Wednesday, 30 September 2009

More neurobabble

‘…a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle.’ *

Cerebral palsy and Conductive Education, piled together rather like the prizes on a country fairground hoop-la stall, somewhere between New Approach To Online Tutoring and Dog Grooming Equipment.

As warned repeatedly, beware snake oil, perhaps especially when it is ‘neuro-’.

Here is this afternoon's unsolicited arrival. It asks me to pass it on. Always happy to oblige.

* As you like it, Act II, Scene 5, Another part of the forest

Monday, 28 September 2009

Megan Baker House

The awaited statement


  • media information

Date of issue: 25th September 2009

For immediate use


The founder of the Leominster-based Megan Baker House charity – Jo Baker Watson – set up and run in memory of her daughter Megan, who was born with cerebral palsy and who died at the age of six, has decided that after eight years of heading the charity, it’s time to move on and let others take the charity to the next level.

Megan Baker House is the only conductive education provider in the region that provides free conductive education for hildren trying to come to terms with the problems associated with cerebral palsy and for adults with similar problems as a result of Parkinson’s Disease, strokes and severe head injuries and the resultant brain damage. The Charity has grown impressively under Jo’s leadership, from small beginnings to a point where it now helps more than 200 young children and nearly100 adults on an on-going basis. Conductive Education is not a cure, but a form of education that incorporates tried and tested repetitive exercises and motivation to enable those it helps, to learn or re-learn how to control body movements that most of us take for granted. Walking, dressing, feeding themselves, brushing their own teeth or hair are all things that conductive education can help achieve. The results for many children are very impressive, with parents who know their children so well, amazed at the progress their children can make as a result of time spent at the centre at Moreton Eye, just outside Leominster.

For many of the children that attend Megan Baker House, it is the only place in the UK where they can get the specialist help they need. So it is vital that the centre isable to raise the funds it needs to keep going and expand the work it does and the help it offers to so many people, with some children coming from as far away as Aberdeen, Hull, Truro and London to share the experience available to them.

Chair of the Trustees of Megan Baker House John Mair says that Jo has left a great legacy as a result of her work, but that the charity will now move on to achieve even greater success: “Jo has done a fantastic job of getting us to where we are and we’re really grateful for the work she has done and the reputation we have developed for doing an excellent job for those we help. We know there are lots more people out there that would benefit from the help we offer and we have plans in place to expand the service and will be looking for increased funding, so we can expand our services and increase the numbers of people we help. We have great faith in the great British public, who have supported us over the years. We are confident that we will not only still be here in five years time, but will have grown the charity and the centre to enable us to help many more people in that time.

“I would like to offer our sincere and genuine thanks to Jo for her leadership and the effort she has put in over the years.”

You can see more about the excellent work of Megan Baker House simply by clicking on and any donations, small or large will ensure that the charity is able to carry on its vital work.

- ends –

(561 words)

For more information, please

Lee Gough, Megan Baker House, Moreton Eye, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 0DP – 01568 616 179

Web site:

or Steve Paddock, Market Link PR – 01905 726 575

Gissa job *

Chief Executive for Rainbow Centre

The successful Rainbow Centre, in Fareham, Hants, derives from one of the earliest parent initiatives in the United Kingdom (indeed the world) to establish a locally based, non-school-age and independent CE service.

In latter years it has acquired new purpose-built premises and when I visited around a year ago there were long-term expansion plans that included constructing a further building for adults and other services on an adjoining plot, and even a move to create undergraduate conductor-training.

As far as I have understood it, the Centre has achieved this under the duumvirate of one of the original parents, Co-Founder Helen Somerset How, Development Director responsible for fundraising and administration, and Magdi Kovács, Senior Conductor.

New order

Now a Hampshire-based charity recruitment agency specialising in charity executive recruitment, PAS Consultants, is calling for applicants for the newly created post of Chief Executive of the Rainbow Centre, at a salary of up to £50,000 a year.

In the language of such things, the job advert reads as follows:

Our client specialises in helping children with Cerebral Palsy through conductive education.

This new role is indicative of their success and expansion and they seek a committed visionary leader to take them through the next stage of development. This position requires a commitment to the work of the organisation and an understanding of the principles of conductive education.

You will have the skills to double income and build cash reserves so that the charity can move forward into their next phase of development.

Job Role

• Lead the formulation and implementation of the charity’s strategy, business plans, performance management system & policies• Ensure the charity operates in accordance with its objects and powers through an effective legal, accounting, delegation and governance framework
• Management of the charity’s finances, ensuring the operation of a robust monitoring and reporting system• Ensure that risk is planned for and managed across the organisation
• Develop & implement a fundraising strategy that will sustain and expand the services of the charity
• Ability to see the bigger picture and have the creativity to take the charity from local to regional charity status• Lead the development of human resources and equalities strategy
• Work with the Chair to coordinate the recruitment, induction and training of all Trustees
• Ensure the charity operates within the legislation required under UK law and keep abreast of changes, advise the Board accordingly

Person Spec

• Proven track record in leadership, management and financial skills
• Understanding of the principles of conductive education
• Previous senior management experience within a charity or nfp [not-for-profit] organisation
• Understanding/background of income generation
• Excellent presentation, communication and organisational skills
• Strong financial and budgeting skills
• Ability to continue and develop relationships
• Set the culture for the organisation and its core values
• A commitment to the work and growth of the charity

Old model

There should be no problem finding a field of applicants to meet the criteria of the job advert, not least because one of the phenomena of the economic crisis has been the number of casualties if the ‘first sector’ (business) looking for havens in the third (charities).Presumably there are already plenty of wiser heads in the second (public services) already looking out for their own haven. Not to mention people already in the charitable sector, seeking possibly safer shelter from the storm.

But is this model of organisation the best one for developing CE services, not least the innovative and entrepreneurial CE services that will be required in the modern world? There is a lot of subdued muttering in the world of Conductive Education about ‘managers’ and ‘management’ (CE people are not on the whole up to date with the rhetoric of ‘leaders’ and ‘leadership’). Nothing new here and certainly nothing unique to Conductive Education.

Is it too much to hope that this recent advertisement will bring some of this muttering to the surface and transform it into genuine debate about the range appropriate business models for the development of Conductive Education (including of course the less appropriate ones)?


* Yossers and bankers

The heading of this article is an allusion is to ‘Gizza job. I could do that’, lines from the iconic Yosser Hughes, a character in Alan Bleasdale's 1982 TV drama Boys from the black stuff. The context was the old collapsing working class, previously politically powerful and for a while even prosperous, now seeing unskilled and semi-skilled jobs vanish from under them, leaving them impotent and desperate for a job, any job.. The play was set in Liverpool, under Thatcherism. It could have been anywhere in analogous economies around that time.

At a time when our economies are being further shaken out, to a similar or potentially greater degree, it might now be the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, in the first, second and third sectors of the economy, that have to go in the ‘cuts’ that lie before us.

The present-day, middle-class Yossers will not just be scapegoated bankers, but people holding white-collar jobs at every level of the economy. If we really are to maintain the numbers of ‘front-line workers’ (not that we will), then it will have to be clerks, administrators, managers and even ‘leaders’ who find themselves superfluous to requirements.

Something else to factor into and discussion of how best to develop and run CE services.

NB Use of this quotation should in no way be read in the sense that I myself harbour the slightest yen for any such occupation!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Normal services are being resumed...

Back in the UK

Conductive World is back under the grey, chilly skies of the English West Midkands.

Apologies to regular readers for the rushed postings of the last few days. Typos and other errors are now being corrected and omissions made good. Do, please, if you have time, scroll down and revisit last week's postings, starting from 'R&R' (20 September) and see whether they make any more sense now.

Apologies too to correspondents, emailers and Facebookers who have been in touch but received no reply. You will be next.

After that there are other blogs to be caught up with...

And there is still a little more to say from the experience in the former Yugoslavia. This will be posted later this week.

The spacing and the font size on Blogger are playing up again. It's back to business as usual!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Brief communiqué from Bled, in Sloveniya

Bled: good enough for Tito
Good enough for Szatmáry Judit…

…and today, it is more than good enough for me!

Slovenija really is a modern-day (very modern-day) Ruritanian paradise. It is in the EU (a Schengen country, no less). If you are from Hungary, it is handy for home and there is even a common frontier.

The language is a jolly South Slav but more than enough people speak serviceable English and German to ease getting you started. It has a questing, international-standard special-education service and special-education academe, they struggle most seriously with problems of inclusion, people understand empowerment and there is a progressive and comprehensive voluntary disability sector.

So why no Conductive Education?
I tried to get something started here some ten years back but it came to naught (no fault of the Slovenians, but that is another story). The world has rather changed since then, both around Conductive Education and within.

Go on someone, give it a try.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Hungarian President visits CE centre

In New Zealand

Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom started a four-day visit to New Zealand on Thursday.

Inter alia, MTI (the Hungarian News Agency reports):

Solyom will visit the Tui Glen foundation for neurological rehabilitation, which maintains links with the Hungarian Peto Institute for conductive education before attending a dinner given by the local Hungarian community.

Good PR all round.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The ICF – the International Classification of Functioning, Health and Disability

What I think, at this point

Some people from Conductive Education are signing up for the ‘global experts’ consultation on the ICF being carried out by universities in Canada and Germany on behalf of the World Health Authority. I have been encouraging people to do so, not least so that Conductive Education, its conductors, its parents and, most important of all, its understandings should not go unacknowledged.
I do not expect people in the existing systems and services to agree with these understanding but they cannot be allowed simply to act as though Conductive Education does not exist and does not have something very important to say about cerebral palsy and other motor disabilities.

I do acknowledge, however, that the situation may prove a tricky one, when push comes to shove. To understand what is happening with the WHO study, and for fear of asking others to do something that I should rather not, then it has seemed reasonable to apply myself for consideration as ‘an expert’.

After all, I do have a general view about the ICF when it comes to developmental disorders.

Tel Aviv, December 2007

In December 2007, as part of the Twentieth Anniversary Conference of Tsad Kadima, contributed to a Round Table discussion seeking to identify congruities and commonalities between the heritages of the Bobaths and of András Pető. In truth, the ‘table‘ was more triangular than round, taking the form of .questions posed by Peter Rosenbaum with responses by myself and by Sarah Capelovich, President of the European Bobath Tutors Association.

I do though think that the exercise was a valuable one. More the pity that as far as I know there have been no analogous situations created since within Conductive Education, on this or on the many other topics requiring public airing and public debate.

Rony Schenker hopes to have the discussion published in an appropriate academic journal but I am sure that she will not mind if I quote a small amount here, from what I said in response to just one of Peter Rosenbaum’s questions, how Conductive Education has related to the ICF.

I began:

Conductive Education has remained largely untouched by the International Classification of Functioning, Heath and Disability. Internally at least, Conductive Education has not needed this, as it has already implicitly moved on to the next stage, which involves mechanisms for change not just classification.

Peter Rosnbaum seem most visibly surprised at this. I continued with a brief exposition about how Conductive Education represents a systemic view of human mental development, and consequently a systemic view of what happens when a disability ‘dislocates’ the normal social mechanisms, providing the developmental task of resetting the process by means of pedagogy and upbringing.

I cited Vygotskii (1924) in support of this (English reference translation: Vygotsky, 1993, pp. 76ff.). As you do!

I mentioned dysfunction mechanisms of developmet set in train by such a dislocation, then asked and answered a question of my own:

When development is dislocated by motor disorder, what is the conductors’ task (rather, what is the task of Conductive Education because parents’ upbringing should play as important a role here as does conductors’ pedagogy)?
It is to ensure that all parties involved seek actively to find ways to correct the negative systemic cycle, the chain of consequences that leads from the biological through the social to the psychological, and replace it with a self-reinforcing, benign cycle of learning and development (in the language or Conductive Education, to replace dysfunction with orthofunction).

I then made what I regard as a vital distinction between the ICF with its ‘classification’ with the dynamic process of development in which Conductive Education operates.

In a way the International Classification of Functioning already covers this, and so it does but at a descriptive level…

This is so different from...

..the stage upon which Conductive Education plays its role, whether implemented by conductors or conductive parents, not at the level of the underlying condition but in its systemic sequelae in the social and psychological spheres, where problems arising through learning are met by solutions brought about through pedagogy and upbringing.

Signing up for this survey, that’s politics

The ICF speaks of the ‘biopsychsocial’. Maybe higher-level folk at the ICF really do have a dynamic understanding of this. Is there much such understanding manifest in the structures and professional operations lower down the tree. Or is the ’biopsychosocial’ an agglomerative mass rather than an intricate transactional process, a way of justifying a place in the sun for existing structures of provision?

Inevitably, any such framework is as much a political matter as a technical one, involving the established and powerful interests of provisions, professions, services, reputations, careers etc. Conductive Education come into this at a very week position. Perhaps it should merely walk away.

On the other hand, if the ICF makes it respectable to mention biological, psychological and social levels within a disability like cerebral palsy, then perhaps so much the better for the plausibility of Conductive Education. Perhaps Conductive Education has till now missed a trick by not speaking more in the language of the ICF, even though ultimately the practice of Conductive Education is based upon a rather more dynamic understanding.

For the moment, however, I shall give the WHO Experts’ survey the benefit of the doubt, see how the questions are framed and then how the resulting data are presented.

That will be the time to see whether any misgivings have been justified and to decide what if anything to do next. In the meantime I do hope that a reasonable number of conductors and conductive parents will also offer themselves to the survey, so that the investigators do at least know that there is somebody out there in CE-land.


I have given no particular thought to the ICF since Tel Aviv in December 2007.
I would however, like to record that I have been a little tickled by an alternative metaphor that Vygotskii also used back in 1924 to describe dislocation of development. He referred to development's coming off its tracks, to its ‘derailment’. I think that I prefer this one.

One to make of what you will

Remember pedagogic science

From sun-baked Novigrad in Istria I would like to share the following blog posting:

Therapy, therapy everywhere

A parent-blogger from Greece, not so very far south from where I am now, illustrates the worryingly confused view of developmental disability and 'therapy', the trap into which many of today's younger parents must be prone. This parent (sorry, I couldn't find a name on this very full and thoughtful blog) has struggled desperately to make sense of the world of disabled parenting, uses the Internet as it should be used (critically) and struggles with the claims this way or that, and finds therapy, therapy, therapy...

And yet he, she or they have in fact already worked it out for themselves, out of their own experience and observations:
From therapies of a more traditional nature which talk about reaching full potential to those therapies making claims of huge gains or even recovery or cure. The sheer glut of information from genetics to molecular biology and specialist or alternative therapy means we had to make a choice as to what path we would follow, and to feel confident in our descisions and not feel guilt about not being able to afford the time or cash for all the therapies that tantalize us with parental testimonies (errr -the confidence and lack of guilt didn't come straight away).

One thing that I have noticed for our family, it's not just about the therapy, it's about finding a way in which to interact in a more natural and responsive way with Dimitri, in fact therapy is probably the wrong word. We have and do work on specific skills, but it's the 24hr curriculum of learning through interacting with others and the environment and hands-on practice and just "having a go" that have probably helped Dimitri most (putting aside medications for epilepsy).
So, what about science?

Therapy may look like 'science', it is certianly presented that way often enough, so how to know what is true?

This latest Iron Chicken posting includes Mchael Schermer's jolly lecture on the Baloney Detection Kit. Very jolly and well worth a watch but, when you get down to applying its specifics to some of the claims of existing services and interventions, mainstream or otherwise, it may not get you too far.

The Iron Chicken also offers a link to something of Richard Dawkins, an interview with Professor Michael Baum:

This is the full, uncut interview with Professor Michael Baum which was filmed for Channel 4's "The Enemies of Reason." Michael Baum is Professor Emeritus of Surgery at University College London. The discussion covers alternative and complimentary medicines, and how they interact with scientific medicine.
Again, well worth a watch by anyone struggling to understand the important distinction between complimentary and alternative medicine and the nature of what constitutes quantitative scientific research in contemporary medicine.

But where, prey, does pedagogic science fit in all this?

'Science', as most people understand the word in English, is knowing through the creation of formalised empirical knowledge. This understanding of the word word goes for most scientists too. You can see this understanding, which serves its purposes rather well when it comes to the natural world, manifest in the two videos from Iron Chicken.

It has not been so hot with social phenomena. Human mental development is social in nature, product of a process of sociogenesis.

Natural-science methods are wholly inappropriate, irrelevant, hopeless when it comes to formal knowledge (values, hopes, etc). Education/upbringing is of course in part an empirical endeavour, but one that is shot through with values, hopes etc. So is human mental development.

So where does 'pedagogic science' fit in all this?

It does not get a look in when scientists naively talk about disability as if outcrops of the natural-science model, treatment, therapy, were the only means of framing the discussion. Not from the clever folk in the two videos here, anyway. But the author or authers of Iron Chicken, like so many others in the same position around the world, do 'know' that there is something else, a different way of understanding, a different paradigm... Inded, as quoted above, they express it rather well.

This has been covered so often already in Conductive World as to need no further elaboration here.


The parent-blog that sparked this posting

--- (2009) I want to believe, The Iron Chicken: life in the weird lane, raising a child with disability in Greece and other things, 8 September

Two recent bites at the 'science' question

Sutton, A. (2009) The wrong kind of research, Conductive World, 16 September,

Sutton, A. (2009) What is science? Conductive World, 13 August


A parent from California writes as a comment to 'I want to believe':

Unfortunately we haven't been able to make it back to Hungary since we moved to the States. As soon as Izabella is medically stable I would love her to spend a couple months with her Hungarian grandparents. The Peto Intezet is a great place indeed. I also heard wonders about an approach called DSGM - Deveny Special Manual Technic Gymnastic Method:

There are many different approaches and methods, developed and practiced by Hungarian therapists, that I would love to try with Izabella but we live far and away. We have a wonderful occupational therapist who is provided by the Regional Center and for whom I am extremely grateful. I just feel that Izzy would also need physical therapy and I would love to experiment with different methods to see which one works for Izabella.the Regional Center and for whom I am extremely grateful. I just feel that Izzy would also need physical therapy and I would love to experiment with different methods to see which one works for Izabella.

Oh, dear...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Warm fuzzy weasels that I hate

Some thoughts about language

Yesterday I recorded my delight at how a Swiss financial company (or at least its advertising agency had managed so neatly to side-step the ubiquitous ‘support’ paradigm by way of introducing a new quality into the equation, ’trust’, and turning it thereby quite upside down (Sutton, 2009a).

I described ‘support’ as my five-star hate amongst the words used by the existing system in the United Kingdom (and, I suspect by extension, in the other English-speaking countries too, though I may be wrong in this).

This reminded me that back in April Conductive World had drawn attention to the communicative power of parent-blogging (Sutton, 2009b), citing as example a telling posting by Jacolyn Lieck (2009) in which she listed some of the things that she hates about cerebral palsy, not least to some of the social situations that people create around her disabled child. A lot of people commented on this posting, some offering their own lists along the same lines and with the same degree of feeling. Then from Western Asustralia, Lightnur (2009) added her own raw list.

In response, also back in April, I prepared a short piece on something that I hate. This somehow got ‘buried’ in the depths of my computer. The present patch ot R&R gives opportunity to did deep into the bran tub at the bottom of my computer and fish out at least the first part of this item.. Here it is, with apologies to Jacolyn and Lightnur (and the others) for the delay.

Love and hate

Jacolyn and Lightnur (and those who commented on Jacolyn’s original posting) are all parents, all loving, and therefore unashamed to admit that they hate some of the material realities in their lives.

I have a hate list too. Mine is of a different and lower order. It is not founded in the life-enveloping reality of bringing up a disabled child but rooted in an aspect of the way in which many people speak of this (many of the people, that is, who make up the ‘existing system’). It involves some of the words around disability and associated topics, including Conductive Education. that make me wince and cringe every time that I hear them. I wince and cringe for how people misuse the language, for what this reveals about the poverty of their thinking, and for the blunted and inexact practice that this ultimately permits and may indeed actively bring about..

I love language, but this is not of course the same sort of love as parents have for their children, so my feeling of hate is surely different too. It differs qualitatively, not least in that it is not reciprocal, for language can neither love nor hate me back, and quantitatively too in that it engages me less.

These hates of mine are therefore of a correspondingly different order than those of Jacolyn, Lightnur and the others. Love of language is, I guess, more agape that charitas (I do not know whether the Greeks made a similar distinction on this opposite side) but my ‘hate’ is surely different from that of Jackie and co.

It is still, however, hatred born of the misuse and abuse of someone or something loved.

Some words that I love to hate

Like Jackie and the others, I offer here a short, personal and certainly incomplete list. comprising expressions that jump out and offend me whenever I read them or hear them.

Every time, I want to challenge them the speaker or the writer (original meaning of ‘challenge‘), demand to know what is actually meant, what will actually be done, though to do so might soon make normal discussion impossible and give the distinct impression that I am some sort of a nut!

Maybe I am. Or does this short list ring any bells?
  • assessment (the present and even the past as guide to the future action)
  • autism (meaning variously retarded, difficult, unusual anything)
  • barriers (meaning difficulties)
  • best practice (best of a bad bunch?)
    brain (when it should be mind)
  • celebrate (anything but)
  • challenge/challenging (meaning difficulty/difficult)
  • colleagues (used ingratiatingly, when one is not)
  • come to terms with (where or what are ‘terms’?)
  • community (meaning what?)
  • cope (meaning put up with tings as they are)
  • gender (meaning sex)
  • holistic (and worse, ‘wholistic’)
  • involved (meaning what, precisely?)
  • issues (meaning problems)
  • leader/leadership (meaning being the boss)
  • monitor (meaning not do anything)
  • multi- (unless proven actually meaningful)
  • neuro- (most invented terms so suffixed)
  • partners/partnership (instead of explicit business dealings)
  • persons (meaning people)
  • plasticity (forgetting temporary connections)
  • potential (especially that ‘full one’ that is there to be achieved)
  • professional(s) (implying expert or virtuous, rather than just paid for their services)
  • reflect (unnecessary term for ‘think’)
  • research (when no more than evaluation, or even just a survey)
  • science (when anything but)
  • -situation (as in ‘the classroom-situation’)
  • student (meaning pupil, or even simply child)
  • support *****
  • training (as though it means education)
  • Vygotsky (with a final ‘y’)

I also loath misuse of the pronouns ‘them’ and ‘their’.

I am hardly enamoured with some of Conductive Education’s own limited technical vocabulary in English, and I fear that, in English at least, CE’s own vocabulary might not be strong enough to keep such corrosive terms at bay.

My five-star hate: support*****

Some three weeks ago I expiated on what is one of my least favourite words, ‘partnership’ (Sutton 2009b). This however is merely a four-star hate. My five-star award goes unquestionably to ‘support’ (Sutton, 2009c).

I have already heard conductors talking about ‘supporting’ children. What do they think that this word means? My own dictionary (Collins) offers fourteen meanings, first amongst which is ‘carry the weight of’.

If conductors (and others) who do this know deep down that they are saying something quite contrary to their central intent, what do they imagine their listeners to be making of this? It is already hard enough really to convey the central message of what Conductive Education aims to do, and it is hard enough for those receiving this message to grasp and hold on to it in the face of what the world believes. Does the careless, cavalier use of the word ‘support’ really help in this context?

Please, please, please, if only privately, as a ‘thought experiment’, try to follow a golden rule.

  • Every time that you read or hear the word ‘support’ and, more importantly, every time that you might feel tempted to use it yourself, challenge it (again, the real meaning of ‘challenge’!). Ask precisely what is meant here and than find another world or phrase to go in its place, so that everyone involved knows exactly what is meant. Not always easy!
  • Maybe in such a case this is because no one knows precisely what is meant at all.
    And, horror of horrors, if you cannot find another word (or even phrase) to put in the place of ‘support’, to define what will be done, the maybe you really do not know what exactly is meant at all or what precisely it it intended should to be done. In such a case, it may not just be the sentence that needs recasting but the whole situation!

That goes potentially for all the other words on the above list, indeed for anything else that smacks of being a fuzzy, warm weasel (though be careful not to make yourself appear a nut!).

Why do such usages develop?

Language evolves, and this is a particular case in the evolution of language

It is just the English, or the British, or the Anglophones, who regard creating a new euphemism as providing a genuine advance in solving real-life human problems. Is it just the British who do it, along with the North Americans, the Australians and the New Zealanders…?

Do, for example, the French or German or Hungarian cultures permit such linguistic shennannigans? What about non-European-cultures and languages? Is it only English-speakers who appear in perpetual flight from spades to bloody shovels? Surely, one imagines, la France would never permit it!

Do other languages really need so many words to describe ways in which this sort of thing can be manifest? The following spring immediately to mind:

  • affectation
  • affectedness
  • cant
  • coyness
  • demureness
  • euphemism
  • hypocrisy
  • genteelism
  • jargon
  • pretentiousness
  • primness
  • prudery
  • sanctimoniousness
  • squeamishness

Cant + jargon + hypocrisy: my present favourites. There is of course a euphemism for this too:

  • political correctness

Is this really just a vice Anglais. What do they do in other societies and other languages? I would love to know.


Lieck, J. (2009) I hate it, The Lieck Triplets, 16 April

Lightnur (2009) I hate it too, Lightnur’s Life Journey, 22 April

Sutton, A. (2009a) Some people believe in support, Conductive World, 21 September

Sutton, A. (2009b) Cerebral palsy: ‘I hate it’, Conductive World, 17 April

Sutton, A (2009c) ‘Partnership’: an abused word, Conductive World, 28 August

Monday, 21 September 2009

Some people believe in support

We believe in trust

I never read advertisements for financial services. They are no use to me! On, Monday, however, on a long, sterile travellator between terminals at Zurich Airport, there was very little else to read. I ignored them, till the above slogan caught my eye and had me walking backwards in front of it.

A little boy is pictured, of about six years, stretching out over a the bank of a stream, reaching for something with a long stick. His Daddy crouches behind him, holding him by the hips. Both are happy, both are secure.

Of all the English words that I hate, that are used in the ‘existing services’, my five-star hatred is reserved for ‘support’. Its use indicates that those who use it have absolutely no idea what they mean: they are referring to no specific, definable activity. What is worse, those who hear or read this word used in such a way (and it is used all the time) are usuallyhappy to go along with it, to conspire in the use of a word that does not mean anything, that refers to meaningless activity.
I always challenge it: 'What exactly do you mean by that?' A sure-fire conversation-stopper!

Horror of horrors, I have even heard people in and around Conductive Education using this expression.

Somer people do indeed believe in ‘support’.

What this clever advertisement does its introduce a wholly new quality and turn the whole thing upside down. A veritable paradigm shift!

If there any study groups anywhere in the world, in and around Conductive Education: discuss!

As for me, I am off going to find some Italian ice-cream

(By the way, despite my appreciation, I shall still not be buying any financial services.)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A few days´R&R;

Former Yugoslavia

Yesterday I flew to Slovenija .

I spent last night in the hamlet of Sebrenje, in the municipality of Tržič, north of the national capital Ljubljana. This morning I awoke to an Alpine summit across lush pastureland.

This evening I am in Croatia, in Umag in Istra, overlooking the (almost) wine-dark sea.

Keyboard impossible!!! It confuses me to the point of panic and I cannot even find @.
Worse, this posting is costing me a fortune in mobile roaming charges...

Quick clarificatory foonote!

The keyboard is not the only confusing thing in this part of former Yugoslavia.

Or should I write ex-Jugoslavija, as it they put it in Slovenija?

Slovenija? That's how they spell Slovnenia here.

Never mind that, I am already in Istra, what back home I would refer to as Istria, and that is in Croatia (or as the Croats call it, Hrvatska).

I am in the village of Umag. Many of its inhabitants and visitors call it Umago, for the Istrian coast is as bilingual area where Italian is spoken as much as Croatian.

It should prove a great few days for clearing the mind! It will need to be clear, to move on from linguistic and orthographic matters to the historical realities that have created them

Friday, 18 September 2009

Conductive Education at Disability North

Included in first day’s seminar programme

Conductive Education at Disability North 
October 21st - 22nd 2009
Metro Radio Arena

Conductive Education - Assessment and Programme Delivery

11:30 Wednesday 21 October
Seminar Room 1

Conductive Education is a carefully planned educational approach. It is based on well researched theoretical principles and has been developed specifically for children and adults with neurological problems. The approach aims to promote the development and continuation of functional independence. It encourages the participant to become active in society, encouraging them to take a full part in life through systematically teaching them the skill of learning.

This presentation will outline the main principles of conductive education and how it applies to both adults and children at the Percy Hedley Foundation.

Admission to Disability North, including its seminar programme, is FREE. To book a place on this or other seminars over the two days, contact:

A wish...

Such exhibituion seminars do not produce procedings, though seminar-particpants usually receive handouts or see PowerPoint or similar slide-show presentations.

It would be nice if the Percy Healey Foundation could publish materials for this seminar on its extensive website:

Thursday, 17 September 2009

‘Experts’: a conductor acts

And gets a promising result

Conductor Julia McDonald writes, and sends as an attachment a copy of an email that she has received from the World Health Organisation:

Hi All

Andrew Sutton put a thread on his blog the other day about research by the WHO into children with cerebral palsy. Conductors were not on the list of ‘experts’ being asked their opinions in this research. As we all know, we conductors are very much specialists in cerebral palsy.

So I contacted WHO and it seems that they are interested in having our input.
Fill in your contact information on the website at
Then the knowledge that we have as conductors can be shared, as well as promoting the image of Condutive Education on a much wider scale. Please send this email to any conductors in your address book and please follow it up yourself. It will take only a few minutes.

Happy conducting!


Julia's letter from WHO

Subject: RE: Experts in CP
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 10:37:46 -0700

Dear Julia,

Thanks for your interest. Please fill in the table of contact information and we’ll add your name to our bank of experts. We’d also appreciate if you could circulate our invitation letter among your colleagues.

Kind regards,


It looks like the door is open.

Now, PUSH…

Take up Julie’s two suggestions:

  • fill in that form yourself and send it off
  • circulate conductors and parents in your address book, and ask them to do the same.

Remember, the Internet address for registering on the WHO’s ‘expert’ survey:


Julia’s concern is that conductors’ expertise be recognised and acknowledged by the WHO.

The WHO already acknowledges parents as ‘experts in their own child’.

As important as the recognition of conductors’ expertise are the particular insights of ‘conductive parents’.

If you are a conductive parent, or if you know those who are, please pass on the WHO’s website address, and a request to pass this on to others too.

‘Young parents’, fresh into the system, should not be embarrassed to join in too. Twenty years ago, ‘young parents’ around the world played a major role in the first big push to get Conductive Education out of Hungary.

Details or how to register are available from the same Internet address:

Further information: earlier item

Sutton, A. (2009) An open invitation to experts in cerebral palsy, Conductive World, 16 September

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Conductive Education gets rare Irish look-in

Magdi Kovács will be Tail End Charlie
at this week's Ireland/UK cerebral palsy conference

Magdi writes this morning to tell that she will be speaking at the first joint Ireland/UK conference on cerebral palsy, to be held tomorrow and the next day at the School of Nursing, Dublin City University. The conference has been organised by the Baby Lifeline charity. 

Cerebral Palsy: From Conception to Birth and Beyond

17-18 September 2009

It has been a very long time since Conductive Education received such public airing in the Irish capital.

Magdi is the only educator presenting on the two-day conference. Good luck Magdi. Enjoy Dublin.

Let the world know your news

Do let Conductive World know if you are doing something that may be of wider interest.

And do give a little notice if you can!


Conductors are not invited

Aimo Strömberg of the International Cerebral Palsy Society writes to pass me an invitation, and requesting that I pass it on further. So here it is, though actually most of you who read this might not be allowed in.

Still, if you really are keen to get into this party, you may still find a way to gatecrash.

The letter comes from Dr Veronica Schiariti, a developmental paediatrician at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She writes on behalf the Child and Family Research Institute there.
We are writing to invite you to participate in an important research regarding the World Health Organization (WHO)’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as it relates to children and youth with motor impairments, specifically cerebral palsy (CP).
The Institute in BC is collaborating with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, in Germany, to extend this down into the childhood years.

All well and good, I am sure, except that I note that this whole project is de facto ’health’ and its intention is ‘to provide a comprehensive classification system of childhood disability that could be used across service systems.’ Moi, paranoid, perish the thought.

Though this is indeed an open invitation it is clearly not intended for me. Her invitation proceeds as follows:
…we are inviting you, as an expert in the field of childhood CP, to be part of one of the first projects. We are identifying experts in the assessment and management of children and youth with CP who are willing to participate in an internet-based expert survey. In keeping with the standard protocol for the development of ICF core sets; this worldwide survey of clinical experts will be performed to identify all relevant areas of functioning for children and youth with CP. Over 350 experts from all 6 WHO regions of the globe are being sought.
I know at once that critical opinion on the negative and time-expired concepts of ‘assessment and management of children and youth with CP’ might hardly be welcome here, but a survey such as this will inevitably bring in respondents who are sports and, if a more enlightened stance renders me such, that is no reason to regard myself as potentially ineligible to contribute for this alone.


The devil appears next, in the details of the formal inclusion criteria:
  • Your professional background includes one of the following: pediatrics, developmental pediatrics, pediatric rehabilitation physician, pediatric neurology, pediatric neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language pathology, rehabilitation nursing, social worker and special education teachers and,
  • For at least 5 years, you have been working in the field of child/adolescent physical disability including CP (including clinical, educational, research and/or administrative roles) and,
  • Your focus is mainly in pediatric physical disabilities and,
  • You are fluent in English.
I can manage the English fluency test (point one), and maybe my practical experience in years past just might be viewed favourably (points two and three). But I was a psychologist and an educator so, as far as points one and three are concerned, I am O-U-T, out!

The ICT people make much of what they call the ‘biopsychosocial perspective‘. Sounds just the sort of place for some direct developmental psychology from specialists in that field, rather than making do with hand-me-downs via a variety of other professionals.

Dr Schiariti's letter concludes with administrative details, but there seems no purpose in my dwelling upon these as I am beyond the Pale.

These details include the statement that a committee deems this exercise ethical.


Conductors, you may note, are not per se experts in cerebral palsy either.

Perhaps ‘conductor-teachers’ might just wriggle in as ‘special education teachers’. I do at least hope that some might try.

In the meantime, the survey does rather seem to have been hijacked by an unquestioned, stuck-in-the-paradigm chummies’ club of existing professionals.

I am sure that everybody involved means well by their lights, and that that they will deliver the expected outcomes.

Find out more

Fuller details are given on the survey’s website:

As ever, if people in Conductive Education fail to act on their own behalf, then nobody else is going to act for them. As far as the WHO is concerned, conductors and, more importantly, the understandings that they manifest, do not exist. Without articulate and forceful representation, they will continue not to do so.


The survey’s website indicates that parents have not been forgotten:
Families are “experts” when it comes to their children. How will families be involved?
Input from families is critical to the creation of the core sets. It is so important that there is a separate and distinct project (i.e., the cross-sectional study) which will elicit the perspectives of families.
'Conductive parents' might wish to follow this up…


Note that this posting is not about ‘research’.

It is about politics.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The wrong kind of research

So what would be the right kind?

‘It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar’
Henry David Thoreau

Almost every Monday I receive an email from an Australian lady called Robyn Cummins. You could receive it too, if you sign up for it. She writes from the Cerebral Palsy Institute, a body established by the Spastic Society of New South Wales (of which it is in fact a division), with the laudable but implausible aim ‘to pursue a cure for cerebral palsy’.

Each week she forwards me her regular weekly anthology of the formal abstracts of just-published research reports from ‘the journals’, by which is meant refereed journals, not exclusively (though mainly) in English, and mainly (though again not exclusively) in medical or paramedical/rehabilitation journals.

The mechanism for compiling this listing is that is comprises ‘the latest cerebral palsy research articles and comment, as indexed in the NCBI PubMed (Medline) and Entrez (GenBank) databases’ for the previous week.

This service is free and anyone can register:

Like many others who receives this anthology, I have no means of obtaining the full articles represented there, other that by writing to the authors of the articles cited to beg a copy, or with a little help from my friends. Of course, I could always pay...

Sometimes I have reported on some of them here on Conductive World though, as announced last week, research-reporting is now being discontinued on these pages. Henceforth, it will be up to people in Conductive Education to sign up for this and other such services for themselves.

Most of these articles are to do with medical matters but some of them may be interesting to people who are not of a medical background. I personally find most of the epidemiological stuff and much of that to do with causation to be fascinating. Much of the rest of the truely medical content, however, sits so far outside my expertise, that I cannot tell whether it is fascinating or not, nor whether the critical comment to be made below might also apply to some of this material too.

Those with professional or managerial concerns in Conductive Education really ought to sign on, receive this email bulletin weekly and form their own judgements. Many of those with more personal interests in cerebral palsy might also care to give it a glance and perhaps find matters relevant to personal interests and concerns. Or at least gain an idea of what is being done and achieved in the name of their supposed benefit.

Sign in and you will also find topics studied and reported that spill outside of the sole or even proper concern of medicine, into social and psychological areas, important matters relevant to personal interests and concerns. If you have any real involvement with cerebral palsy, you are likely to find something amongst these to set your mind racing, in some cases about cerebral palsy itself, and in others about the nature of the research that is published here.

Two findings from this last batch fall for me into the latter category.with findings that make me stop and think about the nature of so much contemporary research.

Well, what do you know…?

The first comes from Belfast in Northern Ireland:

Conclusion. Children with cerebral palsy and associated impairments are at higher risk of poorer health and family well-being. A family-centred approach to the care of children with cerebral palsy and their families is essential to ensure both receive adequate care and support. (Parkes et al., 2009)

The second is from Philadelphia PA:

Interpretation: The results provide evidence that age and environmental setting influence method of mobility of children/adolescents with CP. The method that is preferred in one setting may not be preferred in another setting or at another age. (Palisano et al., 2009)

Statements of the bleeding obvious? If you are British or Australian you will almost certainly be aware of and possibly at times even use this widespread vulgarian expression. I know no other way of expressing the exasperated contempt that it conveys. I note that Google finds over fifteen-thousand hits for it.

A proper research paradigm for this field

Of course something may be universally obvious, well-known to be a fact by all sensible, right-thinking people, and still be no more that an old wives' tale. Critical, empirical evaluation of such supposed facts, clearing away the detritus of misinformation, is in such situations a perhaps vital step in furthering the progress of human knowledge and, in the case of cerebral palsy, human welfare too. Empirical and theoretical re-examination of stale ‘common-sense’, ’stands-to-reason’ understandings should be mounted in response to the slightest scintilla of doubt as to their validity. Maybe it would even be desirable, in the best of all possible worlds, to ‘spot-check’ when no such scintilla had been raised…

Whether conventional wisdom is then confirmed or overthrown, the result is a genuine advancement in formal acquired scientific knowledge and in the well-being of our fellow citizens.

But every fact known to humankind cannot possibly be treated In this way. Humanity knows too much about too many things for this to be feasible, however much bean-counters and risk-avoiders might wish it to be otherwise. An awful lot of what we know has simply to be accepted as lying within the range of human judgement, leaving vital time, expense and human effort for problems of a different kind.

There are so many things that everybody already ‘knows‘, say about the lives of children and their families living with cerebral palsy. Cosset society’s desperate research budgets and focus for issues in which there is substantial reason to raise doubts about widely experienced understandings. Direct the resources saved into doing something more productive than more surveys that confirm that the world is much as is commonly experienced, confirmation of which is few people’s priority.

What might be an appropriate paradigm?

What people usually want is change, and the central question of what might be done to achieve this. There is only one way to do this in the multifactorial, dynamic and systemic phenomenon of bringing up children; Interventions have to be made.

Given that there can be no single research paradigm to suite every human situation, much wider exercise could and should be made of research not into how things are but into how they might be ameliorated or in other ways changed. It is not the risk of poor outcomes that should be the focus, such as in the studies quoted above, but the means whereby they might be mproved upon or even eliminated.

Researching within such a paradigm requires imagination, time, verve, and courage too (because the risk may be transferred from subject to investigator). ]]

Will you live to see its like…?

Only if you fight for it.

A first anniversary: from V to U, then W to L...? With plenty green shoots along the way

Today is the first anniversary of the collapse of
Lehman Brothers merchant bank

What about that ‘recession’ that we used to hear so much about? Has it gone, is it going, where are we now?

Not that long ago, Conductive World used to carry frequent items on the progress of the recession. It was fairly easy to do. The writing was clear on the wall, while the usual suspects denied that there was anything wrong. The last such economics story on Conductive World was published on 27 June, at which time the ‘green-shoots of recovery’ were being seen as harbingers of better times soon upon us, or perhaps not, time would tell. It was clearly beyond human wit to do so.

Nearly three months have passed since then and the picture has not clarified.
  • One question has certainly resolved. Western nations’ recessions cannot be represented on a graph by a line that is shaped like a V, that is as a sharp drop, followed by a quick bounce back up again to where we all therefore.
  • Maybe though, say the optimists, it will be still be a U, a sharp fall, then a period running along the bottom, followed by a sharp climb out. The green shoots of recovery are already there, to confirm this, they say.
  • Oh no, say the pessimists, we are more likely in for a ‘double-dip recession’, shaped like a W. These green shoots are harbingers of no more that a peak in the middle. This will not last long and will be followed by another dive back down, perhaps worse that the earlier crash.
  • The real miseries propose that for some countries anyway, there might be no general climb-out at the other end at all, but that for many people the line will continue running along the bottom. A graph, therefore, like a long letter L…
  • Certainly though, hardship will not be uniformly spread across society. Bankers etc who have held on to their jobs are reportedly even better off now that two years ago.
  • Nor is it spread uniformly across the world. China is still in growth.
  • One domestic matter (domestic, that is, to where Conductive World is published): the ordinary people of the United Kingdom may be the worst hit of those of any Western nation.
  • Another: the UK’s public sector is going to take, as predicted, a very hard financial hit indeed, in the increasingly near future. And, although this is never mentioned, this hit will certainly result in a long L...

And Conductive Education?

So far, only one very public shock (the National Library of Conductive Education), otherwise nothing visibly cataclysmic. Maybe the wisdom of hindsight will suggest otherwise. Maybe stresses of financial shortage are taking an equally important invisible toll. Maybe some of the persistent rumours of local crisis will translate into hard news.

Not that news need be bad. A press release from a public relations company announced yesterday that the London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy (formerly the Hornsey Centre) has received a relatively modest grant, £14,000, for computerisation. It takes the opportunity to announce that it is to undergo a sevenfold expansion in its services over the next three years.

Indeed, London is a big place with an economy significantly greater than that of many nation states. But sevenfold… over three years?

That’s no ‘green shoots’. That’s Jack’s beanstalk.


PRLog (2009) CETSAT adopts children’s charity to help 50,000 Londoners impacted by cerebral palsy (press release), 14 September


* Not to be confused with the much-loved and grand old toy company Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk of Nürnberg, makers of LGB trains, often in English called 'Lehmann Brothers'

Monday, 14 September 2009


Testing the market

Two pleas for help in announcing positions on the Conductive Education job market.
  1. Barbara Csepenyi is looking for a senior/managerial position somewhere new. See her full advert at:
  2. Lisa Gombinsky is moving on and hopes that someone will fill her shoes in the adults' service in Sydnew, Australia. Contact:
If you would like to know more, please do not write to Conductive World but make contact directly with Barbara or Lisa through the contact details above.

Just testing…

Immediate awareness of this posting:
  • announced on Facebook
  • notified on Twitter
  • advertised on Twellow


Do you have other suggestions of effective ways to advertise CE jobs?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Ex America semper aliquod novi

Battle for Conductive Education: Arizona weapon test
The conductor’s voice

This new weapon should be effective against opponents of Conductive Education, against well-meaning people but ill-informed people who believe that they already ‘do it’, and against tired old ways of expressing things. At the moment there is no apparent defence and it could proliferate and be deployed everywhere that Conductive Education has a foothold, through a variety of delivery systems. It just needs the courage to try it. This first full test is impressive and suggests potential for considerable further development in the struggle for wider understanding of Conductive Education.

And it costs no more that what is already being spent of less effective weapons.

Why not try it yourself?

GaitWay of Tucson, Arizona (previously known as the Individual Achievements Association) has published its second video to introduce Conductive Education, ten minutes that mark a major leap forward in public communication of Conductive Education.

IAA’s first video was a competent exercise typical of better promotional videos produced by CE programs and centres, a few minutes of voice-over, a couple of head-and-shoulder shots of committed and articulate parents talking direct to camera, and sequences of children and some wooden furniture.

The second video is something else. The children are still there (along with the furniture), so too are the head-and-shoulder expositions and the voice-over, but there the similarities end

In this video all the talking is by a conductor, describing and explaining her own practice and that of her colleague, Ágnes Ispánki, as they work in the group.

New genre

The new video stars conductor Viktória Szokniki talking quietly to camera about the process of conductive pedagogy, a consummate solo performance

It is a breakthrough in that is brings together two immensely powerful ingredients:

  • a centre confident to entrust the public presentation of its work to conductor actually responsible for doing that work and then, not surprisingly…
  • an account that is almost wholly pedagogic.

The two together produce a massive new force, a new genre crying out for further trial and development. And not just in Tucson.

See the new video for yourself at:

If I had to recommend one single video as an introduction to conductive pedagogy, then I would recommend this video with confidence

So what is new here?

Conductors have been presenting their work for years now, in various ways and in various contexts. Given the desperate worldwide need for better understanding of Conductive Education (not least by its users and ‘managers’) this should be regarded an important and integral part of the conductor’s role.

This role, however, has not been widely regarded as a vital to the job of conductor. This is just not what most of them are paid to do. Notwithstanding, some do give talks, get interviewed, play cameo roles on centre videos, even lecture about Conductive Education.

So how is this production strikingly new? Because here a conductor is taking control of describing conductive practice, (almost) entirely in her own conductive-pedagogic terms. Certainly, conductors talk and think this way in other contexts, very possibly others might do it better than she does. The advance is that they have not done it yet in quite this way in public performance, that it is exceedingly refreshing to hear Conductive Education so described like Vikki and GaitWay in Tucson have successfully demonstrated, a powerful new modality for communicating Conductive Education to the world.

Video presentation on Conductive Education is now commonplace, not just from centres and programs but also on YouTube and social-networking sites. Some of these are very quite, and some are not. This presentation, however, demonstrates a considerable advance in genre that future CE video-makers would do well to consider.

A wider implication: towards pedagogic description

Description, description, description of conductive practice, by those directly involved in providing this, would make a vital contribution to its better wider public understanding, on a number of fronts:

  • awareness of potential users
  • orientation of professionals and academics
  • training of future conductors and others who work in CE

CE has desperately needed this for years. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away. Instead , the relative lack of such description has continuing, active, damaging effects:

  • impeding proper appreciation of its essentially pedagogic nature
  • contributing to perpetuation of false ‘principles’
  • delaying initiation of relevant research programmes
  • permitting all sorts of strange things to be done in the belief that they amount to Conductive Education.

This of course applied to creating proper awareness of Conductive Education (and its implications) whatever media are involved. The arrival of videos, for example, in no way diminishes the importance of creating a written conductive-pedagogic literature, be this on paper or on-line.

The first tentative steps have being made in creating of a CE photosphere. The ice has been broken and it is now up to others to find the confidence to join in and share in a new openness in what they actually do.

Just imagine the difference that it would make for there to be books, by conductors , describing their actual pedagogic practice, published and on the bookshelves, accessible to service-users and referred to by professionals and academics before they start judging the practice.

At this stage, description will do. It is no criticism to say that this account is descriptive rather that analytic. Analysis and research will have to follow.. Too long has CE been approached analysis-first, with inevitable results!

Perhaps Vikki’s video account will help embolden more conductors to talk and write publicly in similar vein and, perhaps just as important, encourage ‘significant others‘, such as those who employ conductors, to encourage and facilitate this activity. Congratulations and thanks to Gaitway for showing the way on this.

We have been shown a refreshing new genre, demonstrated a powerful new weapon in the fight for Conductive Education, so please more diversions into the tired old ‘theoretical’ positions, no invocation of ‘research’, simply straightforward description in pedagogic terms of what the work actually involves.

Meanwhile, congratulations all round…


Victoria Szolnoki


Produced and directed by Ricky Bergeron
Biomedical Communications
University of Arizona
Healthy Services Center

An apology

This report was written in the early summer, as soon as the video was published on line. Unfortunately the text got ‘buried’ in the computer during a busy period. Gaitway is no sloth in putting itself about and this week it this video appeared on the Tucson community blog, reminding me that I had failed to publish this item.

Apologies all round.

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