Sunday, 14 February 2010

Nice one Sue, again

I fundamentally disagree
But keep up the good work

Sue O'Reily has published another hefty contribution to her nation's debate around current services for the disabled and the ideologies that that justify them.

Read it. It's well worth it:

O'Reilly, S. (2010) Expert minds change on brain injury, The Australian, 13 February

So why do I disagree? Because I do not regard the discussion to be seated legitimately within medicine. Cerebral palsy (not uniquely) is a developmental disorder. Medicine can at best contribute to understanding its biological base. If medicine can contribute to prevention or cure at this level then I'm all for it . I don't know much about 'curing' damaged central nervous systems, though I have my doubts as to whether this is even a meaningful notion. As for prevention, it does seem possible that social measures might do rather more to prevent, say, cerebral palsy than might be envisioned from pouring astronomical sums of money down the ever-accommodating maw of medical research.

I do not want to slip into 'neurological nihilism, but really...

... build on the now incontrovertible evidence that fundamental brain structure can and does change; that the brain changes with every different activity it performs; and that when certain parts are destroyed, sometimes other areas of the brain can and will take over.

Compensatory mechanisms, alternative strategies, temporary connections, motivation, expectation, hope etc, what about the unglamorous, unsexy, unfinanceable world of teaching and learning, of upbringing and pedagogy?  

At the very least, until society grasps these nettles, instead of leaving parents and children to drown in pedagogic nihilism, then there will be little or no worthwhile developmental change generated through psychosocial means to be investigated at the neurological level anyway. And one still awaits the first practical proposals from the neurologists for the enhancement of psychosocial change.

I'm sure that someone out there will wish to correct me on this.

Meanwhile, Sue, KBO and frightening the horses down under. But I do think that you could hit even harder by going down further below the belt and questioning the very basis of the docs' priority involvement in the first place.

I am sure that some might mount a spirited and substantial response... it is a shame that they are so rarely called to do so.


  1. A long tale, cut short.
    The consultant paediatrician said, when Sarah was about 15 years old, that her mother and I should "face facts", and "accept Sarah as she was", and "come to terms with her prognosis as someone with cerebral palsy".
    By this he clearly meant very much more than solely her physical impairment.

    I was and remain appalled by this.

    If neuroscientific research is helping paediatricians and others (including educators) understand that those with cerebral palsy are capable of so much more - just like the rest of us - then I think there might just be a measure of progress in that.

    It might even help ease some of the barriers that we in CE are continuously struggling with.

    That said, I agree entirely with your post Andrew.

  2. Yes, you are right, to a degree: all hands to wheel when it comes to 'helping paediatricians and others (including educators) understand that those with cerebral palsy are capable of so much more'.

    But I have my doubts that this intellectual approach will get one far. 'The enemy' does not think as it does for intellectual reasons. The threadbare intellectual case for the present hegemony is something that I have never seen explicitly stated: right-thinking people (pun intended) think about this as they do because of unquestioned beliefs of a wider nature, on which specific positions on the mutability of human potential, not least amongst those with disabilities, may be no more than secondary outgrowths.

    By this analysis little bit of research, one way or the other, will make very little difference to how they speak, think or act.

    What might?Their own personal and class interests might, if it were advantageous to their own place in the world to believe as you and I and other do. Easily said but hard to arrange!

    That's why, in the meantime I am unwilling to offer them and their kind the opportunity of clutching the skimpy findings of 'neuroscience' around their nakedness. This is no more, in a way, of ceding them the battle:'Oh yes, the old medicine might not be able to help; let's try another kind'.

    And that might be one step sideways, then one back, to close to where you started from.

    The issue here is that it it is not medicine that will have primacy in healing the social-psychological ills.