Saturday, 26 July 2008

Google Knol: Google's answer to Wikipedia

Is there a potential advantage for Conductive Education?

Just launched by Google on Wednesday is something that just could turn out to be big in the world of information and open publishing, very big, with the invented word 'knol' becoming as common as the word 'blog' is today.

'Knol', by the way, is short for 'knowledge', and presumably therefore pronounced 'noll'.

A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic, making it easy for you to write and share your knowledge with the world.

Knols will provides free publishing on the Internet for anyone who wishes it. All you need is something to say. There's plenty to be said within and about Conductive Education and plenty of people out there who ought to hear it. If you 'knol' (is there a verb 'to knol' in English yet?) you might even make money from it.

The system is potentially interactive with its audience... all it needs to get started is willingness to put your name to what you write.

This does at first sight seem to add considerably to the ways in which the cash-strapped Conductive Education movement might effectively spread its messages on the Internet.

Have a look, test it out, at

Friday, 25 July 2008

A few other people's blogs

Getting quite busy now

The number of Conducive Education blogs is growing.

The left-hand column of Conductive Education World shows the latest postings on the most regular of these, and provides direct links. Here's this morning's crop.

Educação Condutiva - com amor
Óleo de Lorenzo
23 hours ago

Laszlo Szogeczki's
10 eves a Nemetorszagi Konduktorok Egyesulete II.
1 day ago

Inspired as usual by my work
2 days ago

Conductive Education Library
Feedback from the other side
2 days ago

Paces CEO
Blogging for Conductive Education
3 days ago

In addition there is a growing penumbra of less frequent sources, also worth checking if you want to know what's bubbling up in Conductive Education. Luckily Norman Perrin's Pageflakes site offers a quick visual overview of what's happening here too:

Conductive Web

Maybe some more people can be persuaded to take the plunge...

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Berte Bobath and discovery of Conductive Education


In a Hungarian-English dictionary the word pletyka (pl. pletykak) is defined as ‘gossip, tittle-tattle, scandal, backbiting; rumour’. In Socialist days pletykak had particular significance, as a major source of news and information. In a society where, if you read, something in black and white, then somebody had already been there to doctor it, word-of-mouth transmission and report assumed a high importance. What you heard at the hairdresser's, with one eye over your shoulder to check who might be listening, was as credible way of knowing what was happening in the world as were the media and other officially approved sources.

You do not have to be aware of the psychology of rumour to know how oral report falls a long way short of providing a credible historical record. Did you never play the children’s game ‘Chinese Whispers’? Great fun!

When the Foundation for Conductive Education maintained a permanent presence in Budapest (1987-1993) the gathering and interpretation of pletykak was just part of everyday existence, not least in the Foundation’s contact with the Pető Institute. If you had any sense at all you never believed a pletyka – but you didn’t ignore it either. The smell of smoke usually indicated that something was smouldering or burning, somewhere.

That anyway is how I used pletykak, as signals that I ought to be on the look-out for something (often trouble!), though not  necessarily exactly what the pletyka itself had said. Also great fun.

And even now, in the age of emails and the Internet, and even in the liberal democracies, in the absence of more reliably sourced information Conductive Education continues to generate its pletykak. That does rather say something about Conductive Education and its world. And I’m not talking now just about people from Hungary.

Let me tell you a story…

On my way home a couple of days ago I ran into someone I used to know. We hadn’t seen each other to speak to for a few years, so we spent a little time catching up. Inevitably the question of Conductive Education was raised (not by me, I’ve heard more than enough of it over the years!).

Who were that couple who had a rival method to Conductive Education?

Hw was talking about the Bobaths. Particularly, he mentioned about something that Berte Bobath had said to him when he had interviewed her some twenty years before  (he was a journalist):

She sent someone to Budapest to find out what Pető was doing and then she tried to suppress what this woman had found there.

My friend told me that Berte Bobath had somehow heard of Pető’s work back then. Easy enough, I would guess, on the Central European emigrés’ network in the London of the time. Berte Bobath had then sent a young assistant physiotherapist to Budapest to find out more.

Her young lady came back from Budapest brimming with enthusiasm for what she had seen and nagged the Bobaths to go out to Budapest and see the work for themselves. This indeed they eventually did, but did not think much of what they saw. But, here’s the rub, Berte Bobath told my friend  that she and her husband had already tried actively to suppress her young assistant’s enthusiastic reports, going so far eventually as dispensing with her services.

At this point in the interview, my friend recalled, Mrs Bobath had become tearful, saying she should never have acted in this way, but she had felt professionally betrayed. She had only acted in this way because she thought Pető’s approach to be superior to her own. Now she bitterly regretted what she had done and said that she never forgave herself.

My friend did not publish did not publish this interview, even though at that time Conductive Education was a hot public issue. This was because he received a letter from the Bobaths’ solicitor, threatening legal action if any mention was made of what Mrs Bobath had said.

…and another

I also recall years ago hearing a story from Mária Hári, in Budapest in the mid-eighties. This was to the effect that Ester Cotton’s first visit to the then State Institute for the Motor Disordered had been made because ‘she was sent by the Bobaths’.

One small item of triangulation – but just another pletyka!.

Standing up for history

This events of those days have remained buried for some twenty years or so, until a chance and casual conversation in the street. I  gathered that no notes from the interview with Berte Bobath survive. All we have of those events is just hearsay, gossip, pletyka, compounded by the usual pitfalls of human memory and confabulation.

And yet… and yet, can the story be made to stand up all these years later? Though the Bobaths themselves are long gone (they died in 1991), their Centre in London survives. Just possibly it has archived documents from the late fifties/early sixties that might confirm at least the account of their ‘sending’ someone to Budapest to find out more (modern readers may be unlikely to grasp just what an enormous adventure that would have been in those days, behind the Iron Curtain). And in Budapest, the Pető Institute also has an archive, newly opened to public scrutiny.

It should be a fairly easy exercise to make at least a brief scoping enquiry of both organisations. But should one? Knowing where bodies might be buried is in itself no necessary reason to dig. Mrs Bobath, at the time of her interview, sounds like she was at best ambivalent about exposing this episode to public scrutiny. Why trouble her memory now?

My own view, for what its worth? That was then and this is now You still meet antipathy between certain followers of the Bobaths and advocates of Conductive Education. I had another drearily negative experience reported to me only a couple of days ago. The struggle between certain Bobath-trained therapists and the advocates of Conductive Education has now, however, gone on long enough. Neither side is in a position today to waste time or energy on further needless internecine strife. There are bigger threats to the survival of both. At Tsad Kadima’s conference in Tel Aviv in December 2007 I experienced how the two sides can rub along, communicate and collaborate, and I know that in a whole range of contexts many others have experienced the same.

Anything that might contribute to rapprochement today is therefore worth looking at.

Just checking

In the meantime, with the invaluable help of Gill Maguire, this afternoon I made a quick check of the published materials available in the National Library of Conductive Education. If we could have given this more time we might have dug out a little more, but probably only a very little. From what we did find, a sketchy chronology emerges.
  • At an unknown date. Ester Cotton had found herself in Budapest (on a business trip, with her husband, she had told me) and stumbled across the then State Institute, and András Pető.
  • Some time early in 1965. Ester Cotton went to Budapest on a scholarship from the then Spastics Society (now Scope). Upon returning home she wrote a report of her visit. She was at the time still a teacher at the Bobath Centre.
  • Undated letter. Pető suggested that she should submit the report that she had written for publication in the journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
  • 6 June 1965. Ester Cotton wrote to tell Pető that Dr (Karl) Bobath had proposed creating a conductive group at his Hartlebury Hospital. This was a long-term subnormality hospital such as we had in the UK at that time. Ester Cotton wrote to Pető that she thought that all the children would be retarded and that she feared that Dr Bobath would not give her a free hand. She also reported that she had sent the report off to the journal.
  • 14 June 1965. Pető wrote to Ester Cotton saying ‘Fight the Bobaths… Do not work with Dr Bobath, get yourself independent accommodation…’
  • August 1965. Ester Cotton’s article was published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. (That's a pretty fast turn-round for academic publishing, even in these electronic days. Perhaps it helped that the journal was owned by the Spastics Society.
  • September 1966. Dr and Mrs Bobath (Karl and Berte) made their own visit to the State Institute. They did not altogether like what they saw – but that’ is perhaps another story.
  • September 1967. Pető died.
  • At some as yet unidentified date during all this. Ester Cotton left the Bobaths (circumstance unknown) and was engaged by the Spastics Society as ‘Advisory Physiotherapist’ to introduce Conductive Education through the Society.
There will still be people alive with their own personal recollections of these events. Any offers?

From pletykak to history

Just how intertwined the histories of the two approaches were at that nodal point!

I have never been altogether happy about the tales around the first British ‘discovery’ of Conductive Education: somehow the story has never quite held water for me. Conductive Education is now an important presence in the field of disability, it needs the mists of pletyka blowing away, so as to reveal a clear, documented account of how it arrive at its present position. This is as true for what has happened internationally since the early nineteen-sixties as it is for Pető’s still murky past in Central Europe in the years before 1945. One day, who knows, we might even know what happened in Hungary in between!

The little
pletyka recounted here, and the quick dip into the available documentary record that followed, just perhaps cast a glimmer of light, raising as many questions as they solve.

Pletykak cannot necessarily be believed: they are no substitute for history. They can, however, open windows on to some strange landscapes, exploring which may throw up the documentation needed to create us some real historical record of out past. So here is one further pletyka, that I heard in Hungary in the mid-eighties, again from Mária Hári. It went something like this:

Some time in the nineteen-fifties, the Bobaths has 'sent' an English child to Pető's Institute in Budapest as a practical test of his system.

Did they really? What exactly happened? Where is this child now? Is the story substantially true? What real history, if any, lies behind this pletyka? Yes, I did ask at the time.

'Who was she?', I asked excitedly. 'Come, we shall read her records', she replied, and  marched me to the large record room. 'We have everyone here who came,' said when we got there, surrounded by shelves of meticulously kept folders. 'Where is hers?' I asked. 'I do not know,' she replied, what is her name?' 'But I don't know here name.,' Then how can I find her record?' That's the Maria whom I knew, so eager to help, but...

I found out no more. I guess that the file is still in the Institute's archive, and another story still waits to progress from pletyka to history.

A place in Conductive Education's history

As we now know, Ester Cotton could not be suppressed in the mid-sixties and went on to set in motion chains of events that brought Conductive Education eventually to far wider public awareness, The path has not, however, been smooth: interests have conflicted, feathers have been ruffled, and there have been some rather bad experiences along the way. Finding out what actually happened in London and Budapest all those years ago, identifying important common historical experiences, might with the wisdom of hindsight help strengthen the hand of people of good will who want an end to the still flickering conflict between the therapists and the conductors.

Berte Bobath could not have foreseen how Ester Cotton’s advocacy of Conductive Education would lead on to wider awareness and further interpretations of Pető’s methods, both in the United Kingdom and around the world. Along the way, this chain events possibly saved Pető’s approach and his Institute itself from extinction at the hand of the Ministry of Education.

In the end, therefore, Berte Bobath, however she handled things at the time, merits the universal gratitude of the international Conductive Education movement for ‘sending’ Ester Cotton to Budapest, if that is what actually happened, because by doing so she initiated the whole long and rocky process of the system’s internationalisation, and at the same time secured its longer-term continuation in Hungary. She is therefore a pivotal figure in the history of Conductive Education..


Cotton, E. (1965) The Institute of Movement Therapy and School for Conductors, Budapest, Hungary; a report of a study visit. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, vol. 7, no 4, pp. 437-446.

Jernqvist, L. (comp.) (2005) Peto’s letters to Ester Cotton 1965-1966. Cumbernauld, Jernqvist.

Jernqvist, L., Lancaster-Gaye, D. (2005) I’m no angel; a celebration of Ester Cotton 1912-2003. Cumbernauld, Jernqvist.

Első Magyar blog?

Is this the first Hungarian blog?

László Szögeczki makes a very welcome addition to the growing family of Conductive Education bloggers on line.

His first postings are in Hungarian but, he implies, that this will not always be so,

Sorry folks, as far as I know no one has yet managed to create the algorithms to machine-translate Hungarian into other languages.

Never say ‘never’, however. If anyone out there knows a site that offers, say, Hungarian-English or Hungarian-German translation on the Internet, then please, please do share the URL with the rest of us.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Great Gawd Budd

A reminder, a link

On a mountain top on Lantau, a large island administratively part of Hong Kong, stands a colossal bronze Buddha. On the hot, damp day last week when I visited, his mountain top stood buried in the cloud base.

As implied in the verse by Kipling from which this article’s heading was taken, the British have a long tradition of not respecting such beliefs. András Pető’s acceptance of Buddhist and other Eastern understandings would not have endeared him to mainstream British opinion, nor possibly mainstream opinion in much else of the Western world (possibly a reason for his two books in German having been so shunned by CE-enthusiasts in the German-speaking countries!).

Many authors have mentioned Pető’s interest in Eastern religion but no one has yet explored what this actually amounted to, nor indeed what if any implications this might have had in the early development of Conductive Education. Simply, no one involved in Conductive Education has had the interest or the knowledge to take this question up. In China, however, in Hong Kong or on the Mainland, there might yet be such a person…

The swastika on the Big Buddha’s chest represents Dharma, universal harmony, and the balance of opposites. When facing left, as on the Big Buddha it represents love and mercy. All this is rather different from what this ancient symbol came to represent during Pető’s lifetime, and the effect that this had both upon his own life and upon the circumstances out of which Conductive Education sprang.


The Big Buddha, Lantau Island

Kipling, R, Mandalay

Jubiläumskongress Konduktive Förderung

Kingressinformationen und Anmeldeformular

Formal details of the ‘German conference’, to be held in Munich on 24-25 October 2008, have now been published, including a complete programme and application details.

Very interesting…


Conference website

Earlier item on this conference
Sutton, A. (2008) Conference in Germany, Conductive Education World, 20 May

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

New article on parent and child work

Conductive Education as parent-child interaction

Most theoretical reports of conductive practice rely upon a limited range of well-worn concepts. Theoretical analyses of Conductive Education in psychological, rather than 'therapeutic' terms are few on the ground. Wendy Baker and I have sought to redress this balance a little with publication a couple of days ago of an article on the Internet that describes 'early-age' parent-and-child work from the standpoint of developmental psychology. This is aimed primarily at workers in preschool ‘settings’ in the United Kingdom but may perhaps be of potentially wider interest.

Here is the formal abstract:

Early-age Conductive Education developed as a means to activate young children whose motor disorders impeded interactions with their material and especially social worlds upon which social and psychological development depend (reciprocity). Parent-and-child intervention teaches children together with their parents, enhanced by implementation in small groups. Experience at the National Institute of Conductive Education dates back fifteen years and has also involved a range of disabling conditions beyond motor disorders, including intellectual disorders. The approach is compatible with the thinking of major theorists in psychology (Vygotskii, Wallon, Feuerstein, Bronfenbrenner, Dalto). Given lack of demonstrable efficacy for existing approaches to early intervention, a research methodology is proposed for evaluating this psycho-social family-based intervention.

This is a shortened version of a somewhat longer paper, copies of which are available to enthusiasts upon request.


Baker, W., Sutton, A. (2008) Parent-child interaction as focus for early intervention: experience from early-age Conductive Education, Interconnections Quarterly Journal, no 2, July, pp. 14-22

Friday, 18 July 2008

Chinese puzzle

One name, several systems

I knew that visiting Hong Kong would be a challenging experience. It certainly is, as challenging as when I first stumbled into Conductive Education back in the early noneteen-eighties, challenging enough for me to be still struggling to formulate my ideas, challenging enough to make me review guidelines for action and analysis that have served me well over twenty-five years or so in Conductive Education.

I'm still in Hong Kong as I write and just beginning the long struggle to put what I am already thinking and saying into written speech to hold it up for public interrogation. Why should anybody care? Because Hong Kong is part of China ('One country, two systems' but one country all the same). What is happenning out here is BIG, bigger than anyone in Conductive Education has ever experienced, and it will begin to effect EVERYBODY in Conductive Education over the next couple of years or so. For good or ill? Tell me when it's happened!

In two years' time Hong Kong hosts the next 'World Congress' of Conductive Education'. There had better be better models for analysis and debate in place by then than we have now, better certainly than 'I do Conductive Education and you don't', 'pure Conductive Education' versus 'principles of Conductive Education', etc., etc., the tired, undefined cliches that have so often constituted the sole basis for discussing Conductive Education.

Instead, and as a starting point, might people examine the viability of a Big Tent approach, with reasonable, explicit and acceptable criteria for inclusion, running for the moment under the rubric of 'Conductive Education'? When the different worlds of Conductive Education meet en masse in 2010 it will help ease the flow of that event if there are aready emerging some clearer terms of engagement emerging. It's time to start thinking about this now. Will 2010 be a year of coming together, or the year of the Big Bang when the whole caboodle blows to smithereens?

So how about this model for starters? Some sort of defined Big Tent, containing several distinct systems, each itself consciously defined but part of some bigger whole? That of course would involve clear statements of our differences as much as attempts to find what me might have in common (and I don't mean 'the furniture'). It would need people to consider what seems to be actually eseential to their processes, rather than relying unquestioningly upon the hoary old phrases that have been worked so hard and uncritically over forty or so years.

Or shall we just continue on our own sweet ways while the Chinese continue on theirs, with the same likelhood of nothing changing, as the balance of influence in the world shifts inexorably eastwards? Shall we just just hide under the duvet and wait for morning?

Comments please on the nature of the problem as posed here and on the feasibility of the model of a Big Tent containing several systems. \over here, where i write this, they are are already entertaining something like this as one possible way forward.

I shall return to this question, feed information into the debate, tweak and argue. Don't let it be the sound of one hand clapping.


Hong Kong, previous mention

Sutton, A (2008) A week in Hong Kong: an Intellectual challenge, Conductive Education News, 7 July

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Conductive Education and the law

Let’s hear more of it

Yesterday’s item in Conductive Education World, commenting upon an English law firm’s way of listing Conductive Education, drew a prompt response suggesting that I had indeed been too picky in what I had written. 'AdrianH' commented:

Picky...... well may be, what exactly is your issue with this and what point are you trying to make? One wonders why you picked on this post in particular when there are threads about other companies there, all posted with the same purpose and general message.The solicitor you cite did not make the post, it is a link to the company website (and an extract from that site) posted to provide information for those fighting to get a suitable education for their child/children.The success refered to is their success in representing families and children and winning cases against education authorities that denied those children a special needs placement or an appropriate education setting for their needs.Nowhere do they claim success in education as that is not their role, they are however extremely successful in winning cases and therefore allowing disadvantaged youngsters to gain access to education,which after all is their legal right.

I didn’t pick it, Google Alerts did – because it mentioned Conductive Education.

Lawyers' vital contribution to Conductive Education

I’m glad that the law firm in question is developing experience in such actions and pleased that it considers this something worth advertising. I know that other law firms active within education law are also working with such cases and look forward to reporting what is happening as and when I hear (I can grant no time or priority at the moment to do a retrospective). And I know that without such legal intervention many children would not be accessing Conductive Education... and some services would have had to close. Like everyone else (except, I guess, the lawyers) I wish that things could be achieved otherwise, but that's the world we live in.

From time to time the outcomes of these cases are reported and I hope one day there will have been sufficient such work as to merit description, analysis, conference and publication about Conductive Education and the law in its own right. Maybe I’m not sufficiently in touch and it already has, in which case I would be most grateful to hear and pass the information on.

I know that analogous cases occur elsewhere in the world, not just the Common Law countries, and that all in all there has been a lot of success – and no little failure – in contesting the defensive position of public funding bodies through judicial proceedings. I know too from personal experience that both sides in such cases often bring poor facts and irrelevant arguments to adjudication, and that cases can be lost because of this.

Over the years a variety of judgements and decisions in several jurisdictions have been reported on the Internet – and are still up there for people to find. As far as I know, however, the field of Conductive Education law has not started coming together as a coherent whole. The posting on which I commented perhaps in part reflects this, but that was not the purpose of what I wrote.

Conductive Education as commodity

Conductive Education, outside the immediate bubble of those directly concerned with accessing and developing it, will inevitably be commodified by those for whom it forms an incidental or occasional part of their work. It is something that they deal with and in doing so they contribute to the practical extension and development of the Conductive Education movement in ever-wider social contexts. There can be no objection to that. Parents faced with stonewalling public bodies are very lucky that there is a growing pool of law firms with expertise in this field. I have no doubt that on the other side there is a body of public officials with their own experience of ‘dealing with’ Conductive Education, perhaps even shared means of arguing such cases, to rid themselves of a troublesome commodity that they don’t want to buy!

It would be very helpful to conductivists every where to know better how this commodity is viewed by all sorts of consumers today, parents, public bodies, therapists, school teachers, doctors, the media, whoever. I suspect that we might be in for a few shocks! Without such knowledge, we really are navigating in the dark.

A categegorial question

So, the question, ‘Am I being picky?’ was, as the item’s title implied, a categorial one. From my end of the Conductive Education bubble, it was rather stark to see a pedagogic process, one moreover representing a whole new paradigm for children with developmental disorders, subsumed within a category made up mainly of conditions and quasi-conditions typifying the old! On the other hand, I had to recognise that the lawyer and her law firm in question have to communicate and operate in their own real world, hence my inclusion of ‘commodity’ in the subtitle.


I wasn’t being picky for picky’s sake. As for the capitalisation, however, now that's something else…


Previous item:

Sutton, A. (2008) As others categorise us: Conductive Education commodified, Conductive Education World, 9 July

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

A week in Hong Kong

An intellectual challenge

I am off to Hong Kong on Friday and shall spend next week looking at services there and discussing the nature of Conductive Education.

The services are provided by SAHK. I have already expressed my admiration of the extent and co-ordination of SAHK's comprehensive habilitation and rehabilitation services (Sutton, 2008) that on the face of it put to shame those of the former colonial power. I will be very interesting to put this impression to more direct test and I shall be reporting some of what I see and think on the pages of Conductive Education News over the coming week.


The Association was founded forty-five years ago and provides services 'in a holistic manner' to people with an increasingly wide range of disabilities, across the life-span. Services include special education from pre-school to junior-secondary levels, residential and training services for adults, employment, and community and family support. SAHK present runs fifty-one service units, serving more than 4,500 clients and their families annually.

The Association's developing role has meant a name change, to SAHK in English. Its Chinese name explicitly indicates the mission of maximizing clients’ potentials and hence their confidence to lead a quality life. I do like that.

There will be a ceremony to mark this name-change next Friday and I shall be there. Lucky me.

The intellectual challenge

It all sounds a wonderful jolly, doesn't it? So where's the intellectual challenge?

Those who have known me and my work over the last twenty-five years or so will be well aware of my attitude to getting Conductive Education right and my view of the grave dangers to the system's survival inherent in getting it wrong. They may also know of my firm-held belief that buried within Conductive Education is the basis for immeasurable benefit to disabled people and their families in the developing economies. And one more thing, they should know too of my recognition of the problems (in practice as in theory) of uncritical transposition of special educational procedures from one culture to another – indeed the first article that I published in a refereed journal (Sutton, 1977) was on just this topic, never mind the subsequent experience of transposing Conductive Education!

The elaborate system of provision developed in Hong Kong is articulated as 'Conductive Education'. Since the nineteen eighties I have read much of its extensive production of English-language material, met many of the people involved in this work and marvelled at the enormous industry of it all. In English all this is called Conductive Education, though it's not quite called that in Chinese. Maybe here lies the rub (part of it, at least).

What is it precisely that they do there, from what historical roots, is it 'conductive' as I know it, and does any of this matter – either to its clients or to the future of Conductive Education.

Some jolly! I certainly will not answer any of these questions by the end of next week but I shall have enough in the way of observations, impressions, and tentative analyses and hypotheses, to keep me in sleepless nights and headaches until Christmas.

Notes and references

Sutton, A. (1977) Acupuncture and deaf-mutism – an essay in cross-cultural defectology, Educational Studies, vol. 3, no 1 , pp. 1-10

Sutton, A. (2008) KNOW HOPE: Hope for the future, Conductive Education World, 2 January

As others categorise us

Conductive Education commodified

A solicitor writes on the Internet, plugging her law firm's expertise in education law:

As a practice we work routinely with families who have children with diagnosis on the Autistic Spectrum, including Asperges Syndrome, ABA Programmes, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Speech and Language Disorders, Augmentative and Alternative communication, Fine and Gross Motor skill difficulties, Sensory Integration difficulties, Hearing Impairment and Cochlear Implants, Tourettes Syndrome, genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, brain injuries and birth injuries such as Cerebral Palsy, Conductive Education and emotional and behavioural difficulties such as School Refusal, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Attachment Disorders.

Am I just being picky?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

New Conductive Education forum

Go and see and take part

I have received the following very welcome email from Canada:

Hi Andrew,

I thought I would let you know that I started a Conductive EducationGroup on Right now, the group has 3 members, however I'm sure that will grow with time. Cafemom is a discussion group for parents - I've promoted CE in other groups, then decided to finally set a group specifically for CE. CafeMom has an easy to read and easy to post format, so if you know of any parents that would be interested insharing information, please pass on the link.



Over at CafeMom Lorna adds:

This group is for parents to share their thoughts and experiences with Conductive Education. Debate is fine, but no bashing please. Support is so important when you have a special needs child. Hopefully there are some Conductive Education professionals on Cafemom that could lend their expertise and advice.

I'm not exactly a Mom but I've registered anyway and I hope that lots of other people do too, and make active contributions, wherever they live and whatever their contact with Conductive Eduation. The world of Conductive Education has desperately needed a well patronised public forum for some time now. Parents are the engine that drives the conductive movement.

Thanks Lorna, and the best of luck with the discussion.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

'More independent, dignified and fulfilled lives' in Leicestershire

Another award for STEPS

Not for the first time the contribution of the little STEPS centre to its local community has been publicly acknowledged with an award.

This morning's Loughborough Echo reports a ceremony held last night at the Quorn Country Hotel, to announce the 2008 winners of the annual 3M Health Care/Loughborough Echo Community Awards. Four local charities received £3,000 each from Loughborough MP Andy Reed, along with good and extensive local publicity for their work in teaching children to 'to lead more independent, dignified and fulfilled lives'.

With reference to the recent item on Conductive Education and Down's syndrome, it was interesting to note that STEPS is reported as serving 'children with cerebral palsy, Downs syndrome and similar conditions'.


STEPS (Leicestershire Conductive Education Centre)

Sutton, A. (2008) Conductive Education and Down's syndrome: do not rule it out, Conductive Education World, 18 June

'...lead more independent, dignified and fulfilled lives'. Nice phrase. I would say that, though; it's one of mine. Good to see that it still has legs.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


The film-maker's tale

This is what Ann Paul said on 20 June, in response to her Award 

Ladies and gentlemen. conductors,
I feel deeply privileged and honoured to receive this award today, it means a great deal to me and I would like to tell you why.
Twenty-three years ago on a bitterly cold winter’s day in Budapest I stood in the hall of the old Institute. It had been a particularly cold winter and there were huge ice flows in the river. I had been in the Institute all week observing Conductive Education – unofficially, as I had not been able to gain Embassy permission. It was a Friday afternoon and hot mugs of tea were being handed out to parents who had travelled some distance to take their children home for the weekend. Then one of those small miracles happened and a boy greeted his brother by taking a few faltering steps towards him – it was the first time his brother and parents had witnessed him walking and in that moment I knew this was a film that had to be made.
The shadowy figure of Mária Hári appeared beside me – I had not managed to talk with her all week.
 ‘It is good?’  she said.
'Good’ could not describe what I felt as I watched that scene. 
What that moment represented was untold hours of love, patience and skill from the conductors, which had combined to give him and thousands of other children like him the hope of a better future and to realise their full potential.
If we are lucky, very lucky, every once in a while a film-maker is given the opportunity to tell a story that in some small way touches a cord deep within us and which will have an impact on the world we live in. Standing Up For Joe was just such a film. It was not a perfect film, and indeed if made today it would probably be a very different film, but it was of its time. Both films were immensely challenging to make and I was deeply grateful for the tremendous support and guidance that I had from Andrew Sutton.
Andrew and I used to discuss the dream of bringing Conductive Education ‘in its pure form’ to England. The fact that this Institute of Conductive Education exists here today in England, training these very special educators, is a dream come true.

My warmest good wishes to you new graduates for what I am sure will be an immensely happy and rewarding career. 
Thank you Andrew for this award and for inviting me here today.

Previous postings on Ann Paul's Award and the Awards Ceremony:

Sutton, A. (2008) Standing up for Joe: Ann Paul's pivotal contribution to Conductive Education, Conductive World, 24 June
Sutton, A. (2008) Annual Award Ceremony at NICE: Founder's Medal for Ann Paul, Conductive World, 18 June

School at risk

Age discrimination by disability charity alleged

The current issue of the UK’s fortnightly magazine Private Eye has brought to national attention a local story that has exercised local media attention for a year or so now in the East Midlands. By its very nature, the story is unlikely to receive much further coverage. What must in reality have been a long, personally unpleasant and complex experience is summarised baldly below

Rutland House is a small residential school in Nottingham for multiply disabled children. It is owned by the charity Scope, formerly known as the Spastics Society, once a pioneering national charity for the families of children with cerebral palsy, now concerned mainly with campaigning on ‘disability issues’ (there is no longer a national cerebral palsy organisation in the United Kingdom). Rutland House of one of three Scope schools that employs conductors. In 2005 Scope announced that it would be closing all its schools in favour of inclusive placements.

In April 2007 the long-standing (28 years) head-teacher of Rutland House, Carole Oviatt-Ham was sacked by Scope, following allegations that she had bullied a parent and made a child-protection referral without proper discussion. Parents of children at the school were appalled at Scope’s action and Ms Oviatt-Ham appealed to an Employment Tribunal on the grounds that she was being discriminated against on the grounds of her age (she is 61).

Now, in June 2008, Scope has settled out of court, writing to the remaining parents at the school to say:

The dismissal did not fall within the band of reasonable responses by an employer… Scope accepts that Carole did not commit gross misconduct. Scope admits that Carole Oviatt-Ham was unfairly dismissed.

In a public statement, Scope has said:

Following an internal review and discussions between Scope and Carole Oviatt-Ham, we are pleased to confirm that we have resolved the issues between the parties and have settled the outstanding employment tribunal claim. Scope admits that the acts of misconduct for which Carole Oviatt-Ham was dismissed did not constitute fundamental breaches of her contract of employment and that the dismissal did not fall within the band of reasonable responses by an employer. Scope accepts that Carole did not commit gross misconduct.Scope admits that Carole Oviatt-Ham was unfairly and wrongly dismissed.

Both parties wish to draw a line under the matter and wish each other well in future. No further statements will be made.

The out-of-court settlement included an undisclosed (and presumably substantial) cash payment, made on condition of Ms Oviatt-Ham’s no longer being able to discuss the case publicly (a ‘gagging order’). Parents, former parents and supporters of the school have been less inhibited and expressed themselves vehemently in the local press. (see comments to local press reports below).

Over the last year the number of pupils at the school has fallen from around twenty-five to under fourteen, a barely sustainable number without major financial subsidy. The acting head teacher of Rutland House is former conductor Tracy Linehan.

The Spastics Society/Scope’s involvement in Conductive Education over the years has been problematic, punctuated by cash-for-silence gagging orders on senior staff who have left suddenly and without notice:

Vice-Admiral Sir John Cox, Director, left Jan 1988

Ken Young Chief Executive, 1988-1993

Ann Robinson Chief Executive, May 1993-April 1995

If Scope fulfils the announced intention to close its remaining schools, then its sole remaining involvement with Conductive Education will be through the Schools for Parents Network, which it describes as run according to the principles of Conductive Education.

Notes and references

Rutland House School

– (2008) Scope loses its head, Private Eye, no1213, 27 June – 10 July, p. 27

– (2008) Rutland House – Scope’s letter, Nottingham Evening Post, 16 June

Greenwell, M. (2008) Mapperley Park school head dismissal ‘unfair’, Nottingham Evening Post, 16 June

Greenwell, M., Parsons, R. (2008) Charity school head teacher unfairly sacked, Nottingham Evening Post, 16 June
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