Wednesday, 22 July 2009

That Chinese puzzle again

What is being done, and to whom...?


The Good Rock Foundation was established in 1997 It is a humanitarian aid foundation which believes that every child is precious and deserves to have a life of hope and opportunity. China's special situation and a cultural preference for boys has led to abandonment of girl children and those with disabilities.

The Good Rock Foundation is working with China's social services to improve child welfare policy, focusing upon Xinjiang, one of China's poorer provinces, and upon the most marginalised children there, those in orphanages.

The Foundation is based in the UK and Hong Kong. In Xinjiang it provides 'Conductive Education'.

What is provided in Xinjiang?

Therapy & Mobility the miracle of conductive education

Step by Step

Conductive education (c/e) is a form of physical therapy that consists of simple repetitive exercises & therapy along with persistent stimulation & encouragement. This treatment works miracles with children who are challenged with cerebral palsy & other special needs where the muscles are frozen or spastic.

We have been helping Xinjiang orphanages implement c/e since the year 2000 and orphanage workers readily embraced the concepts. The children's carers are keen to increase their skills & pass on this knowledge to their colleagues. The results are so encouraging....Many children can now sit, stand, feed & dress themselves, grasp toys & write......children who might never have walked can.

Because c/e is low tech & requires only a few simple pieces of equipment & is easily passed on we know that it is feasible that we can reach many more of the needy children in Xinjiang, not only those in orphanages but those in poor families too.

As well as the conductive education training we are also investing many resources for training caregivers in special education, occupational therapy and child development. We bring experts to Xinjiang and also send caregivers to inner China where other organisations hold training conferences.

So what used the orphanages to be like before 2000, how has life there changed for the children and how have the children's experiences and beings changed since then too. What is new for the children, and what is no longer done?

What might be the active agents behind changes achieved? What is it that is actually done in the name of Conductive Education and is this necessarily an active agent in the changes experienced?

Confounding variables

To raise such questions is neither to disbelieve the outcomes nor to disrespect the hard work and good heart involved.

Not knowing specifically the children’s situations prior to intervention (though having grounds to suspect that these may have been direly anti-developmental), one can but raise the possibility that benefits experienced reflect more fundamental change in circumstances that those provided by specific practices, whatever these might be.

As far as the children are concerned (and their families if they have any) such benefits are all to the good, whatever it is that has brought them about.

‘Conductive Education’ is how this work is referred to when reported in English. At one level, if new people, new ideas, new goals, set the children's development back on course, then why cavil at what the work is called and what specifics are imported into the children's lives along with the name

Because they might be doing something better, more relevant, more effective, be this 'conductive' in nature or some other approach that is perhaps more suited to the circumstances. For the moment one can only rejoice at the positive change experienced. In the longer term, however, questions remain of what is actually done and what are the actual active ingredients in such interventions (Sutton, 1977). Once the base level of children improves the pedagogic task will become the harder and these questions will be inevitably raised more pressingly.


Good Rock Foundation (2009) Therapy & Mobility the miracle of conductive education

Sutton, A. (1977) Acupuncture and Deaf-Mutism—an essay in cross-cultural defectology, Educational Studies, vol. 3, no 1, pp. 1-10


  1. What is it about the simple phrase "Conductive EDUCATION" that people don't get, who see themselves and others as engaged in "therapy"?

  2. I think that they don't get it because they won't hear it. The words say something that is outside of how they already think, so they just go on comfortably thinking what they have always thought anyway.

    In this case they think of developmental motor disorder as a biological phenomenon, something therefore a priori amenable to medical treatment, or 'therapy'.

    It will take more than the words 'Conductive EDUCATION', even repeated a thousand times, with a its second word amplified to the very limits of human tolerance, to penetrate and overthrow this hegemonic and pervasive mindset.

    This is hardly a phenomenon specific to Conductive Education, or new:

    'Who is so deafe, or so blynde, as is hee,
    That wilfully will nother here nor see?'

    That was published in 1546!

    Yours, still kicking against the pricks,