Tuesday, 31 March 2009

CE as part of the wallpaper

Kiwis show the way to official awareness

There is a conference in progress right now in New Zealand, expected to attract over three-hundred people from New Zealand, Australia and further afield.

Quality Practices, New Practices
New Zealand Biennial Early Intervention Conference
Early Intervention Association of Aotearoa
Monday 30 March to Wednesday 1 April 2009

The first day of the conference has included a 40-minute seminar on Conductive Education:

"Not to teach the child to be independent is to teach the child to be dependent"

Barbara Csepcsenyi,
Focus Conductive Education Centre

The Focus Conductive Education Centre in Auckland is a registered Early Childhood Centre specialising in early intervention for children with motor disorders or motor developmental delay with neurological origin. Conductive Education is a special education approach originally developed and specifically designed to teach people with Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, post stroke or accident conditions and in adulthood it is also used in the rehabilitation of individuals with Parkinson's disease and Multiple Sclerosis. The conductive approach considers children's needs from an educational point of view, seeing them learning problems which the child should be able to learn to overcome. Conductive Education is a holistic approach, addresses all areas of human development, such as gross and fine motor development, language development, social and emotional development, adaptive skills development and self care. At our centre the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum is used and the Te Whaariki concept is acknowledged and built into the programme. This presentation will describe how Conductive Education and the Te Whaariki can be used walking hand in hand to provide an education for our children with specials needs. At the Focus Centre our mission is for them to be the very best they can be.

The address to the conference by Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Health has been published as a NZ Government official press release. It includes mention of ‘best practice from the Focus Conductive education centre’.


That’s the sort of awareness that suggests that Conductive Education has really ‘arrived’ in a country, no longer something for enthusiasts to have to justify and explain, rather something that is ‘there’, excllent, taken for granted, part of the wallpaper.

Tell us how

In December Conductive World asked:

Does New Zealand have something that will travel, or is it too embedded in the New Zealand way?

(Sutton, 2008)

The question is sufficiently important to ask it again.

And if there is an answer, then there is another question. Most people around the world, struggling to establish rudimentary CE services at well below the national level, meet this question at a day-to-day level and resolve it the best they can at the level of everyday practice. The question and its possible answers can therefore remain largely implicit, or if you like 'fudged'.

The question is 'Where is CE going here?'

The need to answer explicitly, at a policy level, lies a qualitative leap ahead of most of the rest of the world. It comes when the operation is raised to a national level, and will involve a real dilemma and demanding some perhaps very hard choices. It will be very interesting to see the answer unfold in God’s Own Country beyond the Tasman Sea.

Where next for CE in NZ?

Yes, one can see that there will be quantitative expansion in the preschool and school (not least a further secondary unit), and expansion too in the already established work with adults.

The dilemma, though, is an old one, but the more pressing when Conductive Education has ‘arrived’. It is one of direction (one hardly dares use the phrase ‘qualitative rather than quantitative’ in case it is misunderstand what is meant here by qualitative, though perhaps one should articulate it in such a way).

Can Conductive Education maintain its alternative status? Indeed should it? Families and staff in cash-strapped conductive centres around the world yearn for official funding, but its price would be inevitably be adaptation and compromise to official agendas and policies… Would symbiotic relationship with the state threaten the system’s revolutionary essence? Would dilution lead to downfall? This has been a fear since the early years of transplantation out of Hungary Sutton, 1989). The first defence might be to define its unique and distinguishing properties (Sutton, 2001) while it still has time.

(Sutton, 2002)

How is CE in NZ intending to accommodate to its enviable wallpaper status:
  • by assimilation into the wider whole;
  • by maintaining, somehow, its bacillus status; or
  • both?

CE services on the ground everywhere face Siren songs. And there are powerful pressures to conform, not least from the high moral ground always particularly apparent, in the English-speaking world anyway, when early childhood care and education are publicly discussed. Witness the content of the New Zealand early intervention conference, not least the keynote on early assessment and the speech of welcome by the Minister.

New Zealand has in place more that just centres, it has an umbrella body and a national association for its conductors. But the national involvement is not yet forseeably big enough for its own conductor-training school, there is no sign yet of serious academic interest, and no popular-professional writing or broadcasting appear yet to have emerged. Congratulations to the New Zealanders for getting so far, and the best of luck with whatever new and unfamiliar opportunities and problems will inevitably arise at this enviable stage of being.


Sutton, A. (1989) The impact of Conductive Education, in N. Jones (ed.) Special Education Review, vol. 2, London, Falmer Press, pp.161-187

Sutton, A. (2001) Conductive eduation: sink or swim, presentation to the IV. World Congress on Conductive Education, London, 12-14 September

Sutton, A. (2002) Alternative practices: alternative perspectives. Educational and child psychology, vol. 19, no 2, pp.107-116

Sutton, A. (2008) Congratulations, David Ching: and please tell us the secret of how the Kiwis do it! Conductive World, 13 December

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