Monday, 29 March 2010

Aides, assistants and students

What do you think

'V' writes –

I read on that the Pető Institute is starting a 2-year "conductor aid" course in September. I think it's high time. However I have to admit I can't clearly see the complex reasons behind this training right there, maybe someone could help out with this? The Pető Institute always used its own trainee conductors as aids; maybe these new aids are for export? :-) Would be great!

29 March 2010 02:35

'Anna' responds –

Obviously there is a misunderstanding about the role of the conductor trainees in the practice of CE.They are not used as aids but they always have a special task in the program according to their actual theoretical and practical knowledges
  • First years: able to conduct self-care activities
  • Second years: able to lead different task series and facilitate the task-solving
  • Third years: able to set goals and build different task series,learn to teach academic subjects in the classrooms
  • Fourth years: able to create and conduct the whole program of different group of children.
Of course this is a simplified description of the requirements,but shows that they are learners and their improvement is an integrated part of the program in the group they are practising in. This is the way of getting ready for all the roles of the conductor. Many times the conductor is the 'aid' of them while practising their different skills. The aids are going to be the helpers of the conductors providing the conditions of accomplishing a conductive program.

Hope I could add some aspects to clarify this problem.

29 March 2010 05:45

And 'V' comes back –.

The above is obviously the truth and who wouldn't know this who went through the conductor training at Pető . The trainee conductors are obviously getting ready for all the roles of the conductor, and they are learners, and all that, and in the meantime they do most of the jobs that the conductor aids do at every other establishment, where there are no trainee conductors; which also prepares them for their roles of the conductor. There's nothing wrong with that, nor there is disrespect in it. At the end of the day, nobody wants conductors who don't know how to fold and put away towels, clean and disinfect potties or keep an eye on the children. Sure trainee conductors do these, so do aids, so do conductors when there are neither aids nor trainees.

29 March 2010 06:36

The above three contributions were posted as Comments on yesterday's Conductive World posting, 'Feldshers, barefoot conductors and super-conductors':

They raise interesting and important topics, though they do represent a diversion from the central point of that posting. They have therefore been moved here, as a posting in their own right, as they are treating points of considerable interest within conductive practice.

– What do you think about the training and use of aides and assistants in Conductive Education?

– And what do you think of the employment of students during their vacation? There are ads enough for this on CONDUCTIVE WORLD JOBS to suggest that this is now wdespread practice?

If anyone has anything to say, on such matters, please add it as a Comment below. 'V' and 'Anna' too, please, if you have more to say.

What other people have experience of training assistants? What sot of things do you train them in, as well as folding and putting away towels, cleaning and disinfecting potties or keeping an eye on the children, to justify their assistance being considered 'conductive'?


  1. Aids and assistants
    Part one

    I have very little experience with working with conductor’s assistants myself so although the posting that I read of Andrew’s was about something completely different, feldscher-conductors, and my train of thought was somewhere else while I read it, a lot of questions about aids and assistants sprang to mind when I went on to read the comments that appeared at the bottom. These commnets were about assistants.

    Anna is right student-conductors training in the Petö Institute never felt, and probably still don’t feel, like assistants. Students really are the ones that get all the assistance, they need to learn and develop during their training and also as young conductors.

    In Germany I have never come across a conductor’s assistant. Are they there in other countries to assist the conductor to empty dishwashers and fold towels​?

    We occasionally have Civil Volunteers (people not doing military service) who drive the cars, fold the towels, and clear away the toys, plinths and even sometimes the potties, but they are just helping out. Those tasks have nothing to do with Conductive Education.

    Here in Germany we have other professionals with some sort of training in CE. These are not conductor’s aids or assistants they have professions in their own right and work often in teams. Is this what they do in China? There are aids and assistants in the USA. Are they also other professionals with an extra training in CE or something else?

    From what I hear from some conductor friends in other countries their assistants are low paid often unqualified, mainly women, who do not stay long in the job. I believe often the conductors are expected to do a lot of the training of these assistants on the job.

    A conductor friend in another country says she spends hours before a holiday block, trying to train up the many people who will be working with her. I believe that the high amount of personal in a group in several countries is necessary due to insurance reasons. Is this also the case in a special school? Are so many teachers-assistants also required there for insurance purposes?

  2. Aids and assistants
    Part two

    It is interesting how different countries produce different things and have a need for different things, either legally or because of the clients understanding of what CE is and how it should be supplied. It also seems that each country also expects different things from the assistants, perhaps indicating that it isn’t a good idea to import them then from elsewhere.

    In Norway, the only place where I have come across conductive assistants in my work, I met assistants who were people with much talent and many skills that could be utilised conductively in the group. Those conductor-assistants were really good, well trained, but I fear that they get do not get paid as well as they should as they too often leave after a couple of years.

    I saw immediately where I could use the one I had, and set her to work, not folding towels the housekeeper did that! This assistant could sing and play, smile and have fun and motivate the children so well, so she was usually up front beside me doing just that. A real bonus when we had four languages working in the group.

    What a shame and what a waste of skills to use assistants like that as bottom-wipers and drink-givers and towel-folders, and keeping an eye on the children. All of these” bits in between are actually the work of conductors and times when so much conductive observation can take place. These are not times or activities to be dismissed lightly.
    I expect that the PAI is training conductor-assistants because they need them at the Petö Institute just as it seems they are needed in other countries.

    But if the Petö Institute is offering the so-called assistants' course only to Hungarians then the world is still going to be crying out for home-bred assistants just as they are crying out for home-bred conductors.

    It really does make a lot of difference, I imagine all over the world, especially in our work with the families, if there is at least one conductor in a centre who comes from that country. I think that it is equally important that so called assistants should be trained in the country that they will be working in.

    Does anybody have any more information on the course that the PAI is offering? Is it like here in Germany, a course for teachers, physiotherapists, social-pedagogues and other professionals, all with a first degree looking for a widening of their knowledge? Or is it something different, like a first qualification for young people?

    These aids or asssitants trained at the Petö Institute can only come anywhere near to what Andrew was discussing in the posting about felscher-conductors if they indeed are professionals looking to learn about conductive pedagogy and taking an extra qualification.

  3. Ok, then, I will comment on this one, since the topic arised from a slip on something I said. I do have an opinion about this, I've had it for years.
    CE centers do use aids and assistants all over the world. They need them because the classrooms are not staffed with trainee conductors like they are in Peto. Again, where did I say that trainee conductors are mere assistants? They are trainig to be conductors, and they are also folding towels and clearing away toys, are they not? Is that disrespectful? If it is, I was very, very disrespected during my training at Peto...How does doing the thousands of little jobs that need to be done in a CE classroom stop a trainee conductor from learning their profession, or degrade them as "assistants" in any way?
    Conductors are sparse and expensive to hire, so there come the aids, who are either paid or are volunteers, to fill in for all kinds of jobs in the classroom, under the direction of the conductor(s). They cut, glue, decorate and laminate, clean the potties and other stuff, rearrange the room, facilitate tasks under the direction of the conductor(s), the list is long, long, long. In the meantime, the aids themselves learn plenty; isn't working with disabled kids a priceless work experience for a wide range of young (and older) people from all walks of life? There are even aids who are disabled themselves. Look at the example of the Rainbow Centre, where various volunteers and students from the local college help conductors out while they themselves learn, and ask yourself if it's a good thing to educate the local community about disability in such a practical way or no. While the lead conductor of the Rainbow Center in Fareham, UK has long discovered this gold mine and has been using it for many years for the benefit of the Centre and the entire community, that shows her clear vision and ability to think outside the box. Because whatever the volunteers, assistants, aids and various students learn about disability while working at a CE centre, they will take that knowledge and awareness back to the community.
    Let us not degrade the trainee conductors to "assistants" (regardless of the number of potties they wash/day); then, let us realize that "mere assistants", (who are not trainee conductors) should not be degraded to robots either, and they benefit hugely from learning what conductors and children teach them.

  4. Susie,
    you mention the Civil Volunteers in your first post, who: "who drive the cars, fold the towels, and clear away the toys, plinths and even sometimes the potties, but they are just helping out. Those tasks have nothing to do with Conductive Education".
    Why didn't you use them for tasks having to do something with CE? Because, in your second post you're saying the exact opposite: "What a shame and what a waste of skills to use assistants like that as bottom-wipers and drink-givers and towel-folders, and keeping an eye on the children."
    So, were those Civil Servants "wasted"? Why, I assume they were healthy young males very capable of learning, god forbid singing and playing, motivating the children?
    I can't see the "either-or" here. Why is there a need for two types of assistants, where one group, civil servants or others, do tasks only that have "nothing to do with CE", and the other group (the more advanced one???), that "should not be wasted", can be involved in the conductive work?
    Is there a group of assistants that can do both? I'm sure there is, because I've seen and worked with plenty of them. There is no either-or in my experience. All kinds of volunteers and assistants do all kinds of jobs, cleaning, wiping bottoms, singing, facilitating. So do trainee conductors at Peto (who are not degraded by wiping a plinth). So do conductors (who are not degraded by wiping a plinth, either). Moreover, the housekeeper lady at the Rainbow Centre sings to the children, talks to them and plays with them! Shall we tell her to stop it because she's the housekeeper and she sould return to the cleaning, while the conductive work will be carried out by the conductors and the trainee conductors, who are all uniformly degraded and disrespected if they have to fold a towel or clean up a spilled drink?

  5. 4.30am in the morning and this parent is awakened yet again. Chance to read this most interesting discussion. Thanks to each one who has contributed, seeking to add their experience and teasing out the undoubtedly complex issues for our benefit.

    Everyone working in mainstream schools in the UK has become familiar with the presence in the classroom of adults other than teachers. There is, today, by-and-large, even from the teacher unions, an acceptance of the benefit of their multi-faceted role and, whilst there is concern that such adults should not be used to replace teachers, it is difficult now to imagine classrooms in the UK without them.

    It does not surprise me that conductive education settings are following a similar pattern.

    Equally, I do not personally find it difficult to imagine conductive education settings where, alongside conductors, there are adults who are training to qualify as conductors and adults who are not training to qualify as conductors. Indeed, I would welcome such an arrangement.

    As long ago as 1968, I worked as a student teacher on teaching practice in an Islington school that was taking part in a National Foundation for Educational Research research project in "Inter-Disciplinary Enquiry", (an early example of 'themes' replacing 'subjects'). This involved bringing together, as I recall, 3 classes either as one large group in the school hall or splitting into different sized groups as activity required. This entailed teachers and adults other than teachers (students like myself and others) working flexibly and interchangeably with pupils. The important feature was the leadership and accountability within the IDE team.

    Some 15 years later, spent almost entirely as a single adult teacher in traditional classrooms of 25-30 pupils, I found myself teaching in Sheffield and, as the school's National Union of Teachers representative handling the angry complaints of fellow union members, rejecting the radical proposals of a new Head teacher, to encourage adult volunteers other than teachers into the school's classroom. Heresy-of-heresies, the new Head was even suggesting that some of these adults-other-than-teachers might be parents!

    That was the early 1980s. It is only really during the past 10-12 years that such arrangements have become commonplace.

    We have also become accustomed during the same period to the expansion (some might say excess) of qualifications in "the children's workforce". I would like to see adults-other-than-teachers having the opportunity to gain qualifications in conductive education classroom practice. I do not see why this should not be done nor, indeed, why it should be difficult to achieve. Even Peto had to start somewhere with his young staff.

  6. There is so much work to do and so many things to take care of in a CE centre like the Rainbow, with lots of children and adults, that I can't even imagine what they'd do without the assistants. The assistants are often volunteers, or they are on a low wage, and some of them stick around for a long time and some of them don't. It is great when they do, and it's not hurting anybody when they don't. They give the centre their time and help, while they themselves learn a myriad of practical skills and a great approach to disability that they take home with them when they leave. The 19-year old college student who worked at the centre for a few months or even a few sessions is unlikely to behave ignorant towards disability later in their life. What the CE centre takes, gives back to the community. Everyone benefits from this. Some volunteers are children themselves: 15, 16, 17, and they are out experiencing work. Some of them are disabled themselves.
    Of course, there are worries what all those untrained people are doing with the kids; but there are no dangers of any kind. The sessions are always led by conductors who are responsible for everything, including the volunteers. The conductor is responsible for training them, keeping them busy at all times and giving them jobs that they are fit to do. It's the conductor's responsibility to know what each volunteer already knows, what they still have to be shown and explained, and what they can be trusted with. There are sometimes a lot of volunteers. It's the session leader conductor's job to choose the volunteers they need for the group to facilitate the kids, the rest usually leave the classroom and do other bits and bobs from a to-do list, under the direction of a senior assistant (who knows everything!) The jobs the volunteers do are on such a wide range that the list would never fit here, but it's anything from cleaning a toilet to shredding old documents or arranging puppets by type to facilitating a kid creeping on the floor. "Wasting" the assistants or letting them hang around and do nothing would be very much frowned upon (if it ever happened!)It's a well-oiled machine.
    Would it be easier for the conductors if the same, well-established, well-trained, dinosaur assistants stayed around for years on end? Of course. However, it would be inherently more expensive. There is no use whining over things that can not be done, or trying to replicate whatever worked in the PAI in Hungary in the 80s, with a firm belief that there is only one good way of solving things. The Rainbow Centre makes the best out of what can be done, in a way that works for that particular community in that particular country, in the 21st century.
    While the conductors are responsible for all the jobs that only conductors can do, there are times when they have to fold towels, clean the toilet, tidy the art trolley or the entire storage room. With all the assistants and the housekeeper, there are still times, quite often, when there is simply nobody else to do these. It would certainly never occure to any of the conductors to not clean up a spilled drink because "it's the housekeeper's job" or that they are too highly trained to do such things.
    I don't know how things changed back in Hungary, though. If I told the conductors as a 1st year student that "i'm here to learn to be able to conduct self-care activities, I'm not an assistant" and refused to fold and put away the big pile of towels I was given, I would have most probably found myself outside the door in a short notice. I doubt, however, if such conductors indeed existed, that they would last long at places like the Rainbow.

  7. Konduktor-asszisztens

    1. Is this the correct expression in Hungarian?

    2. Where can we read specific information on this new course in Budapest?


  8. Andrew,
    1. The expression is: "Konduktorsegítő"
    2. Not very specific, Hungarian:

  9. Thanks. no wonder I couldn't find it!

    And the English equivalent would be 'conductor aide' (not 'aid').


  10. PART 1
    I have been working with conductive assistance since I graduated nearly four years ago. They are an essential part of the conductive program offered by the Movement Centre in Canada without them we would not be able to offer programs to so many children and adults with movement disorders as we do. Right now we cater for more then 60 clients a week with only 2 conductors, this way we can conductively help a big number of clients with the limited resources the charity has.

    We offer classes with up to eight clients with only one conductor and do need most of the time one to one staffing to ensure everyone safety at all times. This is giving the opportunity to the conductor to move around and ensure that everyone is receiving the right level of help and learning for the assistance as well as clients can take place. We have a couple of very good ‘dinosaur’ assistance in the class who are very good at what they do and without them we would not be able to run the program to the quality level we are doing now. Because we run seasional services we have a lot of different groups with different needs and it is to observe that our assistance struggle to transfer their skills or adapt it. I was trained to teach parents the skills to work with their own child at home so they can be conductive parents. I was also trained to show facilitating skills and share pedagogical observations with other staff members who themselves were training or already have been trained in conductive ed Training those assistance to transfer their skills is like training them to become conductors with only the practical experience and little theoretical base.

  11. The assisting staff is mainly hired to assist during the program but they are also helping to keep the centre clean and yes fold towels. This is part of the job and I have done it myself when I had the time. However, I usually use the time when my assistance fold the towel to do ‘my’ part of the job only a conductor can do like talking with parents or other professionals, writing reports, planning the program or helping to think about the schedule etc. If my assistance are done doing the routine work like folding towels, putting program stuff away, setting up the program it is my responsibility to keep them busy which usually requires time and energy I feel I should spent doing my ‘conductor jobs’.

    We are not in the position to accept any volunteer or job applicant as an assistant. We have a huge staff turn-over due to stress of the job (and boy it can get stressful), small wages, less then full time hours as the assistants only can work maximum 30 hours a week and finishing their degree and finding a ‘real’ job. Any volunteer or job applicant usually works in the group for the day or session in order for us to see if they have what it takes to do this job. This could be either a keen sense to learn, bright and motivating personality, natural or learned ability to recognize good and bad body positions or natural teaching skills. The educational and personal background is important as this usually shows the eagerness or motivation to learn. Students of different professions like physiotherapist, athletic therapist, occupational therapist etc usually have motivation to improve their professional skills and turn out to be great assistants. Also people with couching experience do really good as they are interested in teaching. We stopped training anyone as this seemed to be counterproductive to our clients as well as the trained person himself. We invite volunteers to watch and ask questions but usual only train them if there are interested in a long term position.

    Before studying to become a conductor I was a conductive assistant in Germany for many years and know how mentally and physical exhausting this job can be. Also what one has to recognize is that a conductor assistant position is pretty much a dead end job unless one is willing and able to move into a different country to become a conductor (like two of our former assistant already did) or move on to a different profession.

    The points I am trying to make besides sharing my experience is that our full-time assistants are irreplaceable in our organization and need to be recognized for what an amazing job they doing even though they get rewarded rather sparely (if you take out the fact that they are making a different in children’s and adults life).
    Further, training those assistants demands a lot from the conductor training them and it can have a affect on the progress a client makes, but is the only way a small charity can offer conductive education at such a big scale.

  12. I don't know how about you guys, but I'd love to read more of these accounts from different countries and establishments.

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