were united in their positive advocacy of Conductive Education – and in their rejection of the responsible minister’s familiar response.

The Debate concluded:


That this Assembly supports conductive education and commends the Buddy Bear School, Dungannon, to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and the Minister of Education for financial support and assistance.

This Debate makes a most valuable contribution to the discussion of Conductive Education services, not just in the United Kingdom.

Shame that the conductive movement in the United Kingdom as a whole (and most places elsewhere) has no mechanisms to act upon this.

Wider questions

The specific instance debated here is a local one, manifest around one specific centre, its particular social context and its peculiar history. It represents, however, more general questions posed by the conductive movement across the United Kingdom, and in many other countries too, without resolution of which it is hard to see that Conductive Education alone can make much progress.

As usual the question must arise of why, oh why are existing official bodies (almost everywhere) so categorically opposed to countenancing Conductive Education and so ready to defend the status quo. As Ken Robinson put it in this debate:

I have to say, at the outset, that systems should never become a barrier to giving a child in need the life chances he or she deserves. Systems do not exist for their own benefit, or to justify the employment of officials administering them. They exist to address real educational, health and social issues, and they deserve to exist only for as long as they do that. If a system ever gets in the way of delivering that need, then it must be scrapped, and we must go back to the drawing board.

And on a wider canvas still than just Conductive Education, why, oh why does the establishment of existing institutions and professions unite around the often now explicit denial that motor disorders – including cerebral palsy – constitute a developmental disorder requiring special pedagogy for its full correction and compensation. What could everyone be so frightened of here?

In the Debate at Stormont Assembly Member George Savage had spotted this:

To the best of my knowledge, no special training is provided to equip teachers to educate children with cerebral palsy.

A simple statement of fact that applies far more widely than simply Northern Ireland but, to express this in the language of rights and entitlement, what 'special' can a child and family expect to receive for so-called 'special educational needs' when the state had failed to develop and provide special educational substance appropriate to meeting such needs through its own teaching profession.

In her long and discursive response the Minister (like ministers in most places) eschewed both these fundamental questions. She made a strong plea for her belief in equality but, if the special-pedagogic needs children with developmental disorders resulting from impairments of hearing and vision are acknowledged and provided for, surely refusal to deal with developmental motor disorders in the same measure is a fundamental breech of the human rights of the children and their families who suffer the discrimination that accompanies this.


Private Members’ Business: Conductive Education Northern Ireland Assembly debates, Hansard, 19 February 2008

Previous posting on this topic:
‘Standing up for Mum’, 21 February 2008

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Standing up for Mum

Conductive upbringing creates active citizens

George McDowell first attended the then State Institute in Budapest back in 1972. Since then his mother Emma has been a vocal advocate for the establishment of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. Though this has proved impossible to achieve satisfactorily locally where she lives, in Belfast, she has devoted much energy to creating the circumstances for a conductive upbringing for George within the family. Now it is George’s turn to stand up for his mother's needs and rights.

George has just recently given an interview on BBC TV’s The Politics Show in a feature on the campaign to establish parents’ right to continue receiving the carer’s allowance once eligible for the retirement pension. As things currently stand, one cannot be in receipt of the two state benefits simultaneously. The matter is now the subject of a Private Member's Bill, tabled by Assembly Member David McNarry in the the Northern Ireland Assembly. Emma, who has also taken a leading political role in the carers’ movement in Northern Ireland now falls into this benefits trap and it is the turn of George, who has always been politically inclined himself, to take a leading role.

George has followed up with a radio interview from Stormont (seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly) for BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra news programme. If you’re quick you might be able to catch this on the BBC’s ‘Listen Again’ facility. It’s the last item on the programme.

Other countries, I believe, also display this iniquitous meanness towards aging families with responsibility for disabled children now adults. I gather that Germany does, for example. Looks like a possible case for Europe-wide action. We may well hear more of George, conductive beneficiary and now political activist. Others too, I hope.

A found generation

Around the world many societies have failed to respond to the ‘discovery’ of Conductive Education – and often actively resisted it. In many countries, therefore, there has been a lost generation of children and families who might have benefited from Conductive Education, but didn’t.

One country that has permitted the institution of Conductive Education to flower is Israel, with the result that a growing proportion of young people and their families achieve conductive upbringings, and the fruits of this are now apparent in early adulthood. Elsewhere, conductive upbringings have had to be achieved solely through the dedication and sacrifice of families living their conductive life and working alone with such ad hoc conductive back-up as they can arrange.

In Hungary, of course, there must be a considerable back-log of people of a wide age-range with conductive upbringings and now conductive adulthoods.This, like so many things in Conductive Education, has been barely reported – a great pity as the world cries out for documentation of Conductive Education’s benefits.

A start will soon be made towards filling this gap with Tsad Kadima's publication of a book made up of the personal accounts of a ‘found generation’ of young people who have been brought up conductively, mainly in conjunction with its own services.

This means childhoods, families’ lives, future prospects, all found, discovered, created and transformed, not simply through access to conductive ‘programs’, or even by attendance at conductive schools, but by long-term conductive upbringing.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland…

Meanwhile, as reported in my previous posting (‘Long time no see’, 19 February 2008), the Order Paper for the Northern Ireland Assembly for 18 February announced a motion proposed by five Assembly Members:

Proposed: That this Assembly supports conductive education and commends the Buddy Bear School, Dungannon, to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister and the Minister of Education for financial support and assistance.

[Mr D Bradley, Mr B McCrea, Mr T Lunn, Mr G Savage, Mr F Molloy]

Notes and references

Emma McDowell has published a number of accounts of her life as a conductive upbringer, and later as a carer-activist, for example the two-episode article, ‘Standing up for George’ (from which I drew for the title of this posting) in the now long defunct newsletter The Conductor.

McDowell, E. (1988 ) Standing up for George, The Conductor, No 1, April, pp. 14-15

McDowell, E. ( 1988) Standing up for George, The Conductor, no. 2, July, pp. 30-32

Summary of item on BBC TV’s The Politics Show: ‘Who cares for carers?

‘Listen Again’ to Radio Ulster News

Buddy Bear: motion before Northern Ireland Assembly

Previous posting on Buddy Bear ('Long time no see', 19 February 2005)

Previous posting on Shay Allilis ('Some CE inspiration', 26 December 2007), member of that found generation

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Long time no see

Parliamentary motion on CE in the UK

Old copies of Hansard reflect a snowstorm of Parliamentary activity around conductive Education at Westminster and in other Parliamentary legislatures around the world. Just Google "hansard" and "conductive education", or "hansard and "peto", to see.

That was all a long time ago.

A bit of a surprise therefore to see Conductive Education again receiving Parliamentary attention, with the Northern Ireland Assembly's discussing the threatened demise of the Buddy Bear Trust School, this very day:

A little more through the window

More English information on the Pető Institute’s new website

The site has undergone some further visual development. Maybe this further new information has just gone up or maybe I just couldn’t find it last time I looked.

It’s still early days and the English could certainly do with a good tweaking by a native English-speaker. There's quite a lot of general information on services offered to Hungarian children and adults, and there do begin to emerge, some answers to one of the questions on training raised on my posting of 14 February 2008.

Qualifications – graduates, teachers, or what?

The website states as follows.

Currently the training of conductor-teachers and conductor-kindergarten teachers is in the phase of closing down and a BA level conductor training with the opportunity to specialise in primary school or kindergarten pedagogy has been launched since Hungary joined the European higher education area (Bologna system).

The Bologna system is the new EU standard for levels of academic degrees, modelled like the English one of Batchelor’s, Master’s and doctorate. Conductors qualifying at the Pető Institute will for the first time do so at first-degree level (bachelor’s degree).

The notion of the ‘conductor-teacher’ will no longer apply. An implication of this is that, unless some further arrangement is made, conductors qualifying at the Pető Institute in future will no longer receive a teacher-training qualification recognised as such across the European Union under EU harmonisation regulations (though in effect this has only really been taken up in England and Wales).

The non-graduate conductor qualification of recent years has often been loosely described in some parts of the world (especially in the United States) as a ‘BA’. No doubt future holders of the Pető Institute’s bachelor’s degree will wish to correct this.

I understand from elsewhere that the last ‘conductor-teachers and conductor-kindergarten teachers’ are already working their way through the system and that the first undergraduate conductors are already studying. I do now know what year they will graduate. I also understand that the course will continue to be four years in duration.

The webpage continues as follows…

The alternatives of specialisation prepare conductors theoretically and practically for their role in special needs children’s integration into mainstream communities. In the new system of higher education crossing-over between specialisations is also possible.

It has yet to emerge what is actually meant here.

MA course in the offing

The primary opportunity for qualified conductors to study on MA level is pedagogy which is generally accepted by higher education institutions of teacher training. The College for Conductor Training, however, aspires to conceive an MA course in conductive education in the very near future. On top of offering enhanced theoretical and practical studies in conductive education, the course will include neurorehabilitation, psychology, pedagogy, management theory, marketing and economy.

Conductors have been agitating for years that there should be post-graduate study in their own discipline. Further information on this and how this will be provided will be looked forward to with great anticipation.

Questions remain

There is still nothing on the site of an ‘international’ nature, at least as far as I can find, other than the short ’awareness’ courses mentioned in my previous posting. There is, however, acknowledgement that conductors might work around the world:

Professionals holding a conductor’s certificate are in demand all over the world. Apart from the Practising Institution of the András Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training job opportunities in Hungary open mainly in the public education, health and social areas.

There’s still nothing in German or Russian.


Service information from the Pető Institute

Previous posting about the Pető Institute's new website
Isten hozott / Welcome back, 14 February 2008,

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Personal practice

Growth of consultancy

Some conductors have moved on from looking for jobs provided by others and have set up their own personal practices in which they are beholden to nobody and direct their practice how they will. I’ve recently noticed the existence of three small-scale, conductor-run operations in England. There may well be others joining a by now extablished tradition around the world.

Path for the Disabled

The most recent is Erzsébet Gordon’s consultancy service for children and adults based in Exeter. Her practice has been reported twice in the local press within the last five weeks, demonstrating a useful flair for publicity, and has established a presence on the Internet.

Two other recent consultancies

Already up and running are consultancies based in the Wirral and Rotherham, opened by Lászlo Szögeczki (Independent Conductive Services) and Gábor Temleitner respectively. Both offer services for children and adults.

Nothing new under the sun

Such operations need not be small-scale, nor restricted to a single country in their operation. Both Judit Szatmáry’s Conductive Education Support Services based in England and Agnes Borbély’s Moira based in Hungary operate on a world-wide scale and trace their roots back to the early internationalisation of Conductive Education.

More recent, and aimed at North America, is Judit Roth’s Cerebral Palsy Solutions

For the future

Such operations require little initial capitalisation, and are as free from bureaucracy as you can get nowadays. A new generation of conductors is gaining practical experience and not all of them are wanting to work according to ways that are already acquiring set ways of doing things under conductors a few years older but unlikely to move on and make way for the next wave coming up. It could be that more conductors in future will be exploring independent commercially based practice – with yet further implications how such practice might go on to develop.
And a precedent from the past…

I believe that some traditionalists have a real problem with ‘private practice’. It should be remembered, however, that in a world that was very different from our own, much of András Pető’s initial work in Hungary was a sort of private practice. .

Notes and references

Musical class helps children, Exeter Express and Echo, 12 January 2008

Stroke patients find movement, Exeter Express and Echo, 15 February 2008

Conductor consultancies

Erzsébet (Majorovicz) Gordon’s Path for the Disabled

Lászlo Szögetszki's Independent Conductive Education Services

Gábor Temleitner

Judit Szatmáry’s Conductive Education Support Services

Agnes Borbély’s Moira

Judit Roth’s Cerebral Palsy Solutions

Earlier item on private-sector Conductive Education
Sutton, A (2008) Commercial sense in Conductive Education, 18 January

Outside the Conductive Education goldfish bowl

The historical crisis is a more general one

It is not just within Conductive Education, and its research and development, that present ways of doing things cry out for change. A few weeks ago on this blog (‘CE: a lesson from Bobath’, 2 January 2007) I remarked upon one instance of this, the historical crisis in the world of ‘Bobath’ therapy:

More recently, in my posting on the approach of Bawin and his colleagues earlier today ('Conductive early intervention') I alluded briefly to how ‘early intervention’ for developmental disorders as a whole is regarded, by some at any rate, as having lost its way.

There are more. In the far bigger and intellectually more developed world of education and educational research (one to which Conductive Education is entitled to claim a certain affinity) the crisis is much bigger. A recent article in Educational Research Review (Jörg, Davis and Nickmans, 2007) presents an analysis of this crisis and in doing so accesses a literature that helps contextualise and articulate Conductive Education’s own historical situation, one that has been raised several times in earlier postings on this blog.

Some passages from their article offer a flavour of what they say. These are not always an ‘easy read’ but stick with them because what they say is really rather simple.

There is a worsening crisis in education

Over the past decades, commentators from a diversity of domains have offered sharp criticism of ‘educational practice’. Teaching methods are criticised as poorly fitted to the dynamics of human cognition; curricula are described as out of step with the current times and inadequate representations of parent disciplines; school structures are said to have failed to adapt to the increased diversities of the populations they serve and the mounting dynamism of their contexts etc. In brief, what educational systems claim to be up to and what they actually do appear to be two very different things.

The crisis concerning learning manifests itself by noticing that traditional ways of thinking on this complex topic have not been able to define learning adequately.

Being aware of the double meaning of ‘crisis’ in scientific revolutions, as put forward by Kuhn (1970), both as a state of art in the field of science and as a potential start for innovation, we may take the crisis of today as a full opportunity for a change: as a start of a turning point. Only them we may be able to take up the challenge of ‘inventing’ a new science (e.g. Vygotsky, 1926/1997). What we need is a genuine ‘revolution of new faces’.

We argue that not only educational practice is faced with a problem but that the field of social science has been in crisis for a long time. It seems in a state of … ‘learned ignorance’, remaining blind for what learning may be, unable to recognise its complexity.

Education is a complex system

A complex system is defined as any system comprising a large number of interacting components (agents, processes etc), whose aggregate activity is non-linear (not derivable from the summation of the activity of individual components) and which is characterised by self-organisation

The assertion is that education is a complex system, with all the properties that are characteristic of a complex system, and that it is necessary for researchers, policy-makers and educators, to adapt their educational actions and decisions accordingly. A good way of illustrating how a message functions to invoke the – not entirely uncontroversial – notion of a ‘meme’. Memes are the mental or cultural counterpart of genes and refer to units of information (ideas, opinions, theories, etc) that are transmitted from one person to another. Since message ‘transmission’ is not really about transmission at all, but about reconstruction by the person who ‘receives’ the message, meme transmission is a process in which the memes or messages are not only multiplied, but also transformed, diluted, extended and so forth. Memes are clearly involved in a struggle for limited resources, such as the time, attention and cognitive space of the receivers. For instance – scientific ideas – such as the notion that education is a complex dynamic system – are transmitted to other scientists and further developed or criticised by them. In some cases the messages are appealing and simple enough to enter the public media and become the topic of popular magazine articles and television programs. For instance, the current public interest in the brain as an explanation of human behaviour is likely to be related to a combination of several factors. There is the simplicity of the message (‘particular regions of the brain are responsible for particular abilities or behaviours’), the availability of powerful visual images (coloured pictures of brains with bright colours indicating what part is doing the hard work), innovative and impressive technology (various types of brain scanners, the promise of tangible handles for intervention (drugs that eventually affect the brain regions at issue). For scientists, an additional advantage is the sheer endless possibilities for subjecting any known form of behaviour, ability of psychological property to potential brain localisation. The brain message has also invaded the discourse of education in the form of so-called 'brain based education’.

Thinking in complexity may, or should, lead to a different science of learning and education, one that is characterised by acknowledging the complexity of reality, of non-linearity, and the important role of time in human functioning.

Only when it is recognised that education is in crisis, and when the causes of this crisis are recognised, will we be able to deal with the problems that this crisis brings along. The importance of this sort of acknowledgement was also noted by Vygotskian his first years as a scholar. He saw it as one of the preconditions for a paradigm shift in his field of study to formulate a ‘theory of the crisis’ (see Vygotsky, 1926/1997, for his work on the crisis in psychology, which was not published until after his death). By describing and formulating such a theory in the field of education, we might be able to perceive a crisis, understand its effects, and start to ‘solve’ it.

James Wertsch explained that a situation like this can emerge because of ‘the learned incapacities’ and ‘disciplinary pathologies’ that restrict the horizons of modern academic discourse (Wertsch, 1998, p. 11).

So, we may conclude that we desperately need a theory of the crisis we are is, to be able to overcome the crisis, and to sketch the significant ‘human benefits’ for the field of education and all people in it. ‘…the way things unfold is inherently unknowable to the human mind, emerging through spontaneous self-organisation … rather than advanced planning’ (Flood, 1999, p.9).

Focusing on potential instead of ends

The new complexity paradigm … involves the abandonment of the desire to pre-determine outcomes. Rather than being framed in ends-oriented terms, education might become possibility – oriented … ‘… we should be realistic in a complex way, understanding the uncertainty of reality, knowing that the real holds invisible potential’ (Morin, 2001, p.70). This is how, in our view, reality in learning and education could be, and should be, expanded into dynamic Vygotskian spaces of possibility and potentialities of learning and development for learners.

In contrast to statistics-based studies that can be carries out relatively easily – on many participants at once, using techniques like questionnaires or computerised tests – research into dynamics of complex systems requires mostly intensive, long-term, fine-grained, and often tedious examinations of agents and processes, usually with high-frequency repeated measures and observations. The only way to obtain insight into the dynamics of those processes is to actually study them, i.e. their performance in practice, and this will proceed in a piecemeal fashion. For some phenomena, many individual, or small-sample studies are needed before a critical mass of data is achieved, given the many and varied ways that agents in a system might effect one another. Another problem with these very intensive studies is that they are considerably more difficult to carry out than probe-oriented studies (in which, for example, subjects fill in a questionnaire). A further complicating issue is that the researcher must almost become part of the process itself. In a linear frame, such participation is seen as confounding and researchers are urged to avoid it; in a complexity frame, particularly in studies of social systems, it is understood as inevitable – and, therefore, a necessary element of the enquiry.

A few comments

I do hope that my exegesis does not do too much violence to the authors’ argument.

Be aware that ‘crisis’ here is not meant in its popular sense of a sudden event. Rather it is a technical term, particularly in materialist dialectics, referring to a period of growingly contradictory forces at a given stage of development, out of which qualitative changes (that is change to different ways of being and doing) struggle to emerge. This is certainly how Vygotskii understood the term. As a corollary to this, a historical crisis can go on for a long time. The crisis that occupied Vygotskii’s mind in the nineteen-twenties is still not generally resolved.

Older readers will recall Mária Hári’s desperate plea, made again and again over the years in the face of simplistic attempts to understand Conductive Education: ‘It is a complex system'. When I was teaching undergraduates (student conductors) about pedagogy and psychology for conduction I tried to help them towards an explicit understanding that human development (and its disorders), pedagogy and upbringing, and therefore conduction, are only really explicable as dynamic, systemic, transactional phenomena. Sounds wordy, I know, but like the article quoted from above, it’s really very simple once one makes the qualitative leap into the conductive paradigm. In many ways Conductive Education is ahead of the field in achieving a highly complex, systemic pedagogic practice, but it has singularly failed to agree and articulate a correspondingly complex theoretical position.

Jörg and colleagues give a gentle jab tothe brain-reductionists who, certainly in the English-speaking world, deserve a much harder time than they generally receive. Conductive Education has suffered no little from its own home grown biologisers over the years – ironic when one considers András Pető’s goal and achievement of demedicalising motor disorders in the first place. In the wider world in which we swim, however, there’s a steady drip, drip, drip of the simplistic message of brain as an explanation of human behaviour. Just one, very recent example: the English weekly teachers’ newspaper, the Times Educational Supplement, runs a weekly feature under the heading of ‘Brain and behaviour’ in its TES Magazine supplement. Last week’s offering in this series (18 February, sorry, it doesn’t go on the Web), ‘Networking pays off’ by Susan Greenfield, was as intellectually dishonest and unthinking an example of the ‘brain-based education’ meme as you could imagine. No matter, it will have doubtless served to reinforce the socialisation of teachers into growing mindset that is antithetical to basic tenets of conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing for the motor-disordered. – indeed to the whole purpose of transformative education..

And as for the problem of ‘Conductive Education research’, the final paragraph quoted above from Jörg et al., could have been written with Conductive Education in mind. Would that it were heeded!

Conductive Education can sometimes seem like a tiny goldfish bowl, its inhabitants apparently seeing little of what happens outside. In some important respects Conductive Education is actually running ahead of the field, in others the same problems as confront us also confront others around us – and in certain others we are being left far behind. In some ways Conductive Education has gained enormously from its relative isolation, (practiced at times almost to the degree of autarchy!) but we might achieve a better balance of advantage if conductivists were to get out more and key into what is going on in the big wide world.


The article summarised here:

Jörg, T., Davis, B., Nickmans, G. (2007) Towards a new, complexity science of learning and education, Educational Research Review, vol., 2 p. 145-156

This journal Educational Research Review is published on behalf of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction, by Elsevier Ltd. You will find the journal at:

Elsevier is not an open-access publisher. Downloading the article cost US$ 30.00. If you want to read the article more cheaply, then you will have to go through the library system.

The article includes nearly two pages of references. Cited below are those referred to by the authors within passages quoted in this posting:

Flood, R. L. (1999) Rethinking the Fifth Discipline. Learning within the unknowable. London: Routledge

Kuhn, T. S. (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (2nd edition). Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Morin, E. (2001) Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future. Paris: UNESCO Publishing

Vygotsky, L. S. (1926/1997) Collected Works, Vol. 3. Problems of the Theory and History of Psychology. NY: Plenum Press

Wertsch, J. V. (1998) Mind as Action. NY: Oxford University Press


(Parent and child)

A psychodynamic perspective from Belgium

As promised in an earlier posting (‘A little less of the ‘vieil’ thank you’, Sutton, 2008) here is an introduction for English-speakers to the approach to Conductive Education or young children and their families, developed by Yves Bawin, Marie-Louise Leclerc and their colleagues in Brussels, Belgium, at Centre La Famille (Sutton, 2003).

The pivotal figure in the development of the emerging French-speaking school of conductive pedagogy is Yves Bawin at the Centre La Famille in Brussels. By original profession he was psychologist and physiotherapist. He first encountered Conductive Education in 1977 and set to developing his own conductive practice at La Famine, as part of which process he became the only foreign practitioner to complete a bespoke professional training as a conductor at the Pető Institute in Budapest. Development of Bawin's approach has been shaped by three major considerations (Bawin, 1997):
  • early intervention where there is a motor disorder
  • psychological forces within the relationships between babies and their parents
  • practical demands of the real-life social situations of families in Brussels.
Early developmental intervention 

Motor disorder 'loads the dice' (pipe les dés) of child development and of the 'natural' human developmental process.
The problem of the child who presents a motor disability of cerebral origin is not limited to motricity. From birth the motor disorder interferes permanently with the whole of the child's development, in his emotional and cognitive relationships. The early course of development, which constitutes the first mutual adaptations between the child and the parents, is profoundly disturbed; it is as if the process is inverted and that out of the very early block brought about by the motor disorder, it is the reciprocal inadaptation which comes cunningly to mortgage the child's development towards autonomy and family integration: the manner in which he will be subsequently integrated into social life will be largely compromised. The parents' natural landmarks are put to harmful effect by the motor dependence: this educative dependence brings about a 'misunderstanding' in the basic educative relationship (in which the parents 'lead' their child towards autonomy).  
(Bawin, 1998, p. 1, present author's translation)
If the problem is developmental – asserts Bawin, invoking Vygotskii – there is only one way to approach it, through education, development and education being but two faces of the same coin (Bawin, 1997). The task for early conductive pedagogy is to create situations for active educational experiences for parents and children together, in which parents discover – or rediscover — how to interact on a day-to-day basis with a child with a baffling motricity. The goal is to help parents assume the role of parents in a situation that is strange to them because of their child's motor disorder...
...because of the handicap the parents don't know how to interpret, to evaluate the child's signal, nor how to answer; sometimes they don't see the child's attempts, or they are not able to put the child in the situation suitable for expressing himself, or they misinterpret some pathologic signs as being progress, adapted voluntary expression or, on the opposite, this misinterpretation can lead them to believe their child doesn't want to do anything etc... 
(Bawin 1997, p. 30)
Psychological forces

Bawin is most conscious that he works within a culture much more influenced by psychology and psychoanalysis – both positively and negatively – than is the country in which conductive pedagogy was first developed. His point of reference in this respect is removed from the experience and understandings of many in the United Kingdom too: to the present author's knowledge concepts such as castration symboligène (Dolto, 1984) are not current in practice with the families of children with motor disorders in the Anglophone world. In normal child development castration symboligène refers to the process whereby parents set rules and say 'no', even when they know it to be difficult for their child, because they also know that this is important in helping their child grow up: it leads to the progressive distancing and autonomy of their child as a human being. Where there is a motor disorder, however, the disability acts as it were as an in-built interdiction and it is often difficult for parents to say 'no' to a child whose disability already prevents so many things. In psychoanalytic terms...
...regarding the child with cerebral palsy, the handicap is lived (perceived) by the parents as a real 'castration' [they avoid] to give him one more castration at a symbolic level at different stages of his affective development; they don't give him the necessary interdicts. Most of the time it leads the child to keep an infantile and regressive position of sterile pleasures. He then stays in affective dependence and he suffers because he cannot assume becoming a responsible adult. The system of Conductive Education and the conductor's attitude support the development of the parent-child relationship and ... help the parents do the so-called 'castration' necessary for leading the child to an affective and effective autonomy.
(Bawin, 1997, p. 66)
Bawin considers the psycho-dynamic aspects of early parent-child conductive pedagogy so powerful and important as to merit external psychological supervision of the practice and consultation for the conductors.
Nevertheless, I want to be very clear: the conductor has to be a conductor and not a psychologist! The purpose is for her to find right and adapted ways in order to be efficient as a conductor! Her main aim is the child's development. Forgetting it is losing the essence of her work. 
(Bawin, 1997, p. 119, original author's emphasis)
Practical reality 

Bawin works in Brussels. The medical authorities often refer late, if at all. Many parents live a long way off, or they work, and can attend only for short blocks or intermittently. For such children and their families the best compromise that can be offered is parent-child sessions over a week, three or four times a year, with the child's local therapist invited along to observe one of the two hour conductive sessions and discuss what is being done with the staff at La Famille. Other families live nearer, in Brussels, but for social, economic or psychological reasons cannot care for their child during the day. For these La Famille offers a crèche but this situation proves the least suitable of all for arranging early conductive pedagogy:
...very often those parents are wound up and they cannot understand or accept that we ask them to coming regularly with their child for active sessions!
(Bawin, 1997, p. 121)
The arrangement developed here has been an initial 'transition week' in which it is necessary for parents to attend each day during the week for a two hour session with their child and the centre's social worker visits the family at home. The centre's psychologist is also involved. By the end of the week it is usual for parents to understand the goals of the process and to see the learning now taking place. They are then usually confident enough also to attend a weekly open day at La Famille's crèche which their child wiI1 now attend and which is organised 'conductively' with a daily routine adapted to each child and staff acting as parent substitutes for the day. Bawin urges the necessity to hold on to the essence of Conductive Education, while at the same time rigorously adapting the actual practice to answer real-world practical problems.
Above all it is necessary to relate permanently to what is the essence of CE... One has to ask oneself what is really possible in the concrete context and specify what is there: in each concrete situation an innovative practice has to seek the particular transmission belts which permit one to mobilise the energies and the structures not suddenly, gently. One must not cease to ask oneself (without complacency) about the real benefit which the children and their families are effectively deriving from this attention - to assure oneself that what has been arranged diminishes suffering, brings about a plus and justifies the investment. Finally, one must never stop or believe that one has arrived, once and for all. One must never cease to ask oneself about the next little step: we are on a permanent advance... the confident step-by-step patience that we need with the children we need just as much with the adults and the teams who surround them.
(Bawin, 2003, original author's emphasis, present author's translation)
Over long years Bawin has developed a thoughtful synthesis between early conductive pedagogy and a strong intellectual tradition within his own society, to address an aspect of development that often lacks explicit attention, not least within the conductive movement itself. Given his pivotal contribution to that movement in the Francophone countries this new orientation may prove influential in defining a distinct French-speaking school of conductive pedagogy.

Conductive practice with very young children —
present reflections

The above material, referring specifically to Centre La Famille, has been extracted from the journal Recent Advances in Conductive Education (RACE) where it comprised the concluding few pages of an article called ‘Conductive Practice for children in their first years: development and adaptations’ (Sutton, 2003).

The article traced the history of Conductive Education for young children and their families. It began by reiterating the (still now current!) crisis in early intervention for young children with significant developmental disorders, which is in short that interventions have accumulated no substantial evidence one way or the other to confirm their effectiveness. The implications of this may have to be radical changed in respect to the very orientation of services. Surveying the efficacy of early intervention programmes in general, and writing particularly from the perspective of the mandated situation in the United States, two reviewers concluded as follows:
The therapeutic model may have to be remodelled or perhaps abandoned and replaced with a family-social model for early intervention planning. 
(Lipkin and Schettz, 1996, p. 545)
What in Conductive Education is now generally known in English as ‘parent-and-child’ working has been going now for more that fifty years, clearly manifests modern-day understanding of the centrality of parent-child transactions to child development, and remains nonetheless largely unknown outside of Conductive Education.

The article in RACE recounted the story of very early intervention at the State Institute (subsequently the Pető Institute) in Budapest, from an inauspicious start working directly with babies and young children to the radical change of focus to parent-working somewhere around the end of the nineteen-sixties. Such practice then went on to form part of the classic pattern of service-delivery at the State Institute over the late Socialist period in Hungary.

The article continued by describing reported innovative developments and adaptations made outside the original Institute in Budapest: 
  • the long-distance parental education of Károly and Magda Ákos
  • the family-orientation of Tsad Kadima is Israel; and
  • the psycho-therapeutic understanding of La Famille in Belgium
The radical change that was parent-and-child work around the end of the sixties, happened only after the death of András Pető. What brought it about? Three possibilities come immediately to mind to explain the change, the removal of András Pető from control of the Institute, the general ‘feminisation’ of the Institute that had been going on throughout the sixties, with particular credit due perhaps to Mária Hári or others yet unsung – and the influence of Károly Ákos who had his maximal contact with the State Institute at just this time. Perhaps some combination of the three, perhaps something completely different: just one more puzzle from the long and largely hidden history of Conductive Education.

Although the article was written some five years ago, nothing substantially new seems to have developed in this sector in the intervening time – or at least nothing new has been described. This is not to say that this highly necessary and adaptable mode for delivering conductive benefits is not being vigorously applied by families and conductors around the world, with all sorts of important innovation occurring as a result. Perhaps the sometimes maligned ‘conductor-nannies’ have a thing or two to tell us – if only they would. Not telling, in this and every other context where Conductive Education is being developed, means that those who come after have laboriously to reinvent the wheel, yet again, reaping no advantage from the experience, the disappointments and the triumphs of those who have gone before.

Sorry if this appears to put a bit of a blight on things but without a written tradition, a ‘literature’, Conductive Education can never become a proper ‘discipline’, conductors will not be a ‘profession’ and parents are going to be stuck with conductive services that are always on the fringe.

I am not advocating Bawin’s psychodynamic understandings – or the particular formulations of the Ákoses and of Tsad Kadima. Rather, at a time when people within ‘early intervention’ for developmental disorders are willing to acknowledge that their movement may have rather lost its way, I urge conductivists to recognise that they already practice a different paradigm – and get out there and articulate in word that their societies will understand.

Notes and references

The diagnosis of IMOC (infirmité motrice d’origine cerebrale) is rather broader than that of cerebral palsy current in the English-speaking world.

‘Castration’: Bawin states the different stages of affective (i.e. emotional) development in classic Freudian terms, oral, anal and phallic, with detailed accounts of how motor disorder may affect proper transition from one stage to the next, and how conductive pedagogy can help in this process.

Ákos, K., Ákos, M. (1991) Dina: a mother practises Conductive Education. Birmingham: Foundation for Conductive Education (NB There are also editions in German, Chinese and Russian)

Bawin, Y. (1997) The relationship between the parents and their baby as a principle of the early Conductive Education. Unpublished dissertation, Pető András Institute, Budapest.

Bawin, Y. (1998) Education Conductive précoce et integration familiale. Unpublished paper.

Bawin, Y. (2002) L'education conductive en evolution: rigeur et creativité. Presentation to the conference L'Education Conductive de Pető et l'IMOC: des fondements aux applications. Unesco: Paris.

Dolto, F. (1984) L'image insouciante du corps. Paris: Editions de Seuil.

Lion, U., Schenker, R. (1997) 'Conductive Education': adaptation of Hungarian system to the Israeli context 'Tsad Kadima' - a case study. In Schenker, R., ed., Conductive Education Occasional Papers, nos 3-4. Budapest: International Pet6 Institute, pp. 59-78.

Lipkin, P. H., Schertz, M. (1996) An assessment of the efficacy of early intervention programs. In A. I. Capute and P. J. Accardo (eds) Developmental disabilities in infancy and childhood. Volume I, Neurodevelopmental diagnosis and treatment (second edition). Baltimore: Paul Brookes, 525-548.

Schenker, R. (1994) Parent-child groups: an intervention model for parents and children (ages 0-3) with motor disorders based on the Tsad Kadima system (Pető method). Presentation to the Fourth Conference of the Israeli Association of Occupational Therapy, University of Tel-Aviv, October, Jerusalem: Tsad Kadima.

Sutton, A. (2008) Not so much of the 'veiel', thank you: more awed than old, Conductive World, 28 February

Sutton, A. (2003) Conductive practice for children in their first years: development and adaptations’, Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol.2, no 1, pp. 62-69

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Isten Hozott / Welcome back

Pető Institute opens a window

The Pető Institute in Budapest has published its first English-language webpage following its major reconstructions.

The Pető Institute’s website was republished in a new format in the New Year, in Hungarian. It looks like there are plans to publish at least some of it in English, German and Russian too.

The Institute has new management and a refurbished building. The first English-language webpage advertises short courses for non-conductor professionals, an ideal medium for demonstrating more fundamental changes for those who attend.

In the meantime, presumably there will be a steady increase in material published on the site in languages accessible to the wider international community – for which the most important questions relate to conductor-training.

Information please

For the forseeable future the Pető Institute will remain the major source of the world’s conductor workforce. Correspondingly, the world outside Hungary will comprise the Pető Institute major ‘purchaser’ of this product.

Numbers – is ‘production’ to be maintained

Foreign students – what are the plans?

Qualifications – graduates, teachers, or what?

International employers – what do they really need?

Still ‘international’?

Do you remember ‘Kremlin-watching’? In circumstances where such as thing is necessary, people grasp at the tiniest hint, the tiniest nuance, to try and understand what is going on. Here’s one. The Pető Institute’s new website no longer calls the Institute Nemzetközi – ‘International’. And fair enough, most other institutions in Conductive Education around the world serve an explicitly national or in most cases local purpose.

Rightly or wrongly people around the world had gotten used to referring to the ‘International Pető Institute’ and what this implied. The implications of a change in emphasis would be interesting to know.

Are, for example, 'international activities' to fall more under the rubric of the International Pető Association?

To use a ghastly bit of management-speak, like it or not the Pető Institute has gained a hoste of stake-holders around the world.

They might think they should be told.

The new website makes a start at filling a yawning information gap.

Isten Hozott.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Blogs I like

Leiticia's and Norman's

Educação Condutiva - com amor

You may not read Portuguese but even a quick glance at Educação Condutiva – com amor shows that this is something else. Blog-writer Leticia Búrigo is the mother of young twins with cerebral palsy and has set up her own Conductive Education centre in the South Brazilian city of Florianópolis where she lives. Her blog breathes life, an enthusiastic, ebullient mix of her experiences in Conductive Education, her reflections upon the meaning and implications of the approach, translations into Portuguese of technical materials originally in English materials, poetry, photographs, lively and plentiful comments from her readership – a veritable Brazilian carnival of Conductive Education.

Small wonder that a web search for “Educação Condutiva” comes up with Leticia’s blog as Number 1 at the head of a growing list of hits, ahead of all the professional sites, the newspaper articles, the directory results and all the flotsam of Cyberspace. In fact, enter “Conductive Education” (in English) and search the Portuguese pages only, and you will find her blog top of that list there too.

It was seeing what Leticia was doing on her blog that finally tipped me into starting my own. I only wish that I could blog like Leticia blogs! Just to look at it makes me feel the warmth of the Brazilian sunshine and the power of her enthusiasm…

Norman Perrin

Norman’s blog teases out and exorcise some of the issues that he struggles with both as a parent of a young adult with cerebral palsy and one of the longer-serving leaders of an organisation providing Conductive Education services in the United Kingdom (and that means anywhere).

The sort of things that concern him are the egregious ignorance of motor-disorder amongst decision-makers and bureaucrats responsible for providing the services and just what it might be that he would have them know. As I write, his latest posting, 'Pirate on the beach' (7 February) well exemplifies these concerns. A cross that he has to bear is being a ‘chief executive officer’ in the bullshit world of charity-management. It’s a pleasure for me to read postings on being a 'CEO', reminding of just what it is that I am missing – and more, reassuring me that it’s getting worse by the year!

Norman offers thoughtful and serious communiqués from the long haul, on both the family and the organisational fronts, warm, tolerant and often uncomfortable, just as it is.

Stretching not shrinking

Logotherapy offers useful distinction

Last night I was leafing through Donald Watson’s Dictionary of Mind and Body when my eye was caught by the entry for LOGOTHERAPY. Inter alia I read that Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy is a form of existential psychotherapy holding mental and even physical health depends largely upon having a sense of purpose or meaning, the word ‘logotherapy’ signifying ‘therapy for meaning’. In this context, the most basic human motivating force is seen as being the ‘will to meaning’, frustration of which may lead to neurosis. The process of logotherapy focuses upon discovering one’s life purpose and going beyond the present self (pp. 236-7).

Frankl created the term HEIGHT PSYCHOLOGY, in counter the widely current concept of ‘depth psychology’ which ignors the importance of meaning. Conventional psychotherapists are often called by the English slang term ‘shrink’, whereas in height psychology the psychotherapist might be better thought of as a ‘stretch’! Frankl wrote:

Logotherapy expands not only the concept of man, by including his aspirations, but also the visional field of the patient as to potentialities to feed and nurture his will to meaning. By the same token, logotherapy immunises the patient against the dehumanizing, mechanistic concept of man on which many a shrink is sold – in a word, it makes the patient ‘shrink-resistant’. (Frankl, 1975, as quoted by Watson, 2003, p.179)

Does any of this ring a distant bell?

What has any of this to do with me and Conductive Education?

I could find out much more about Frankl, logotherapy and height psychology on the Internet but it’s nice to use old technologies too and find that they still work the oracle. I could go diving off into a stack of similar reference books accumulated over the years but the above suffices for my present purposes.

Being British I have lived most of my life (much of it spent nominally as ‘a psychologist’) wholly unaware of the word logotherapy or what it represents, with the name Frankl just one of those distant echoes from some country or other of which I was happy to enquire no further. Many who read this posting will have passed their lives in a similar state of bliss.

For me this changed last autumn with the appointment of Franz Schaffhauser to the post of Rector of the Pető Institute in Budapest. There was no public announcement of this appointment in any language but Hungarian (nor has there been since). Typically therefore one was left relying upon pletyka, a most unsatisfactory way of communication but one that we have all had to learn to live with in the world of Conductive Education. The interesting pletyka* around Franz Schaffhauser was that he is a speech therapist by profession. Typical pletyka, total twaddle once removed from hard reality in its telling. The hard reality in this instance is that Franz Schaffhauser is a logotherapist – not a logopaed (English equivalent: ‘speech therapist’ or ‘speech pathologist’, according to which branch of English you favour).

He is a practising psychotherapist in the tradition of Viktor Frankl: he is a ‘stretch’ (I don’t know whether you can pull that linguistic trick in Hungarian!). He is also a practising academic who has retained his chair at ELTE, the Eötvös Loránd Academic University) in Budapest, along with his place on the Professzura the governing board for the Faculty of Psychology and Pedagogy there.

Franz Schaffhauser must have had a hectic six months. I don’t envy him. When he gets round to making his own analysis of the practice at the institution that he now directs, as in time he surely must, it will be interesting to see the viewpoint from which he does so – rather different, I suspect, from that of many who have gone before. And when, as he may also do in time, he gets round to injecting his own ideas into training and practice, things may start to become really interesting.

Notes and references

Earlier postings on Franz Schaffhauser and his appointment:

‘Conductive Education: a patent misunderstanding?’ (9 October 2008)

‘Tel Aviv encounters’ (29 December 2007):

Frankl, V. E. (1975) The Unconscious God. NY: Simon & Schuster / London: Hodder & Stoughton

Watson, D. (2003) A dictionary of Mind and Body: therapies, techniques and ideas in alternative medicine, the healing arts and psychology. London: André Deutsch

Coming soon to this blog

I have not forgotten my pledge from a couple of weeks ago, to try and explain the situation around Conductive Education in Germany. I have been drafting something but Germany is a Great Power in the little world of Conductive Education and I don’t wantsolely to describe what is happening there, I want also to be helpful and make a practical suggestion. Before I do I will be circulating a draft of my posting for comment from some conductors who know Germany well. This will take time. By way of a taster, a trailer, a tease, I shall offer a frequently quoted passage from Plato that serves as epigraph (p. vii) for Donald Watson’s book.

The cure of a part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempt should be made to cure the body without the soul, and if the head and body are to be healthy you must begin by curing the mind, for this is the greatest error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians first separate the soul from the body.

The German for soul is Seele.


* Pletyka: acommon Hungarian word, meaning something like ‘gossip’, rumour’, ‘ dirt’

Calling the Democratic Republic of Congo

If you visited this blog yesterday from the Democratic Republic of Congo (République Démocratique du Congo) and you are the lady whom I promised to send details of the Conductive Education project in South Africa, be assured that I haven’t forgotten you. I’m very sorry – I’ve lost your contact details

I have the information that I promised to find for you, plus a little bit more. Do get in touch direct and I shall pass it on.

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