Friday, 9 January 2009

Rejoice with me, for I have found a URL which was lost

Vital review of CE research resurfaces

Conductive Education research as a whole has not presented a pretty picture, either technically or politically. Leave the second of these aside, for the moment, anyway, ‘research into CE’ has mainly meant empirical outcome-evaluation of marginal and ill-defined interventions (often of at least dubious ‘conductiveness’), dependent upon methodology and outcome measures largely inappropriate to the psycho-social processes involved.

Hardly surprisingly, all this effort has come up with little more than finding no substantial evidence for there being a benefit from Conductive Education, a finding that has generally been interpreted without the slightest account to the simple logical principle that absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence. None of this has deterred those who continue to urge that more yet studies of the same kind are the essential step to getting Conductive Education accepted. Oh, it is so hard to leave the political aspects of this question aside!

An important role in the development of ‘research into CE’ could have been through the mechanisms of formal research review but this section of the CE research sector has generally been mired by the same brush. This has had the general effect of appearing to legitimise the direction of the research work already done and at the same time deligitimise the validity and credibility of Conductive Education.

One research review did struggle, to look beyond the dominant paradigm. Unfortunately for CE, it has not been as widely accessible as it might have been. Now again it is.

Lost and found

Some ten years ago I made a small contribution to a review commissioned, I think that I remember aright, by the Albertan provincial government in Canada in response to parental demand for official support for Conductive Education. The review was commissioned from the Alberta Heritage Research Foundation for Medical Research.

It is worth remarking here that, as far as I can recall, no such review, other that the small exercise that I did for the Norsk Forum couple of years back (Sutton 2008), has ever been commissioned from a non-medical agency. Just consider what that tells you, and what it implies.
The subsequent report, by Sue Ludwig and her colleagues, was published in hard copy and on line. It is without a doubt the most critical and thought-provoking of all such review into research into Conductive Education, before or since. It is not, however, widely enough considered, either within or without Conductive Education. In no small part, this must be down to how their report has been published.

I doubt that there were that many hard copies printed in 2000 to find their way into libraries. Anyway, the Internet age was beginning and electronic not hard copies are what people want now.

I have my own hard copy and so does Gill Maguire at the National Library. I doubt that many (any?) other copies of this are in the hands of CE organisations. For a time when I mentioned this review I would refer both to the paper and to the electronic editions, then suddenly the URL failed to respond and I could no longer find the report on the Internet. Gill, couldn’t either, though we both searched, several times.

In effect, therefore, this review had been unpublished, leaving the field to other reviews less critical at a fundamental level but more readily accessible through the Internet.

Yesterday in an email Jerzy Maslanka, à propos something completely different, mentioned a URL that led me straight to the ‘lost’ research review from the Alberta Heritage Medical Research Foundation, now published on the website of the Institute of Health Economics in Edmonton, Alberta. A quick email to the IHA met with a immediate response from librarian Liz Dennett, confirming that the Albertan government had made an institutional reorganisation but that this research review will be available henceforth at its new URL.

The fragility of knowledge

All this is a sharp reminder of the fragility of knowledge and knowledge-storage. The report by Sue Ludwig and her colleagues has been possibly the most important, critical statement on published research into Conductive Education from without the field.

How many of those who speak of ‘more research’ have actually read it?

How many CE centres/programs/associations/people maintain their own libraries of material that may prove invaluable in the future, for all of us? All knowledge-storage is ephemeral but the Internet may be the most ephemeral of all. Be warned.

Meanwhile, download a copy of the Alberta Heritage report, print it out, read and digest it, and store it also in your own head!


Ludwig, S., Leggett, P., Hartsal, C, (2000) Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy, Edmonton, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research

Sutton, A (2007) CE-related research: a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk, November (subsequently published on line as a Google Knol)

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