Monday, 31 May 2010

FortSchritt Rosenheim blickt optimistisch in die Zukunft!

At last – an active German CE-blog?

Fortschritt (the German for 'progress') is the generic name adopted by most German parent-run CE-centres. The Forschritt in the city of Rosenhaim is using blog technology as a means towards greater awareness of the progress that it is making. I have only just spotted this blog but it has in fact been going now since February:


This latest posting reads as follows.

Rosenheim Fortschritt looks to the future with optimism!
Rosenheim Fortschritt was founded five years ago now by the parents of physically disabled children. It supports the Sunshine Petö-kindergarten in Oberwöhr and outreach classes in Rohrdorf. At this year's annual meeting,the Board looked back on an eventful year.
After seven years' operation, complete renovation of the kindergarten has been necessary. It was carried out in the summer by the volunteer work of parents and staff of the kindergarten, and a new kitchen was built from donations. Enthusiastic students of Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences students built a disabled playground as part of their thesis. The public relations of recent years has paid off and there are significantly more applications for early intervention and kindergarten. The class in Rohrdorf has been enriched by new first-graders. A new ruling of the Federal Social Court in Autumn 2009 has reopened the possibility of conductive day-care places in the district of Upper Bavaria. The intention to help CE societies in Germany by being better recognised and give them a boost.
The highlight of the association's work last year was successful participation in the Rosenheim Business Plan Competition "Climbers". The management team came in at second place with 27 votes plans with with its plan for a new 'school for all', i.e. for disabled and non-disabled children. Work is now under way, the idea will become reality in the autumn 2011. The are still many hurdles hurdles to surpass but the Executive Board and parents are proceeding with great enthusiasm. Sponsors and a suitable building are currently being sought in Rosenheim district.
With this track record and continuing commitment, it was not surprising that all old board has been re-elected, unanimously. Particularly gratifying is that also Daniela Raab (Member of the Federal Parliament) is again again the Managing Committee's disposal.

Any corrections to this translation most welcome.

More on Fortschritt Rosenheim


Plea for further information

Is this really the only active CE-blog in the German language? Suirely not. What else is there out there?

Germany is a growingly important part of the world of Conductive Education, but most English-speakers have little awareness or, worse, distorted information about what goes on there. The Fortschritt parent-run organisations have been and remain the cutting edge of development of conductive services in Germany and are well worth watching.

Lessons to learn?

What lessons do the German (and the New Zealand and the Israeli) experiences offer less thriving contexts?

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Congress submissions

Where the process is now

Information from the Congress website

Abstract submission for the 7th World Congress on Conductive Education has been closed on 17th May 2010. We received about 200 abstracts from more than 18 countries or regions.

Submitted abstracts will be immediately be processed by the congress secretariat and forwarded to the Scientific and Programme Committee for reviewing. The acceptance notification will be announced by e-mail to the first author as early as possible.

Scientific and Programme Committee

Chairman
LEUNG, Nai Kong, Vice-Chairman, SAHK

Members from Hong Kong
CHOW, Daniel H. K., Professor, Department of Health Technology and Informatics, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
CHAN, Sophelia H. S., Specialist in Paediatrics, Associate Consultant Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong
TSANG Vicky K. L., Assistant Professor, Department of Early Childhood Education, Hong Kong Institute of Education, WONG, Lai Yin, Paediatrician
O'CONNOR, Joan, Honorary Conductor, SAHK
SU, Ivan Y. W., Honorary Conductor, SAHK
CHENG, Clare Y. K., Honorary Conductor,
FONG, Cheung Fat, Chief Executive Officer cum Ex-officio,, SAHK

Members from Hungary
KOZMA, Ildiko, International Peto Association
BALOGH, Erzebet, International Peto Association
TASS, Ildiko, András Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training
SZABO, Eva, András Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training
HORVATH, Julia, András Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training

Member from Israel
SCHENKER, Rony, Tsad Kadima

Member from the United Kingdom
BROWN, Melanie, National Institute of Conductive Education

Member from the United States of America
O'SHEA, Roberta,Governors State University

Secretary
KAN, Chris K. H., SAHK


All reviewing work will be completed by June 2010. The acceptance or rejection notification of all submitted abstracts will be announced to the first author by e-mail no later than 30 Jun 2010.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Careless talk costs... I should take more care

Thee are important things to discuss
Clearly, and publicly 

Postings on Conductive World are rountinely notified on Facebook.

Yesterday's brief item on James Forlitti's unbridled delight at finding a conductor to come to British Columbia was notified on Facebook as follows –

Andrew Sutton British Columbia back on the map of the world of Conductive Education?

Too much haste and too much contraction into a small space: The term, 'Conductive Education', what did this mean? Here is the exchange that followed fast of Facebook, in part because of  ambiguity from loose terminology, but also introducing an important matter of substance:

Robert S. Kurz United States on the map in the Conductive Education World? No way! Too busy with their heads up their you know what!!!!!

Debbie Raymond Heintz I live in Wickliffe Ohio and just today got my school district to pay for my daughter to attend Rising Star Learning Center for Conductive Education part of her week and regular school the other part of the week. Unfortunately we seem to be the exception to the rule as many other school districts just don't get it...I hope this changes because CE is not going away...

Robert S. Kurz The current path of CE in America is not sustainable! Our school district in Maryland wanted to hire 15 Conductors and still after a year of searching, NOT A SINGLE CONDUCTOR has applied for even one job! This was our program, too damn bad we couldn't find a Conductor to keep it from dying!
http://www.wusa9.com/video/default.aspx?aid=77997&storyid=89302

Debbie Raymond Heintz  wow Robert that is really devastating..I don't know what else to even say- so is the program over for good? So sad if it is...

Robert S. Kurz Hello Debbie, Yes its seems like it is over because the funds are gone now! The school district could not just save the cash in a shoebox, so its now been used for other programs...quite a shame!!!!! ACENA, Dr. Schaffhauser and Conductors everywhere should be embarrassed by this shameful situation!

Conductive World had been in error here not to distinguish between conductive upbringing, conductive pedagogy and conductors working in school systems – or maybe other practices under the 'Conductive Education rubric too. Humble apologies to everyone involved.

What has been going on?

Meanwhile, something rather important has been partially revealed. Cool heads and sharp distinctions will be needed in addressing its ramifications and implications. And above all, transparency.

Reference

This exchange may not yet be over. Facebook subscribers might wish to add their own views to this, at:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1540593482

And of course, comments are also welcome below.

Friday, 28 May 2010

'Brave little Amy....'

Long term benefit from Conductive Education

Relying solely upon memory, it was in the latter part of 1986 or, at the very latest, early in 1987 that the Leamington Spa Courier ran the headline 'Brave Amy off behind Iron Curtain'. Even at the time, this headline seemed to stand as a type for the tone and focus of local press coverage that was sweeping the United Kingdom.

Standing up for Joe had been shown on the BBC on 1 April 1986 and, even before the very cold winter that followed, individual families were alread upping stakes and taking their cerebrally palsied children off into the dark unknown of what was then Eastern Europe.They had to dig deep into their own pockets to do so but most were buoyed up by the spontaneous generosity of their local communities. Their local media, print and broadcast, played a vital role in these events. RACE (Rapid Action for Conductive Education), what by had verty quickly become a national action group with its sights on making the importation of Conductive Education a policy priority for national government and  had sprung from informal comings together of parents from Coventry and neighbouring town In those early days, Coventry and Warwickshire were the national hot-bed for the fresh and vigorous conductive movement. (I suppose that this hot bed was in fact the origin of that movement worldwide.)

Long Itchington is a small village outside Royal Leamington Spa, which is in turn a town outside Coventry.. The Clennell family were amongst those early pioneers who took themselves and their child to Budapest, hence that local newspaper story and its epitomising headline all those years ago. 'Brave Amy' was six-year-old Amy Clennell.

The Iron Curtain is no longer with us but the Leamington Spa Courier is still extant (unlike many other local newspapers of its time). In a town like Leamington, I can well believe that its staff may not have changed much over the last twenty-odd years but, even if some individuals have passed on, its house-style persists.

Unlike the Iron Curtain 'Brave Amy' is certainly still with us, though – as far as her local newspaper is concerned – she is now 'Positive Amy'.

Read the story in this week's edition of the Leamington Spa Courrier to see something of what she has done over the last last twenty-four years:

– (2010) Positive Amy is living the dream, Leamington Spa Courier, 27 May

Let joy be unconfined

It certainly is in British Columbia

http://zsippzsupp.blogspot.com/2010/05/oh-boy-oh-boy-oh-boyo-boy-oh-boy.html

As James will know, that was Lord Byron.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Barely spoken assumptions

None the less powerful for that

'Aptitude, but not ability'

Early on Tuesday morning I was barely awake when I half-heard someone reported on the BBC's Radio 4 as saying that 'academies' would be able to select some proportion of their pupils on the basis of 'aptitude, but not ability'. I think, though I am not certain, that the reported source of this statement was the new Secretary of State for Education for England in the UK's new Coalition Government – Michael Gove. This formulation itself, however, is not new. It has been around for years now and was bandied around by the late but as yet little lamented New Labour Government. When it first appeared or who or what coined it, for what intention and with what meaning, I have no idea.

It is of course meaningless twaddle, both lexically and psychologically, and tells us nothing about any material entity or process that might be related to children and their education – nor is it of practical use to positive, developmental-pedagogic practice (though I wholeheartedly accept that it is of considerable utility to politicians, bureaucrats and saloon bar discussions the length of the land). More usefully, it also signals the possible implicit understandings of those who say and write it.

Mr Gove seems and intelligent and educated man and, as befits his previous career in top-end journalism, a highly articulate one. Maybe it was he who had stated this about the Coalition's new academies. Be that as it may, I challenge anyone who utters this hollow mantra to offer an articulate account of what is meant by the distinction raised by the phrase 'selection by aptitude but not ability', with appropriate empirical and/or theoretical justification.

Change, what change?

Education most certainly needs renewing (not just in England and not just in the UK). The UK's new Government's new approach to this is substantively the same as the last one's old one (and that of the the one before that and so on in seemingly infinite regress across the whole span of living memory).The perennial politician's solution to fundamental dysfunction in the education system, in the UK and lands like it, is to rearrange the same old deck-chairs on the same old deck. Unfortunately for the country and its upcoming generations successive governments and their professional advisers have had and still apparently still have an inverted notion of what constitutes the deck, and what the deckchairs when it comes to transforming education..

Governments seem to believe that the material base of the education system lies at the level of its financing, organisation, institutional structures, management etc. – that's the deck. Upon this base, the psycho-pedagogy of pupil and teacher constitute no more than a superficiality – the deckchairs. So, when politicians (not just the present lot by any means) come round yet again to the notion that education just isn't working and 'something has to be done', they turn like their predecessors before them to the only mechanism that they can construe, and seek a new way to rearrange the organisational/managerial/financial structure.

So now England is going to have 'academies', defined by yet further new funding and governance arrangements – their actual teaching processes remaining under the tight bureaucratic control of the same old inspection system ('Ofsted'), according to the same old standards.

A strange approach to a problem of long-established historical intractability: bang on with yet another version of solutions of the same old sort as has not worked in the past. What fundamental is addressed? Nothing. Where in five or ten years' time will the schools be, with their new name-boards by the gate and a new relationship to the state, somewhat different to the present one? As far as the teaching and learning of the entrapped pupils are concerned – nothing relevant will have changed in the actual processes of teaching and learning. So why should outcomes.

Try a different perspective

Turn the whole matter upside down and make psycho-pedagogy the fundamental – the decisive factor – in reorganising schooling. Regard administrative, financial and structural matters as secondary to this, and you just might be able to step over and out from such psychological and pedagogically meaningless sloganising as the postulated distinction between something called 'aptitude' (good?) and something else called 'ability' (bad?).

'Aptitude' and 'ability' are surely not just words, mere incantations/ Presumably they are intended to mean something. But the crying questions around the deck chairs seem presently regarded as far too secondary a matter for those steering the ship ever to accord them serious and critical consideration If they were to, then they would have explicitly to acknowledge that the implication of this phase is something to do with distinguishing between what is potential modifiable and what is not.

If this is what is believed, then it should be explicitly stated (just like it use to be in less squeamish times!) and its implications dealt with explicitly in whatever manner seems most socially effective and politically expedient. Then people could consider the political formulation, 'aptitude, but no ability' and its practical implications, for what it tells of the basic understandings and intentions of those who direct the education system – and perhaps of many of those who work in it too. In practical terms these may well manifest in unquestioned (and inarguable) givens about what constitutes children's potential (as opposed to their present levels of development)and ways in which how this might be realised.

Perhaps such understandings and intentions have no need or even room for elaborating real psycho-pedagogic science and real transformative practice. Indeed such understandings and processes might even prove a nuisance if they were ever to establish a substantial much a foothold here in competition for present understandings, and even present ways of seeking change.

To to my mind at least, this helps explain why the country and others like it are in the educational fix that they are.

As ever, Conductive Education

Perhaps this pervasive, rarely implicit paradigm, that who you are is the predominant determinant of who you might be, constitutes an important part of the seemingly irresistible barrier that stands firmly against Conductive Education's attempts to break out of the small bridgeheads that it has established across the Western world.

What might the conductive movement do to change this limitation to its world? Anything?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A shocking question

Does anyone have an answer?

The question

I have been asked one of those apparently simple questions that make one look again at a familiar field – and find that it is not familiar any longer! It was quite a shock. Maybe I just don't know the field, or maybe there is no longer one there.

I was asked the question on behalf of 'a young psychologist who shows the interest in specializing in CE and is searching for the psychological bases of that method'. Wonderful, there should be many more such. There is certainly plenty, divergent and hypothesis-raising material to read, there are lots of people to talk to with all sorts of 'psychological' ideas, there is the most extra-ordinary range of practices to investigate. Above all, there is a need for more, formal psychological involvement in all this.

Here is the simple question that I was asked. This young psychologist is looking for a university-based psychologist with an active interest or involvement in Conductive Education, to guide him critically and comprehensively into this. Could I direct him to one?

The shock

There was a time that I could have answered this simple question with ease. Casting around the world, at a given time I could have offered him several potential contacts. Never many, but always more than one. They would have been mostly involved with specific aspects of the subject, as many academics tend to be, but doing this thoroughly, as mostly they tend to.

That was then, and this is now. Now I cannot think of any – not a psychologist, not in a university, not actively involved, not anywhere.

I could be terribly wrong here, simply out of touch. If so, it is a shock (a beneficial one) to be woken up and realise just how out of touch I am.

Or it could be that I am not out of touch, and it is indeed objective reality that there are no longer academic psychologists actively involved in the psychological questions fundamental to conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing. Given the welcome beginnings of pedagogical articulations amongst practitioners, it is indeed a shock to be woken up sharply to this paradoxical situation.

The answer?

I am working on the hypothesis that I am wrong to think that there are no psychologists active in the fascinating field of Conductive Education. Please prove me wrong in this. Please tell me whom I am missing.

Your answers would be of practical help for this young psychologist, educative for myself – and perhaps tell us something quite important about the world of Conductive Education.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

András and Rita Szarvas

Memorial ceremony and plaque

It is almost a year now since conductor Rita Szarvas and her son András died on Air France flight 447 from Rio, in the early hours of the morning of 1 June. 2009..

The anniversary will be marked by a memorial ceremony at the school that András had attended in Ludlow in Shropshire. Further details:

– (2010) Assembly will remember former pupil, Shropshire Star, 25 May
http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/2010/05/25/91437/

228 people died, passengers and crew. The cause of the crash remains undecided. Investigations continue.

Rita

http://www.facebook.com/people/Rita-Szarvas/638443160

Magyar Mayor

From Érd to Poynton

Nothing to do with anything much but the story of Gábor Bartos is a nice one. It is all over the UK newspapers this morning and others might like to read it:

Jerome Taylor (2010) Refugee from Communism becomes mayor of Poynton, Independent, 25 May

The group's number one in the Hungarian charts does not seem to have made it on to YouTube.

This is the age of austerity

And it's only just beginning

We are moving from an age of plenty to an age of austerity in the public finances

So says David Laws First Secretary to the Treasury in the UK's Coalition Government, announcing the first round of public-spending cuts to try and save the country's economic bacon,

Commentators presently seem to agree that those announced so far amount to only in the order of ten percent of the cuts that will be required.

Fasten your safety belts. It's going to be a rocky ride. Here we go, ready or not...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Dr Andrew Wakefield, 'autism' and CE

Lessons to learn

Today came the British Medical Association's long-expected judgement on Dr Wakefield, he of MMR vaccine and 'autism' fame. He has been struck off the register of the British Medial Association, which means that he can no longer practise medicine in the United Kingdom.

So what does this say to the world of Conductive Education? Two things, one structural to being 'professionals' (to which conductors aspire) and the other substantive to the very nature of disability and how it is understood (which afflicts CE around the world).

The doctors' profession

Dr Wakefield's name has been struck of the register of the British Medical Association. This is an association established and run by doctors themselves (at their own not inconsiderable personal expense) and, by long-standing arrangement with government, the BMA has the monopoly on the registration of doctors.

It is of course a national organisation. Other countries have their own registers, maintained through whatever arrangements have been developed, each according to its own.

Conductors still may be heard complaining that there are no 'international recognition' of their qualifications, no 'internationally accepted' professional standards. The doctors do not have such a thing, nor do the teachers, nor does any analogous trade. To wish otherwise for conductors is to mistake the nature of 'professionalism'.

Striking off Dr Wakefield's name means taking his name off a list. For this there must be a list to take it off, and safeguards about who is admitted to this list, to meet publicly available criteria, and who remains upon it. The list itself has to be publicly available and there have to be sanctions to encourage conformity with the expected standards. People have to be able to complain, their complaints have to be properly investigated and, if there is a problem, then there has to be due process to make sure that justice is done and seen to be done.

Codes of practice and ethics, professional codes are all very well but they are meaningful only of they exist as part of a complex public system to ensure their enforcement.. Otherwise,words, just words...

The doctors' error

The business that brought down Dr Wakefield stems back to a paper that he and colleagues published in 2002. The actually study has been analysed and re-analysed by the world's media and now by the BMA, and its bones picked clean of all flesh then scattered to the winds. Read about it, in any language if you can bear to. The original article was published in the Lancet and is available on line – at a cost. Here, however, is a cover version (I know that this is the wrong expression but I cannot recall the correct one):


The word 'autism' is a strange and powerful ju-ju that brings about a widespread suspension of disbelief in people who ought to know better. I have seen and heard this story chewed over for eight years now, but people just do not seem to see a fundamental question behind all the high-sounding talk of 'science' and 'ethics'.

Much ink has been spilled over the study population that Dr Wakefield and his colleagues reported upon,how it was found and how it was treated. My question is 'Who are they?' or, more specifically, 'What do they have in common to justify this investigation and all the attention lavished upon their 'autism'?'
  • 12 children... with a history of a pervasive developmental disorder ... Neurological and psychiatric assessments were done by consultant staff  with HMS-4 criteria.
And what is 'HMS-4'? I'm puzzled here but its is clearly referenced clearly to the current (fourth) edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 1994, commonly referred to as 'DSM-IV.' In this, the diagnosis of autism requires that at least six developmental and behavioural characteristics are apparent. This is presumably the basis for describing nine of these dozen children as having in common 'behavioural disorders included autism' – what the Wakefield et al. call 'neuropsychiatric dysfunction'.

And if you want to check on how a 'diagnosis' of autism is arrived at under DSM-IV, go see for yourself:


Some science!

The doctors' error, not just these doctors', is to think that such classification, followed by the leap into diagnosis of a supposed 'neuropsychiatric dysfunction', is sufficient basis for a programme of scientific investigation. The mental and behavioural are unproblematically medicalised – and no questions are raised. Whatever happened to Thomas Szasz! In the twenty-first century is medical imperialism of this kind really an acceptable 'ethical' stance?

If anything, the hegemony of the unquestioned assumptions of fundamentally biological determination of developmental disorder has been strengthened by the long fuss surrounding l'affaire Wakefield. No wonder Scope offers such a muddled course on brain and behaviour (this site, yesterday) – without a dynamic, systemic, developmental understanding of disability how could it do anything but? Classification systems are not a solution, and may indeed bolster the problem

And Conductive Education is swept along in the rush.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

More news from New Zealand

A CE-country to be watched

From the New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education, National Co-ordinator Dave Ching writes with further news –

NZFCE & NZCA had a very successful AGM and Seminar in Auckland on the 6th & 7th May. The conductors stayed on over the weekend for a series of working parties. I have attached a set of reports that were presented at the NZFCE AGM. Also the Conductors' Assoc. set of Professional Standards....

All centres are carrying out a variety of activities this week, Conductive Education Awareness Week. They are holding Open Days, promotions in city malls, fun activity days with invited guests etc. We have provided all facilities with a number of promotional resources: multiple copies of a promotional DVD, suitably inscribed wrist bands, pens, coffee mugs, balloons & sets of posters. Each facility is tasked with as wide a distribution of these as possible within their local areas, targeting Government agencies, other service providers for the disabled and the general public. As usual it is difficult to attract media interest but we have achieved publicity in local papers.

We held a promotional evening in Gisborne a city that does not have a facility and which attracted over 40 persons....

Kind Regards

Dave Ching

The Professional Standards document from the New Zealand Conductors Association is very interesting. Note that it involves 'professional standards' rather than a code of this or that. I do hope that the NZCA can publish it on line so that the wider world of Conductive Education might benefit from the example.

As for the reports from all the centres, can you imagine all the CE-services in any other English-speaking county (or many others either) turning for at a national meet, and reporting there of their provision? In fact, can you imagine the extraordinary divergence of practices that such an event if it ever happened would bring together under the supposedly unifying 'Conductive Education' rubric? Can you imaging an organisation of employers and employees acting in such concert


What is the 'ingredient x' that the Kiwis have brought so successfully to the table?

The following, by the way, is presumably, is one of the local newspaper stories that Dave mentions:

Right-on balderdash

Snake oil for the mind

Behaviour and the brain
Age range: 0 – 4 / 5+
Half-day or one-day course

“It was more in depth than I thought it would be – I was fascinated. Very enjoyable.”

Many hard to change behaviours may have a neurological cause. The only way to change and maintain behaviour will be through managing the environment and changing the way we set up play and learning tasks. The way children behave can be influenced by the way the brain works. Sometimes behaviour is hard to change even when we do all the right things. This session looks at how the brain can influence behaviour and how, if we understand the difficulties, it makes it easier for us to work with children with behavioural needs. Participants will:
  • recognise how the impact in the brain affects its development
  • learn how these changes commonly affect behaviour
  • know more about what these behaviours look like
  • be able to use ways in which we can begin to address these behaviours
The whole day course enables participants to discuss individual needs and begin to problem solve as a group. For more information or to discuss individual training requirements please emailearlyyears@scope.org.uk or call the Training Co-ordinator on 02920 662405

Confused? There is also a diagram!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

In Hebrew translation

Mandy Elliott's Challenge me!

Judit Szatmany announces that her conductor colleague Mandy Elliott is to publish a Hebrew edition of her Challemge Me! cards:

There are two sets of these cards, one for movement activities, one for speech. It is the first of these sets that is to be published in Hebrew.

To read more, and to order the cards directly from the author:

http://www.challengemecards.com/order.html
The English versions are also available directly from suppliers in Australia and the United States.

In Australia –


In the US –


For further, plentiful information and links, see:

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Big W

Coming, ready or not?

When the Recession started there was talk about the possibility of a 'double-dip', W-shaped recession, that is a dip (such as we were patently going through) followed by something of a recovery, such as governments have been trumpeting over the last year, followed by a second dip, perhaps bigger that the first, as economies crash back into if anything even worse recession.

Graph it, and the line of such a double-dip recession is shaped like a W: down, up, then down again...

No, it could never happen and business-leaders' continue to reassure us that business is 'recovering', indeed doing quite well. If only one trusted their judgement a single inch.

That is not how Angela Merkel is telling it. And in the UK we will have an emergency budget on 22 June (before which a lot could happen, none of it good). Already the doom-sayers are suggesting that even the UK will be seeing civil disturbance, 'debts, cuts and riots' etc. of the sort already evident in Greece. We may yet be hearing rather more of the terms 'double-dip recession' and 'W-shaped recession'.

(The term that I used in the title of this piece, 'Big W' was the name given in the UK to Woolworth's super-stores – sorry, it just came to mind).

Conductive Education

A year or so back Conductive World devoted quite some space over a period of time to the onset of the Recession and its possible effects on Conductive Education.

Looking back over the last year, though, there seems to have been little public indication of economic downturn in the affairs of Conductive Education. New centres, new programs, new jobs, expansion. Perhaps this public face, the news that people want one to hear really has accurately represented the economic health and prospects of Conductive Education. There has been virtually nothing about contraction, even closures, or failure to afford services, or conductor-unemployment. Such matters tend not to get into the public domain – or maybe they just have not been happening.

Anyway, Conductive World has continued to report the good news as it arises, not least because that is also what people want to hear, and tried to avoid any hint of what the Germans call Scheißenbedauern, disappointment at things' not turning out quite as badly as one had expected!

Maybe they still will not, in which case, for all sorts of reasons, I shall be delighted. In the meantime it is a question of chin-up and avoid the doom-sayers (sample: this week's headline story in the New Statesman, see below).

A toy story

So, rather than hang around at the book-store, scanning the disheartening Anglo-American intellectual and social press, it was straight off for a bit of discounted (half-price) retail therapy, to take my mind away from economics.

For the first time in quite a while, I bought myself a toy.

Like almost every single thing in the toy-shop, it had been made in China. It was beautifully designed, well made and well packed, robust and and ridiculously cheap. The instructions were excellent, it does what it says it will do and it flew straight out of the box.

(Oh, for Conductive Education that could be described in such terms!)

In the closing years of the old Soviet Bloc I used to collect Eastern-Central European toys. As objects from low-cost low-wage economies, they were wonderful, every one of them. As toys or as consumer-goods you could hardly say the same. The Czechoslovak and East German stuff was quite good and at its top end might just about hold its own against Western products – though it was much cheaper. Hungarian stuff – well, so-so: some was fine, with excellent play value. Some, however, was much less so. But oh dear, the Soviet stuff! Fight your way to a counter in Detskii Mir (and I do mean 'fight'!) and you would be rewarded either with the most terrible tack, disintegrating before even out of the box, or something so over-engineered... Even cheaper, though, but unsellable on Western markets other than as curiosities for collectors.

My only role today in the economic process that produced my new toy has been to buy it. No choice really, look around the shop: there was virtually nothing else to buy. I and that toy shop stand as types for the Western consumer and increasingly nearly our whole economy. The toy industries of Birmingham and Nürnberg are as extinct as Monty Python's parrot and so are those of the old Soviet Bloc..

Is this almost total reliance upon Chinese manufacture the root of the West's present economic ills? Well, yes, at one level. But I paid for my purchase in cash. I have never had a credit card – unlike so many people. I just would not trust myself with one. The Western world, however,  is awash with debt, drowning in it. People, institutions, nations, whole currencies.

Economics lost the Soviets the Cold War. They just could not compete, either on quantity or quality.

So, when China starts manufacturing Conductive Education, smaller, cheaper, more robust etc. than what is presently available on the old Euro-American market, in the economic realities that lie ahead, to be paid for money-down.

Reference

This week's New Statesman

British practice to expand to Germany?

Programs for children, adults, plus more

Conductive Education (Konduktive Förderung) is relatively widespread in Germany.

A British CE practice is currently exploring possibilities for outreach there.


Two in a day. Coincidence of course. But indicative of common responses to tough economic straights – who knows? And who's next?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

British practice to expand to LA?

Programs for strokes and Parkinson's

Conductive Education for adults remains scarce in the United States.

A long-established London practice is currently exploring possibilities for outreach in Los Angeles:

That's the way to do it

Continuing progress and coherence in Godzone


Last week Auckland saw the coordinated annual national meetings of the New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education and the New Zealand Conductors Association.

Just finishing is the New Zealand Conductive Education Awareness Week, 17-21 May.

If you do not know how far the Kiwis have progressed in creating a locally based, national system of Conductive Education for the benefit of children, young people and families, take a look:



Of course everything in the garden is not lovely (the Newsletter linked to above will give a clue to the serpent skulking there) but what other CE association in the world has such a glorious email address to live up to?

Codes for conductors

Practice. Ethics. Discipline

László Szögeczki's CE blog has launched a public airing of the difficult question of codes of practice, ethical codes and disciplinary codes for conductors:


Can anyone offer any further examples of such documents?

One that I know of...

I know that there is something in New Zealand but there is no mention of this on the otherwise informative website of the New Zealand Conductors' Association.


I shall ask.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Rave on

It's a crazy feeling...

Conductive World returns here to a familiar theme – on the basis that, as long as it does not become tedious, a good thing cannot be said too often! The topic is the sloppy use of language and the dangers that this poses alike for those who require services and for those who work in them.

Interconnections Quarterly Journal

I was reminded of this yesterday by a circular email from Peter Limbrick, Editor of the on-line Interconnections Quarterly Journal, as I did to all those who have previously had material published in that journal – as I did a couple of years ago, in its first issue. Inter alia, his email granted those working  authors permission to quote their articles in full once they had been on line for three months.

IQJ is already good value for those thinking critically about alternatives to present services for disabled young children and their families – not just those in the United Kingdom:


It is a pity that IQJ's offer is one not more widely made. Anything that removes potential barriers to easier communication is to be welcomed. The complete article, what was an 'opinion piece', is therefore reproduced in full here, along with the Editor's own concluding note.

A concern for language

Interconnections Quarterly Journal, vol.1, no 1, April 2008

1984, 2008, 2050
Andrew Sutton

Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world

Every week on Radio 4’s Today programme John Humphrys determinedly challenges government ministers and other worthies to explain what their clichés and gobbledegook actually mean. For without real meaning policies are unrealisable, and they and their perpetrators are just that little more unaccountable. That goes for all of us.

Policy and practice

They say ‘a fish stinks from the head’, but the tendency to blur meanings and distinctions has not just happened top-down but thrives at all levels, to the extent that one must question whether we have a technical vocabulary at all worthy of the title.

Here, in no particular order (except that my least favourite is at the beginning) are some frequently met word and phrases:
  • support, cope, wrap-around, roll out, evaluation, needs, monitoring, assess, joined-up, choice, community, feedback, networking, consultation, inclusive, efficient, evidence-based, fast-track, targets, deliverables, standards, hands-on, come to terms, partnership, value (as in value-added), best practice, counselling, quality/quality-assurance, vision, benchmark, audit, leadership, access, challenge, closure, engage, assessment, stakeholders, diversity, celebrate, reflective, critique, key, synergy, team, toolkit, leverage, discourse, empower, green…
There can be few who read this list who cannot add their own.

Many of these words once had real meaning but it can be hard now to convey that original sense – rendering the sense itself at risk of extinction. How, for example, can you now unambiguously refer to what used to be meant by a ‘student’, or what used to be understood to constitute ‘leadership’?

Where do such new words and meanings come from? Some are ‘warm fuzzies’, that appear to mean something and in fact don’t – but aim to attract a benign glow (‘community’ is used a lot like that, in different ways). Then there are words that once had real, even distinguished, meaning but have been so bandied around by politicians, academics and bureaucrats as to be now actively misleading (think of ‘inclusive’). There is psycho-babble (‘come to terms’), post-modernist discourse (‘engage’), an avalanche of management-speak (pick your own examples, there are enough of them!) and any government coinage meant to signify a new idea (‘joined-up’).

Ministers and officials love such words. Read or listen to their utterances and cringe. But what is on offer instead in the way of a technical vocabulary through which to communicate and extend – yes and to challenge (original sense) and refute – concepts and practices central to the actual services that clients receive?

Of course there should be new words and concepts as the world and our understandings of it change (even perhaps in some instances advance). When language changes we all play our part. Do we know what we are really talking about half the time, do we speak in a truly technical language mutually understood?

What is a ‘special needs child’? Who attends a ‘special needs school’? What exactly does a ‘special needs teacher’ or a ‘special needs assistant’ bring to the party in the way of additional skills and understandings – and the special activities that these imply? What on earth does ‘inclusion’ mean in

this country today? What does ‘autistic’ convey? What is ‘dyslexia’ when it’s at home? Does the word ‘play’ have any commonly understood meaning and is the newly fashionable word ‘pedagogy’ any more than hot air?

Unsupportable

My own least favourite jargon word is ‘support’. In my ordinary real-world English dictionary the word ‘support’ already has 11 definitions. In the world of social policy and provision (somewhere that can sometimes seem not just another country but another planet) the range in its meanings seems infinite. Worse, such meanings are rarely if ever defined, one blurring unproblematically into the next, without apparent need for clear boundaries. You can support children and their families, support special educational needs, support inclusion, support pupils with disabilities, support the curriculum, support language, support emotional development, support behaviour (and even support ‘challenging behaviour’), support communities, support teachers, support support assistants...

Perhaps most fundamentally, and most undefinedly you can support learning – what does that mean in concrete terms that everyone can sign up to? In every instance ‘support’ presumably represents one or more professional practices that may or may not be defined (but are rarely identified) by this single all-encompassing word.

Even within a single example, does the word ‘support’ have a single specified meaning that everybody – or anybody – understands? What does it actually tell us that somebody will be actually doing, say, at 11.15 on a Tuesday morning, in the real world of practice? What specific skills will be exercised, what particular activities undertaken, what is really going to be happening? What can users of the service actually expect? A Statement of Special Educational Needs that declares that there should be ‘support’ is no more acceptable than a prescription that just says ‘medicine’.

Whoever you are – no-nonsense grass-roots practitioner, manager or decision-maker, academic or researcher – try a personal experiment. For a whole week, every time that you hear or read the word ‘support’, ask yourself exactly what this means in practice. As for yourself, every time that the word springs to your lips or your computer, or even enters your thoughts, jump on it and hold it back. Try instead to express exactly what you mean in practice. If you can think of a better word then communication and thinking – and maybe practice too – will be that little clearer. And if you can’t, well, maybe you didn’t really have anything practical to say or do in the first place.

Parents, clients, expect something rather better than this when they first enter the Orwellian realm of the ‘support services’. What is the matter with our children? What are you going to do about it? What is going to happen? How will this all turn out? What do you mean by ‘Support for their special needs?’ Real people want concrete answers, not flannel.

An ‘Orwellian realm’? In the novel 1984, George Orwell foresaw a fictional language called Newspeak, the aim of which was to make any alternative speech or thinking impossible by removing words or constructs permitting independent thought. By 2050 all knowledge of the previous language would have disappeared and the whole literature of the past destroyed. The underlying theory was that if something can’t be said or read, then it can’t be thought.

Orwell was a bit out with his dates. I remember the year 1984: it was nothing like he predicted. Already in 2008, however, and not just in ‘special needs’, his 2050 seems well on its way! How many younger professionals, for example, can read and understand the technical literature of not so long ago?

We are not, however, helpless. If the solution of this problem is not in our own hands, then what is? The first issue of a freely available, open-access Internet journal seems a better place than most to advocate a fight-back.

Editor’s note

Andrew has asked me to give a mention to Conductive Education World, www.andrewsutton.blogspot.com, which wanders into fields seemingly far beyond Conductive Education, from Airfix to Vygotskii’

References

Sutton, A. (1998) 1984, 2008, 2050 Interconnections Quarterly Journal, vol.1, no 1, Apri

This topic has been returned to several times in Conductive World. The above piece is a (for me!) fairly concise statement of the point. Should you wish to see more, then go to the left-hand column of this page, scroll down til you come to the heading LABELS, and click there on Languages for a variety of topics, including this one.

PS

I have just spotted that I have published a further article in IQJ:

Baker, W. and Sutton, A. (2008) Parent-child interaction as focus for early intervention: experience from early-age Conductive Education. Interconnections Quarterly Journal, vol. 1, no 2, pp.14-22

I ought to give that one the same treatment.

Afterword

I was talking with a group of people about this posting when the title and subtitle that I had given it arose. Some immediately recognised the words (and remembered all or most of the rest). The others just looked blank. They divided on the cusp of age – above 62-3 and below.

Whilst I know that there are deeply steeped youngsters under that magic age, I know that many or most of their peers may have no idea what I am talking about if I mention the day the music died – not the excellent song of that name (and what is the age threshold for that?) but 3 February 1957.

I could not find a decent video of the man himself but this sequence from The Buddy Holly Story is very good, and so redolent of the time that it portrays:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frwf6nVQdTY

1959: was a good year for popular music. And as a bonus I decided to drop History in favour of Psychology – and keep on with the Russian. In retrospect, one of my better decisions. Without which...

And here's the other number that I mentioned:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAsV5-Hv-7U

That was 1971, only twelve years later. A lot had happened musically in those years – as the song recounts.

I suppose that the threshold age for this one is around 50!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Mystery solved

Step forward Rhoda E. S. Waiss

No mystery here. You can read more about Rhoda and her plans at:


Also see this article by Rhoda and Zsuzsi Borcsok:

Weiss, R. E. S., Borcsok, Z. I. (2008) Conductive Education: complicatus eliminatus, The Exceptional Parent, 1 September


More perhaps soon.

Previous item on this topic

A vlog

Cerebral palsy, not Conductive Education...
None the less instructive for that

Another terrific parental video from the United States:

(2009) Zachary’s Cerebral Palsy – Effects and Therapies,18 May


And just as fascinating, the comments that have been written to this – really, advanced societies should be thoroughly ashamed of their institutions for abandoning parents (and therapists too) to such a state of confusion.

Unless I am missing something I could not find a means of identifying or contacting this family. If I still had the resources I would be sending him a copy of Dina – why has nobody had the knowledge or the nous to have told him about this already? As it is, I do so hope that he finds this posting and gets a copy for himself.

Good luck to this family anyway. Perhaps they will meet someone able to help them develop their care and their intuition into a focussed conductive upbringing, and protect them from the Siren calls of all the 'therapies' under the sun.

Reference

Ákos, K., Ákos, M. Dina: a mother practises Conductive Education (Pető System), Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, and Ulm, Alabanda Verlag
http://tinyurl.com/GoogleDina
(Extracts)

Monday, 17 May 2010

The better sort of mystery

Who is this wonderful Mom?

http://www.5min.com/Video/The-Benefits-of-Conductive-Education-for-Children-with-CP-287355498

A really pro video, having a commentary with very little to take exception to – and a lovely dog.

Who is that mother, who made this film?

Encouragement to report

For me, and for you

Last Wednesday Conductive World reported on the recent CE Awareness Day held at the Ontario Legislature:


From March of Dimes Canada, Janet McMaster writes –

Hi Andrew,
Found your blog on the Conductive World site and was delighted to read your detailed review of our April 28th Conductive Education Awareness Day at Queen's Park, here in Toronto, Ontario. Really good coverage. Wondering how you found out about it?
I write from the Government Relations & Advocacy department here at the March of Dimes where Conductive Education makes its home. We were delighted with the outcome of our efforts. It would be good to keep in touch with what you're doing. Thanks for the press.
Best regards,
Janet Macmaster
Gov't Relations & Advocacy
March of Dimes Canada

Janet, I asked

I wish that more people would let me know more of what they have achieved or what they intend so that that I might share this more widely. As it is, usually they don't, and I cannot pass on what I do not know.

I am also left holding all sorts of information in my head picked up casually in conversations or emails. If the occasion arises and it seems important, then I ask for more information and corroboration but I usually do not have time. Frankly, I usually can't be bothered to be more proactive. Such matters then simply lift out of the record and for all I know that suits those involved. Sad.

What is 'news'?

It is pity that more things don't get chased up and made public. I like the definition that says 'news is what somebody doesn't want reported'. In a field like Conductive Education (and there certainly are fields just as information-hugging and outright paranoid as Conductive Education)  all sorts of nonsense and skull-duggery are kept under wraps. Most such matters ultimately fade away without anyone's ever knowing of them (a good enough measure of their actual importance in the first place) – or they drift ultimately into the public domain anyway, by which time their only significance may be that awareness had been withheld, a cover-up or a whitewash..

There is nothing underhand or secret about MODC's fun-day at the Ontario legislature, that was after all intended and treated as an awareness event!. It was worthwhile knowing about more widely, not just in Ontario but across Conductive Education worldwide, because such awareness helps others in CE to up their game. I knew that it had been held over, as this has been announced. So I asked.

Confidentially

As my informant on this did not indicate an active wish to be quoted personally, identity was withheld. I do not like not attributing, not least because CE should know who are the open, sharing people in its ranks, but I do know that organisations can be unpredictable and sometimes dangerous beasts, so my default rule in this respect: is no names, no pack drill.

So Janet, thank you for writing in. Do please let MODC know that its CE programs amount to much more than a hill of beans but that, at the same time, far too few people in Conductive Education know about them. They do, however, indicate a major disability service-provider's considerable commitment to a movement that has deplorably few such friends – not least across North America. This makes for a good debating point for others who advocate and argue for Conductive Education, wherever they might be, whether their concerns be for children or adults, services or training. So shout out what you do and what you have done in this respect, and what you should like to do, trumpet it from the rooftops. Please.

And that goes for everyone else!

A previous such missive

By no more than coincidence, almost exactly one year ago, I wrote –

Sutton, A. (2009) Become a stringer for Conductive World, Conductive World, 8 May

ACENA in Toronto

Choice of topics

The Association of Conductive Education of North America has announced the initial programme for its annual conference, to be hosted this year by March of Dimes Canada in Toronto on 27 and 27 August, with an interesting choice of speakers and topics:


The topic for the conference is announced on this programme as –:
  • Setting the Conductive Education Compass: connecting, communicating, championing
The call for for submitting abstracts for further presentations is open till 31 May:


The topic for the conference is given here as –
  • Conductive Education: Building an Educational and Medical Partnership
Extras include a reception at the top of the CN Tower and a Niagra Falls Tour.

Registration form:


Credit for informing of this event to American Conductor Kasey Grey: