Thursday, 15 October 2009

For crying out loud

The persisting effects of Conductive Education

Another of those very articulate American parent-bloggers who so vividly and sensitively document and analyse the experience of bringing up their disabled children has come across Conductive Education, and is enthusiastically describing the process and its outcomes.

One does, however, have to wonder whether this blogger will go the way of most of the others who have passed this way. The Conductive Web points to so many similar brave and optimistic starts (mainly in the United States). Together, they offer a most salutary impression:
  • most of these blogs continue
  • most remain articulate, insightful, sensitive, optimistic, honest accounts of the realities of parenting disabled children
  • they offer those with a ‘professional’ training in working with disabled children and their families desperately needed insights into the raw material of what they are involved in
  • they do in fact provide a major addition to the ‘disabled biography’ literature, the only real corpus of written material offering extensive raw data on the total systemic nature of developmental disorder (though in the event such data, if accounted at all. are usually dismissed as ‘anecdotal’)
But what about Conductive Education?

Within the much wider context of blogging by parents of disabled children, the relatively small but now substantial-enough data-base indexed by Conductive Web should be sending a terrible shudder through the world of Conductive Education.

It would already be doing so if more people involved with CE, conductors, ‘leaders’, professionals/academics, were any better at considering, reading, analysing what parents say and do than those outside appear to be.

Look at the long list of continuing parental blogs linked to by Conductive Web. Remember, these families were only picked up by this site at all, at most only about a couple of years or so ago. when had become enthsiatically involved in Conductive Education. Scroll back down their blogs?

What has happened since then to CE in their lives?
  • again and again, Conductive Education is something that has been ‘done’
  • it is rarely, more often never mentioned now
  • the family has moved on to other ‘therapies’
    look for the slightest trace left in the vividly reported accounts of children’s development, family life, everybody’s problem-solving, of a discernable conductive understanding left by that scant or transitive experience.
A gross exaggeration? If so, it is one waiting up there in Cyberspace, just crying out to made by others, parents, professionals, academics, including people far less friendly towards Conductive Education than myself, and well able to draw and share their own conclusions. If you do not believe this, check for yourself: the data are all up there. Draw your own conclusions.

Assuming that most (though not necessarily all) of those who read Conductive World are also friendly towards Conductive Education:
  • What do you think lies behind this failure of Conductive Education to 'stick'?
  • More importantly, what do you think should be done about it.
The usual solution, bury your head in the sand, is not an acceptible answer.

Speaking of crying…

To turn back to the specific experiences of children and parents in the first few days or weeks of a Conductive Education program, this (presently) CE blog describes a regulary met experience that also cries out for comment from those who know this field, parents and conductors especially:

For the last month, we've had him enrolled in Conductive Education. This is an intensive therapy program out of Hungary that special needs teaches kids, mostly with cerebral palsy, how to live an independent life through gross and fine motor skills as well as speech/vocabulary/communication. It's an amazing program and we're very blessed to have one located about an hour away. Since he's started CE, it seems he's had an amazing spurt in cognitive recognition, attention span and learning as well as physical achievements! It was after he started CE that we had the breakthrough with the vocabulary recognition on the electronic book.

He attends Conductive Education once a week for 5.5 hours. The first week he screamed and cried the entire time. The next week his crying was reduced by half. The third week was reduced by half again. He's getting more and more used to it, but it definitely pushes him to his limits and forces him to really put forth effort physically. What is truly great about the program is it is completely different from what he's been doing in traditional therapy for two years. He's breaking out of his "comfort zone" and being pushed beyond.

Although it's heartbreaking to watch our precious son go through this as he screams and cries, we know it's all for the better in the long run as he is pushed to his limits to achieve and overcome his physical obstacles. It's a very integrated program involving both physical and occupational therapy along with preschool learning/education and speech/communication and vocabulary building.

The world of Conductive Education really should be talking openly about this sort of thing too.


--- (2009) Growth spurt in development and Conductive Education, Nate Dog’s Blog, 14 October


  1. Andrew,
    I know exactly what you are talking about. I believe we should be talking about this openly and honestly too.
    So why don’t we?
    It comes down to many factors.
    1. Lack of tradition to discuss sensitive issues openly.
    2. Lack of time.
    3. Lack of confidence.
    4. Lack of trust in not being judged by others having an opinion, maybe an opinion, which doesn’t fit in to the common points of views.
    5. A deep-seated insecurity within the Conductive Community.
    6. A ‘rather to be right than happy’ attitude. - By not talking about sensitive and relevant issues we don’t risk to be found wrong, but we also deprive ourselves to learn from each other and grow.
    7. A misconception about asking questions. If I ask they think I am stupid or I don’t know. Forgetting that the forever-enquiring mind creates enormous potentials for finding intelligent solutions.
    8. A lack ability and precedence to communicate with respect and take upon a disagreement with honour.
    9. A lack of belief that anyone would care to engage into conversation over the Internet.

    I could go on…and on… I am as much as fault with the above as many of us in the world of Conductive Education.


  2. Please, enough already, Judit. That cuts hard enough into then bone as it is!

    Maybe some of your colleagues will feel confident enough to take you to task, or even agree with what you say.

    Even better, then to to go back and respond to the two particular points that I raised here:

    1. What is it about so called 'Conductive Education programs', their content and/or situation, that means that their effects upon family life, and presumably therefore upon children's upbringing and development, are apparenly so transient)?

    2. What about this crying?

    Or maybe not...



  3. Andrew, Our daughter Grace had reach a plateau in CE. We were not seeing the benefits and improvement we had seen in the past. What we discovered from other therapies is that she has not plateaued in her abilities. We have seen tremendous improvements through an alternative intensive therapy.

    We love CE and believe it has helped get Grace to where she is right now but she needs more cognitive and OT type work which the current CE program does not offer. Most of the children in CE are non-verbal and Grace is verbal. She needs more help with hand writing, etc. In addition, CE does not truly believe in her and what she can accomplish and has not been supportive of other avenues we have pursued...which have been successful (PERCS).

    We will most likely attend more CE sessions but not as much as before unless the program is modified.
    Jacolyn Lieck

  4. Dear Cacrolyn,

    I think you know what I am going to say...

    In an ideal world, that is one wherein there were enough conductors to offer choice, then you would exercise that choice, and possibly the very fact of such 'competition' would render such a change unnecessary!

    I can hardly be specific about Grace in this context, and of course a 'plateau' every now and then is a normal phenomenon in every child's development. That said, the first step has to be to look to what is being done for Grace that could be reviewed and revised. Easy enough, of course, to say 'look to the programme' but perhaps harder to say that you should also look at Grace's total circumstancees at the moment, that is to her upbringing as well.

    Why do I feel a little free to offer this advice? Because what you write makes me wonder whether your conductor, or yourself, or both, have a rather limiting perspective of what CE is or does.

    If your Grace is expriencing conductive pedagogy, if she is having a conductive upbringing, then there is no extra 'cognitive input' in the world that she needs, as CE should be a cognitive education (whatever that means) par excellance. Ditto with respect to OT.

    Even if a child's group is mixed, that is simply a pedagogic problem to be solved by the conductor. That is not Grace's problem... unless it is not solved, seemlesly and with you and her hardly knowing it. If it is not so solved... it is not for me to say.

    I know that you are a regular reader here, and from your own blog I know you to be a sophisticted and loving parent, so I can say these things to you. You in turn know that I often rail on Conductive World against the image and expectation of CE as 'a therapy' (not just in the US by any means). 'CE as therapy' has its definite inbuilt limits and, without knowing about your and Grace's specific situation, I can still suggest that maybe you are presently knocking against these. Grace's conductive experiences, at her center and at home, may be overdue for serious overhaul.

    I'm not knocking her conductors. How could I? I know even less about their circumstances than I do yours (as far as I know, they do not blog!). I respect greatly what so many conductors achieve around the world, despite circumstances for which their training could not possibly prepare them and which, even it it did, might still prove impossible.

    I an not knoching you either, though I m sad that you have no readier access nearer home to the sort of understandings that might have made your enquiry here unnecessary.

    I have no specific suggestions to make here (how could I?), other than to suggest that you and Grace's conductor(s) try for a very frank and open discussion on this. Wipe from your mind any thought of CE as a 'therapy' that is done to Grace and try to see what conductors do as just one part of your daughter's total life, the 'in-between' bits of which might be, should be far more beneficial to her development than any 'programs', however good.

    And ah yes, there's no magic bullet Not cognitive therapy or OT, that's for sure...

    I am sure that I will hear more from you over this, but I do hope that in the meantime a few more others feel drawn to responding to ou.


  5. Andrew, I'm afraid my previous message sounded a "little" on the negative side. I am a HUGE fan and supporter of CE and know that it has been beneficial for Grace AND our family but I have felt some limitations as she ages and matures.

    I'm not sure what the answer is in our situation when it comes to Grace's attendance in CE. She is in a main stream preschool right now where she gets little "therapy" or physical training but where we have seen her blossom. When she first started she was quiet and shy and now she is very vocal...asks and answers questions and participates with her classmates.

    Again PLEASE HEAR ME...I love CE. I also believe that the lack of cognitive input is not the fault of anyone in CE but just the response of dealing with a diverse groups of children with individual needs.

    Grace will be back at CE sometime. We are dealing not only with trying to focus on her needs but our financial constrains.

    You may be right....maybe I don't completely understand CE perspective. I do know that I want something for Grace...therapy or otherwise...that will increase her quality of life.

    Thanks for your response

  6. My daughter Sarah has just had her 27th birthday. She is still involved in a conductive education programme.

    I was asked just the other day what I thought conductive education had given her.

    My answer was that it has helped her to become the person she is and enjoy the quality of life she does.