Saturday, 24 October 2009

‘BRAVO, ANDRÁS PETŐ!’

A conductive upbringing in New Zealand

Gail Edgecome writes from Christchurch, New Zealand –

We went to Hungary when Holly was five years old.

She had never been able to stand. I have no doubt she would never have walked. There is no other way in NZ, even now, that she would have achieved what she has.

Of course there are still difficulties but at least the body is still functioning and the brain is still alert. Holly has no speech but her time in Hungary helped her with her gift for understanding other languages (she understands and can write some of four). She can use a computer, she is a wonderful writer and is just finishing the last couple of papers for a Diploma in Creative Writing.

Conductive Education in our own special form is still alive and well and funded in NZ. No matter what is said in Parliament I think it will be difficult to get rid of. There are CE preschool groups in Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch, Invercargill and Auckland. There are school units, one college unit, and one adult programme just starting (not before time). I stared the ball rolling in establishing CE in Christchurch and I don't think they'll give it away easily.

Here is a sample of Holly’s creative writing – 

MELTDOWN
A pantoum about fear and pain of sound

The fire siren sobs in the night
purples the air with its voice
wrenching the innermost child
caught in the hands of the dark
purples the air with its voice
like the rise and the fall of a tide
caught in the hands of the dark
squeezing the oxygen down
like the rise and the fall of a tide
gauging a path in her skin
squeezing the oxygen down
adrift on an ocean of sound
gauging a path in her skin
curled up in her roughly-made shell
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
adrift on an ocean of sound
like a mother at loss for her child
curled up in her roughly-made shell
blind to the touch of a friend
like a mother at loss for her child
shackled by senses untamed
blind to the touch of a friend
wrenching the innermost child
shackled by senses untamed
the fire-siren sobs in the night.

We were at the Pető Institute for five months in 1988 and two more months in 1989. That was all we could afford. We had to raise the money by public appeal to get there at all. We raised NZ$50,000 in 1987. I can hardly believe that now. It's a lot of money. We promised the donors that we would help get Conductive Education established in NZ and that's what we did, in Christchurch and as part of the New Zealand Conductive Education Foundation group.

Holly was in the mother-and-child group on the Fifth Floor. It was mainly Hungarian, with some children from other countries, some English. There were different kids each month, except for us. I believe we were there that long because Holly did exceptionally well under the CE system.

After we came home, she had about three years in Christchurch attending an after-school group-programme twice a week, run first by me and another woman who was an occupational therapist and then with a Hungarian conductor.

But we kept it up! From the time that we first came back from Hungary. The walking, the way of doing things that Holly was taught in Hungary. I think that that is the key. Although Holly has an electric wheelchair now (which she drives like a girl racer) she still likes to walk. It is shorter walks now, but it is still independence.

Holly is very strong-willed. She needed to be to achieve this. Have you noticed that those kids who achieve with CE are not always the least disabled, or even the brightest, but those who develop a determination to be independent and to succeed? I guess that the parents’ belief has to come into it too, and drive. It is a long way to go if you are just going to give up when you come home. We also had an obligation to do our best because of what people did for us.

I truly believe we would be nowhere but for Conductive Education.

Bravo, András Pető!

Footnote: pantoums
 
Pantoums are a verse-form comprising a series of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next, all coming together, neatly inverted, to close things off at the end.


This might sound complicated but is very obvious in Holly’s example above. The simple, repetitive rhythm that builds up is very good at expressing strong feelings such as those here, the disproportionate response to loud sound that is often a symptom of cerebral palsy. Pantoons are fun to compose and to hear, and can make powerful statements that are satisfying at both the intellectual and emotional levels.

The pantoum originated in Malay, was developed in French, and works well in English.

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