Thursday, 31 December 2009

That was the year, that was

It's over and now it's done
(Plus a New Year's Eve competition)

The end of the calender year and the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century (the 'noughies')

All arbitrary of course, but is there any way in which this year-end can be invested with substantive meaning.

I offer a hypothesis, no more, one to be tested only in the passage of time, by that most powerful and widely possessed of analytic tools, wisdom after the act.

A pivotal decade?

This has indeed be a pivotal decade for Conductive Education, one in which the planks have increasingly come off the international stage of the history of Conductive Education, the rocks have ground ever harder beneath its keel, and the weather through which it sails has become ever harsher and darker, while more and more souls have clambered hopefully on board.

A pivotal year?

What about the year 2009?

Certainly the social and economic sea across which Conductive Education sails feels now very different to how it did twelve months ago. Much more difficult to gauge, however, is how Conductive Education 'eels'. It is still there, no small achievement in itself. There are still places to be had, jobs to be taken. In that sense, la lutte continue.

But is la lutte (the struggle) feeling any harder? Is common favourable outcome still shared (or even expressed), is there any sense of a future endgame or exit-strategy).

What's it all about? Where is it going? Is there anyone on the bridge? Is there a bridge?

All terribly personal and individual of course. My personal feeling is that the world of Conductive Education will never now be the same, either as it has been over the last twenty years or even as anybody hoped or expected it to be. In 2009, an era passed.

Historical stages, eras, phases etc, do not go out and come in with a sharp click, like on the throw of switch. They blend one into the next, and the change may be apparent only in retrospect. The only sharp switch may be in individuals' perceptions on events.

When did I finally accept that the old world was dead, and it was now time to start building the new?

Dreadfully late, I am afraid. When did you realise? Or when are you are going to?

In the New Year, or later in the decade?

The Competition

The image offered above, under the heading 'A pivotal year' is a common enough, recognisable motif in Western art and culture.

No prizes for naming it but it would be nice to know whether it strikes any chords.

I have been told that as stated this is much too hard, so here is a clue. Think of Bosch and Géricault.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Conductive World

A group of associated and collaborative sites

As of the close of 2009, Conductive World occupies two sites:


Administrative site

These are in turn linked into two social-networking sites:



Additionally, Conductive World collaborates in presenting two other Internet services:

Conductive World Jobs

Conductive Education Press

Further updates in 2010.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Conductors, and others in the group

Paraprofessionals, assistants, other professionals

Earlier this year while I was helping to edit the book Just do it! I was brought up with a jolt by something unexpected (to me) in the paper submitted by conductor Ingvild Frøyseng. She was describing the way of working that she had met in her first job as a conductor, so very different from the arrangement that she had experiences during her professional training.

The group consisted not only of conductors and children but also paraprofessionals for each individual child [emphasis in original]. The paraprofessionals, each with a unique background, act as the children's caretakers. Some work with the child under their care only at school, while others stay with the child throughout the day. One might consider this a luxury and an easy way out, as there are more hands for assistance and heads for ideas.

...according to the school's insurance policies, the children attending the school are not permitted to attend unless they have a paraprofessional with them (pp. 88-89).

Over the next four pages Ingvild talks delicately about what (using the modern usage) she terms 'challenges'.

I was immediately surprised at two things:
  • that conductors were (are) working in this way
  • that I had never previously heard or read an explicit account of this.
I do not know how general such an insurance requirement might be, either between different establishment or between different states. Nor do I know what people have achieved - or failed to achieve – within such contexts.

Some questions

I do know that Inveld has brought me up with a jolt, setting my mind ringing with questions. Here are some.
  • How prevalent are such requirements across North America?
  • What do such requirements add to the cost of programs?
  • What are the effects of such requirements upon conductors' practice?
  • What do such requirements do for conductive upbringing?
  • Are paraprofessionals really 'challenges', or are they problems?
  • Who is are such requirements really 'protecting'?
  • What are the implications of such requirements for the initial training of conductors?
  • What are the implications of such requirements for the continuing training of conductors?
  • What about the training of paraprofessionals?
  • If such arrangements are common, why are they never openly discussed?
  • What are the implications of not discussing such requirements, and not having proper training in place, for the quality of conductive service?
  • Conductive Education in a room full of mediators: is it possible?
  • If it is not, what is going on here?
  • Etc.
Not just paraprofessionals

Of course, one can ask such questions in other countries and other situations too.
  • Most simply, just substitute the title 'assistant' or educadora or whatever the local term, for 'paraprofessional', and ask the same questions
  • In doing so, one might see overlap with what is termed 'multidisciplinary' (transdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary) practice, and ask the same sort of questions about 'challenges' experienced there..
Informal and communicable knowledge

There must be a huge well of experience out there, in individuals and in institutions, of conductors' working in all sorts of ways. Correspondingly, there must surely be all sorts of individual and local answers to the 'challenges' (or problems) met in working in such different ways, some ad hoc some formalised.

But if the general tendency for CE outside of the original mother institution in Hungary is for Conductive Education to be but rarely implemented by conductors working exclusively with other conductors, then where is the literature describing what to do in such situations, and how best to arrange things?

The 'classic' literature of Conductive Education has nothing to say about working in ways that are products of the international stage of the historical development of Conductive Education. Putting it baldly, unless I am very wrong about the amount of relevant, communicable 'literature' that already exists out there about conductors working in groups, in harness with people who are not conductors, then the critical outsider might reasonably remark that a large proportion of how conductors' contribution is arranged occurs without benefit of a relevant communicable knowledge base. Or, if you would like to express this in a very common way that that I personally do not like, how this work is aranged is simply 'not professional'.

All well and good, as long as the outsider in question is simply critical, and not hostile too, since the next step is to ask how expenditure can be justified upon such a service...

For the benefit of service-users, conductors and other staff, and for those who provide and administer services alike, is this not another urgent task for Conductive Education in the coming decade – preferably in its first half?


Frøyseng, I. (2009) Conductive Manhattan, in A. Sutton and G. Maguire (eds.) Just do it! Young conductors in their new world, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press, pp. 87-93

To view and purchase a copy of this book, go to:

6th Annual ACENA Conference

More information. More 'hands-on'

6th Annual ACENA Conference
26-27 August 2010
Toronto, Ontario
Association for Conductive Education in North America
March of Dimes Canada

'The Host Committee is very pleased to offer a forum for showcasing research, best practices, trends and specific issues related to the practice of Conductive Education for children and adults in North America.

'The 2010 conference program will deliver important and dynamic information, as well as offer an excellent networking opportunity to all delegates. Conductors, program-administrators, physicians, rehabilitation professionals, consumers, parents/families, policy-makers and board members alike will find topics of relevance.

'The presentations and discussions cover a breadth of topics related to Conductive Education including program practice, research, rehabilitative interventions and technology, family engagement, transitions, community partnerships and capacity-building; government policy and relations, policies and procedures, leadership and board-governance.

'We plan practical hands-on sessions as well as theoretical presentations.

A trade show and reception will also be available.

'We encourage you to make the 2010 ACENA Conference your priority, to come and be inspired by the collective and collaborative contribution to the lives of the thousands of consumers served by Conductive Education centers in North America.'

This is a broad and impressive programme. It is very much to be hoped that it will produce some written matter to bolster the tiny North American CE 'literature'.

In the meantime no doubt there will be further information about 'the thousands of consumers served by Conductive Education centers in North America', and what precisely will be done in 'hands-on sessions'.

There is an interesting paradox here, or is it a contradiction? On the one hand, 'thousands of consumers' publicly proclaimed in North America: on the other, virtually no indigenous technical academic-professional literature. Not a comfortable situation in any country in the modern world... but in the United States? Quite a responsibility.

Monday, 28 December 2009

A wish for the new decade

Mondottam, Ember, küzdj, és bízva bízzál

Emma McDowell writes –

I find your new 'face', the Terracotta Warrior, very appropriate. Vigilance, endurance etc. Keep your magical hat (or hairpiece?) on!

Finally I have a little time for extra-curricular pursuits, such as reading. (Not to put myself to sleep, but to enjoy the intellectual activity.) So I read – on George’s repeated urging – the article in the Special Double Christmas Issue of The Economist, to which already the title page refers: “Onwards and upwards”, pp. 35-38.

It starts with a long, appreciative overview of one of our (Hungarians’) literary masterpieces, Imre Madách’s Az ember tragédiája [The Tragedy of Man] and – taking this as the backbone of the article – reflects on humanity’s progress right through history, as Madách did, in the middle of the 19th century in his isolated country-house, in sad, defeated Hungary. His, (and the Economist columnist’s) final saying is, however, NOT TRAGIC, in spite of everything that always went wrong with mankind. The Tragedy ends in the often quoted words (spoken by God):

Mondottam, Ember, küzdj, és bízva bízzál

Which equals my wish for you, and us, for the New Year and Decade!

Gee, thanks, Emma. Hungarian is hard enough in prose. In poetry, well... I think that what Madách’s God said was something like:

I have said unto you, Man, struggle on and rely on trust.

No doubt, you (and others) will correct me on this one! Stirring stoicism from Madách and his God, but I think that you know what I think of Hungarian history and its possible effects upon the Hungarian national psyche. That said, I am at an immediate loss of something to offer you in return, though the breech at Harfleur does rather come to mind.

Either way, and in whatever mood, let the watchword for the new decade now almost upon us indeed be 'onwards and upwards', előre!

Onwards and upwards

Thank you, George, for spotting this most excellent article (for which the illustrator receives a by-line and the author does not) and thank you Emma for drawing it to attention in this present, particular context.

– (2009) The idea of progress. Onwards and upwards. Why is the modern view of progress so impoverished? The Economist, 17 December. pp. 35-38

A new 'face'

Emma is referring to my new profile picture on Facebook.

New CE-blog should offer vital perspective

Inauguration of I, Elliot

Elliot Clifton has started a blog:

Elliot's first posting kindly implies that my persistent nagging has contributed to his decision to play his hand in this way. If so, then I am all the more delighted at his making this start.

Look at the right-hand column of his blog and see his CV to know why. This is a perspective on Conductive Education that has received very little attention. I am sure that I, Elliot will help redress this balance.

There are other people who, I hope, will take Elliot's start-up as a reminder, and as a spur to similar action on their own parts.. You know who you are...

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Persian puzzle

This one has suddenly turned up. In accordance with the Conductive World's no longer wishing to explain everything, make of this what you wish – 
Effect of the Bobath technique, Conductive Education and education to parents in activities of daily living in children with cerebral palsy in Iran 
In children with cerebral palsy, one of the most important roles of occupational therapists is to promote the children's independence in functional performance. The goal of this study was to compare the effect of the Bobath technique, conductive education (CE), and education to parents in activities of daily living (ADLs) in children with cerebral palsy aged 4–8 years in Iran.

This study was a quasi-experimental clinical trial with pre/post design. Forty-five children with cerebral palsy were selected by convenience sampling in a rehabilitation centre and allocated to three groups by matching closely their sex, age, and IQ; 15 children were in the Bobath group, 15 were in the CE group, and 15 were in the education-to-parents group. Outcome measures were the Goodenough test and the Client Development Evaluation Report. 

There were no significant differences in mean age (p = .261) and IQ (p = .449) at baseline among the three groups. There were significant differences in ADLs after treatment within each group (p = .001). Significant differences were also found in the average total ADLs scores between the three groups after treatment (p < .0001). We found that the most effective approach was CE, followed by education to parents and the Bobath technique. There were significant differences between 12 sub-skills out of 16 in ADLs in the three groups, and children in the CE group achieved higher scores in comparison with other groups.

The Bobath technique, CE, and education to parents improved ADL skills in children with cerebral palsy. In the CE approach, group education promoted better social communication and more mobility in familiar environments. On the other hand, practical education and treatment programmes improved ADLs skills.


(2009) Dalvand, H., Dehghan, L. Feizy, A., Amirsalai, S, Bagheri, H. (2009) Effect of the Bobath technique, Conductive Education and education to parents in activities of daily living in children with cerebral palsy in Iran, Hong Kong Journal of Occupational Therapy,  vol. 19, no 1, pp. 14-19

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Another that was lost is now found

A la recherche des temps perdus

So many things close down over Christmas. It can seem that the only things sill working are the emergency services, the anoraks and the machines. I have had no need of the emergency services, but I am anorak, and Google has kept on grinding out its Alerts. This morning it dropped into my in-box another of those things of mine that I had not realised had been put on line. This one is rather older than the article on adults, from earlier this year, that I remarked on 22 December. This one comes from twenty-two years ago, before the birth of the Internet age, and I do not know when it crept into Cyberspace, or why Google chose to to spot it today.

It is very short. Here it is, in full.

Proceedings of the 19th Scientific Meting held on 8 and 9 July 1987
at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Lecture Andrew Sutton, University of Birmingham
A. Sutton
Evaluating Conductive Education

Conductive Education for children and adults with motor disorders has been developed in Hungary over more than forty years. It has not, however, been subject to evaluative research. Interest outside Hungary has led to a range of attempts to establish Conductive Education programmes but their evaluation has has been patchy and what there has been has not been encouraging.

Such programmes in the English-speaking world have in common a lack of professional training in the system and absence of Hungarian participation in establishing it..Recent interest amongst potential consumers of the system and the visits of large numbers of families from this country to Budapest have resulted in political interest in setting up Conductive Education in the UK on the Hungarian model. A new charity, the Foundation for Conductive Education, has been set up to ensure transfer through conductor-training, the establishment of conductive groups and the initiation of the Foundation's first major project will be an Institute in Birmingham catering initially for spastic children, later for adults with Parkinson's disease too. Numbers of children and adults helped will be small and it may take some time to establish Conductive Education at the same level as is practised in Budapest. Nevertheless, the Institute's work will be monitored from the outset. The Institute opens in September 1987.

Questions already widely asked on Conductive Education include the following: Where does the “essence” of this system lie, what is the “active agent” that brings about change? Is the system selective with respect to the adults and children that it admits and, if so, on what basis. How do its results compare with good services organised according to current British models? What factors counterindicate success? In what areas are [illegible] is it successful and where less so? Does it have deleterious effects? What are the cost benefits? The presentation will address some of the problems both technical and otherwise that are already apparent at this early stage of the work.

A commentary upon this document will follow later today.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A rather British Christmas

BBC delivers Brits peace of mind


HMQ, those vowels,, 'the Commonwealth... young people... the future...', GStGQ on steel oil
drums (I kid you not):

Somehow reassuring.


 Dr Who. Totally inscrutable:

That's reassuring too.


British world-record attempt, 10 miles in OO (not HO, ugh!), downpour, Kraft öhne Technik (and gaulingly, the Germans witnessed the lot), total failure with three miles to go:

No further reassurance required. All's well in the world.

If you are not a Brit...

...then none of this will have meant a thing to you.

What could be more reassuring than that?

All times are GMT. Of course.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Seasonal Greetings to the world of Conductive Education

The best is yet to come

Not all are Christians and few of those who nominally are actually 'believe'. But this is the time of the turn of the year We can begin to look forward to the end of winter. In the Northern Hemisphere it is conventional to think of rebirth and renewal for what is to come.

So, instead of a 'Christmas card', here is a small, online Christmas gift to symbolise my personal wish for a new start in the world of Conductive Education in the testing times to come, the hope for the eventual end of our own 'conductive winter'.

Enjoy this little book, at whatever level you prefer:

This little book is but a tiny part of a colossal series telling the story of the Bible, the old and the New Testaments in Lego bricks:

This series began as a website and is now claimed to be the world's largest illustrated Bible, telling 400 Bible stories with 3,600 illustrations. It is available as a hardback) book with 70,000 copies in print in seven languages (German, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish and Hungarian as well as English).

A little idea, relentlessly pursued, can go a very long way.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

English university cuts

Where might these lead?

As the Britsih economy slides inexorably down the pan the Government has announced its first major cutback in public services in England. With what some might regard as characteristic gutlessness, this has been announced as most people affected will have 'vanished' for their long mid-winter holiday.

This first public-sector contraction avoids the political shibboleths within 'schools and hospitals' and instead takes out a far softer political target, university education or, as the Government seems increasingly to understand this, training for future jobs (jobs, what jobs?).

This could have profound potential implications for the future of initial preparation of conductors in the United Kingdom. Somebody who is a minister suggests predents thepresent official vision of higher 'university education' in England in the light of announced cuts of £398m for 2010-11 compared with this year.

Teaching is protected because this government recognises that a high quality student experience with excellent teaching and research is vital to maintaining the world-class higher education we enjoy in this country today.

Fast-track, part-time and two-year degrees do not represent a reduction in quality in the higher education offer, but an increase in choice for the would-be learner.

In the current economic climate, it was not a question of whether efficiencies should be made, but of where the efficiencies should be found.

As an individual, I am so pleased that I do not have to spend my foreseeable future working out what to do in response to this. As a concerned citizen, however...

Of course, this affects only the England. Perhaps you live somewhere else, less ill-managed or more enlightened (could these two factors possibly be interrelated, I ask myself). In that case your only problem here lies in the as yet unknowable answer to the following:
  • is this just another example of the this county's dropping out of the foremost ranks of the major economies
  • or is England leading the way, a way that others may themselves have to follow?

Telling how it often is

This time in British Columbia

In so many walks of life one hears of the 'successes', not so often of the disappointments.

How often has one heard over the years of plans to set up a this or a that in Conductive Education. Some of these are modest plans, some are extraordinary in their presumption and their grandiosity? I hold up my own embarrassed hand in the latter respect.

Many, many of these plans one never hears of again, or they start with a grand fanfare, soak up blood and treasure beyond count, then slowly fade and are forgotten. Some of course survive and even modestly flourish. It is these that people hear about and help create the material standing image of much of the present-day 'conductive movement'.

Redressing the balance

Gill Maguire and I are currently putting together a collection of papers for publication in book form to give an account for the first time of what is involved in seeing such projects through. This will inevitably, however, offer a  rather skewed or biased impression, since what we cannot do, without far greater resources than we have at our disposal, is offer an account of dreams that were not fulfilled.

A quick honest injection of reality comes today in a brave public statement by James Forlitti, telling how it really is for so many people, and how Conductive Education can still kindle hope, even in the face of disappointment:

Forlitti, J. (2009) Not dead yet, Conductive Education in British Columbia, 23 December

Canada: consumer-satisfaction

We should hear much more of this sort of thing

We live in a consumers-society and the 'services' that disabled people and their families have displayed before them are redolent with the rhetoric of choice.

Yet so much involved with those services is run on lines so very different from those that underlie the supply of retail goods, where to a very large degree consumers do exercise choice, and providers are very aware of what will happen to themselves and their organisations if they do not take maximum account of this.

Surprising, therefore that investigation of the worth of Conductive Education is usually unquestionedly left to quite different mechanisms, and that is it so very rare to see the results of a simple consumer surveys.

Just published is the latest issues of the newsletter of the Conductive Education Newsletter of March of Dimes Canada, which includes just such a survey.

No big deal here. Participants attending Fall 2008 sessions oat MODC's three CE sites were surveyed on some simple ad hoc questionnaire. There is scant detail on who asked what of whom, and reported analysis is restricted to simple histograms. Were it all to have been fully reported, then one can be sure that the whole exercise could be soon shot through with academic holes.

But try a little 'thought experiment'. Think what would the state of your local food store if selection of brands to stock, ordering, inventories etc were reliant upon the people, the methods and the institutions of academic 'research'.

There would not be much on the shelves. In fact, there might not be many shelves. There might not even be a store.

Cheap and cheerful, quick and dirty, rough and ready
Above all investigation that is functional

Of course there is room for proper academic research but meantime the world has to go on, decisions have to be made, human judgement has to be exercised. Examine the histograms from Canada. Form your own judgements and raise your own questions (and doubts).

As for the distant world of academe, consider what research questions and hypothesis it might consider important on the basis of simple enquiries like this, what paradigms and research modalities it might consider relevant.

Yes, of course 'more research is needed', 'but research of different kinds, done by different people and for different social ends.

CE bodies of different kinds around the world must have carried out all sorts of informal consumer-satisfaction exercises over the years. The problem is that the results of such enquiries are rarely if ever published, so nobody outside the institution directly involved ever hears about them, wheels have to be invented and reinvented, no groundswell of understanding builds up.

It may be no more than coincidence but the first of the few such exercises of which I have been aware was carried out in the self-same area, Ontario (Sutton 1994). That was fifteen years years ago and, though the investigation undertaken was ad hoc to the extreme, one sees the same sort of themes emerging in terms of what sorts of outcomes mentioned. Of course this sort of stuff is not 'research' in any academic sense but I see no real grounds for thinking that most research questions are founded on anything more substantively relevant.

So, congratulations to March of Domes for arranging this survey and for making its results public. Please, other people, follow its example. And make sure that any researchers who in future beg as much as a penny from you (sorry, dime) know that the results of consumer-surveys strongly suggest what is important to customers, and that in future the burden of proof will be on them (the researchers) if they want to argue any other topic of investigation.


– (2009) Conductive Education Consumer Survey results, Conductive Education Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2009

Sutton, A. (1994b) Hypothesis, The Conductor, nos.3-4 (Special Double Research Issue), p. 62

Glad tidings of great joy, I bring

A gift for Israel

Alessandro Viterbo writes on Facebook:

Tsad Kadima ha deciso di costruire un nuovo centro educativo per il sud di Israele a Beer-Sheva

More details eagerly awaited, from wherever.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

One that was lost is now found

Article on Conductive Education for adults 'discovered' on line

‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' (Luke 15: 7)

Around a year ago I wrote a brief overview of Conductive Adults for publication in the magazine Able. This was duly published but in the press of events I never received a hard copy, and I did not learn that it has subsequently been published on line. Were I a better shepherd I should have gone out looking for it but in the event it was Google Alerts that brought it to my attention, earlier this week.

Though I say so as shouldn't, it is not a bad little article and might offer a useful aide-memoir, or even a convenient hand-out for those looking to spread the word on 'adult work'.

Sutton, A. (2009) Learning for living, Able, February

Monday, 21 December 2009

The eyes have it

Windows to the soul

At the start of this month Judit Szathmáry (2009) posted on her blog a promotional video from the US:

She commented enthusiatically:

A clip just arrived in my e-mail box from a colleague this morning. I would like to share their joy and determination with you. I went to work with a smiling heart…what a lovely bunch of Stars! Enjoy.

The video come from the Rising Star CE program, situated in the most aptly named town of Mentor, Ohio

See this video

As Judit says on her blog, enjoy..

Bonus video from

Rising Star's website is very cool and very sharp:

I could not, however, find a link to this video there either:

What I did find is a small bonus in the shape of a brief local TV report from last summer (see also Kyle, 2008). Go to the foot of any page of Rising Star's website and see links to two TV reports. One is the disappointing but vaunted 60 minutes report. The other is from local TV news service Click on this one for something rather superior:

No misinformed and misleading neurobabble ('mind and muscle') but the pedagogic heart of conductive upbringing:
  • Says Mom Erin DeCarlo: 'I can see a spark in Thomas, he always feels good about himself'.
  • Reporter Maureen Kyle comments 'confidence is probably the key'.
  • Mom Amy Debro, who did Canada and Budapest before starting in Mentor, clinches it: 'It is a lifestyle ... it is not that you do therapy, that's not what you do.'
And look at everybody's eyes!

Human contact

A few days back (Sutton, 2009a) I wrote to deplore 'hands-on' accounts of the conductive process. This does not mean that teachers and taught should not touch. On the contrary, they must. This is what Mária Hári called 'the contact'. This expression might sound so physical and so cold, but it was not meant so. The contact, the touching referred to is not 'physical' (in the sense of physiological', it is... oh, what's the word in English?In English we struggle to express such contact (such 'encounter' as Martin Buber, and followers such as Carl Rogers, expressed it) extending out from the individual to the social).

You could say that the contact is 'emotional', but that somehow fails to catch it.

What you just cannot say in English is 'spiritual' or psychic', not anyway if you do not want to to sound up with the fairies.

And you most certainly do not talk about the 'soul' in technical contexts.

In German, however, you can say psychische and in Russian you say psikhicheskii (and you could de so right through the era of dialectical materialism, than which nothing could be further from the fairies). Here in the English-speaking world, though, we are in the bizarre position of have a psychology but no psyche for it to study.

I do not know what the Hungarians say in this context but no doubt now I shall soon be told!

But how do you talk about bringing up children, about pedagogy, without recourse to some such concepts? Those who know me know that I neither make nor need personal recourse to God or the Tooth Fairy, and that what I seek is a material account to catch and match material phenomena. And I need words to communicate this.
Look again at these two videos from Rising Star.

The one that so enthused Judit is especially telling. Something very material and concrete is happening between those two conductors, Judit Kiss and Gabi Juház, and those children, something that needs catching, then matching with appropriate words if the experience is to be communicated.

This is more than just the usual soppy promo video, with swirling music, cute kids, keen parents and familiar situations and songs (though it has these too).

Kelly Lepo: 'You can see the pride in their faces when they are doing something'. Debbie Heintz: 'I'm so proud, not just of my daughter but of all the kids'. Kelly and Debbie say a lot more. So do Judit and Gabi. The four of them should write it out, as a more powerful statement of fundaments of Conductive Education than choke a thousand webpages.

Some random reflections

What is pride/proud? Is is a psychological category (an emotion) or a value (a philosophical one). Or, more likely, some complex intermixture of the two (you can ask the same question of that other well exercised concept, 'hope'!). Just what is it that we are dealing with here? We are certainly dealing with something that is not just experienced powerfully by those involved but has its own further powerful active effects upon human activity and development. So how do we harness and focus this to the service of pedagogy and upbringing? For a start it would help if we could talk about it.

The discourse of developmental psychology, (interactions, transactions etc.) does not really do the trick here. Or maybe I'm just out of date: it does now and I've just missed it – but I doubt it..And the language of biology and medicine is streets behind.

Airy-fairy nonsense? Well, something is working here:
  • I used to say that the way that I could tell whether I was in the presence of 'it' (not just through CE, either) was because of the children's eyes. They were 'alive'. By extension this applies to the parents too. And of course, to the pedagogues.
  • One hears a lot about speech and verbal communication in CE, and very right too, but unless there is something 'deeper' involved then such analysis runs the danger of being superficial, mechanistic, reductionist.
  • One hears too little about physical communication. We should hear more, as we did see and hear a little here from Judit and Gabi..
  • 'Visual communication' falls pathetically short of what is needed to describe a further channel or modality of communication, 'eye-contact' is just vulgar.
  • Content/meaning/sense is a vital part of the analysis, whatever the modality. What is it that is being conveyed in the mutual pedagogic gaze displayed so vividly in this video?
Is this the place (and the time of year) to start asking about pedagogic love.

It's that secret weapon again

This is a special video. A couple of months back I reported on another special video, from Gaitway of Tucson, Arizona, starring conductor Viktória Szokniki (Sutton, 2009b). These two videos differ in style but have in common letting conductors show and recount their practice, in their ow n spontaneous, straightforward words, free of the clunking verbal baggage of years and years of 'outside' miscomprehension.

These young, articlate conductors are the secret weapon against which the wicked world should have no defense.


Kyle, M. (2008) Small miracles happen with "Rising Stars", 6 June

Sutton, A. (2009a) Balderdash today – 3 Conductive World, 18 September

Sutton, A. (2009b) Ex America semper aliquod novi, Conductive World, 10 December

Szathmáry, J. (2009) 'Rising Star... A brighter approach to teaching children with motor disabilities', Judit Szathmáry, 1 December

Sunday, 20 December 2009


New, independent publishing house  in the field of Conductive Education

CEP has been created to stimulate publication on and around Conductive Education.  CEP is particularly concerned to encourage accounts of practice: conductive pedagogy, conductive upbringing and the social action to ensure these. It is not an academic publishing house and it is expected that the materials that it will publish will represent a range of genres, including descriptive reports, memoir and analysis.

Call for authors

CEP’s first book, Just do it! was published a week ago and shows something of the potential range of topics and syles of future publication. In this instance the authors all happen to be conductors, though it is intended that future publications will draw from all three major groups involved in the globalisation of Conductive Education:
  • conductors, whatever their current role and at any level of professional development
  • users, whether families/cares or disabled people with direct experience of the system
  • all those ‘others’, often forgotten, with vital involvement in Conductive Education. 
For further information on CEP and Just do it! see:

Just do it!

Preview and order Just do it! at:

More 'rewiring'

More neurobabble

Originating from the US but reported in the UK this week:

– (2009) Intense reading program 'rewires' kids' brains, Independent, 13 December

What does it say? It says that if you teach children they learn, and that brain imagery might detect something related to the learning part of this process. Fair enough. The results of the reported study might even be a little interesting for those involved with brains (rather that people). As for the rest of what is said here: sheer, self-promotional twaddle.

The things they say

For example:

Showing that it's possible to rewire a brain's white matter has important implications for treating reading disabilities and other developmental disorders, including autism

Marcel Just, one of the researchers

... an exciting new approach to be tested in the treatment of mental disorders, which increasingly appear to be due to problems in specific brain circuits.

Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (part-funder of the study)

How to make a difference?

In response to either of the above statatements, one has to ask how it is expected that knowing this will make a diffference to people. What was the only intevention involved reportord here? 'Intensive remedial reading programs'.

Isn't it so obvious what is happening, when you see people in other sectors biologising a human problem, and therefore turning their backs on its psycho-social essence and areas of potential solution? Try and stop yourself from doing the same in Conductive Education. People outside this field might recognise that you too are perpetrating twaddle.

Reminder again, if reminder be needed, of two simple formulae, so often applicable to Conductive Education 'research'.

research ≠ science

research x preconception = pseudoscience

Saturday, 19 December 2009


Towards a real job market

Conductive World Jobs is now open for business

Over the last few months Conductive World has been increasingly requested to post advertisements for Conductive Education jobs. People have been desperate for more Internet access to inform the world of their employment needs.

Advertising jobs is not really Conductive World's role. At the same time it is obvious that the smooth working of the Conductive Education job market has been severely disrupted. This market had depended upon there being ready access to a well-known Internet site that served as an employment exchange. Loss of this facility has been affecting people's lives.

Why should providing for this need be such a problem to organisations within the sector? It requires neither money nor technical know-how to set something up. Four nights ago Conductive World decided to try. It took less than half and hour to establish CONDUCTIVE WORLD JOBS, cost not a penny and required no technical knowledge greater that may be expected of the average school-leaver.

The result, CONDUCTIVE WORLD JOBS, depends upon Facebook technology. If it looks cheap and cheery, that is because it is.


From outside Facebook CONDUCTIVE WORLD JOBS can be approached via either of two URLs, whichever you best remember:

Or, from within Facebook, go to Search in the top right-hand corner of the page and start typing:

Conductive World Jobs


Conductive World Jobs provides all employers and employees in Conductive Education with simple and immediate notice, advertisement or announcement of their employment needs. The aim is an effective and transparent employment exchange for the whole world of Conducive Education

This covers both jobs wanted and positions available:
  • families, centres, schools, other institutions
  • conductors seeking a job
  • assistants
  • administration and management
  • fundraising staff
  • researchers
  • student placements
  • full-time jobs and short engagements (camps, sessions etc.)
  • in any country in the world
Advertisements may be written in the language that seems most likely to attract a response.

How to do it

Become a 'fan' and make your own postings:
  • Most younger adults in this sector, be they conductors, disabled young people or parents, seem well aware of how to use Facebook. If some older people do not know, then they will presumably soon learn.
  • Post your advertisement on the Wall.
  • There is no middle man, what you post will be what people see.
  • Your advert will be available instantly.
  • Post your own advertisements in the now familiar Facebook format, filling in the familiar box saying 'What's on your mind?'
  • Keep advertisements short.
  • Include emails and websites (URLs) for further information.
  • Or invite responses via Facebook itself.
What next?

Some people may not like Facebook much but it is certainly FREE and immediate:
  • A large proportion of those who are likely to use this site are already on Facebook, particularly young parents and young conductors, and network extensively.
  • Development of this facility is open to their their collective experience.
  • The Discussions tab permits posting of tips, suggestion, criticisms etc.
  • There are currently two topics open and awaiting response: Salaries and Advertising jobs.
  • If you have a good idea, then share it (in a language of your choice, whichever comes easiest to you).
  • Conductive World will try to improve its Jobs service in response to suggestions and positive criticism but. if someone comes up with a better system, then great. The more the merrier
A brief guide to using CONDUCTIVE EDUCATION JOBS will be published soon

There is a quirky visual symbol lined up for the CONDUCTIVE EDUCATION JOBS. Allow a few days to get it properly photographed...

Perhaps when the world and its economy come back to life after the Christmas break CONDUCTIVE EDUCATION JOBS will help a bit in getting this sector's labour market flowing..

Alternative to this site

It does not hurt to have more than one place to post job adverts and there are currently at least two other Conductive Education job centres in the market place:

Bundesverband der in Deutschland tätigen KonduktorInnen e.V.

Conductive Education Communications Center
Employment Center

Please let Conductive World know of you find others.

Spoiled for choice!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Balderdash today – 3

Engaging the mouth before the mind
An empirical study


This is one of those expressions that I hate to read and to hear in the context of Conductive Education. Unaccountably, I left it out of the list of these published in September (Sutton, 2009a).

'Hands-on' doubtless has all sorts of valid applications in all sorts of walks of life. My aversion come to the fore when it relates uncritically and undifferentiatedly to the upbringing and education of disabled children with motor disorders (and activities on behalf of disabled adults too).

The really awful thing to see is when it is applied to Conductive Education. No, the really, really awful thing is to see this expression applied to Conductive Education by some of those responsible for providing this.

Whoever says it, it is 'balderdash' (Sutton 2009a, 2009b)

Don't they hear what they are saying?

Who knows? I suspect not in all cases, hence the title 'Engaging the mouth...' We could all be more self-critical about what we write, some perhaps more so than others.

The problem comes when the audience of this stuff does hear it, fits it into existing preconceptions, believes that this is what Conductive Education is about, notes it down, stores it away, regurgitates it in second-, third- and fourth- generation versions. Another nail in Conductive Education's coffin. 

Do they believe what they are saying and writing?

Probably some of those who speak and write about 'hands on' in relation to Conductive Education really do believe this. This is not necessarily their 'fault' because they may have always heard and read this expression in this context. Whether they just do not stop and think, or whether they really do believe that Conductive Education is 'hands on', either way for them 'Conductive Education' is simply a commodity that they deal in, with little or no care for what it is.

Probably, though, some who use this expression do not actually believe it. They are, one presumes, just using an expression widely current in the English language without thought for what it actually means and for what others might understand of Conductive Education when it is described in this way. Or maybe they do give it a thought, but think that it does not matter what one says or writes: just words, to be used casually..

Does this matter?

In some situations perhaps not (though given the context, some qualification of this expression might often be in order)

In others, though, unqualified and uncritical use of this expression is perhaps index of erosion of the sense and meaning of what CE is all about. There is erosion enough of these elsewhere without people in Conductive Education adding to it in this way.
Language is a powerful tool. and tools can be dangerous if used unguardedly or irresponsibly.

An empirical enquiry

I was drawn to this issue by landing by chance upon an egregious example this morning. Time for some 'quick-and-dirty' exploratory research!

Research questions

1.   Is the spread of this usage widespread enough to justify concern?

2.   Where it does occur, is it to be found in places that might be considered authoritative?


A quick Advanced Search was made of my local version of Google <> for the search terms “conductive education” AND “ hands on”.


This version of Google came up with 'about 1,800' results:


The entries in the first two results pages (20 hits) were put into three ad hoc categories:
  • innocuous or unclear                    4
  • specifically denies 'hands on'      1
  • conformed to my aversions      15
They were also considered for whether the source might be regarded as particularly authoritative.

The one specific denial came from a magazine article that I myself had written nearly a year ago ( I had not been told that this had been subsequently published on line!).

Here are some gems from the 15 'aversives':

  • higher level clinical knowledge and experience as well as hands-on clinical skills

  • hands-on and stimulating activities

  • even as an observer, it's hands on

  • participate in a hands-on assessment

  • specific ‘hands on’ manual facilitation

  • physical assistance – Hands-on guidance

  • hands on activities

  • four-year university based “hands on” training

  • a hands-on approach is carried out in each session

  • hands on techniques and emotional support to families

  • the intensity of its "hands-on" training in functional and motor skills

Among the fifteen aversive results mentioned here, two were related to university-level institutions, others came from national and even governmental bodies.


Granting the unspecified and subjective nature of the classification, the items identified by Google seemed to fall readily into the three ad hoc categories proposed.
Only 20 hits out of the the potential 1,800 were selected. These may nor may nor be representative of the total 1,800 but a quick random glance at later Google pages suggests that this hands-on theme goes on and on and on, for page after Google page.

This may or may not be representative of usage in the real rather than the virtual world.

No names, no pack-drill but look for yourself if you wish to (bearing in mind that the ordering of entries on specific pages will likely change):

Perhaps other local versions of Google (.com, .de, for example) might possibly throw up a somewhat different pattern.


Returning to the two research questions:

  1. The spread of this usage, at least on the Internet, does seem widespread enough to justify concern.

  2. This includes usage by what some might regard as authoritative sources.

This investigation neither confirms nor denies concerns expressed about what people mean and hear when this expression 'hands on' is used in conjunction with Conductive Education. It is of course at the very most a pilot study: more research is needed.

What the Doktornő ordered

More research is needed? Well, actually No, not of this kind, which recounts how things are. Again here, the most favourable paradigm for researching Conductive Education would be to intervene purposively in reality to test the best achievable ways of changing it.

To present this in the ritual form of 'research' as she is so often spoke is no more than a piece of whimsy. Common judgement is enough to know that the outcome is yet another research-generated 'statement of the bleeding obvious' (Sutton, 2009d). Conductive Education, the movement is shooting itself in the foot. Well, we are used to that. Does the 'hands on' ideal really make any difference, one way or the other, is there indeed a principled pedagogic position here and, if so, how might this be fine-tuned to enhance the processes of pedagogy and upbringing?

Mária Hári uses to express her position on this question with characteristically over-the-top directness:

The good conductor does not touch the child.

So much for the literal meaning of that dreadful word 'support' (on my hate list).

But what are the principled qualifications and exceptions to this ideal? How is this ideal best adopted to the exigencies of pedagogic reality and, if it is so adapted, what role should Mária's extreme position have in guiding pedagogic practice? Rather more, I suspect, than the creeping hands-on hegemony might suggest.

Hands off Conductive Education!


Sutton, A. (2009a) Some warm fuzzy weasels that I hate: some thoughts about language, Conductive World, 22 September

Sutton, A. (2009b) Balderdash today – 1. Start of a sad occasional series, Conductive World, 13 December

Sutton, A. (2009c) Balderdash today – 2. Mud sticks, tosh spreads, Conductive World, 13 December

Sutton, A. (2009d) The wrong kind of research, Conductive World, 5 September

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Big step for spina bifida and CE

US taking lead outside Hungary

Spina Bifida and Conductive Education
Two-day workshop

Conductive Learning Center
Grand Rapids

18-19 March 2010

Fee $200
(including snacks and lunch throughout)

Closing date to apply
January 10th, 2010

Use it or lose it

This is the first such event outside Hungary in twenty-odd years of the internationalisation of Conductive Education. The event will go ahead only if at least five participants register.

The United States is a very 'young' CE country, even by the standards of the international Conductive Education movement. It has stolen a march with this workshop, and the 'older' CE countries should look to their laurels and try to follow suit..

The game is surely afoot to develop new practices for working with children with spina bifida, now that such work is reportedly no longer provided on a whole-group model back in Budapest.

Of course, if such developments do not occur, Conductive Education for spina bifida may remain around the world marginal and inconsequential.

The event in Grand Rapids could not be more timely. Use it – or lose it.

Further information

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

CE in the Maritimes

TV news report on way

Conductor Beth Brydon writes from Canada's sunny Maritime Provinces –

The local news came into our centre yesterday morning and videoed us and three participants. It was meant to be on the news last night but it got bumped. It will be on the news later this weekend or next week.

It is meant to be a 2.5 minute clip and they will let me know when it airs. After it airs it will be uploaded to their website

They did over an hour of footage and then cut it down into 2.5 minutes. I hope that they left in the important stuff!

I hope that you all are well and have happy holidays!

We live in hope, Beth, we live in hope, but thank you for the newsflash. Those of us in the Maritimes can lookout for the local TV newscast on some less busy news day. Don't forget to let the rest of us know when the report finally goes on line.
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