Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Library

Concern persists

By way of an update you may care to look at http://www.conductive-world.com/

You may also care to add your own views to the on-line Petition referred to there:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/help-save-our-library/index.html

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Speech and Communication Cards

New publication from conductor Amanda Elliott

Challenge me! Speech and Communication Cards
Amanda Elliott

London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009
ISBN 978-1-84310-946-4,
56pp, 2009
£17.01 + VAT
US$22.95

The Speech and Communication cards provide attractive auxiliary means for teaching speech/language to children aged 3-12 with any form of speech problem, whether related to a motor disability or a general delay in speech.

The cards provide a 32-page booklet with guidance for using the cards, background information about teaching speech and communication to children, and ways to use the cards most effectively, including a variety of activities with the intention to
  • improve breathing techniques and use of speech apparatus (mouth, tongue, nose)
  • control extra salivation
  • moderate volume, tempo, rhythm and intonation of speech
  • improve sound production and clarity of words and sentences.
There are also tips for improving speech and language in everyday life through user-friendly activities to speech training enjoyable for everyone concerned.

Availability

The materials are available now. They can be purchased internationally from Internet book suppliers, at a variety of prices. Or you can contact Amanda direct at:

Amanda’s first set of cards was published two years ago and remains available from booksellers and from the author direct:

Challenge me! Mobility Activity Cards
ISBN: 978-1-84310-497-1 48pp, £14.99, $24.95

Further information

If you have Conductive Education...

...what should you be called?

Maybe in part result of the untidy way in which Conductive Education has tumbled into the English language, there is no obvious word for those who conductors serve:
  • doctors and nurses have patients
  • teachers have pupils
  • social workers have clients.

Who do conductors have? The word ‘conductees’ seems unlikely ever to appeal to anyone!

This is a long-standing question to which there is no single answer. Rather, answers seems to depend upon the given context, and the roles being fulfilled there.

Patients

No, this is no good. CE involves no medical procedure and conductors are not medical personnel. Nor are they ‘therapists’ and their work is not a therapy. Correspondingly, people who come to them (or to whom they go to) are not ill, there will be no cure and, though conductors may well be caring, their work is not care in the sense of nursing care.

Just maybe if conductors are working in clinics or hospitals, as some do in Germany or Hungary, then it may be appropriate to say that they are working with patients there. I am not sure, however, whether this situation ever arises in the English-speaking countries.

Adults

When the Adults’ Department opened in Birmingham in 1990 there was immediate need to find a word to refer to the people with Parkinson’s who took part in the first groups there.

Janet Read came up with the solution. Easy really, they take part in groups, they participate in the conductive process, ergo ‘participants’.

This has stuck and ‘participants’ seems now to be a general word to indicate adults who receive Conductive Education, wherever English is spoken.

Except, of course that, for a variety of reasons, some adult work is not in groups, in which case the word ‘clients’ can seem a more appropriate usage.

There is no clear distinction, however, and small groups of clients might well be participating as a group…

You take your choice.

Children

This is slightly complicated by the recent shift in the UK to calling schoolchildren ‘students’ rather than ‘pupils’.

No real problem, though, for Conductive Education. If conductors are working in a school they may, according to their school’s particular convention, refer to the children with whom they work as ‘pupils’ or as ‘students’. My impression, however, is that they will more likely refer to them as ‘children’.

Preschool children and those attending out-of-school activities are just that, ‘children’. Very little ones may presumably also be sescribed as ‘babies’ or ‘toddlers’. In out-of-school contexts children are hardly ‘pupils’ or ‘students‘, neither are they 'clients'.

Teenagers, adolescents, young adults

Somewhere along the line the conventions of childhood will give way to those of adulthood.

Students

The reader may have spotted here a certain disinclination towards indiscriminate use of the word ‘student’, except of course for when referring to students.

Students include those who are studying to be conductors, i.e. student-conductors, or those studying for a masterate or doctorate on the topic of Conductive Education.

Others may also study Conductive Education, though through less formal means. A recent example is Leticia Búrigo who studied very hard indeed in the National Library of Conductive Education while her children were working in the Early Years group of NICE. By the same token, I have been a student of Conductive Education for close on thirty years.

Families

‘Clients’ seems the readiest usage here, by connotation with social work.

Learners

This seems the easiest, most neutral generic term for use in technical literature and discussionabout the processes of conduction , development etc. in which, for example, mention of 'patients', 'clients' and the like might introduce confusing associations. Further, the term 'learner' represents upon a role within the process of interaction and conduction that counterposes readily with that of the pedagogue or conductor.

That said, I recognise that use of this word its itself unproblematic, in that learners are also actors within social transactions… It does at least though raise the discussion to a level at which such a matter can be taken further, again without the conceptual baggage and clutter that patients, pupils, clients etc. would bring to the table.

Customers and punters.

Easy-going vernacular terms in British English, the former too obviously commercial, the latter too flippantly so.

Service-users

Another of Janet Read’s bequests to CE. Children, adults and families are all of course using conductive services and are therefore by definition ‘service-users’. This may sound an administrative-sounding term but it has the virtue of making explicit that a transaction is being conducted here, and that this transaction involves a human service.

Consultancies

Institutions that hire a ‘consultant’ for advice or training are inevitably ‘clients’, by connotation with the commercial world from which the concept of consultancy sprang. Their employees might be regarded as the same if working directly with the consultant. If this involves some sort of training course, presumably,then they are ‘trainees’.

Any recommendations?

No.

Ask not what is ‘best’.

  • It seems likely that usage will be determined locally, to suit local situations, practices and personalities. And why not?
  • It seems unlikely that the by now vast and straggling field of Conductive Education will feel the need for a single term to describe or identify its beneficiaries.
  • I do not know empirically what is the full range of common usages in English-speaking countries around the world, to cover the vast variety of conductive access and conductive practices that now exist.
  • As ever, I am almost wholly unaware of nuances in other languages.

In English anyway, it is surely only a matter of time now that one or more of the words cited here becomes pejorative and consigned to that limbo of inverted commas that seems eventually to await all once well-meaning technical terms in disability and education.

In the meantime, does anyone know of any other terms already being used to those who ‘do CE’, or have any suggestions about how this might be expressed better?

What about the ‘doing words’?

If the above fairly represents the situation over nouns, what about verbs? What is the range there?

  • Does one attend CE, experience it, partake, participate, undertake, or does one just do it?
  • And what about conductors, do they teach, conduct, lead, or like those they work with, do they just do it?

Like Nike trainers, in both cases!

Again, suggestions, please.



Monday, 27 April 2009

Hair: new toys do not have this problem

But it makes you think!

Hair

There was a time when the word ‘conductive’ held two rather different connotations for me from what it does today. One was with respect to conductive hearing loss, the so very common developmental ‘dislocator’ on which I elaborated for myself my understanding of the realities of systemic developmental disorder, and found just how easy it could often be to ‘reset’ a dislocated psychosocial system. The other involved electrically conductive gel.

That was in the early seventies, when I spent a little time with the marvelous Grahame Harding at the Neuropsychology Unit of the Department of Applied Psychology, University of Aston in Birmingham, learning to ‘do EEGs’. I had gone there to explore Soviet use of EEGs to differentiate between temporary delay in development and oligophrenia, but the underlying theory proved much more interesting and drew me from the neuropsychological end of the trade to the psychosocial-intervention list. Hardly his bag but he let me hang on and even did me the privilege of getting the late Neil O’Connor as External.

In case you don’t know, by the way, EEGs involved having to wire up subjects to a (colossal!) computer by means of little cup-shaped electrodes glued around the skull. Electrical conductivity was ensured by there being a small hole in the centre of the cup, through which one injected a drop of eclectically conductive gel by means of a blunted hypodermic syringe.. To make doubly sure of an electrical connection, with the needle still in place in the hole, we would then gently scrape away a small area of dead skin under the gel with its blunted point.


I don’t know how far this Heath Robinson arrangement has evolved over the intervening years (the computers will be much, much smaller, and the whole business is probably a little more infection-conscious for sure!). It was all very new and exciting but, in one respect, there couldn’t have been a worse time to do it than the early seventies.

In the early seventies, we had serious hair. Especially the blokes.

In those hirsute times we never envisaged a future when fashion would lead many, many men (all ages, all classes), and even a quite a few women, to shave their skulls. A hideous prospect in the Age of Aquarius, but an electroencephalographer’s dream of heaven!

There was a lot that one would not have envisaged then!

Now anyone can do something even more marvelous, with no Heath Robinson rig-up, no massive computer that fills a room, no tangles of wires like an Indian electrical substation, no mountains of paper print-out bearing with yards and yards and yards of squiggles, above all, no fiddling at the roots of people’s hair.

Just a small pad on the forehead and a ping-pong ball in a transparent tube. Magic.

Toys

Before you read on, click across to an article from yesterday morning’s Washington Post, and marvel.

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090426/LIFE/904260319

Amazing science! Well, amazing technology, anyway

I know that I should love to have a go. Were I younger, no doubt, the spirit of competitiveness and self-regard (my mind) would probably drive me to see how far I could raise the pin-pong ball by means of my detected and amplified cerebral electrical activity (my brain). Nowadays, though, should any relevant normative data exist (which I doubt), I might be more concerned to see my relative level of performance, and consider, and worry, about how far this represents cerebral decline and how far it is a function of the psychological change of no longer wishing to bother.

At all those dollars a throw, however, I doubt that I shall be giving this a try. I would rather save my pension towards buying myself a folding bicycle to take on the buses and trains. All the same, it good to read about this and to be aware of such things.

Mind over matter?

Mind is an expression of matter. No problem there for most people. You might even be happy to regard mind as the highest expression of the motion of matter (who said that?). Either way, most people will be happy to recognise the human brain as a vital element in the material base of human learning, thinking, personality etc…

But not of course its only material base, that would be a sad reductionism.

These pricey toys seem to represent a level of utility and entertainment well below that early peak of technological achievement, the first Sinclair computers. They were a marvel they could do some simple tricks, but they did lead on the most amazing things. Joel Garreau’s splash in the Washington Post poses the question like this.

The question everyone has about these gizmos is whether they are parlour tricks like Magic 8 Balls or Ouija boards. Even Geoff Walker, a senior vice president at Mattel, acknowledges that users 'spend the first 20 minutes stunned that it actually works'.

Repeated thousands of times in the word’s media, with a lot less journalistic care, urged by the toy industry’s ever desperate desire to promote the next craze, these toys might yet gain wider recognition.

Along the way they might also engender a lot of confused talk, neuro-babble, and arrant nonsense, about the human mind and the human brain. You might even find yourself contributing some yourself. So might I!

Given the circumstances, the phrase ‘mind over matter’ is not a bad one to introduce the phenomenon and bring people to think about mind-body-dualism, body-mind dualism, even materialist monism. Not probably in such words, but such present-day toys and their next generation might direct people’s minds to some of the major questions about the nature of our humanity that Conductive Education so vividly exemplifies.

Maybe…

Notes and reference

Hair
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78JeiSfh2Zg&feature=related

Sinclair computers
http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/computers/zxspectrum/zxspectrum.htm

Garreau, J. (2009) Brain wave of the future, Washington Post, 26 April
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090426/LIFE/904260319

Mexican swine fever

What does one say?

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Conductive Education: it’s magic

Some serious points here

Three weeks ago Susie Mallett (2009a) posted an item on magic and tricks in Conductive Education. This was a characteristically informal and practical piece, touching characteristically upon important themes rarely explicitly expressed in Conductive Education but deserving to be.

At the time I jotted down some immediate things that I was reminded of by this. Unfortunately, however, I had no opportunity or access to check on these over the Easter break. Here now are my immediate random associations. I have no doubt that a more thorough and formal enquiry would find more.

This is enough, though, to suggest that I am not alone in finding the notion of ‘magic’ and of ‘tricks’ acceptable means to raise questions about and around Conductive Education.

András Pető

Here is something written by Péter Popper, one of the then impressionable young people who knew András Pető in the years after the War, interviewed many, many years later.

Today as I look back as an old university professor [of psychology] I’m convinced that Pető was an excellent man, and he was far ahead of the others in limbering up spastic patients. He could achieve a relaxing, a loosening. He really got results with spastic patients, and although I know that this is not a very nice ting to say, his method achieves results because it is done by fanatics, no one else could do it, only fanatics. (Péter Popper, interviewed by Forrai, 1999, p.112).

He added:

I have been to India several times, as well as to Istanbul. Pető’s was a mystical personality, and he never hid that for a second. Some people understood it, and some people considered him a lunatic…. He was a peculiar, unconventional person who lived like a stranger in our midst, and he was led by his destiny. A solitary magus or a monk (ibid., p. 113)

Granted that this is an English translation from the Hungarian, for what it is worth the English word ‘magus’ means an astrologer, sorcerer or magician of ancient times.

‘A special kind of magic’

This was the title of a short research report published more that twenty years ago, at a time that Australia looked to achieving pole position in the early race to get CE established outside Hungary:

David Cooper was a social psychologist and structured his evaluation of a ‘CE camp’ in social-psychological terms.

Methodologically his study laid down a pointer for future evaluations that has not been followed up by a field that has since then largely surrendered its evaluation to methodologies less appropriate to phenomena of the complexity involved in Conductive Education. It is a pity that the camp in question was run according to 'the principles’ rather than by conductors, but no matter: from the viewpoint of exploring relevant evaluation models this was an excellent if unfulfilled beginning.

David Cooper’s title came from something said by one of the parents taking part in this camp, to describe what he had felt there. This is also, incidentally, one of the most affirmative research studies undertaken upon practice dependent upon the ‘principles of Conductive Education’. Had people working in that way been more alert to this, they might have followed it up with enquiry into just what factors might have been in operation here to produce this feeling, with important implications for future service developments of this sort. Unfortunately, the ‘magic’ seems not to have become a subject for further consideration.

As for the wider question of evaluation of outcomes of Conductive Education, researchers might have been more relevantly employed in pursuing questions related to this ‘magic’, rather that by such extraordinarily irrelevant activities as ‘the ten-metre test’!
  • What is it that makes people feel this way?
  • How was it that they felt before, and how was that brought about?
  • What are the possible material components in the ‘conductive’ lives of children and parents children, hope, wellbeing, success etc that are summed up in this word?
  • What is the practical contribution of feeling this way to the rehabilitative/educational process?
  • How far can you get without it?
Perhaps the very word ‘magic’ put people off asking what vital material mechanisms might lie behind it.

Ronni Nanton’s ‘tricks’

Around the same time Ronni Nanton in Birmingham had been investigating the relevance of Conductive Education to people with Parkinson’s disease.

Along the way she hit upon the spontaneous self-help culture largely ignored by the professionals who earned their living from Parkinson’s disease. She focussed upon often self- discovered activities that Pakinsonians used to facilitate movement, referring to them as ‘tips‘ or ‘tricks’:

There has emerged spontaneously amongst patients a folk psychology which offers methods of overcoming this problem [‘freezing’]. This folk psychology comprises a number of ‘tips’. Many of these are widely known amongst sufferers and are accepted as useful ways of getting going. Some involve the sufferers’ own imagination, some verbal instructions by the sufferer or someone else, and some visible objects or sounds...
In professional folklore it is a standing joke that at the call of ‘Fire!’ Parkinsonian patients will be the first out of the hospital. Despite the intriguing nature of this phenomenon it has been the subject of only one systematic account… (Ronni Nanton, in Cottam and Sutton, 1986, p. 188).

These strategies or tips have frequently appeared in books written specifically for and often by sufferers and families, where they are generally referred to as ‘tricks’. I do not know whether now, twenty years or so later, such ‘tricks’ remain underground and ignored. Whatever their status in contemporary professional practice, however, these tricks do hold a most illustrious place in the history of psychology and neuro-rehabilitation:

Starting in 1926 two Russian psychologists, A. R. Luriya and L. S.. Vygotstkii carried out a series of observations and experiments with Parkinsonian patients at the Moscow Institute of Psychology. (ibid., p.189)

Despite the limitations the experiments were important as they demonstrated, like the sufferers’ own tips, the capacity of the intact second-signal system to override or circumvent a lower-order deficit. (ibid., p.193).

Tricks, popular folklore and folk psychology of this kind, whatever term you favour, should in no way be looked down upon or ignored:
  • they may confer real practical help to those in need, and
  • their association with theoretical understandings of rehabilitation, a paradigm leap, leapfrogged a conceptual generation (a generation that unfortunately many people will meet still in their present-day rehabilitation services).

Ronni’s work with the Parkinson’s Disease Society lead over the next few years led to that Society’s close and active invilvement the early establishment of adult conductive rehabilitation in the United Kingdom. As far back as 1984, however, she had already presented a memorandum to Society suggesting a research programme:

  • invoking Luria’s neuropsychology
  • involving the tricks
  • suggesting a preliminary analytic matrix for these tricks on the basis of Luriya's theoretical position, and
  • proposing that they be researched and developed further for their potential benefit to people with Parkinson’s disease.

This was not taken further, though Ronni’s underlying a priori notion still merits serious examination:

It seems to me important that a welfare worker should try to discover the strategies for coping adopted by individuals, in order to avoid casting the sufferer in the role of passive recipient of services. He should rather be recognised as the primary agent in the management of his condition (Nanton, 1984).

Her invocation of Luriya’s work indicates the immense heuristic value of mysterious, magical, psychological tricks, apparent mental sleights of hand, in bringing about practical and theoretical advance, if responded to with appropriate scientific investigation.

The Sorcerer’s apprentice (der Zauberlehrling)

Early in 1987, at the height of the public, professional and political furore over Conductive Education in the United Kingdom I had one of my most vile experiences in Conductive Education, when Mária Hári and I presented to the Second International Congress on Child Health, in Edinburgh. The weather was raw and chill, indoors as well as out, and the reception that we received from the audience was frosty to the point of iciness.

I recall our standing together under bright lights in front of a large, darkened auditorium. The waves of silent, suppressed indignation, hatred even, that greeted what we said were almost palpable. Then the ‘questions’ came, not so much questions as… well, I don’t know the right word: condemnations, dismissals, accusations, curses, often introduced with that most terrible imprecation: 'I... am a Superintendent Physiotherapist…'

I am sure that there were some in that audience who would have gladly watched us burned as heretics or witches. Great fun!

Afterwards we were interviewed together in our hotel, the Caledonian on Prince’s Street (quite the coldest palace that I have ever slept in), by Pat Scowan who was then editing the magazine Health at School, a most competent journalist whose interview was a great salve after what we had just been through. Towards the end she raised the issue that some of our questioners had also expressed, that they had known all about Conductive Education for years, and indeed already did it (and it didn't work!)

Pat Scowen. Is it true, Dr Hári , that that you don’t approve of people doing Conductive Education by half-measures? Some people have tried to set up a modified form in this country.

Andrew Sutton. People have come to Budapest and taken some of the superficialities some of the components, and think they’ve got Conductive Education. But they haven’t - it needs both the philosophy and the huge repertoire of personal skills.

Dr Hári. Do you know Goethe’s poem about the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? He thought he could practice magic when his master was not there, but when he tried it he found it didn’t work properly.

Some years later, in the early-mid nineties (I cannot for the moment find the written report) I was at one of the informal gatherings that Helga Keil engendered, held over the period of a few years in Austria, Germany and Belgium. I did not approve of everything that I heard there but they did serve as a sort of master-class. It is a great shame that this tradition has not been taken up and expanded but I do not suppose that many people could afford this nowadays if it were.

At one of these seminar-style events I had been asked to offer for discussion a taxonomy of Conductive Education in Europe. I had no idea what to say and only as the preceding couple of presenters spoke did I manage to jot down a matrix of sorts, just I time to deliver it when my turn came.

They liked it, especially the final category of all: Mickey Mouse.

I had by then been using this mildly pejorative phrase for a long time, to refer to attempts to establish conductor-free practices under the name of Conductive Education, based upon the ‘principles’. I remember introducing the phrase to Mária Hári sometime in the eighties. She liked it and told me that in Hungarian an equivalent phrase in this sense would be hokusz-pokusz. This European seminar was, however, the first time that I had employed the phrase Mickey Mouse in a formal setting. I believe that it has since gained a certain currency in this sense within Conductive Education (including in the German-speaking lands).

I have a small Mickey Mouse puppet hanging above my desk at NICE. I used to use it as a visual aid in lectures to student conductors. Only a few years ago, though, did the sight of this puppet brought to mind the a coincidental link to what Mária Hári has replied to Pat Scowan in the Caledonian Hotel back in 1987. I am pretty sure that Mária Hári could never have seen Fantasia, so coincidence it remains, but here’s Walt Disney’s take on the Sorcerer’s Apprentice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LD8HDta7Z_4

* * * * *
Susie Mallett (2009b) has subsequently returned to tricks and magic in a further posting, so I may come back to it too.

References

Cooper, D. (1986) A special kind of magic: changes in family dynamics arising from parent participation in a Conductive Education program. Community Health Studies, vol. 10, no 3, pp.294-306

Forrai, J. (1999) Memoirs of the beginnings of Conductive Education and András Pető, Budapest and Birmingham, Uj Aranhíd and Foundation for Conductive Education

Mallett, S. (2008a) The stroke group - or is it the Magic Circle? Conductor, 3 April
http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2009/04/stroke-group-or-is-it-magic-circle.html

Mallett, S. (2008b) A conductive of tricks - or taking the mystery out of the magic, Conductor, 19 April
http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2009/04/conductive-box-of-tricks-or-taking.html

Nanton, V. (1984) Self-help for Parkinson’s disease: ideas for research. Unpublished document

Nanton, V. (1986) Parkinson’s disease, in P. Cottam and A. Sutton (eds.) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorder, London, Croom Helm, pp.178-205

Scowen, P. (1987) Conductive Education: treating the whole child, not the disability, Health at School, vol. 2, no 8, May, pp. 234-236

V or L?

That is the question

Even governments are now admitting that the problem before us is not a credit crunch. It is the loan crisis.

At whatever level we operate, be this trying to rescue a national economy, keeping alive a struggling business, or just managing our own personal finances, it it the loan crisis that will define our experience of the years to come.

In the United Kingdom, for example, on present calculation it will take at least ten years (yes, that's till 2017) to pay off our national indebtedness, that's ten years of austerity, making do, changing the way that we live, just to pay of our national overdraft and keep our economic chin above water.

Is it V or is it L?

These letters are not abbreviations, they represent alternative graphical representations of the course of the recession.

V

This represents a recession in which a sharp decline bottoms out fairly quickly, after which the much vaunted and heralded 'green shoots of recovery' will be followed by a quick economic upturn, after which we shall be very much back where we started from, the recession will be 'over', we can dust off our previous expectations and plans, and carry on very much as we were before.

This will apply whether we be nations, institutions or individuals and, of course, it applies also to Conductive Education, whatever the nature of our involvement in this.
The only question then is how quick it will be before we hit the bottom and head back up towards 'recovery'.

Phew! Job done. All over by Christmas (if not Christmas 2009, then Christmas 2010).

L......

In this representation, the economy does not simply 'bottom out', it stays there, and then drags along the bottom with the income from the productive parts of the economy syphoned off into servicing debt, with little or nothing left for us to experience recovery.

It is with this model very much in mind that first public noises are being made about cutting back on public services though, of course, nobody dares yet speculate publicly on the priorities, choices, decisions that this will involve.

How long will this last and where might this all lead? In Conductive Education like, in everything else, we shall be very wise after the act.

A compromise graph?

Perhaps this is the best that we can hope and plan for, a looooooong, shallow U, to bring us back eventually to somewhere like may have been regarded until recently as normality.

Well, maybe, in some places and in some specific circumstances the status quo will be maintained or restored, and that will apply to Conductive Education too. For some it may indeed be business as normal.

This will depend in part how much the world will have moved on over the intervening years, how much people and institutions will have been changed by their experiences, what will have become of the wider social situations in which Conductive Eduction is presently embedded in different countries around the world.

And in Conductive Education, this will upon the continuing working through and resolution of inherent contradictions within the system itself, still present in V, more likely exaccerbated/accelerated than pushed aside by the circumstances of L or U.

Reference

Sutton, A (2008) Conductive Education: whatever next? Google Knol, 2 December

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Cerebral palsy: research results compatible with developmental disorder

'Activity limitations not a mirror of motor impairments'

People concrned with Conductive Education for children and their families should be interested in a just-published study from the Netherlands, compatible with Conductive Education’s implicit understanding of cerebral palsy as a dynamic, systemic, developmental disorder, representing the interactive product of learning.

Here is the formal Abstract of the published paper:

Wichers, M., Hilberink, S., Roebroeck, M. E., van Nieuwenhuizen, O., Stam, H. J.

Motor impairments and activity limitations in children with spastic cerebral palsy: a Dutch population-based study, J. Rehabil. Med. 2009 Apr. 41(5), 367-74.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of motor impairments and activity limitations and their inter-relationships in Dutch children with spastic cerebral palsy.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: In a population-based survey 119 children, age range 6-19 years, with spastic cerebral palsy were examined. Anthropometry, muscle tone, abnormal posture, joint range of motion, major orthopaedic impairments and gross motor functioning and manual ability were assessed or classified, in addition to limitations in mobility and self-care activities. Spearman's correlation coefficients, bivariate post hoc analyses and univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used.

RESULTS: Children with spastic cerebral palsy had a lower body height and weight compared with typically developing peers. Forty percent had no range of motion deficits. Hip dislocations were rarely encountered. Motor impairments were associated with gross motor functioning and manual ability levels. Close to sixty-five percent walked independently. Children with diplegia and tetraplegia differed in activity limitations. Motor impairments and limitations in mobility and self-care activities were only modestly related in multivariate analyses.

CONCLUSION: Distribution of cerebral palsy-related characteristics is consistent with that found in representative studies of other countries. The distinction between diplegia and tetraplegia is relevant from an activity point of view. The child's activity limitations are not a mirror of the motor impairments, which suggests multifactorial influences. An activity-oriented rehabilitation approach goes beyond treating specific impairments.

Facts, Zeitgeist and paradigm shift

The full paper offers some interesting facts of interest to anyone involved with cerebral palsy and its treatment, ‘consistent with [those] found in representative studies in other countries‘.

For Conductive Education, however, this study also offers important empirical assurance on a fundamental question:

Activity limitations are determined only partly by the mere presence of motor impairments, which confirms the findings of other studies… Individual goal setting in rehabilitation should identify all factors relevant to the child, including environmental factors. An activity-oriented rehabilitation approach goes beyond the treatment of motor impairments that are present.

In other words, what children with cerebral palsy can and cannot do is not simply a direct effect of the degree of their underlying physiological deficit. It is mediated by something else.

Nothing new here for the fields of deaf and blind education, or to otologists and ophthalmologists. Everyone working with those developmental disorders has long known this to be so, recognising the essentially psychosocial mechanisms involved in bringing this about (‘multifactorial influences’ indeed!), and actively welcoming the pedagogic and other processes that serve to enhance such ‘dislocation of development'. In the field of motor disorder, however, this long-established and self-evident-human truth remains a stranger to the Zeitgeist, be this in educational or medical areas.

All the same, these multi-factorial influences can be gathered together, focussed and integrated (’conducted’, as we say), and consciously directed, to enhance the process and outcome of development (that is where pedagogy and upbringing come in). Not a lot of people seem to know that, even now.

Meanwhile, as this paper from Holland exemplifies, information is there from medical research to support such a position. All that is needed is minor adjustment in the way of understanding such information. A paradigm shift.

Open access

This report is published in the April issue of the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine, on-line and open-access. This mean that this journal article is available, free of charge, and in its entirety, to read on the Internet, or to download if you require a paper copy.

Hats off to the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine:

http://jrm.medicaljournals.se/files/pdf/preview/1083.pdf

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Cerebral palsy: early warning for ANZACs

Start now to make impression on home territory

The first announcement has been made for another big cerebral palsy conference, this one for Australia and New Zealand

Getting a good start

AusACPDM 5th Biennial Conference

Christchurch Convention Centre
New Zealand
3-6 March 2010

www.dcconferences.com.au/ausacpdm2010

This will be the fifth Biennial Conference of the Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine conference. The fourth was held in Brisbane in April 2008 and it may come as little surprise to learn that Conductive Education was not one of the topics aired to the four-hundred and fifty people attending there.

There is yet time to remedy this situation for the fifth, either from Australia and New Zealand themselves or perhaps also from countries outside the region.

AusACPDM ‘is a multidisciplinary group…[that] promotes education, advocacy, research and evidence based practices in the field of childhood disability, in addition to fostering international professional networks’.

This event will be regarded by the Australian and New Zealand cerebral palsy establishment as an important component of the continuing process that defines what is best and right for cerebral palsy down under. If Conductive Education does not participate, put itself about, display posters, make presentations, then it is not merely invisible for a certain influential stratum, it does not exist.

Fatal omissions

Don’t let this be another major cerebral palsy conference with nothing to show that Conductive Education even exists! Here are a couple of immediate mesages that the CE movement might wish to contribute to this conference as advertised.
  • The conference promises that those who attend will come away with ‘practical evidence-based knowledge to more effectively manage children and young people with cerebral palsy and developmental disorders across the lifespan’.

    ‘Across the life-span’? At the very least, conductivitsts could remind the Academy that children and young people with cerebral palsy do not die as soon as they grow up. Nor are they Peter Pans who live on but never grow up, remaining ‘children’ for the rest of their lives. ‘Life-span’ has profound and concrete meaning for everyone with personal involvement in cerebral palsy, and should never be spoken lightly.

    The grand term ‘across the life-span’ means just what it says. The life-span of people with cerebral palsy includes adults in their prime and old people too, the problems that they and their families might face, and the services that they might wish to access for practical professional help in solving these. None of this is best served by infantilising their condition.

    The Academy’s fifth conference has as one of its themes ‘A good start to the adult and teenage years’ This is a start, and a wonderful opening for bringing conductive practice to a wider audience.
  • One might also hope to that the meeting could be helped towards grasping that the concept of ‘managing children and young people’ is not used in any other sector of childhood upbringing and education, other than with respect to containing difficult, violent and delinquent behaviour. Its continuing and apparently unthinking use with respect to children and young people with physical disabilities (not unique to this organisation, by any means) is creakingly out of date, inhumane and suggestive of a mind-set that bears little examination. with respect to longer-term life-time goals. Another of the advertised conference themes, 'A good start to managing plasticity’ offers a further opening for an alternative formulation. Conductive Education offers something much superior to 'management', that's why families around the world have fought so keenly for this new pradigm.

As ever, act now

No one else will do it for you. No one owes CE a living.

If Conductive Education has anything to say, then it should be saying it, among other places, at conferences like this. The days of CE’s being invited to such gatherings for its novelty value are long over. Conductive Education will have to apply, like everyone else, go through the submission process, and set up its stall like everyone else. Be assured, academics of every stripe are not backward in arguing and demonstrating their own wares.

Will the CE movement in Australia and New Zealand, some twenty-five years into its development, prove sufficiently articulate and robust to bring to this conference a view of the cerebral palsies as a developmental condition like any other:

  • dynamic in its genesis and its very nature, and therefore
  • prospective in the requirements that it places upon those professionally committed to serving both those directly affected and those who care for them?

In the long term, it is responsible, or prudent, to allow the Academy to continue in outmoded ways of thinking, and let go a chance to make some sort of statement (preferably, more than one).

ANZAC conductivists have less than a year to the conference (though submissions will have to be in a lot before then). And of course other nations may also wish to state their position in Christchurch in 2010. In the meantime the Academy arranges ‘regular scientific meetings’, to practice and build upon.

And please let no one think that this article is directed specifically towards Australia and New Zealand. The conference in 2010 has merely served to prompt again the sentiments expressed here. The point is a general one.



Friday, 17 April 2009

Cerebral palsy: 'I hate it'

Someone has to say it

Every week I have a look at the second page of Norman Perrin’s Conductive Web, the one called ‘Parent blogs’:

http://www.netvibes.com/conductiveweb#Parent_blogs

These are not Conductive Education blogs as such (find them on the first page). Rather they are blogs about bringing up a child with cerebral palsy, that have along their way mentioned Conductive Education. Mainly they are concerned with bringing up children with cerebral palsy.

A stroll down an unfamiliar street

I recommend that everyone with a ‘professional’ interest in Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy and their families should do what I do, look from time to time at the parental blog linked to by Conductive Web, to get a little perspective and to lean a little humility.

I write ‘a little’ here because moving through these blogs is like walking down a street in the darkening evening, glancing where you can into people’s windows and trying to understand the strangers’ lives to be espied there. Through some window there is darkness, others are obscured by plants or curtains, and of course there is rarely any sound to be hear from within. Some windows, however, are brilliantly illuminated, every detail is momentarily revealed, sometimes too the casements are thrown back and you even hear what is being said.

Of course you gain at best only snap shots of life, often only its extremes of joy or distress, but by the end of the street you will have gained sort of impression, however subjective, about the lives of the people who live there.. What little you experience is not representative of everyone who lives in that street, missing especially all those people who draw their curtains, though it might be (you cannot know). Nor is it representative of the rest of the lives of those whom you do glimpse: it might be, it might not, again you cannot know.

There are many other such metaphorical, virtual streets out there, a huge city of people who blog on all sorts of different aspects of living with disability (or post their experiences into Cyberspace though other means). This particular street is picked out here solely because the families seen there have had contact with Conductive Education at some time. Maybe these blogs are typical of all family blogs expressing themselves on the experience of disability. Perhaps not. It matters not here.

I myself would be much the poorer for not looking at these blogs. I strongly suspect, though, that relatively few people professionally involved in Conductive Education do look at them, or are even aware that they exist. There are of course other ways into people’s experiential lives than through these particular windows. I sincerely that others use other means, any means. I live in hope. If they do not by bsome means try and share in the subjective, then they are the poorer for it, spiritually impoverished, and so is Conductive Education.

Who are these parent-bloggers?

They are largely American, largely the parents of young children, and largely mothers.

  • I suspect that most of them live in the white suburbs.
  • They have to spend an awful lot of money on their children.
  • Some post regularly and often, some more rarely, some seem to have abandoned their blog.
  • On the whole, I quite like their choice of music!
  • I am sure that they have as many motives for blogging as there are bloggers.
  • They tend to think of CE as ‘a therapy’. They do as a group seem to know a lot about all sort of therapies, and have tried not a few, CE included.
  • They do not seem to have picked up much conscious idea of what conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing are about, though they appreciate it when CE patently does their children good.
  • They are not CE-anoraks. Conductive Education is something that they have tried. It may have enthused them, it might cause them problems. Some are still plugged into Conductive Education. Some have let it go.
  • They can generate a host of comments to their postings. Some of this is from fellow bloggers (no surprise here), some of it from relatives and supporters. Some of it is from people who have corroborative experiences and opinions that they want ton share.
  • Some of these bloggers are brilliant diarists. Some are not.
  • Some of what they write (and what is written by those who comment on their postings) is not to my taste. Some is far too sucrose and there it too much God and to much therapy for my liking. That, however, is my problem, not the writers’.
  • All the material in these blogs expresses raw human experience and emotion, sometimes unbearably raw. That might not be to some professional taste, and you may wish to avoid it (though if that is the case, then one does tend to think of cooks, heat and getting out of the kitchen).
A rich mixture then, and I am clearly not the only one to feel this, as is demonstrated by those blogs that carry hit counters and visitors’ maps. Some of these very personal blogs of family experience seem to attract more hits from around the world than the whole CE-anoraks’ blogosphere combined (the blogs on the first page of the Conductive Web).

A very recent example

Of course I have my personal favourites, though it would be invidious to express preferences here. I have been meaning to express the general comments made above but, just hadn’t got round to it. Tonight has been an insomnia night. The best to do is to stop thinking, get up and do something. I decided to make my weekly check on the Conductive Web.

The most recent posting notified there was by Jacolyn Lieck in Texas, only two hours old and already with four Comments (would that I could attract such an immediate response!). Now, a couple pf hours later there is a thread of eight comments, some as raw as Jacolyn’s.

Here is what Jacolyn wrote, complete and unexpurgated.

I hate it

May I vent? Well, of course I can... it's my blog.
  • I hate cerebral palsy.
  • I hate not being normal.
  • I hate going to the playground.
  • I hate not being able to visit with the other mommies at the playground and play groups. I don't get to know the other mommies.
  • I hate it that all the mommies sit around and chat while I am being my daughter's legs.
  • I hate it that I don't like to go to play groups anymore.
    I hate it that these same mommies will talk about cerebral palsy and "the little girl in KinderMusik who has cp and can't walk so she crawls around awkwardly", when they think I'm out of earshot.
  • I hate that my 3 1/2 year old daughter sits in the stroller while I help my other two kids go down the fireman pole.
  • I hate that when my daughter requests "I want to slide too" that I can't let her because the slide is too tall and I need someone to help me.
  • I hate it that I leave her in the swing too long sometimes, because it's easier.
  • I hate it that some mommies with 2 perfectly normal children can't find time to do anything but talk about how smart and athletic they are. (I know I'm kind of harsh on that one)
  • I hate it that I can't find time to do anything because I'm always taking my daughter to therapies and doctors.
  • I hate it that all our money goes toward therapies and procedures rather than dance lessons and soccer camp.
  • I hate it that I can't do more with my other two kids because I am my daughter's legs.
  • I hate it that I hate it.

What do you hate?

Click on the link below to see the comments building up in answer to Jacokyn's concluding question. You might even like to add your own.

http://lieck3.blogspot.com/2009/04/i-hate-it.html

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Austerity and prosperity

Innovation and stagnation in pedagogics (and other social provision)

Emma McDowell has writen a long interesting letter to me in response to a an exhange between us in the Comments to a recent item in Conductive World. Inter alia I had writen as follows.

Yes, I have always regarded austerity as being one of CE’s parents.

I used to teach that great transformative pedagogies have flowered in exiguous times and situations. Think of Pestalozzi, the early Montessori, the Soviet psychologists and pedagogues of the heroic, innovative period, Feuerstein, Friere...

No doubt their have been great pedgogic theories and practices springing from more 'comfortable' circumstances. Piaget in Switzerland maybe (though I am reminded inevitably of Harry Lyme's cuckoo-clock!)... Tell me another.

Pedagogic advance born out of harsh conditions is neither a specifically conductive nor specifically Hungarian phenomenon. It will be interesting to see how things pan out now for CE as times get harder.

Emma's recent email touches on something of great general importance so, with her permission, I reproduce part of it here and respond publicly.

I know only a little about pedagogics (although I got as far as Makarenko in Hungary, and later, with my sons' French studies, Rousseau) but I must object to your supposition that ‘austerity’ might be a ‘parent’ of conductive pedagogics.

I don't think that there is anything austere about Conductive Education and the lifestyle it requires for its success. Quite the opposite. It is fun, it is fulfilling, although it requires steadfastness and discipline by the parent/educator, whatever the social/historical circumstances. For a family where such a medical condition suddenly appears, with all the accompanying troubles, reality is austere, the future is austere! CE is the light, the hope, the action.

Perhaps, if one doesn't fall from such a great height in comfort measures, if one is already used to tackling difficult circumstances, relying on one's coping skills…


I clearly had not expressed myself well. I am aware that I often don’t! I had not meant to suggest that CE is per se 'austere' (though there's nothing intrinsically wrong with any pedagogy’s being so, as long as the pedagogic content and process are rich in humanity, and provided with spirit and soul).

Austere times can be rich in humanity

Rather I had meant to suggest that austere times bring forth need for just such qualities in pedagogues struggling without material resources for the future of a young generation caught up in terrible material, social and personal conditions. Budapest after the Siege and the Felszabadulás (the Soviet Liberation), and on into the Rakosi years, and the Uprising, was about as austere as contemporary Europe could show. Look at the few available accounts of those who witnessed and participated in the first years of Peto's practices. None of that would have been possible in the Europe of today. Health and safety, working conditions, directives and a host of other regulations designed to protect us from ourselves would have seen to it that Peto's work could never have happened!

Don't take this to mean that I want children and parents, and those who work for them, to live in harsh times. I don't begrudge schools' being comfy, cosy, friendly places, I am happy that the workers in them are well paid (even if they themselves think otherwise!), though I do very much regret that, as is often he case, it is parents who may be left with the bleak end of the stick amidst all this apparent plenty.

Innovation amidst plenty: cui bono?

As a wealthy society we have never managed social equality, as I am told that they have done much better in the Scandinavian countries, and within this context scant attention has been paid to disparities in wealth and wellbeing between those 'in need' and those employed to help do something about such needs.

Further, as a society we have never worked out how our general comfort and ease could enhance innovation and excellence in pedagogy rather than, as it has seemed in the UK at least, replace and stand instead of or even against them. Existing institutions and professional practices are hidebound by all sorts of regulations, 'standards', inspection, and God knows what other procedures of the sort of which one so often asks cui bono? For whose benefit is this really for? Not the punters’, surely?

The voluntary sector ('charity') was once the traditional place for social innovators but, in the UK at least, the last ten or so years have seen this hijacked by the ever more centralised state, so regulation now effectively strangles this sector too. At one time (when we first brought CE to the UK, only some twenty years ago) there was a well tried and venerable social process whereby innovators could go off and do their own thing, to a considerable degree how they wanted to, under the ‘voluntary’ umbrella. Once their innovation was demonstrated, there would follow the long historical process whereby the new thing was increasingly taken on board the national Zeitgeist, and then step by step it would become eventually ‘official’. Most of the services and professions that we currently take for granted within our established system of social welfare can trace at least some of their ancestry back to such roots. Only twenty years ago we still believed that the future would be like the past and that Conductive Education would follow down the same path. I used to be proud of this heritage but the body politic was obiously not and it has been pushed to one side. Cui bono?

As for academe, universities and researchers are also now totally in hock to central-government agendas. Out of my own experience, the Universities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton did take decisive action for CE in their time, but universities are now far less free to do such things, even if they could afford them. And research? Now there’s an interesting study in its own right! Why with respect to CE has ’research’ found itself for the most part so cravenly unable to explore new paradigms. What a shame (both meanings of the word intended). Cui bono?

Would a little austerity help? Certainly not in the short term as established interests jostle to save their own positions. I would very much hate, for all our sakes, to see our social situation so deteriorate as to become anything like those that have been parent to great pedagogies in the past.

So how does a relatively comfortable society run its affairs so that new pedagogies, and other understandings and mechanisms, can emerge from under the slough of existing dysfunctional practices?

You tell me!

Notes

This part of Emma's letter refers to COMMENTS at the foot of an earlier article in Conductive World:
Sutton, A. (2009) Meanwhile in Hungary: that 'faraway country', Conductive World, 8 April

2. In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Fight on

Guest article by Sue Corrigan

When I returned to Australia from the UK with my son just over a year ago, it was with the dream of establishing a Foundation in my late husband's memory and raising enough money to establish a CE centre for adults in this benighted neck of the woods. It was the most socially useful thing I could think to do with myself, and seemed the best way to promote the benefits of CE to a still-scoffing Australian disability Establishment.

For a whole range of reasons, though, I soon realised it was simply too hard. Way, way too hard. I don't like admitting defeat - in fact I hate it - but it was going to require raising several hundred thousand dollars a year, every year, and I'm widowed, I'm my family's sole breadwinner, I have three children, one of whom is very severely physically disabled - and I simply couldn't do it.

Besides, the thought of endlessly arguing about the benefits of CE with smug, complacent, ignorant bureaucrats, doctors and charity officials etc, etc was way more than I could cope with and simultaneously stay sane.

CE's problem is that it is just too brilliant; too stand-alone, out-of-the-box unique. The medico-disability establishment doesn't want to know about it because it's an educational, not medical-based model; and the educational establishment doesn't want to know about it because it's too much actively about therapy, all mixed in with learning in one giant holistic jumble - and they don't do therapy.

Politics: let the parents choose

So I've decided to skip Andrew's third stage, for the time being at least, and move straight to the fourth. Fundamentally this (like everything else) is all about power structures and the only sustainable way forward that I can see is for parents to have far more power and control and say over how the money ostensibly allocated for disability services for their own children is spent, through the massive expansion of direct-funding models. Fortunately, this idea was already coming into vogue in the UK when we left, and the concept (if not yet quite the practice) has even penetrated as far as this faraway island.

If we get funding more directly - say some sort of voucher for a year's worth of "therapy", for instance - then we can vote with our feet, and those of us who want CE can pool our vouchers and fund it.

Of course, there has to be CE still around to fund, and conductors still available to pay salaries to...but I'm going to have to leave that to others to worry about at this stage.

After us?

As for Norman's incredibly powerful question "And When We Die, Who...?" - all us parents live with that haunting, haunted thought, every day of our lives. Who's going to love our profoundly vulnerable disabled children and care for them as well as we do after we die? Probably no one, I'm afraid. If we're "lucky", there are dutiful siblings, willing to sacrifice their lives in turn to take over our 24/7 care duties from us (remembering that in Australia, there is virtually nowhere for people with severe disabilities to go). If there aren't dutiful siblings - then, in Australia at least - I have no idea.

I'm genuinely surprised that there aren't more suicides of parents of children with disabilities here, taking their disabled children with them. Maybe we just don't hear about it? Anyway, another good reason for political activism.

References

Corrigan, S. (2009) The struggle for care, The Australian, 30 March. (2009) The struggle for care, The Australian, 30 March
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25262629-5012694,00.html

Perrin, N. (2009) And when we die, who....? Paces, 3 April

Sutton, A. (2009) The personal and the political: time for new thinking, Conductive World, 9 April
http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/04/personal-and-political.html

Sutton, A. (2009) No country for old carers: Australian testimonio of policy that failed, Conductive World, 30 March
http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/03/no-country-for-old-carers.html

Sue Corrigan

Australian. mother, for some years disability refugee in UK, carer, campaigner

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The personal and the political

Time for new thinking

This item was begun as a contribution to a thread of Comments at the end of Monday‘s ‘No country for old carers’ (30 March):

http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/03/no-country-for-old-carers.html

Then, on Friday 3 April Norman Perrin (2009) made his heart-stopping and well documented posting, ‘And when we die, who…’

I know that I am not the only person who wanted to make a public reply to this at a human level, but just doesn’t know how. Words have failed. Sorry, Norman, and sorry everyone else. I’m just not up to the task. What use are words anyway, mine or any one else’s? What can one say about the human enormity of the ‘need’ from which our societies shrug and turn away?

In default of words, what can one do…?

What can individuals do?

The only thing that will change the world in which we live is doing something about it, and that means action and politics. That is what it took for Norman, his family and their associates to get Paces off the ground, and what it will have taken to keep it going. Things don’t just happen because they deserve too, they happen because people fight for what they want, in competition with people who want other things.

Nobody taking advantage of what little is now available in Conductive Education (be they service-users, or conductors, or other employees) should ever think that Conductive Education is here because it somehow deserves to be. CE might be the greatest paradigm leap in the modern history of understanding and providing for disabled children and adults, and their families, but nobody ‘outside’ cares a tinkers’ cuss about that. It is here only because it was proselytised, politicked for, fought for, and it is certainly in no situation yet to survive if these processes cease.

The opposition, however, is. Just because ideas/services are inherently worthless, or even actively harmful, does not mean that they will be passed over by society for something new. Once they have become ‘established’, then institutional inertia and the awful problem of somebody’s having to take real decisions, means that they are here for the duration.

You know who/what I mean.

But who cares enough to take up the hard, long political fight for something new? In the internationalisation of Conductive Education this has for a very large part been the families of disabled children. It hardly needs saying, though, they have enough to do already, at two levels:
  • the primary human task of caring for/bringing up their children;
  • in the developed countries, the sometimes even harder, secondary task (with no human rewards, just bitterness) of struggling with agencies supposedly there to ‘support them’ and educate their children.

They do not need a closely related ' hobby’ on top of all this, they do not have ample spare time and huge reserves of energy but, none the less, some do take up something else:

  • the tertiary task of organising, founding, running the centres and associations on which Conductive Education’s present worldwide spread has largely depended.

How do they manage this? Don’t ask me. I couldn’t do all this.

How long can such families maintain this effort? We shall see.

What happens to ‘the conductive movement’ then? We shall find out.

A tiny number of ‘professionals’, amongst whom can be accounted a tiny number of conductors, have set up and run their own services. Maybe they are doing ‘succession-planning’. Maybe family-initiated services are able to do this too. I wonder.

Individuals are not the answer

Let me assure those who have not tried it that once you get involved in running a CE centre or other CE service then there will be little chance for operating at a fourth level of action, the political level.

  • Service management is all-consuming. There is money to be found, staff to be placated, public bodies and existing professionals/services to be kept sweet and, even if there is time/energy to go politicking, then you can be sure that there will be plenty of people amongst those just mentioned who will drag their heels or openly oppose a public position’s being taken and ‘upsetting people‘. There is little chance to identify and join up with fellow souls, to work together ‘outside’ of the immediate workplace and make a persisting public fuss.

Yet politics is all about groups of individuals' subsuming their own specific interests and aspirations into a wider common cause then advocating them publicly and strongly amongst those with weight to lend to this (OK, so this is for their own reasons, so what?) in the face of other groups whose present positions, access to resources etc, stand in the way. It’s the Law of the Jungle out there and the weak shall go to the wall.

There a homeostasis within the system:

  • if you are closely involved with the human problems of this world and their solutions then you have little time or freedom to get involved with the sorts of activities that may effect change at the societal level;
  • this leaves such matters largely in the hands of those who have little of no understanding of the real-life problems and their potential solutions, and frankly find their jobs easier without them.

Herding kittens

I can speak from direct experience only of CE in the United Kingdom. Truly, trying to assemble a common front even within CE, in one single country, has been like herding kittens.

In 1986 two bodies were formed o the United Kingdom, separate but closely coordinated, to advance on two flanks of a national front:

  • RACE (Rapid Action for Conductive Education), a national lobby group, comprising mainly parents, aimed at establishing a policy-level government response;
  • the Foundation for Conductive Education created to develop the ‘science and skill of Conductive Education in the UK.

By 1990 RACE was breaking up, as its local groups realised that strategic aims would take a long time to achieved, longer than their own children had to wait, and began to create the own local services. RACE faced reality and voluntarily disbanded. With very few exceptions the new centres regarded the Foundation as a rival rather than a umbrella body, and the then Spastics Society didn’t help as it determinedly pursued its own peculiar path.

Inter alia the UK has since seen:

  • the National Association of Conductors (not enough conductors joined to keep it viable);
  • the Conductors’ Employers’ Group (broke up because of personal enmities and rivalries);
  • the UK Federation for Conductive Education (this was neither a federation as such nor very particularly for Conductive Education as many would understand it, but the Spastics Society and its friends wanted an organisation and a name to muddy the field,: it finally faded away when it had no members and no purpose);
  • the UK Network for Conductive Education (the institutional detritus of the UK Federation, subsequenly reconstituted as Cerebral Palsy Care for Children, a small grant-giving charity);
  • CEHEG (Conductive Education Higher Education Group) a sometimes reluctant but in the event quite productive series of informal meetings between higher education establishments with courses in Conductive Education, that ceased to exist de facto with the disappearance of the Keele course);
  • and of course along the way a host of associations, centres and other bodies (some forty to fifty over the years, many no longer extant) with little more in common than that they have employed conductors, mainly having very little to do with each other and never forming a common front to advocate or even articulate Conductive Education, or create or seize political opportunities;
  • now there is CEPEG (Conductive Education Professional Education group) and a conductors’ association (mysterious non-constituted bodies with no public persona, see Foulger, 2009).

There is no reason to expect that Conductive Education in many other countries has fared better (though New Zealand appears to have done quite well). I shall not be upset, by the way, if anyone would like to correct the facts and opinions offered here, and doubly delighted for this not to be done anonymously.

To summarise this as lots of leaders, few followers, little solidarity or permanence, is not to deny hard work and good intentions along the way (and note that some of the failures of my own career are buried in this tale). Something, however, has been missing within this mix to ensure lack of demonstrable effect over more than twenty years.

Perhaps fundamental questionaing is required.

Heresies?

Is the raggle-taggle ‘conductive movement‘, comprising service-users, employers, employees, various camp-followers, all with their own individual agendas and priorities, really the basis for a fighting force to change the world? Probably not. They have in common only that are all in their different ways beneficiaries of Conductive Education, but this is no necessary basis or prerequisite for constituting a political movement to advocate and advance CE. Some members of this disparate population may have vital contributions to make but possibly none is essential.

Are the various organisations, formal or informal within this movement really able to advocate and advance the system at a social-policy level? Maybe in small countries (or their constituent states, provinces, Länder etc) the situation might be such as to permit this. Certainly in larger more diverse societies (the UK, the US, Germany for example), experience to date rather suggests the contrary. Maybe existing CE institutions, as in the case of individuals, are not for the main part conductive to effecting societal change. Maybe even…

Maybe things are going to change now. But how? Why?

But change there will have to be, radical change, if ‘Conductive Education;’ is going to participate in the consideration of any big league, in wider alliances on political fronts.

I suspect that some of the questions raised here, or mere mention of aspects of the historical record, might not meet with universal approval. Certainly one will seek in vain for explicit record of much of the toings and froings, the jockeyings and failures, beneath the cosmetic, teleological level of the international conductive movement.

True, in any context, history belongs to the victors, but revisionist history comes a little easier now that victors may be getting a bit thin on the ground. If we really are now entering a new stage in the internationalisation of Conductive Education, with a new generation emerging to boot, then it may now be advantageous to re-evaluate the worth some of the unspoken baggage that CE drags with it from its past.

Is this a long way from the future that confronts Norman and his family? A long way from the testimonio of Sue Corrigen (2009) whose splendid piece in The Australian prompted ‘No country for old carers’ in the first place? That article was political act, on the political front. Go to Emma McDowell’s (2009) Comment in the 'old carers'. See where she now pitches her struggle for political change. Come to that, follow Norman’s blog and see the arena in which he has operated.

Much has been made in Conductive World over the last year or two about change, at a variety of levels., Perhaps it is time to add the political level to the list of things due for radical and explicit reappraisal.

I still can’t answer Norman’s question. The problem that he articulates he does so most explicitly in the context of a society that is happy to walk by on the other side in order to do things on the cheap. This morning saw another soon-to-be-passed-by spate of newspaper headlines from the UK, (for example Bennett, 2009), on yet another manifestation of this, the gross institutional neglect experienced by old people enjoying ‘community care’.

I do not want to lose sight of the wondrous and amazing messages inherent within CE but, really, it does rather seem at times that, for all their humane virtues and the care and compassion of its practitioners, little or nothing will be won for CE and its message without working for victory on a far wider front.

References

Bennet, R. (2009) Care at home: Panorama exposes a shaming tale of misery and neglect, The Times, 9 April
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article6062801.ece

Corrigan, S. (2009) The struggle for care, The Australian, 30 March. (2009) The struggle for care, The Australian, 30 March http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25262629-5012694,00.html

Foulger, B (2009) CEPEG Conference, Geek Conductor, 15 March
http://geekconductor.blogspot.com/


McDowell, E. (2009) Comment to No country for old carers: Australian testimonio of policy that failed, Conductive World, 30 March

http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/03/no-country-for-old-carers.html

Perrin, N. (2009) And when we die, who....? Paces, 3 April
http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2009/04/and-when-we-die-who-.html

Sutton, A. (2009) No country for old carers: Australian testimonio of policy that failed, Conductive World, 30 March
http://www.conductive-world.info/2009/03/no-country-for-old-carers.html

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Meanwhile in Hungary…

That ‘faraway country’

Time was that Conductive Education was so obviously Hungarocentric, Hungary sneezed and world CE caught a cold. It is a perhaps a measure of how much this world has changed that there can be major political change in Hungary and the world of CE barely seems to register this.

Indeed, why mention it at all?
  • For the record?
  • Out of sentiment and respect?
  • As a general-awareness service for people with Hungarian colleagues, employees, collaborators, to alert them to possible concerns amongst people who should matter to them?

Yes in all cases, but perhaps most of all in 2009, for more utilitarian reasons.

Canary in a coal mine?

Only six months ago the economy of this small, financially enmired country was one of the first to hit the economic bottom. Hungary only just avoided financial meltdown when the International Monetary Fund, the EU and the World Bank stepped in with a $27-billion bailout. It would be only a matter of time before political effects became apparent.

Each country’s unhappy politics are unhappy in their own way. In Hungary the deeply unpopular centre-left Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány announced last month that he would step down after he was unable to push his economic measures through Parliament. Gordon Bajnai, a political independent promoted to economics minister last year, has been nominated in his place, promising his own tough measures, including scrapping some welfare payments and raising the retirement age:

I am putting it in the simplest and most ruthless way. Hungarian people have the choice of losing their jobs or temporarily giving up several percentages of their wages.

Elections are not due till 2010. If held today it seems likely that the centre-right opposition party, Fidesz, would win easily.

A financially enmired economy, a deeply unpopular centre-left Prime Minister called Gordon, next elections due in 2010, a centre-right opposition party waiting in the wings… Watch the canary!

Hungary still matters to Conductive Education

For many, many people now involved in Conductive Education around the world Hungary is no more that a small country somewhere in Europe, and its internal politics no more than ‘a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing’ (Chamberlain, 1938).

As far as the world of Conductive Education goes, however, Hungary remains more that just a some distant canary. In reporting last October’s financial bail-out for Hungary, Conductive World put this as follows (Sutton, 2008a).

In one respect, however, Hungary has remained vital for the well-being of the conductive movement, in that through the Pető Institute Hungary remains by far the largest producer of conductors. Let us hope that it can retain its present level of output over the recessionary years ahead. Meantime, conductor-production outside Hungary remains very low and, even in a buoyant world economy there was little reasonable chance of substantial expansion of this in any foreseeable future. We no longer live in a buoyant world and this has serious implication for any hopes of expanding conductor-training to new bases around the world.

The last six months have been a long time in world economics! Long enough though for the Hungarian bail-out, like so many bail-outs over the same period, not to have ‘worked’.

A further comment of the possible effects of the Hungarian economic situation upon world CE (Sutton, 2008b) may also therefore merit revisiting at this point.

All public services in Hungary, including education and social welfare may have to be cut back, perhaps severely. How will this impact upon the future supply of conductors?

Greater numbers of conductors living in Hungary may be forced to seek work abroad, whether they want to or not, just to feed, clothe and house their families.

At the same time, however, there is likely to be less money available worldwide to set up and maintain conductive services/programs, be this through public bodies, charities, fundraisers or families’ domestic budgets. In other words, there may be fewer jobs available for a perhaps greater number of available conductors. This could mean more the just disappointment and frustration, for would-be employees and would-be employers alike. It betokens a perhaps fundamental change in the balance of supply and demand in the international conductor labour market.

Possibly resulting from this: a fall in the ‘price’ of conductors' labour (in other words, a general lowering of conductors' salaries). There could of course be exceptions to this, such as in the Conductive Education schools in the oil-rich Gulf that one assumes would be immune from the general effect, but in most places the tendency towards lower wages would apply.

If it does, the effect might be upon more than simply salaries. Economic need might force individuals to seek work in places and situations that they would not have previously regarded as ‘suitable’ for Conductive Education, and to do so at lower salaries than they might once have considered acceptable.

In turn this could lead to some dilution and/or distortion of conductive practice.

Equally, it could stimulate some remarkable creativity and innovation.

Whatever happens, Conductive Education has been long overdue for radical change. Right or wrong, ready or not, the economic crunch now looks to be hastening the day, with poor little Hungary making a disproportionate contribution to the process.

Not quite there yet.

References

Chamberlain, N. (1938) Radio broadcast, BBC, 27 September

Sutton, A. (2008a) Hungarian economy: IMF steps in to avoid collapse, Conductive World, 27 October
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/10/hungarian-economy.html

Sutton, A. (2008b) Isten, á ldd meg a Magyart, God bless the Hungarians: Hungarian bail-out has potential effects for us all, Conductive World, 30 October
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/10/isten-ldd-meg-magyart-god-bless.html