Sunday, 18 January 2009

Factually inaccurate advert

Just let it go?

Yesterday morning I was rather shocked at a new posting on László Szögeczki’s blog. He had just come across an advertisement in the January-February issue of the Able magazine.

"Do you want to visit PETO Institute?

"The famous Peto Institute in Hungary, which has provided conductive education for children with Cerebral palsy, and other muscular weaknesses for more than 60 years, is looking to welcome its first adult guests from the UK this summer.

“Hundreds of British children have already enjoyed the services of the institute, located near Budapest, but this will be the first time adults will be able to benefit from the care and support on offer from its highly skilled and experienced staff".

The contact details provided are an email address,, and a mobile telephone number, 07968 598 281.


Why was I shocked?

Not at ‘near Budapest’, odd though this is.

The ‘muscular weakness’ is wrong, not merely technically but in human terms too as this could be grossly misleading for some needy and unwitting people who read this ad.

And I wonder too what people might find when they explore the notion of ‘guests’.

What I found 'shocking' was the simple misrepresentation of saying that this will be ‘the first time adults will be able to benefit from [the Peto Institute’s] care and support…’

People may of course chose to spend their money as they wish. A summer break in Budapest, coupled with a bit of ‘conductive tourism’ sounds a nice option for those who can afford it. Even in economically successful times, however, disabled people and their families are not as a whole flush with surplus cash. Yes, people went originally to Budapest for Conductive Education, in ‘the early days’, but that exodus has long all but finished, for children and for adults. People who want Conductive Education had no alternative, no choice but to do so. And in doing so they changed the conductive world so that the choice is no longer between Budapest and nothing.

CE for British adults, a long story now

The first formal British investigative team visited the then State Institute in Budapest in the spring of 1984. It included Ronni Nanton, representing the Parkinson‘s Disease Society of Great Britain (which two years later pledged the Foundation for Conductive Education a substantial grant to set CE for adults on the road in the United Kingdom.

If memory serves me aright the first British adult was testing out the State Institute there by the end of that year. This was Les Essex who still regularly attends the Foundation’s National Institute in Birmingham and whose experiences and reports made an important contribution to bringing the PD Society officially on board. He was soon followed by adults with other conditions. One such early visitor was Susie Cornell who went on to create her well-known therapy centre stemming from her experiences there.

In the late eighties and early nineties came a flurry of reports of CE for adults, (some published some not but circulated privately). Establishment of home-based services soon followed , then the inevitable attempts at empirical evaluation. At the National Institute, working with adults became an integral part of conductor-training from its inauguration in 1997.

All this activity of course generated a growing published literature, from news reports to formal academic publications. It has involved application, sometimes successful, for funding services from the public sector, lectures, talks and public presentations. It has hardly been a secret and much of what has been done has been very open and transparent.

It has depended ultimately upon the activities and determination of users and would-be users of conductive services, both as participants and carers, starting with the trek to Budapest and developing quickly on to their preferred option of accessing services nearer home, a process that began over twenty years ago and is now, at least in England, bearing fruit.

Adult CE services around the world

There are now significant centres of CE for adults (often now termed ‘conductive rehabilitation’) in Auckland and Toronto. The major centre for this work outside Hungary remains, however, the Foundation’s National Institute in Birmingham, and the United Kingdom (specifically England) has the most settings where CE services for adults may be accessed.

Both in the UK and elsewhere much of the adult CE available is provided by individual conductors, either in private practice or doing such work for part of their time as an adjunct to work with children. Birmingham, Auckland and Toronto excepted, much of the adult work around the world is provided on this basis.

In a further blog today László has listed some of these. There are more, of which I immediately think of PACE, in Aylesbury, Conductive Education Support Services in Hampshire, Path for the Disabled in Exeter, QCET in Yorkshire… there may be more and I apologise to anyone missed out.

How could people not know?

First, it has to be said that one should not blame Able magazine alone for its not knowing more about the background of the slow but so far fairly steady march of CE services for adults around he world. A quick google for “conductive education“ AND “adults” will trawl almost twelve-thousand hits, one index of how things have changed over the last twenty years. A specialist magazine surely carries a responsibility for the claims of its advertisers in the light of reasonable knowledge of its field.

Perhaps the conductive movement should share some responsibility here. When teaching a society better ways of thinking and acting, just as when teaching individuals, good pedagogues should direct the finger of blame for failure to learn away from the learners, and questioningly back upon themselves. If now in 2009 a specialist magazine for disabled people does not ‘know’ about Conductive Education, what is being done about this by those who do know?

What therefore should be done?

By advertisers. There is a code of conduct. Over and above this, there is an especial moral obligation for advertisements targeting groups that may include vulnerable people. At the very least, they should get their facts right.

By publishers who carry advertisements. Magazine publishers also have a code of conduct. This one, promoting the apparent advance of a first-time-ever experience, drawing disabled people unknowingly back to an earlier stage in the availability of conductive services?

By people in the conductive movement. They might like to enquire or discuss this matter further, directly with the advertiser, by emailing or telephoning the mobile telephone number that is the only other contact detail in the advertisement: 07968 598 281.

Maybe in fact one thing that the conductive movement might do generally is take a rather more actively consumerist stand.


Advertising Standards Authority

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  2. I posted a comment earlier which I cannot now see, Andrew. I had googled the phone number and reported here on the result.

    I also sent an enquiry to the email address and this is the prompt response which I have received. To me it seems genuine enough, if rather premature and not properly thought out. Certainly there is no need for any adult from the UK to travel to Budapest for an adult conductive education programme. I'm not convinced it stacks up as a business idea.

    "Thank you for your email. I must firstly apologise if the advertisement is a bit confusing (as I was told after it appeared in the magazine).
    The Peto experience is in its very first stages. The idea came a few years ago and is now beginning to take shape. We are trying to organise trips for groups of people to travel to Budapest, gain the
    benefits of Conductive Education from the Peto institute directly, while enjoying other programmes as well.

    We are planning for the first few groups to be able to travel maybe during spring. The website and other details are currently being worked out. I would appreciate if I could keep your details and let
    you know further developments in the near future. I hope that it is ok with you.

    Kind regards
    Timea Zuranyi