Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Just missed it…

But here it is for the record

Building the road to independence
5th Annual Cerebral Palsy Conference
Washington University Medical Center
St. Louis

This was the fifth annual conference of the Pediatric Neurology Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, directed to physicians, parents, caregivers and therapists. It is joint-sponsored by Reaching For The Stars, A Foundation Of Hope For Children With Cerebral Palsy, and the University designates it as an educational activity for a maximum of 12 AMA PRA Category 1 credits

On a plate

This year’s featured topics had been announced as:
  • school issues and IEPs
  • new research
  • finding HOPE for you and your family
  • and more coming soon!

There is maybe not much to be expected from CE in the USA on the second of these at the moment (though there surely ought to be) but the first and the third topics, what gifts! And as for the fourth, what can’t you think of offer in such a context?

Maybe lots of CE people, parents, young adults, conductors, service-founders and managers submitted proposals for presentations around Conductive Education, and were turned down.

Maybe nobody from CE submitted anything.

Either way, the conference touched on companion dogs, adaptive bikes, Abbey Curran (Miss Iowa 2008), selective dorsal rhysotomy, martial arts and all sorts of other good things. It did not get Conductive Education.

Meet me in St Louis

Here was a excellent opportunity for CE last weekend to put itself about at the very least with respect to issues of schooling and to ‘finding HOPE’ for families. As it was, many other topics pointed the way to ‘building the road to independence’, but this weekend in St Louis CE was not one of them.

This is an annual conference. Maybe next year?


Abbey Curran

Western Australia: first some good news

Then the bad

Lightnur, Australia’s sole CE parent-blogger, has good news to tell about her daughter‘s progress.

Oh, if she only had a conductor, but the news is not good on the public front:

Without further comment Lighnur simply relays the extensive Press Release from the Conductive Education Association of Western Australia:


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

Monday, 30 March 2009

No country for old carers

Australian testimonio of policy that failed

Sue’s story, so far

In this morning’s issue of The Australian Sue Corrigan (2009) publishes an extensive statement of the dreadful plight of so many Australian families bringing up young children with disabilities, and then caring for them as adults.

Back in the early eighties Sue was a bright-eyed young journalist living and working in her native New South Wales:
When state government ministers and senior officials decided, in the early ’80s, to close the often gruesome institutions in which disabled people were locked away, commonly from early childhood, they promised to establish small group homes in suburban streets, staffed around the clock, for all those adults too disabled to live independently. Parents were assured that if or when they could no longer care for a severely disabled adult son or daughter at home, high quality, community-based houses would be there to take over.
As it happens, I know only too well about those promises. As press secretary to Laurie Brereton, the then state government health minister who began the process of “deinstitutionalisation” in NSW, I wrote many of the media releases and speeches trumpeting how wonderful it would all be. At the time, governments around the world were moving to replace institutions with alternative, home and community-based services.

In 1989 her son Steve was born, severely disabled. The long familiar story that followed had a twist, the family’s moving to England as Australian ‘disability exiles’ to find better services, including not least Conductive Education. And now, widowed, back in NSW, as a carer…
In the year since our return, Shane and I have encountered nothing but kindness and support from the many dedicated teachers, therapists and respite care workers, among numerous other people, who devote their lives to helping people with disabilities and their families. Shane and I have been blessed by their compassion. But they work within what is, with too few exceptions, a deeply dysfunctional and inequitable system. Federal and state governments allocate billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money each year for disability services, and charities raise millions more, but after that money has trickled down through layer after layer of bureaucracy, red tape and administration costs, then been divided among a splintered maze of service providers, not a great deal remains for actual service provision.
In her first years in England Sue campaigned for Conductive Education (and a few times since, too!). Now back home in NSW she is campaigning for social justice for Australia’s disabled and the families who care for them, for radical reform to take central stage in the draft of Australia’s first National Disability Strategy to be published later this year.

Down Under: at the bottom?

People in other English-speaking countries might draw breath at what she describes and Poms perhaps be particularly surprised at the favourable comparison that the situation in England is awarded on the basis of Sue’s experience. Truly, there is always somewhere that things are worse.

Is Australia really the worst place to bring up a disabled child in the English-speaking world?

Sue’s testimonio

Sue’s article presents some impressive statistics, but its strongest impression is conveyed by the personal stories that she recounts, including her own. Such personal reports an essential part of any comprehensive attempt to understand the world, and it really is rather pathetic to cast them aside, as some people do, as ‘anecdotal evidence’.

If you want to bull them up, the technical term is testimonio:
A testimonio is a first-personal political text told by a narrator who is a protagonist or witness to the events that are reported upon. These tellings report on torture, imprisonment, social upheaval, and other struggles for survival. These works are intended to produce (and record) social change. Their truth is contained in the telling of events that are recorded by the narrator. The author is not a researcher, but rather a person who testifies on behalf of history and personal experience.

Understood this way, a life history document is an entry into life, a portal into a culture different from that of the reader. Such texts become vehicles for self-understanding. They connect memory and history to reflexive political action. They create spaces for the voices of previously silenced persons to be heard. In this way the post-modern historian-ethnographer helps create liberating texts.
(Denzin and Lincoln, 2000, pp. 374-375)
If you want to assemble ‘evidence’ for politicians, the media and for fellow citizens (voters) remember to have some decent statistics, but remember the essential contribution of the testimonio too, that is what they will remember.

Carry on campaigning

The best of luck to Sue and those whom she gives voice, and let us hope that ultimate success on this broad font will permit her one day to return to her campaign for Conductive Education.

Another of those coincidences: Conductive World had reason to cite Sue only four days ago (Sutton, 2004), under her married name of Sue Reilly.

Nice to know that so many of the Old Guard are still in the saddle, the ’young parents’ of twenty years ago now taking up their well-honed campaigning cudgels on behalf of young adults and their families/carers.

Come on the youngsters: la lutta continua!


La lutta continua! Der Kampf geht weiter! No surrender!
Revolutionary slogans


Corrigan, S. (2009) The struggle for care, The Australian, 30 March

Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y. (eds) (2000) Handbook of qualitative research, London, Sage

Sutton, A. (2009) Awareness: where has it all gone ? How to get it back, Conductive World, 26 March

Thursday, 26 March 2009


Where has it all gone ? How to get it back

Coincidence again, and selective attention too perhaps at work here, there seems to have been quite a a bit recently in Conductive World lamenting that Conductive Education is not featuring much on the professional/academic radar, at least as far as cerebral palsy and educational research are concerned anyway.

Meanwhile, on the Conductor blog (Mallett, 2009), an interesting line of personal experience is recounted, reflecting how Conductive Education has dropped out of the public view as well.

Why should this be? Why is there such low general ‘awareness’ of Conductive Education now, popular and professional? More to the point, what might be done to restore this situation?

Twenty years ago we were in the middle of a huge explosion of popular and professional interest in Conduction Education, a media feeding frenzy such as one doubted had ever hit anything in disability before, or ever would again. They just couldn’t get enough of it.

Quite a few readers of Conductive World will remember that period. Fewer, though, will remember the time before that, to be precise the time up until 1 April 1986 when Standing up for Joe was first broadcast by BBC TV.

‘If it’s so good then surely we’d already know about it’

During the mid-eighties Conductive Education was almost wholly unheard of, or what little people had heard tended to be less than helpful. Over the couple of years in which I was trying fruitlessly to raise financial support to establish a pilot project for this unknown approach in Birmingham, England, I heard this view voiced explicitly several times:

‘If it’s so good then surely we’d already know about it’

If I feel kindly towards people, then I regard this view a simply an expression of bemusement at the unprecedented attention that Conductive Educuation was getting from families, well in advance of professional awareness. Most of the time, however, I regard it still, as I did then, as expression of overweening self-satisfaction, smugness and complacency. Either way, it expressed a genuine feeling and presented an insuperable barrier to serious consideration.

Of course, one recognised at the time that there were all sorts of good reasons to explain why Conductive Education had till then been so unknown (here). These included:
  • it was from ‘behind the Iron Curtain’
  • it might be ‘communist’
  • it was in a (to us) funny language
  • it was represented by two rather awkward characters
  • there was ‘no literature’
  • there was ‘no research’

All these factors lie now in an increasingly distant past. Now, in the twenty-first century, stage has negated stage and, in a rather different context than before, it is again possible to say that Conductive Education is generally almost wholly unheard of, or that what little people have heard tends to be less than helpful. Now, if someonewere to say to me something like ‘If it’s that good then surely we’d have already know about it’, where do I even begin?

Recreating awareness

So, proposed here is a stage-wise progression in the public/professional awareness of Conductive Education in ‘the West’. You can include political awareness comfortably in this.

  • I. to 1986. Largely unknown
  • II. 1986 - early 1990s. Massive (global) awareness
  • III. Early 1990s to date. Global decline in awareness
  • IV. ??? Only if something is done to change matters

What to do?

If people want to break out of Stage III into anything like the awareness experienced at Stage II, then it might be helpful to try and work out how Stage II came about in the first place.

  • This ‘explosion’ was not spontaneous. It was consciously engineered, maintained and managed (at lest until it got so out of hand and created such a backlash that this was no longer possible)
  • This was not a story about Conductive Education , nor even about disability, except of course for that relatively tiny population of people with real, relevant personal concerns. Anyone who has tried to answer the inevitable question asked by journalists, politicians, Jo Public ‘Can you tell me, how does it work?’ will well know the glazed expression that sets in the moment that you begin to explain it!
  • Look at the extensive media records from Stage II to see that this was a story that (1) sprang from something outside Conductive Education itself and then (2) and took wings and was perhaps ultimately wiped out by something different still.

(1) ‘Brave Mom in the land of the Mullahs’

Well no, actually, the first big human interest appeal in the late eighties, as far as the mass media, were concerned was ‘Brave Mum off behind the Iron Curtain’.

Younger people today might have little idea and older people little recollection of what blockbuster news this was, even in the declining years of Soviet power, and perhaps what an important factor it was for politicians and diplomats that an era was drawing to a close.

The only way in which I have been able to convey the awe of this to young adults today is to have them imagine the Mum (British) as a Mom (American) and have her take her disabled child to Teheran not Budapest for something that she cannot get at home. I am sure that, if this were to happen now, in 2009, then the State Department, the Iranian Government and the TV networks would be more than delighted to oblige. And whatever intervention the family had gone to find in Iran would then piggy-back in on a tidal wave of public fascination.

(2) The backlash

Almost as soon as Standing up for Joe was aired, in 1986, then the backlash began. One can hardly be surprised at the reaction of special educators, therapists, ‘experts' at all levels, public officials and the existing disability establishments, if they took the enormous wave of public interest in something completely new as a kind of criticism of what they themselves did and stood for.

And you can’t blame the media for loving a row. Especially a row between such archetypes as Brave Mum and Man in Suit. It was always the former who came out on top in the awkward public debates that followed, and the media smelled a cover-up.

In the end of course the Establishment had the big guns and the resources for the long, wide-ranging fight back that won the media battle. By the mid-nineties CE’s explosive awareness period was well and truly over: Conductive Education was no longer news in the ways that it had been.

Boy, just imagine the backlash from existing disability services that would muddy the picture if the Brave-Mom-in-the-land-of-the-Mullahs scenario were to be enacted today. They had never heard of it before, so it could hardly be any good. It comes from the ’Axis of Evil’, it might be Muslim, who can understands Farsi anyway, there’s no literature and no research, and Heaven knows what sort of people might be behind it all. In the end, the backlash would wear the interloper down, and the media battle would probably go again to the way that things already are.

A new awareness

There is no question about it, Conductive Education in the West was ‘spoilt’ by the glory days of the amazing awareness that it basked in during the first part of Stage II. Sue Reilly, parent/carer and journalist is not the only one from these days to have yearned for ‘another Standing up for Joe’, though she is the only one to have examined this in print.

She too recognises that there is going to be no similar situation but she also points out the ‘real miracle’ of Conductive Education is that it is still here at all in the face of persisting professional indifference/opposition (the resounding echo of the backlash). Perhaps, she speculates, this could offer the peg upon which to hang a major and persisting CE story: ‘Against all the odds, CE survives’.

Not as sexy as Brave Mums and Moms (and Mamans and Mutis...) off to somewhere unthinkable, but more relevant to the everyday lives of children and adults with disabilities, and their families. It is also closer to difficult and embarassing questions (in media terms, controversies or just plain rows) about the relevance and efficacy of existing ways of providing, the nature of modern professionalism, professional training and government policy. These are stories that could run and run, with real cute kids, real human-interest stories of decent and articulate families struggling against Kafkaesque bureaucracies, more cute kids, and barmy boffins… even perhaps, joy of joys, the whiff of cover-up and wasteful use of public money.

In normal times, in the long run the world would probababy self-right, one way or another. We do not, however, live in normal time and cost will soon demand major revew of all sorts of public priorities. Inevitably the values and beliefs that justify present priorities will also come under review. So, no need for Conductive Education to be squeamish about the fate of others. Rather it is time to grasp the initiative and step forward boldly with its own alternative narrative.

Conductive Education, it is sometimes remarked, is a huge global soap opera. It is never short of great stories, love and pain, triumph and disaster, nobility and skullduggery. Conductive Education’s awareness problem has been its failure to capitalise on this amazing resource. What better time to remedy this situation?

Change, however, won’t just happen by itsedlf. People are going to have to act.


Mallett, S. (2009) What happened? Who now has heard of Conductive Education? Conductor, 22 March

Reilly, S. (2004) Still standing: Conductive Education and the media, G. Maguire and R. Nanton (eds.) Looking back and looking forwards: developments in Conductive Education, Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, pp. 59-66
Available for purchase from library@conductive-education.org.uk

What is scientific research?

For a system of education, that’s educational research

CE's present research trap

Conductive Education has been ill-served (and not infrequently actually damaged) by ill-considered ‘research’ (usually empirical outcome evaluations that persistently fail to find significant advantage in favour of a program of Conductive Education over some other intervention or no intervention at all). Failure to demonstrate an effect has then frequently been taken by the naïve or ill-wishing (not necessarily mutually exclusive groups) as indicating demonstration of failure to achieve an effect.

Both advocates and critics alike then assert ‘More research is needed’, usually meaning more research of the same kind. Not surprisingly such further research goes on to produce more results of the same kind.

More research of the same kind is justified by assertion that only this kind of research is ‘credible’.

Why? To whom? For whose advantage?

Educational research

There are many specific criticisms that may be directed towards stuies research carried out on Conductive Education over the last twenty or so years. One fundamental across-the-board criticism, however, is that Conductive Education has hardly ever been investigated by means of educational research.

Conductors, centre-founders and managers, service-users, should be drawing a line in the sand and refusing to participate in non-educational research into educational questions.

Why in 2009 is it necessary to point this out? Within what sort of suicidal time-warp has Conductive Education entrapped itself? What other sector of education in the world (certainly in the Anglo-Saxon world) would permit such a situation? No wonder CE does not sup academically at the educational high table.

Next month’s great Jamboree

Lots of countries hold their own big educational research gatherings, where academics strut their stuff, scrabble up their chosen slippery poles, and earn brownie-points for their departments back home by presenting a paper somewhere important. By far the largest of these annual national bashes will be held in three weeks’ time, at San Diego, California, the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Because of the size and prestige of this meeting, it will not just be Americans presenting there, it will be academics, scholars and researchers, from all over the world.

2009 AERA Annual Meeting
Disciplined Inquiry:
Education Research in the Circle of Knowledge

Monday 13 April 13 – Friday 17 April 2009
San Diego, CA.

San Diego Convention Center
Marriott Hotel & Marina
Manchester Grand Hyatt
Omni San Diego
Hard Rock Hotel

Exhibit Hall
Sails Pavilion, San Diego Convention Center

Guess what is not on this colossal programme. It wasn’t on last year’s either. See for yourself:

Sorry folks. It looks as though, in the universe that is AERA anyway, Conductive Education just does not exist.

What self-respecting academic is going to win credit and career advantage working in such a nowhere field, such an apparent intellectual backwater?

What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages of this situation?

Scientific educational research

Conductive Education sure has a world of catching up to do. Just to make a start, CE people have to begin thinking very differently about the sorts of research that they need to attract around them. For 'credibility', yes, this is important, but perhaps even more so for its potential contributions to the further development of their craft. After all, the current economic crunch is focussing reluctant minds in every sector of our societies on what is going to have to be dumped over the side of our fragile balloon basket. ‘Old’, and certainly unhelpful ideas on what constitutes ‘research’, with little or no contribution to effecting changes in practice and understanding, may have to be counted as dispensable.

So what might we look for instead. If you wasn’t to see the range of modalities, concerns, methodologies, veritable worlds within educational research, just glance down the contents page of any educational research journal, or see the programme of any educational research conference (you could do worse that the programs of the two AERA Annual Meetings linked to above).

Just to make it easier, here is AERA’s latest definition of the very wide range of edeavour that constitutes scientifically based educational research.

Definition of Scientifically Based Research

The following definition of scientifically based research (SBR) was developed by an expert working group convened by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in June 2008. The SBR definition set forth below was supported by the AERA Council as a framework that offers sound guidance to members of Congress seeking to include such language in legislation. AERA provided this definition in response to congressional staff requests for an SBR definition that was grounded in scientific standards and principles. The request derived from an interest in averting the inconsistencies and at times narrowness of other SBR definitions used in legislation in recent years.

Alternate Definition of Scientifically Based Research (SBR)

Supported by AERA Council, July 11, 2008

I. The term “principles of scientific research” means the use of rigorous, systematic, and objective methodologies to obtain reliable and valid knowledge. Specifically, such research requires:
  • (A) development of a logical, evidence-based chain of reasoning;
  • (B) methods appropriate to the questions posed;
  • (C) observational or experimental designs and instruments that provide reliable and generalizable findings;
  • (D) data and analysis adequate to support findings;
  • (E) explication of procedures and results clearly and in detail, including specification of the population to which the findings can be generalized;
  • (F) adherence to professional norms of peer review;
  • (G) dissemination of findings to contribute to scientific knowledge; and
  • (H) access to data for reanalysis, replication, and the opportunity to build on findings.

II. The examination of causal questions requires experimental designs using random assignment or quasi-experimental or other designs that substantially reduce plausible competing explanations for the obtained results. These include, but are not limited to, longitudinal designs, case control methods, statistical matching, or time series analyses. This standard applies especially to studies evaluating the impacts of policies and programs on educational outcomes.

III. The term “scientifically based research” includes basic research, applied research, and evaluation research in which the rationale, design, and interpretation are developed in accordance with the scientific principles laid out above. The term applies to all mechanisms of federal research support, whether field-initiated or directed.

Updated: 1/21/2009

© American Educational Research Association

1430 K Street NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 238-3200 Fax: (202) 238-3250

Ask not who would pay for such stuff. Just remember that very few academics work for nothing, and almost every study or investigation to be reported to AERA next month will have been paid for somehow. The money is there, then. It just has to be found.


American Educational Research Association (2008) Definition of scientifically based research (as updated on 21 January 2009)


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Western Australia

Some further details

Just spotted, the press release from 21 March that prompted the story reported recently in Conductive World.

Inter alia, this states:

Class cancellations include all early intervention [pre-kindergarten], all outreach programs [which would be provided to children attending mainstream schools], as well as drastically reduced provision of CE programs to children otherwise wishing access to CE in kindergarten, pre-primary, lower and upper primary. This affects more than 60 families enrolled who were offered places in CE classes this school year, and the many more on the growing waitlist.

I was alerted to this by a posting on Lightnur’s blog. Lightnur is still the only active CE blogger in Australia and New Zealand.

She has also alerted me to an earlier statement of the problems of conductor-recruitment down under.


Conductive Education Centre of Western Australia (2009) No special teachers for our special kids (media release), 21 March

Exeter, J. (2008) Conductive Education programs at Carson Street: the state of play, Carson Street School Newsletter, July/August, p.3

Lightnur (2009) No special teacher for our special kids, Light’s life journey, 24 March

Sutton, A, (2009) Setback in Western Australia, Conductive World, 21 March


Keep up to date for yourself

I was reminded today of the free weekly research bulletin service of the Cerebral Palsy Institute.

To subscribe, email Robyn Cummins at:


Write 'Subscribe to CP Research News', in the subject line, and your name and email address in the body of the email.

This service is of course specifically to do with cerebral palsy. Conductive Education may turn up from time to time.

This is a brief venture into informatics, incurring very little effort to myself as I already have the information in my hand. The service that I mention here is of course specifically to do with cerebral palsy. If you are looking for similar bibliographic services to do with other conditions or other catagories of knowledge, then I leave it to you to seek these out for yourself.

Major conferences on cerebral palsy

Wot, no Conductive Education?

If your interest in Conductive Education overlaps with an interest in the cerebral palsies then there are a number of big conferences coming up.

From myth to evidence

Vilnius, Lithuania
3-6 June 2009

Twenty-first annual meeting of the European Academy of Childhood Disability.

This is intended to promote collaborations between countries of Eastern and Western Europe in the field of developmental disorders. Organisers would like to encourage presentations on different therapies and different models of rehabilitartion systems in Europe.


I do not recognise the names of any of the main speakers, nor does CE feature among the conference's ‘instructional morning courses’.

The date for submitting further abstracts has passed. Maybe Conductive Education is not moving from myth to evidence.

Frontiers of innovation: combining technology and therapy to improve outcomes

23-26 September 2009
Phoenix, Arizona

Sixty-third Annual Meeting of the AACPDM (American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine).

Given that Conductive Education is often construes as ‘a therapy’ in the United Stataes. And that many, many conductors are concerned to express their modernity through the adoption of all sorts of technologies, then you might be interested in the representation of CE at this major gathering:


The general programme suggests that Conductive Education may not be penetrating frontiers of innovation, as far as Arizona is concerened. Deadline for on-line abstract submission was in January. The preliminary programme will be published in June.

A global status quo on cerebral palsy, with a view to the future

5 - 7 November, 2009
Utrecht, Netherlands

Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the ICPS (International Cerebral Palsy Society), the thirty-fifth anniversary of the cerebral palsy working party of BOSK (the Dutch association for motor-handicapped and their parents) and the fifth anniversary of the Dutch ACD (Dutch Academy of Childhood Disabilities)

I cannot find a website for this joint celebration, but if you would like to know more, contact johannes@bosk.nl

I can find enough though to know that as a conference this one looks like amazingly good value for money. I can also see that Conductive Education seems to merit no mention in this Dutch vision of the future. You might wish to submit something to the above email address, to make sure that gets one.

An open-minded approach to therapeutic options

13-16 October 2010
Ljublijana, Slovenija

The eighth international congress on cerebral palsy

Plenty of leeway here to get something appropriate prepared and submitted submitted, and you couldn’t find a more appropriate conference title.

No website as yet but address preliminary enquiries to milivoj.velickovic@mf.uni-lj.si

I have no way of knowing whether Conductive Education will be raising its head to show how open-minded it now is, but the call for papers is still open. You might wish to submit something to then above email address, to make sure that it does.

What can one say?

Should one draw any conclusions at all from the above, all of which emerged in this morning’s post followed by a hurried check of the Internet to see what I might be missing.

I am reminded of the jolly little Hungarian ditty, Hol vagtok Szekelyek?. Hear it, and see the words, in English and Hungarian:


(you may also find some rather more revanchish reditions on YouTube)

I’m not blaming solely ‘the Hungarians’ for the present situation (though there is responsibility to be shared out here too). Twenty years of internationalisation means that there is unavoidable responsibility to be born around the world by the conductive movement as a whole, not just Hungarians and certainly not just conductors.

I think that Hol vagtok Szekelyek? is a nice tune but I deprecate what I see as the resigned, passive and defeatist message of the words. If ever there was a time to fight back, this is it. Just one arena in which this could be begun is the conferences of others.


Pictures and practices

Blog sparks real debate on conductive practice?

Yesterday's two items on Conductive World, stemming from the recently published Chinese study on CE and Frenkel have occasioned parallel attention on Susie Mallett's Conductor blog, where Judit Szátmary has taken exception to Susie's choice of picture and more fundamentally to how she works with ataxia.


The following is what I have contributed there (typos corrected!) to what I hope will be a continuing discussion.

Pictures and practices

1. Pictures

I think that the very first CE blog was Leticia’s Con Amor. I have always been cheered and attracted by the photographs that have opened her every posting (though I have never had the nerve to ask her whether she takes them herself!).

I wish that I had the know-how and the energy to put pictures on Conductive World. I really envy those who can brighten up grey acres of the written world. I would particularly like to include cartoons, like ‘real’ newspapers and magazines do. If I did I would soon run into copyright problems. I would also doubtless cause frissons amongst those whose taste and sense of humour are other than my own, less ’British’ perhaps.

I doubt that I would favour either froggy threesomes or winsome babies wearing large glasses. I would care about being chased over copyright but as for the other, Frankly my dear…’

2. Practices

When I began by own activities in the blogosphere, I wrote:
  • This blog is private property, the facility for comments grants open house and I shall treat visitors here as my guests, with respect. If the analogy helps, think of this blog as my front garden on the Internet. If I see litter, offensive material or other rubbish left there I shall just clear it up.
People should be free, nay encouraged, to criticise whatever they see on the Internet, be that images or text. On my own site I have never yet felt the need to clear anything like that away. Where Comments have jarred I have welcomed them as objets trouvés and integrated them into the design, and advanced my own understanding by doing so.

Here we have something of absolutely fundamental importance for Conductive Education as a whole. We have a genuine disagreement of opinion over conductive pedagogic practice, publicly expressed. Is this a first for Conductive Education. It certainly will be if others join in the discussion, corroborating on opinion or another, or introducing others. The joints of conductive pedagogic practice have grown arthritic over the years for lack of intellectual argument of this sort. Keep at it ladies (and gents).

For me the fundamental question here is not simply a question of ataxic movements, or speed of movement, or tremors, important though these be for children/adults with ataxia and their parents/carers, and for the conductors who work with them. Behind this specific there looms a huge general problem within CE, unspoken, but I can hardly believe unrecognised. How to adjudicate between two different practices/understandings? How to resolve conflicts of opinion? Should one even try to do so? Where is the authority’? How is it decided? Where is the evidence for this or for that way of doing things?

This is not a matter of ataxia or any other such specific. It runs through the system like the lettering through a stick of rock.

How do we get somewhere technically better founded that then present system seems to offer? One can think of expensive ways to doing this, for example:
  • some open-minded and basic critical evaluation of a range of present practices,
  • leading to some basic R&D (research and development)
  • more frequent written reports of actual conductive practice (by conductors and their clients, as well as by outsiders)
  • discussion groups, debates, working parties around particular issues
  • just good old fashioned argument.
Judit asks Susie:
  • I don’t know what you mean when saying slowing movements down “with ataxic clients”. Susie please explain…

Quite right, Judit. We should all be asking such questions all the time. Could you then also please explain your own position on this.

That these things even need saying is a mark of something deeply worrying the state of Conductive Education.

At the moment, twenty-odd years since CE first came West (topographically, anyway) I am faced with the spectacle of two experienced conductors, trained in the same place (both under then steely gaze of Mária Hári), with apparently diametrically opposed approached to a particular problems. What questions should I and others ask in such a situation?

  • Are they talking about the same conditions?-
  • The same age-stages?
  • The same tasks?
  • Or (as I naggingly suspect) something more fundamental?-
  • Where in the ‘conductive literature' can I look any of this up?
Please, if you have practical contributions to make to this discussion, direct them to the Comments section at the foot of:


Monday, 23 March 2009

Chinese puzzle partial solution

引导式教育结合 Frenkel 训练法对脑瘫患儿平衡功能的疗效研究

Further to this morning's item, Susie Mallett, who has greater patience than me, has just emailed me the following URL:


This is the Internet address for the article the summary of which had puzzled me this morning. Susie's email at least confirms that I was write in surmising that it comes from Mainland China. She tells me that she has written to the authors. I only wish that I had such energy. Hers, I gather runs to a blog-posting around this subject later this evening. Look out for it at:

The full English-language reference of this article is as follows:

Yang, L. et al. (2009) Effect of conductive education with Frenkel training on balance disability in children with cerebral palsy, Chinese Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics, vol 11, no 3, pp 207-207

The text is available in full in this very recent Internet edition, something that many journals in the West might learn something from (though perhaps their economics don't allow it!). When faced with a totally intelligible foreign text, as this is to me, I turn to the references for clues to at least the provenance of its ideas. I'm stumped here, the only Western references being to paediatric materials.


Previous item on CE research in China

Sutton, A. (2009) C0nductive Education in China? Food for thought, Conductive World, 4 January

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mystery research report on CE and ataxia

More research still needed...

Google Alerts has just slipped me the following link, a (to me) unknown research report, undated and unreferenced:


There is no indication of where this comes from but I do rather suspect from the content, scale and style that it might hail from mainland China (I could be very wrong here). It is part of a blog-format site, Cerebral palsy: all the info about children with cerebral palsy, very technical and already very extensive despite having apparently only just opened. Any help in identifying its source would be much appreciated.

There seems to have been a further technical item (or maybe two) on CE on that site, back on 2 March, but Iwas led into a blind cyber-alley and my Chimerical quarry vanished. Maybe those with more time and patience might be luckier.

Meanwhile the following piece of apparently scientific whizzdingery is up there in Cyberspace, part of that ‘more research’, that, I am so often told, is always needed.

This is what it says, in its entirety:

[Effect of conductive education combined with Frenkel training on balance disability in children with cerebral palsy.]

OBJECTIVE: To study the efficacy of conductive education combined with Frenkel training in the improvement of balance function in children with cerebral palsy.

METHODS: One hundred and fifteen children with cerebral palsy were randomly administered with conductive education and Frenkel training (study group, n=60) or conventional training (control group, n=55). Activities of daily living (ADL) scale and gross motor function measurement (GMFM) of physical performances were used to assess the balance function.

RESULTS: The scores of ADL scale and GMFM of physical performances in both the study and the control groups increased after training. The study group showed higher scores of ADL scale (37.91+/-10.12 vs 34.18+/-6.13; p<0.05)>

CONCLUSIONS: Conductive education combined with Frenkel training is more effective for the improvement of balance function in children cerebral palsy.

Very interesting.

Question 1. What is ‘Frenkel training’? As far as I can tell it comprises ‘exercises’ for balance, and has therefore been provided for children with ataxia:


Question 2. Who is/was Frenkel?


To clear an immediate possible source of confusion out of the way, this is not Viktor Frankl. We must I guess wait a little longer, till Franz Schaffhausser’s new graduate conductors come off stream, before we see Conductive Education combined with Frankl, and very interesting that will be too.

This is your man, and the book by which he was known in the English-speaking world:

The treatment of tabetic ataxia by means of systematic exercise
Heinrich S. Frenkel and L. Freyberger
P. Blakiston's Son & Co., 1902, second edition 1917
(Freyberger translated it into English.)

I am not sympathetic to those would-be academics who decry ‘old references‘, and I am not alone in this with respect to Heinrich Frenkel:

I see that there are currently a couple of copies of the book floating around in the antiquarian book system (each at over a hundred pounds sterling), and the National Library of Scotland has one too…

Conductive Education

Just please nobody say that I have written that CE is based on Frenkel! I have no idea whether there are any links, theoretical or practical.

On the other hand, students of the history of medicine and medical ideas may one day like to see what influence the approach of the Swiss Frenkel had in Central Europe upon physicians dealing with chronic disease. All that movement… hmm. I have never heard Frenkel’s name mentioned in respect to the prehistory of what has become Conductive Education but then I have not been looking out for it and, anyway, all this is so very far outside my field of competence. I have to leave it gratefully to others to follow through.

More practically, those who are concerned with ataxic children might care to have a look at the ‘Frenkel exercises’ that have come down into common wisdom, such as this example from the National Ataxia Foundation in the US:


‘Exercises’ of themselves of course will not teach a child anything (other perhaps than an attitude towards exercises!). I do wonder what Frenkel himself had to say about this. Within an appropriate context and towards an appropriate goal, however, such tasks might help create useful pedagogic tools. What do conductors say of those outlined above by the National Ataxia Foundation?

There is remains an inportant question about the research study that prompted this item. This is not the (minor?) query of whether the researchers really had adopted appropriate measuring tools for the outcome of ‘balance‘. More fundamentally, I have just argued here about possibly including, within the necessary motivating and sense-granting context of conductive pedagogy, certain movements apparently representing something of the work of Frankel (past experience and well-honed caution always have me include the caveat ’allegedly’). It looks at face value like this is what is reported in my mystery article.

Question 3. Unfortunately, the summary provided offers no assurance that there was one iota of conductive pedagogy present. Scientific standards demand something a little deeper than ’37.91+/-10.12 vs 34.18+/-6.13; p<0.05)’

As stated before on these pages, long before competent researchers get that far, they should have paid attention to manualisation, to defining/specifying precisely what it is that they are doing in the first place under the rubric of 'Conductive Education'. Just what was it that 60 chidren in the study group did, with whom, under what circumstances, when they were 'randomly administered with conductive education'?

Might this have everything to do with us, or nothing? We should be told, or at least be provided with easier acess to finding out.



Saturday, 21 March 2009

Setback in Western Australia

Money there, problem recruiting conductors

The extensive and exciting plans to develop a conductive system for children and families in Western Australia (Sutton 2008a; 2008b; 2009) have hit a glitch though a probem in conductor-recruitment (Saunders, 2009).

The problem here may seem peculiarly local but worldwide the problem of recruitment to conductive services remains a tricky one in all sorts of ways, one often solved more by good luck rather that judgement, and one that many in charge of conductive services often do not adequately account for in their planning, and perhaps at the moment cannot.

Their problem usually runs deeper that mere advertising.

Meanwhile, children and families just have to make do (Lightnur, 2009)


Lightnur (2009) Muja first day in Conductive Education pre-primary, without conductor-teacher, Life’s Light Journey, 9 February

Saunders, M. (2009) Kindy door shuts on disabled children, The West Australian, 21 March

Sutton, A. (2008a) Major expansion in Western Australia. Conductive World, 30 May

Sutton, A. (2008b) Expansion continuing in Western Austalia, Conductive World, 6 October

Sutton, A. (2009) Another new CE blog, Conductive World, 6 January

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

‘Conductive Education Communications Center (CECC)’

Further step in CE’s globalisation?

Gil Maguire has just blogged news of a very interesting and perhaps substantive development for Conductive Education worldwide. No point in repeating what she has reported. Go yourself to:

Read the extracts that she quotes and follow up the link to the original. There can be few people in CE worldwide whom this interesting development might not potentially touch, in one way or the other.

This venture does appear seem at the moment directly implicitly towards the United States, but it will be in English and therefore will have a likely global take-up. At the information level, therefore, it is a potential factor towards globalisation of information, and perhaps global homogenisation.

Rubbish in, rubbish out?

On the face of it this seems a substantial venture, with money to be raised at least in part from advertising. Who is behind it has not yet been announced.

The world of Conductive Education is a real tower of Babel. I don’t mean people’s speaking different languages (though that hardly helps) but, perhaps especially in English, an unclassifiable host of alternative and sometimes incompatible understandings and even practices, jostling with each other for public and professional attention under the rubric of Conductive Education.

In one way it might be a service to give all these a convenient stage on which to strut their stuff. It might even be as entertaining as it could be irritating. Perhaps though, pity the punters.

I see the weasel word ‘experts’ and do sincerely hope that ‘almost 20 years in public relations, marketing and interactive/website communications’ will temper the wind to the shorn lamb.

Either way, it will be upon us in a few days. Find out a little more before then at:


Good luck to the venture… and we shall see.

Assessment, the earlier the better

Or neither, as the case may be

I was having an amiable conversation last week, about the new demands for ‘assessment’ now being imposed at the end of English preschool. One outcome of this conversation was the article ‘A pedagogical obscenity’ (Sutton, 2009a) but I had already, however, sat down and bashed into the computer the position that I had been trying to convey on the (to me) linked issues in the philosophy and politics of pedagogy involved. I write ‘philosophy‘ rather than ‘theory‘ because there seems something more profound here, a question of personal and societal orientation and values that runs deeper than mere psychological or pedagogic theory).

I have just published this note as a knol (Sutton, 2009b).

Conductive Education

Readers of Conductive World should note that my conversation and the subsequent note that I wrote were not specifically directed towards Conductive Education, though of course Conductive Education at its best offers very a good example in action of the wider questions involved of this philosophy in action.

A very good example indeed, this being an important reason that I came into this field in the first place.

Conductive Education would do better in getting itself better acknowledged as a serious contender if proponents made greater attempt to articulate themselves in these terms, allying themselves explicitly and publicly to major congruent schools, individuals, movements that have already carved themselves out considerable niches in the world.

If Conductive Education were to do this, then it would find that it is no mere Johnny-Come-Lately but that already, as a matter of routine, it manifests long-established and robust practical measures that are in effect in advance of much of what is still regarded elsewhere as trendy or advanced.

Thus I am reminded that dynamic assessment is still cutting-edge stuff. Really, though, it does look like it sits there in a twenty-years time warp, still focussed primarily upon children, albeit their learning rather than their attainment. It has not heeded Reuven Feuerstein’s advice and redirected the finger of responsibility for children’s failure firmly back upon the educators themselves. and the interations that they generate. Conductors’ operative assessment is a paradigm leap ahead of dynamic assessment as she is still spoke, at least it would be if only it were properly articulated, fit for public discussion.

An experiment

I recall some twenty-odd years ago being profoundly shocked when we opened the first real project to establish the conductive system outside Hungary. A group of conductors arrived ‘to make the assessment’ and to find out which children would be ‘suitable for Conductive Education’. As stated in these terms, this went against the very principles that the project had been set up in the UK to demonstrate! Putting a favourable light on the decision-making involved, however, I was able to accept that this was being done to create a group that would not be too hard to work with when starting up in in a context wholly new to everyone involved, that would offer a good base for training tyro student-conductors, and that could be implemented within the resources available.

Unfortunately, others at the time took the conductors at their word (particularly unfair as the words used were in English, then a very ‘new’ language for Conductive Education) and there was enormous, hostile interest in how children were ‘assessed for Conductive Education’. Assessment is after all a vice Anglais, and the English do like tut-tutting over their vices! Even now, after all these years and the colossal practical demonstration to the contrary, ones still hears and reads authoritative statements to the effect of ‘Conductive Education is selective’ and ‘Conductive Education is not suitable for all children’

This has harmed the conductive movement, and certainly not solely in the United Kingdom. So be careful what you say. It helps shape what you think. And it effects what other people say and think too.

There was an early intervention that we could have all done without! Nevertheless, as we all know, it is never too late for people to learn.

Why not then, at the very least, start teaching them by totally purging your own vocabulary of the word ‘assessment’ (except of course when speaking of the activities of people outside Conductive Education). Just don’t say it, and certainly never write it about yourself. Get rid of it from any forms, brochures, publicity materials etc that you have. Don’t suggest to others that you think (and act) like the rest of the world does. Either you have a distinct conductive practice, or you don’t, and if you don’t then what do you have?

But, what might you say instead? Why not work out what precisely you mean when you are about to say or write ‘assessment’, then say or write precisely what it is that you intend to do. If this is to follow the ‘tax-man model’ (see the knol referred to at the foot of this article), then again you have to consider the nature of your conductive practice. In many cases, though, simply substitute the neutral word ‘consultation’, as many already do, and that will be change enough (it may also have a possible advantage in raising what is being done in the estimation of service-users). In other cases, just don’t say anything!

In some instances losing the word ‘assessment’ may prove hard (but the problem is not insoluble). In others it will prove surprisingly easy. Do it consistently for a month and you will probably find that you have expunged the word entirely from your own speech and made a start on affecting the thinking of everyone involved.

Waste not, want not

I have a new ‘policy‘, not to write things without publishing them somewhere, albeit in many instances ‘only‘ on the Internet.

It is a source of regret to me that I did not publish more over the years. I have too many ‘unpublished papers’ in my bibliography! Maybe now I should do something about that too, if and when I have time!

Certainly others in CE should seriously consider doing the same, both with what they do now and what they have done in the past.

The world outside Conductive Education remains almost wholly unaware of almost anything of significance in people’s experience of the system, its theory, its practices, its human effects, never mind its implications. If people in Conductive Education (and I do not mean just conductors, these matters are far too important to be left to conductors) do not articulate them, if they do not teach about such things, then they can hardly be surprised that nobody knows about CE and that nobody learns.

Hardly a surprising message, I am sure, for people involved in Conductive Education


Sutton, A. (2009a) A pedagogical obscenity, Conductive World, 17 March

Sutton, A. (2009b) Assessment, the earlier the better, Google Knol, 19 March

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Brazil is stirring

Open event and lecture in Florianópolis

Conductive Education
(in Portuguese)

Free lecture, with time for questions and discussion

Becky Featherstone, conductor

Thursday 9 April
1430 - 1630

Conductive Education With Love Centre

If you would like to see Conductive Education in practice, the visit the previous afternoon, between 1400 and 1530.,on Wednesday, 8 April. Get to know the people at the With Love Centre, bring your friends too if they are interested.

Registration/enquiries: educacaocondutiva@gmail.com


Búrigo, L. (2009) Palestria gratuita, Educação Condutiva con amor, 17 March

American awareness

Another propaganda coup for ACCDAT,
but Oh, those muscles again

Texas CE centre A Child Can Do All Things (Conductive Education of Dallas), has scored some good public awareness, for itself and for Conductive Education in general in a two-and-a half-minute report on Channel 8 News (WFAA-TV) a couple of weeks back.

As ever, some telling video shots and an articulate parent and child (in this case Brian Hall, founder of ACCDAT, and his seven-year-old daughter, Katherine) prove the best public advocates of Conductive Education.

Good TV publicity has been an important tradition in the internationalisaion of Conductive Education. ACCDAT was last on TV news in October, on Channel 5. (this now seems to have gone off line).

A cavil

The news commentator: ‘Repetitive tasks help the children’s brains find new ways to send messages to the muscles’.

I don’t know how this brain-muscles understanding first originated. I first heard it, I think, nearly four years ago on a CBS news report on an Amrican fanily at the Peto Institute:

The idea is this: If the brain is forced to try, it will find a way to connect mind and muscle.


This seems to have caught on in the United States and pops up quite a bit in popular US explanations. It is as pernicious to having CE taken seriously by professionals and academics as the ’rewiring the brain’ explanation that is similarly bandied about in the United Kingdom.

Acknowledgement and apology

This TV report was spotted on Jacolyn Lieke’s blog. Due thanks.

Apologies for time that it has taken to bring it to wider attention. The clip is still up there on WFAA’s website. I do not know how long it will be retained there. It is also available via ACCDAT’s website.

Notes and references

MacKay, J. (2009) Non-profit helps children with motor disabilities, WFAA-TV,
22 February

Conductive Education of Dallas (2008) A Child Can Do All Things (website)

Leung, R. (2004) Mind and muscle: Peto Institute brings hope to kids with cerebral palsy, CBS News, 18 August

Lieck, J. (2009) ACCDAT on the news again! Lieck triplets, 25 February
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