Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Abandoned by its crew

But no harmless Marie Celeste

Drifting aimlessly in Cyberspace, abandoned by its crew and its legitimate passengers, is the elaborate American website Conductive Education Communications Center. Its was planned with high hopes but seemingly little knowledgeable advice, it launched late and never really got under way, setting of with unjustifiable hope invested in active audience participation and a commercial income stream, and to much reliance upon automatic systems.

Now its creators and original supportes have left it to float aimlessly as cyber-junk, presumably till its URL expires and its sinks to the Davey Jones locker of the Wayback Machine .

This is no empty present-day Marie Celeste, however, but a real danger to shipping. Innocents searching for information on Conductive Education through Google and other search engines may soon run into it and clamber aboard to explore. If they do they will find parts of the wreck now occupied by uninvited guests. They will find its Discussion Forum overrun with pornography, gambling and dodgy pharmaceuticals.

Today Google Alerts delivered me, not uniquely I now know, an automated notification, inviting me aboard. Wondering whether the site was active again I went and looked. I have enough trouble with my computer without the effects of whatever it might have picked up from this visit before I realised what was happening and abandoned ship, p.d.q.

Conductive Education does not need this sort of public awareness campaign!.

Someone should deliver this wreck a coup de grace and and give it an immediate, decent burial. Since this is an American site, perhaps here is a job for ACENA.

A line of thinking

Ten points

The recent posting on muscular dystrophy on the Conductor blog has generated a couple of further Comments, from usual suspects Gill Maguire and Becky Featherstone –

Thank you to Becky, whose contribution to this discussion sent me spinning off along a line of thinking that goes something like this...
  1. Perhaps it is of little surprise – as there is so little 'CE-literature' in general – that, within what little there is, a minority interest is likely to generate none at all.
  2. There seems a considerable implicit assumption within CE (reflected without) that 'proper' or 'pure' CE is ideally definable by what has been done at the Pető Institute within living memory. Muscular dystrophy has not been done there over this period – ergo it lies beyond the Pale.
  3. More fundamentally, there is an again usually unstated presumption that CE is classifiable and sub-classifiable by medical conditions rather than an educational/developmental understanding that human learning is created out of interactions with the environment, particularly the social environment – which goes for everyone. To distinguish a diagnostic group as different per se at the pycho-social level is to set CE wholly apart from the rest of special education. Deaf or blind children are not defined as eligible for appropriate kinds of deaf or blind education according to their diagnosis, and one would hardly expect a Feuerstein or a Meshcheryakov to decide eligibility on the basis of aetiology. Note that it is not conductive pedagogy/conductive upbringing as such that is the oddball here: only 'Conductive Education' as defined under points 2 and 3 above.
  4. Until CE shakes off medical delineation of its applicability then it will remain outside special education and, since is is outside medicine too, it will remain in Limbo. Limbo is not necessarily a bad situation in itself but it has on-the-ground implications that limit CE's application in the real world and, more importantly, in the long run it cuts CE off from carving out a future niche in its more 'natural home': education.
  5. There is another major gap in the cosmology of CE's knowable universe. It has often been remarked that a dangerous Black Hole within Conductive Education is that conductive pedagogy is not often explicitly described – never mind investigated. But bigger still is the Dark Matter that is everywhere, unseen. For want of a better word from elsewhere I refer to this as 'conductive kinaesiology', probably not a very good expression but the best that I have. By this I mean Conductive Education's knowledge of movement.  I suspect that most of knowledge is implicit, be it from whatever source. learned from Nelly or even autodidactically. It is not written down and the question must remain open whether CE even has a specifically conductive knowledge base in this respect, to share with and/or distinguish it from other intervention approaches (I rather suspect that it does).
  6. If there is a conductive kinaesiology, then I presume that this is conceptually distinct from conductive pedagogy but interacts with it both practically and theoretically.
  7. Granting point 7, then conductive kinaesiology may rather more related to diagnostic condition (though no necessarily linearly so) than is conductive pedagogy.
  8. Nit picking? Perhaps. But the present alternative of blanket terms lets down CE and its potential beneficiaries (clients) – and rnders it almost impossible to discuss. Of course, as with developmental stages for example, CE may be 'done' differently according to different physiological manifestations which may show a tendency to reflect broad diagnostic categories – and sometimes a surprising capacity not to! If CE is to confront such distinctions and tease out its own corresponding distinctive responses, then perhaps it would help not simply to distinguish the conductive from the pedagogic but also the pedagogic from then kinaesiological (please, do help me with a better word here, if there is one).
  9. Why just 'motor disorders'? Presumably the answer this lies in point 2 above, that is these are what the Institute for Motor Disorder (State or Pető) have done in Budapest within living memory. There is, however, nothing written down – no history – to say what it did before, and how,nothing published, anyway. Out in 'the West' slight breaches have been made in the motor-disorders position, for example by those who have worked with so-called 'dyspraxia' and motor delays, but there has been no radical move out into other, more distinct areas. If there is indeed a discernible 'Pető method' within the broader body-mind approach to healing that his work appears to have represented (and believe it or not, even this has yet to be adequately described), then perhaps it is time for those with experiences and implicit skills/knowledge – for the most part focussed within application to a single motor disorder – to get on their bikes and see what might be profitably exercised  exercised in pastures new.
  10. And stop limiting what they might potentially achieve by talking first and foremost about conditions. They are first and foremost pedagogues, after all.

Mallett, S. (2010) Muscular dystrophy and a conductive upbringing, Conductor, 21 June

Sutton, A. (2010) CE and muscular dystrophy, Conductive World, 29 June

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

CE and muscular dystrophy

Information and reassurance, please

On the Conductor blog, Susie Mallett has written an extensive posting about her conductive experience with children and young people who have muscular dystrophy.

She closed her posting by asking others with knowledge/experience of conductive practice with such children to write in, share and discuss – in the event, to no avail. She than added a further comment, in which she addresses me personally (though there are surely others enough who could better answer her historical question) –

Andrew, a question for you in relation to muscular dystrophy When you were visiting the Pető Institute in the early days, before I was there studying, do you remember ever having seen or heard of groups for children muscular dystrophy?

Here is my response, as posted on the Conductor blog –

In 1984, in my first visit to the then State Institute (those were socialistic times, and any thought of the Pető Institute that was to come just a few years later, was quite unthinkable). Yes, on that first visit I did ask Mariá about children with muscular dystrophy.

She told me exactly what you were told, at the start of the nineties – almost word for word – that the other children found it very distressing when such children died, and so children with this condition, and other life-limiting conditions, were no longer admitted.

I recall regarding her explanation as implausible. Partly this was due to the way in which she told it, in that rather hasty, shifty manner that I later learned was how she spoke when she was being economical with the verité (I had plenty of opportunities to observe this, and to check and double-check what she was saying, on a variety of topics over the years that followed!). Partly, though, the a priori implausiblility of what she was saying stood out: it just did not 'fit' somehow with what I saw and what I heard of about how she ran her Institute.

Yes, I smelled a rat but, and here was another of her familiar traits, cold, steel shutters would come down instantly if one tried to question or argue with anything that she did not wish to discuss. I am sure that you will recall this one, as others do. I had known her for only a few days when I asked about muscular dystrophy but I already knew that it would be fruitless to pursue this.

I was left with just speculation. Was this the result of a diktat from the Education Ministry that she had fought and lost,and had no choice but to obey? Was it pressure from the staff that she had had to bow to, but would lose face by admitting to an outsider? Was it a result of her own decision in response to some single case that she now regretted? It would surely have been distressing, as it is in any school for children to dies in her close-knot community: but maybe the State Institute had not dealt well with this, which she was embarrassed to admit. Who knows?

Two things, though, do emerge:

(a) the conductive pedagogy/upbringing had been used with children with muscular dystrophy, right up unto the ends of their lives;and

(b) it had not reportedly been discontinued for reasons inherent within Conductive Education (or, if you wish to continue speculate, maybe it had but it did not 'work' – and that is something else that she could not bear to admit!).

Not a lot of hard information, I am afraid. It is gratifying to read above of satisfactory practice outside Hungary, that tends to answer the parenthesised speculation in (b) above.

I do hope that someone writes in to fill in this small but vital gap in our understanding of the applicability of Conductive Education

It would also offer some public reassurance that the trade of conductor can assume some of the substance rather than adopt superficial trappings of being 'professional' in the established sense.)

A fragile craft

For the moment, as far as I know, Susie Mallett's posting represents the world's sole communicable knowledge of the practice of Conductive Education with children who have multiple dystrophy – which is rather more than there was a week ago! What a fragile craft (both senses) is Conductive Education. A single further written contribution would double the written knowledge base on this topic!

What happened here has been wholly predictable. Whatever reason that this particular practice ceased, then that was it. Memories apart, the light had been snuffed out to be rekindlable only as long as there are conductors who have the confidence and the flexibility to adapt what they know from 'other conditions' – but then they are on their own.

How secure and safeguarded is the conductive knowledge across all of the conditions to which it is potentially applicable – not just those that survived over the 'classic' stage of the historical development of Conductive Education, which is about as far as living memory now extends.

With the wisdom of future insight, what other losses might seem to have been wholly predictable?


Mallett, S. (2010) Muscular dystrophy and a conductive upbringing, Conductor, 21 June

Monday, 28 June 2010

More research is needed.

But just like this?

Monday again, so here through the email comes the weekly collection of abstracts of academic articles on cerebral palsy from (largely medical) journals. If you would like to receive a copy of this free information-update for yourself, then sign on at:

This weekly email is just one of the activities of the Cerebral Palsy Institute which is an arm of the Spastic Society of New South Wales. If you did not do British Imperial geography at school,New South Wales is a state within the Commonwealth of Australia (the bit with Sidney in it). I mention this because this weekly research bulletin is just a part of an ambitious range of activities of national and global span – all this part of a parent-initiated association within a single locality.

Each week this listing reflects a very medical view of what constitutes the essence of the cerebral palsies – and correspondingly, one presumes, in understanding how one might intervene on behalf of individuals and their families.

Week after week, it also illustrates some of the shortfalls of the worldwide medical-research effort when it stretches out to non-medical, human issues.

I could remark on common factors apparent within some of these abstracts but, No, those who read Conductive World are consenting adults. If they care about the medicalisation of human problems and, to use a medical term, its possible socially iatrogenic effects, let them scan this bulletin for themselves for a few weeks, and come to their own judgements.

If you wish to do this, go to the URL provided above, sign up and wait for your first bulletin.

I wonder how much longer now I shall continue this exercise, looking for things of human value. Ah Luriya, whatever happened to Romantic Science?

ICF and Conductive Education

Promised posting

At the Plenary Round Table of the XX. Anniversary Conference of Tsad Kadima, Tel Aviv, December 2007, Peter Rosenbaum asked –

Today, the ICF is a central framework, which should guide our work and thinking, both for clinical and research activities in childhood disability.  Please try to ‘place’ the ideas of the approach you represent into the ‘modern’ conceptual framework of the ICF. 

This is a transcript of my impromptu reply –

Conductive Education has remained largely untouched by the International Classification of Functioning, Heath and Disability. Internally at least, Conductive Education has not needed this, as it has already implicitly moved on to the next stage, which involves mechanisms for change not just classification.

Conductive Education represents a systemic view of human mental development – whether that be a matter of normal or disordered development. From such a viewpoint, the human biological entity exists and acts upon a social world that acts reciprocally back upon the individual, out of which active reciprocity culture is transmitted to each new member of society, emotional bonds are shaped, concepts are formed and our individual psychological worlds created. This is cumbersome to express, but it something that most of us already 'know' from the experience of our own lives. But what happens when some vital biological mechanism is affected (perhaps a child cannot hear, or cannot see) that is vital that is to establishing and maintaining effective, reciprocal transactions with a child's material and especially social worlds? Then we get what Vygotskii (1983, pp. 67ff.) called a 'social dislocation' (English reference translation: Vygotskii, 1993, pp. 76ff.), akin to the physical dislocation of, say, an arm. In the case of a physical dislocation the structure is out of joint, it does not function properly, and it is painful to try.

So too with a dislocation of the process of development If social interaction is out of joint then the reciprocal processes of learning may proceed in a deformed or dysfunctional manner (note the word 'dysfunctional'). This in turn affects the formation of the child's psychological qualities, and the quality of the parents' upbringing of their child, feeding back to the social or even to the biological level, establishing a vicious circle of non-productive learning and development. It is perhaps surprising that developmental psychologists, for all their enormous interest in children who are blind or deaf, have almost wholly ignored the development of children with motor disorders.

When development is dislocated by motor disorder, what is the conductors' task (rather, what is the task of Conductive Education because parents' upbringing should play as important a role here as does conductors' pedagogy)? It is to ensure that all parties involved seek actively to find ways to correct the negative systemic cycle, the chain of consequences that leads from the biological through the social to the psychological, and replace it with a self-reinforcing, benign cycle of learning and development (in the language or Conductive Education, to replace dysfunction with orthofunction).

In a way the International Classification of Functioning already covers this, and so it does but at a descriptive level.

So there you have the dimension, the stage upon which Conductive Education plays its role, whether implemented by conductors or conductive parents, not at the level of the underlying condition but in its systemic sequelae in the social and psychological spheres, where problems arising through learning are met by solutions brought about through pedagogy and upbringing.

If the ICF makes it respectable to mention such levels of effect, then so much the better for the plausibility of Conductive Education, and perhaps Conductive Education has till now missed a chance by not speaking more in the language of the ICF. But the practice of Conductive Education is based upon a rather more dynamic understanding.

A shortened version of this text has recently been published in the Israeli Journal of Occupational Therapy, as part of a report of the whole Round Table. My thanks to Michal De La Vega, Chair of the Israeli Society of Occupational Therapy for confirming that my publishing this original here does not trespass upon ISOT's rights, and to Rony Schenker for mediating.

The reason for publishing this transcript here in full is partly to establish intellectual rights and partly to indicate what was really being argued. The previous posting on this matter refers:

Sutton, A. (2010) CE and ICF, Conductive World, 21 June

Full report of the Round Table:

Schenker, R., Capelovitch, S., Sutton, A., Rosenbaum, P. (2010) Conductive Education and NDT-Bobath: experts' discussion on history, development and current practice, Israeli Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 19, no 2, pp. E31-53
(URL still awaited)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

UK: here we go again

Hope springs eternal

As a born and raised Essex-boy, I wish the very best of luck to Rebecca and Martin Lock of Burnham.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

It's the same the whole world over

Where do you live?
Wherever you are, it's not the end of the world

Where does the following report apply?

Is this David Cameron's United Kingdom?

...taxes are high, the budget's a mess, the government is inefficiently organized and the public pension fund is blown to kingdom come... approaching the brink of fiscal calamity, as the crash of 2008 and its persistent aftermath have led to the reckoning of 2010... the third straight year of staggering budget deficits and the necessary cuts will cost jobs, limit services and touch the lives of millions... And massive shortfalls in public pension plans loom as well....

How did so many people forget all at once that the bubble always bursts?

It's tough to cut the benefits of police officers, fire-fighters and schoolteachers. But the long recession has cast a glaring light on the fact that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job turnover, relentless downsizing, stagnent wages and rising health-insurance premiums.... Many public-sector workers, by contrast, enjoy relative job-security, and the number of government jobs rose even as the overall rate of unemployment shot just past 10% …

The great reckoning of 2010 took us years to create and will be years in the fixing. It is not as if the economic crisis isn't plenty painful already. In government, as in life, there are cuts that injure and cuts that heal. As they continue to slog through the wreckage of the Great Recession, state and local leaders have a challenge to be surgeons rather than hacks and make this era of crisis into a season of fresh starts.
No, this is Barack Obama's United States:

Drehle, D. von (2010) Inside the dire financial state of the States. Time Magazine, vol. 175. no 25, p.26-32

'Leaders' (ludicrous term) are currently conferring at the G8/G20 in Toronto. There are divergent views about what to do about the current mess, the Europeans will cut, the US wants them to spend their way out of it. Hey ho, it's economics, as dodgy a 'discipline' as you will meet anywhere; even by the standards of those contiguous to CE:

(personal belief +ideology) x perceived political advantage

On the ground, however, the users and the providers of services who will have to live their way through all this are stuck down very similar holes, even the statistics look hauntingly similar. Germany and France are initiating their own programmes of cuts – and as for the Japanese economy...

This is a sea in which we shall all have to learn to swim, maybe even the Chinese after their own boom plays out.

The carnival is over

Cheer up, let's have some music

The title of this posting comes from the chorus of the song 'She was poor but she was honest', popular among British Army soldiers and Royal Navy sailors during the First World War, originally a song from the working-class British music hall tradition –

It's the same the whole world over,
It's the poor wot gets the blame,
It's the rich wot gets the pleasure.
Ain't it all a bleedin' shame?

(There are many other variants and versions, often scurrilous.)

There is nothing new about hard times, in Britain or anywhere else, nor about how its effects are shared out across society. Hard times are not, however, the end of the world and you can still laugh and sing, make and mend, and come through it in time (maybe a long time, more than a single generation).

For those who do not know the tune of this song, here it is in a somewhat Bowdlerised version:

To my untutored ears the tune sounds strikingly evocative of the Russian folk song Из-за острова на стрежень ('The ballad of Stenka Razin') – an obscure memory from nearly fifty years ago when I sang, or rather bellowed, in a russkii khor). If you don't know the story of Stenks Razin – don't ask.
In Britain, and even more so in Australia, this version of the tune is better known, with very different words, as 'The carnival is over'.

Here are two incomparable renditions, by Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov and Australian Judith Durham respectively:

A pity that that these two great voices never got together!

And so, back to Conductive Education

The Russians (and the Soviets in general) – now there's indication that whole peoples, well almost the whole of them – can live through far harder times than we hope for in our own forthcoming 'austerity', and still extract and experience sterling values. And it is a bit of a truism that one possible fruit of such times is  inspiring and innovative pedagogy (fill in your own examples) – rather more so perhaps than may emerge from times of plenty and excess.

The great advances from the Hungarian stage of the history of conductive pedagogy came from social and material circumstances that were austere, to say the very least. What since, and if any – where?

Possibly an invalid line of thought but a crumb of comfort nevertheless, as the carnival is certainly over now.

Friday, 25 June 2010

My own Spending Challenge

Abolish statementing (recording in Scotland)

This morning's posting on the UK's Spending Challenge concluded with the government's challenge to us all to come forward with ideas for possible cost- and efficiency-savings in the public sector, and with my own initial personal thoughts in response to this –

Your idea could be small-scale, but quick and easy to put into action. It could be more radical, involving significant changes to where and how government works.

My own first thoughts turn immediately to the process of statementing for special educational needs. Maybe aspects of Surestart too. Any other suggestions?

Postings on Conductive World are notified routinely on Facebook, on which this evening Sheila Fuller commented with a peremptory challenge of her own – 

What would you introduce instead of this?

A short and vital question, to which I offer the following immediate response –

A smartened-up version of the informal brokerage/mediation/negotiation for changing placements that was regarded as advanced practice around thirty years ago (and yes, don't ask, sanctions in the background for really oddball situations.

Outside deaf and blind education, and to some degree in intellectual disabilities, there is precious little formal special-educational skill to be claimed by schools (special or other). This is not to deny the attributes that which exist, differentially, at the personal and institutional level, that lies anyway outside the explicit consideration of most statementing. What relevant skills there may be in the 'therapies' hardly matters because (a) in reality they are so thin on the ground as to be virtually non-existent and (b) these are matters for the health service and have no place in determination of a 'special educational needs'.

And of course there is precious little relevant formal skill/knowledge in the assessment process itself. It has made for great job-creation for years but its adds little of value to understanding what can be done for pupils, and the bumf-mountains that it generates go largely unread, anyway. One could dispose of the whole trade of 'educational psychology' at a stroke: would anybody feel a loss?

Loose the psychologists, and all that report-writing by others for the psychologists to summarise, lose the Byzantine bureaucracy to administer all this, lose the tribunals, and you have a decent-sized cost-saving for the Treasury. School placement would be a lot quicker than it is now, with parents spared a lot of grief – but these are not the criteria for this government initiative. What matters is that costs would be saved and efficiencies achieved. Would anything meaningful be lost? The same people would continue educating the same children in the same way, and probably in precisely the same places – as happened after the legislative upheavals of 1944 and 1981.

The prime placement mechanism would be informally exercised parental choice, in a market-place in which schools and teachers will have become sharply aware that remaining in work depends upon pulling their weight.. Within that, if anything 'extra' or special is to be provided, decision would have to be made on the honest (but now explicit) basis of what is and is not affordable. No change in substance bu at least this decision would now be honest and explicit ('transparent').

These administrative measures are proposed fully consistent with the central simple developmental-pedagogic principle that prescriptive assessment in the context of special education provision is an absurd nonsense  – unless of course one expects the pedagogic intervention to have no substantive effect upon the pupils' subsequent development/education . (Admitting this does rather call the whole  business into question! Lose the prescriptive assessment, then processes of proper pedagogic assessment as an integral aspect of the pupils' whole education, just might be developed in its stead.
Thanks for asking this question. It forces me into a quick jot-down of what I would like to say when this consultation is thrown open It took very little time to write and I see that it runs in this form to within the required limit of 500 words. Please, anybody who reads this, be as critical as you like..Point out the flaws and the gaps. Suggest some extras. Then I shall have one proposal at least polished up and ready to go when the Challenge is thrown open to all on 8 July.

PS  In case I have not made this clear, the above does not refer specifically to motor-disorder/physical disability, but to all statementing (and recording in Scotland, for good measure).


This morning's posting on this topic

Facebook page

Angol ruha – by the kilogram

Hungarians do it differently

Original, successful business model from Hungary:

(The site also includes some links to 'ostalgia' items by Sam Margolis, the same photo-journalist as wrote this story.)

Spending Challenge

'Help us get more for less' – HMG

If you work in the public services in the United Kingdom then you should have by now received your personal letter from David Cameron, the Prime Minister.

Public-sector workers are being given first bite at answering Her Majesty's Government's call for suggestions for making significant economies in existing ways of running public services. After 8 July this will be thrown open to us all. This is what the people in the public services are being asked –

The Spending Challenge is your chance to shape the way government works, and help us get more for less as we try to bring down the deficit. It’s open initially to people who work in our public sector.

This week’s Budget set out a 25 per cent cut in spending for most departments over four years. Now, we want you to help us find those savings so we can cut public spending in a way that is fair and responsible. You work on the frontline of public services. You know where things are working well, where the waste is, and where we can re-think things so that we get better services for less money.

Your idea

Share your idea with us. Either one you’ve been thinking about for a while, an idea you’ve had in response to this challenge, or something you’ve worked up with your colleagues. Your idea could be small-scale, but quick and easy to put into action. It could be more radical, involving significant changes to where and how government works. Either way, please be as specific as you can. We may come back to you to to discuss the idea with you in more detail.

You can submit your idea anonymously, if you like. Individual ideas won’t appear online, but every submission will be looked at in the way set out in the ‘What happens now’ section below. The website is open until July 8th, after which the process will be opened up to the wider public.

When you make your contribution, you need to be mindful of your obligations under your organisation’s Code(s) of Conduct

His question is a a simple one –

Q: How can we rethink services to deliver more for less?

Fill in the form below with a summary of your idea in fewer than 500 words. You don't have to include your department or organisation, but if you do, we will be better able to judge your idea.

Don't sit around. Just do it!

What happens next?

Every single idea will be considered and the best ones taken forward by departments, the Treasury and the Cabinet Office. The steps are as follows:

1.   All ideas considered by cross-government team

2.   Serious ideas go to 'champions' team in Cabinet Office/Treasury

3.   Most promising ideas sent to departments and Treasury spending teams to be worked up

4.   Selected ideas reviewed by Ministers

5.   Spending Review announced October 20th

The PM emphasises –

Don’t hold back. Be innovative, be radical, challenge the way things are done. If you think you can make things better for less money don’t just complain to your colleagues about it – tell us about it so we can make it happen

What will YOU do about it?

Here is an unprecedented chance for people involved with Conductive Education in the United Kingdom to submit suggestions that might smooth their way under the coming new order. This is not a poll or an opinion survey, individual submissions will be searched, on the basis of their inherent potential to increase efficiency and cutting cost, for anything that might help trim the system

The Government is not going to sit around while you debate and discuss, it wants to hear, consider and act pretty damn quick. Perhaps you might like to start thinking of your five-hundred words now.

Remember –

Your idea could be small-scale, but quick and easy to put into action. It could be more radical, involving significant changes to where and how government works

My own first thoughts turn immediately to the process of statementing for special educational needs.  Maybe aspects of Surestart too. Any other suggestions?

Website (including video)

Further details

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Pre-congress Social Networking Platform

Coming on line now

Davy Chan has just emailed me from SAHK in Hong Kong –

Thank you for your earlier acceptance of our invitation to be the keynote and/or plenary speakers of the coming 7th World Congress on CE.
You’re cordially invited to join the “Pre-Congress Social Networking System” which is a user-to-user communication platform where registered participants and keynote/plenary speakers get together to exchange ideas on interested topics.
You may browse and read any of the discussion forums without registration.  If you want to post questions or reply to messages, please create your account by clicking and entering "Your name", "Email" (the one you received this invitation), "Password" and "Confirm Password" and click .
Looking forward to communicating with you at the platform.
Davy Chan
Platform Administrator
IT Manager, SAHK

Presumably, everyone who has a paper or poster accepted will also be getting such an email soon, once the processes of formal decision and notification are complete, followed by those who register without submitting...

Let us hope that this forum is successful in breaking some of Conductive Education traditional silence, and succeeds in inaugurating effective conversations and connections well in advance of the real-world Congress. There has been nothing like this tried before in Conductive Education. Congratulations to SAHK

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Talk, talk, talk

Broadening discussion in Conductive Education

Yesterday Rony Schenker guested on Conductive World to lay down a challenge – to conductors and to members of  other groups in Conductive Education – to utilise the extraordinary facility of blogs as a means to extend the communication so patently lacking within the sector:

She is not suggesting that people necessarily start their own blogs (though more CE-bloggers would be very welcome). She acknowledges that blogging might require time and responsibilities that not everyone wants or might be willing to take. Rather, she urges that people take advantage of the blogs already running to express their own views, share their own experiences.


All proper blogs have a facility at the end of each posting for readers to post their own comments on what they have seen there. If you wish to see how short and lively such immediate responses might be, have a look at some of the host of blogs by the (largely American) parents, largely mothers, of disabled children.

You can usually post your comment anonymously, or with a pseudonym, should you wish.

If you cannot manage to post your comment directly for some reason, the email to ask the owner of the blog to post your comment for you.

Or you might be ably to do what Rony did – ask the blog-owner to host you as a guest.


Conductive World is not the only CE-blog in the blogoshere, far from it. You can find a growing list of CE blogs in the column at the left-hand side of this page. The three most active at the moment are those of Norman Perrin, Gill Maguire and Susie Mallett, all very different in presentation, style and specific content.

At the moment there are active discussions under way on two of these –

A discussion leading from Bob Dylan to the nature of conductors' professional art

A discussion around the ICF, and the historical crisis of paediatrics.

But, as Rony indicated yesterday, these discussions reflect the views of a restricted number of familiar people. How much more enriching if a more people would join in.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The longest day

Now the evenings start to draw in

Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, last night was Midsummer's Eve. It never really got properly dark all night. No situation for an insomniac with phantom tooth-ache!

Actually, it could be worse. Some years ago I experienced this night, in broad daylight throughout, in Tromsø, 400 km north of the Arctic Circle. Most of the town seemed to want to be up, I just wanted to sleep, but couldn't. Around 0300 I got up and walked across the road to the dock-front, where a cruise liner had just arrived. It was freezing cold out. I watched the cruise-passengers troop down the gangway to form an immediate huddle around the stall set up there, selling big, very expensive, chunky sweaters hand over fist. I have also been to Tromsø at the other end of the year and could see why the locals were so cheery about their brief summer. It would not be long till winter started setting in again, and their winter really is something else..

The Emergency Budget

Few people in the UK, some new-agers possibly excepted, seem over-occupied with thoughts of midsummer. Yes, it has been a glorious, late-June day, with the Brits out and about in those extraordinary states of undress that now pass as everyday wear at the drop of a meteorological hat. Wimbledon has started and the ubiquitous red-and-white flag of St George reminds everyone of England's latest sporting triumph (holding Algeria to a goalless draw – a national humiliation so pervasive as to penetrate even my consciousness).

But best show of all today was the annuncement to Parliament of the Emergency Budget which, as the wisdom of hindsight will so convincingly demonstrate, may or may not save our national economy and status from going the same way as Argentina's did all those years ago.

One advantage of reduced means is the reduced horizons that they bring with them. The Government has not reduced my free bus pass but how otherwise its new economic policy might impinge directly on my personal well-being it is too early to tell. This leaves me free to contemplate the possible effects on that other impoverished organism, Conductive Education.

Cuts and CE

So what about budget cuts at the social level? Certain 'protected' services will continue to enjoy expenditure at current levels. The Health Service is a Sacred Cow too sacrosanct to be touched (very little health money has ever gone the way of Conductive Education in the UK, so what happens here is effect-neutral). Remaining services are left bear cuts financial cuts of some 25% – as has been foreseeable for months now by all those willing to remove their heads from the sand. This means a 25% cutback, to some degree phased, in the expenditure of education and local authorities generally. How this will be apportioned in specific situations will emerge only as we go forward.

In that Conductive Education in the UK, in different proportions in different contexts, derives a proportion of its income from the public sector, then local priorities and political expediencies might mean a 25% cutback in Conductive Education's public-sector income, or 0%, or 100%.

What about charitable giving? Who knows? How will changes in taxation affect middle-income and  higher income givers? How might greater call on the voluntary-sector services generally impact upon charitable causes that might be regarded as a bit fringy? Again, there will be vast variation from centre to centre, and again one will have to await the wisdom of hindsight. It is also of course much more complex a matter than simply one of charitable giving: local-authority fees and contracts, bank loans and other factors, sometimes very specific to given institutions, will play their part in the fortunes of Conductive Education. One thing is certain, charitable money will be harder to acquire and sustain, and deep and genuinely felt local-community support and hyper-effective fund-raising capabilities might prove critical in deciding survival.

Winter is coming

Each day now dusk will arrive a couple of minutes earlier, and dawn a couple of minutes later. Imperceptibly but inexorably the days and the weather will change.

So too will our economic and social life. Along the way, of course, there will be sudden specific transitions, as services are withdrawn and people's jobs and incomes evaporate from under them. The overall effect will be downwards, and the watchword for all those who remain will be to do whatever it is that they do more cheaply than they do now.

Before we know it, we shall be living in a very different climate from today's.

Why is the conductive community so mute???

An open letter to you all

Rony Schenker writes –

Dear  colleagues and friends,

As I do not run my own blog, I've asked Andrew's permission to express and share my deep concern in public, using this stage. Obviously, he has agreed.

How many of us read this blog, and the others that have to do with Conductive Education? I do not know! I hope, however, that there are more readers than the 'usual suspects' (Andrew's term) who comment from time to time. These are so very, very few. These active participants however, reflect only their own interpretations and insight, and do not represent the rich and varied professional world and experience of Conductive Education. I believe ( and I know many), that among conductors and others involved in the conductive community, there are intelligent, assertive, and knowledgeable people whose vision and opinion I respect and cherish. They are Israelis, Hungarians, British, Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Australians Chinese, and others. I meet them in conferences, I read their papers, we correspond, I work closely with them, and I learn. Non-stop learning. I do not always agree with what they say or do, neither they with what I do or think. Yet, we talk to each other, we argue, each of us may defend our own thesis, but we do communicate. We change ideas, we react to each other, we influence and we are influenced, and we constantly gain new understandings. We change. We develop!

So why am I concerned? Running a blog is a responsibility and a time-consumer. Ask the bloggers themselves. But writing a comment on a blog demands nothing but a few minutes' concentration, putting down in writing what you felt from reading the blog, a stream of thought, or just a remark. You need not think too deeply or chose your words selectively. This is the privilege of communication through blogs. It may be a spontaneous reaction, the shorter-the better. Even the language should not be a real barrier, as you can be helped by the Babylon or the Google translator.

I am concerned because the conductive community, is actually so small that, if we do not 'use' each other, we will either vanish or sink in our own, limited puddles.

It is much less effort to write a comment than to prepare a presentation for a conference, or even write an abstract. It is cheaper, but it is still valuable!!! You may be heard publicly and receive feedback, and tell the world what you do, or what you think, and learn from other people's experiences. Isn't this quite an attractive deal? (No Duty Free on the way, I know, but still…).

Ida, Yuval, Naomi, Avi, Anna, Eva, Julia, Lisa, Mel, Eszter, Lena, Ivan, Kriszti, Zsofi … the list is long… so very long… Where are you???  We want to hear you…

I recall an advertisement by the Spastics Society on the London Tube in the mid-80s, showing a child with c.p., with a head pointer and a computer. The subtitle was: 'The fact that I do not speak does not mean I have nothing to say'.

Isn't that true for us too?

Monday, 21 June 2010

ICF and CE

An a priori developmental position

Two-and-a-half years ago I contributed to Tsad Kadima's twentieth-anniversary conference in Tel Aviv, as part of which I contributed to a plenary Round Table, being quizzed along with Sarah Capelovitch by paediatrician Peter Rosebaum. Peter is an international Big Wheel in the paediatrics of cerebral palsy – and a major ICF-buff. Inter alia Peter posed the following question –

Today, the ICF is a central framework, which should guide our work and thinking, both for clinical and research activities in childhood disability.  Please try to ‘place’ the ideas of the approach you represent into the ‘modern’ conceptual framework of the ICF. 

Ex tempore, I began my reply by stating the following psition–

Conductive Education has remained largely untouched by the International Classification of Functioning, Heath and Disability. Internally at least, Conductive Education has not needed this, as it has already implicitly moved on to the next stage, which involves mechanisms for change not just classification.

I treasure a vivid mental image of the visible shock that passed across Peter's face at this opening gambit. This made it all the more interesting to read what Zsuzsanna Olexa Józsefné has written, as reported earlier today –

Conductive Education has remained largely untouched by the International Classification of Functioning, concerning the adult population. Internally at least, Conductive Education has not needed this, as it has already implicitly moved on to the next stage, which involves mechanisms for change not just classification. But International Classification of Functioning Children and Youth Version changes in the developing child’s functioning and performance and the role of enviromental factors are taken into account; applicable in varying health conditions.

My response on that platform in Tel Aviv was developed on a priori grounds. Looking back and rereading my own words, I consider them rather weak. In mitigation I might claim that I left out a phrase at a critical point of the transcription (Sod's Law!).

More substantively, pace Zsuzsanna Olexa, I was responding to a question posed by a paediatrician and was doing so with the childhood stages of life very much in mind. I was not arguing about adults (though stating this is not to suggest that those arguments might not necessaily apply here too).

Why did I say this?

The wheels of God grind slow in academic publishing and the edited report of that Round Table back in December 2007 have only just been published earlier this month, in the Israeli Journal of Occupational Therapy. I have had my copy of the print version for some three weeks now but last week, when Gill Maguire checked, the online version had yet to be published. In the online version, quite rightly my undisciplined oral extemporisation has been vigorously pruned back for the purposes of formal written publication.

I would personally see no harm in my publishing this original version but the editor of the journal might think otherwise and, anyway, I should not wish to pre-empt online publication of the formal version within its full, wider context (the context, that is of the whole Round Table).

I shall write to the Editor and, granting her permission, I shall restate my original, more elaborated reasons for this position on ICF and Conductive Education, here on Conductive World, for critical comment.


Sutton, A. (2010) András Pető and the Bobaths: new comparative analysis, Conductive World, 6 June

Sutton, A. (2010) It's that ICF again: big advance or fundamental disagreement, Conductive World, 21 June

'Free schools'

Open invitation

On behalf of Paces Sheffield, Norman Perrin has issued an open invitation to other CE centres in England to join with him in exploring possibilities –

The first step is little more than a relatively straightforward 'expression of interest': the completion of a 'Proposal'.

I have begun drafting a Proposal from Paces. 

If your conductive education centre is thinking of making an application – and now is the time – I'd be more than happy to help you do so.

Alternatively, I understand that applications proposing 'groupings of schools' (definition not yet clear) would especially be welcomed. So if your conductive education centre might be interested in some sort of partnership application, I'd be happy to talk with you about that too.

Paces has successfully gone through Registration, Approved status and Non-Maintained Special School status with DfE and we have quite a lot of experience we are willing to share.

I can be contacted on or 0114 284 4488.

You can't say fairer than that.
I wonder how many of those to whom this invitation might apply will actually see this invitation...

It's that ICF again

Big advance or fundamental disagreement

We shall be hearing more about the ICF, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. It might be advisable to get up to speed on this one, before you miss something important or, worse, put your money on the wrong horse.

A current enthusiast for ICF is László Szögeczki, who over the last few days has devoted three consecutive postings on his blog to this topic:

A priori

ICF has been developed to meet a perceived need in health-care systems for a classificatory system that extends to and incorporates disability. Those who are not health personnel might fail to perceive a need for a classificatory system in the pedagogy and upbringing, and intervention into the family and social life of children and adults.

Some, though, apparently do and it would be interesting to hear their a priori reasons for this, since these remain to be explicitly communicated with respect to Conductive Education. It would then be very interesting to follow the next logical step, empirical validation of using the ICF within this role (presumably, given the nature and goals of the conductive process, quite a complex psychometric task).

Along the way there may be interesting questions to discuss.

A doctoral study

On the third of the postings linked to above, László has started to do something rather extraordinary – or something that, becoming commonplace elsewhere, is outside the limited experience of Conductive Education.  He has commenced the serial publication of a extracts from a doctoral study – in English too.

Zsuzsanna Olexa Józsefné is a conductor at the Pető Institute in Budapest, currently involved in a doctoral study at the Department of Pedagogy of the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest,with the following title:

Development of a common language to serve as a scientific basis in conductive education, with the help of the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) and its Children and Youth Version (ICF-CY)

Until László provides further details, it is not possible to determine the status of material of hers that he has already published – for example, what sort of doctoral study this is, and whether it has been completed. That said, even the first episode of László's serialisation offers some intriguing hints of treats to come. Thus, Zsuzsanna writes –

Conductive Education has remained largely untouched by the International Classification of Functioning, concerning the adult population. Internally at least, Conductive Education has not needed this, as it has already implicitly moved on to the next stage, which involves mechanisms for change not just classification. But International Classification of Functioning Children and Youth Version changes in the developing child’s functioning and performance and the role of enviromental factors are taken into account; applicable in varying health conditions.

It will be very interesting indeed to see the evidence that she advances for both parts of this statement of the differential relevance of the ICF to conductive practice with adults and with children.

Another, earlier doctoral experience

Rony Schenker has already commented, on the third of László's postings –

I would be grateful to receive Zsuzsanna;s work for reading. I deal with the ICF since it was first published back in 2001, and it served as a frame of reference of my PhD work as an OT.

Yet I am skeptic regarding its compatibility to CE. It is a health model and not a pedagogical one
I always tell my students, when introducing the ICF model, that if this model existed back in the late 80s, the world would understand more easily what CE has to offer. YET, this does not mean that it is the right choice to refer to it as a scientific basis for measuring outcomes in CE. It is, however, useful for conductivists because of it complexity.

I'm open and ready to change my mind if convinced otherwise

So go on, convince her. It will be interesting to watch the battle lines drawn up.

Fault lines

A quick scan of what László, Zsuzsanna and Rony have already published reveals some of the fault lines within Conductive Education that the field has been happy to leave quiet and unexpressed. László has now well and truly let the cat out of the bag! Of course the whole business might sink back into obscurity. And it might not.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Who is Linda Hua?

What might she tell about Conductive Education?

Linda Hua is a website for those who are looking for an information service that is rather harder to use than Google or the other search engines, and infinitely less useful.

Linda Hua is now on Conductive Education's case. Google Alerts spotted her and informed as follows

Conductive Education.  Linda Hua Answers
Looking for answers regarding conductive education ... for details on a number of particular missions ranging anywhere from education to home to religion and ...

Following the link, and without asking further, I found all sorts of serendippity information. Here for example is an unusual specialist service of a sort that I did not know that I might ever need:

TCS Exhumation Services
Crypt & Cemetery Clearance Services Professionally and sensitively

Well, I certainly know where quite a few of Conductive Education's bodies are buried and maybe one day I shall consider digging them up. I doubt, though, that I shall need specialist help.

And as an aside, I have seen CE lumped in with some very strange bedfellows, not all of them even  'therapies', but this one is surely an all-star.
What I could not find on Linda Hua's site, however, was anything on Conductive Education. Perhaps I was insufficiently attentive, or too impatient – or too easily distracted.

If anyone can take this further I should be interested to learn what Ms Hua says.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Distance training

Possible future option for Conductive Education?

Over the course of April a short sequence of items on Conductive World drew attention how the once single profession of nursing is beginning to broaden, both 'upwards' and 'downwards', to create differing strata of professional competence and autonomy. There are possible lessons here, it was suggested, for future development of the 'profession' of conductor:
Unbenown at the time, a feature in the Guardian newspaper pointed to another area of nursing's professional activity that might hold heuristic value for those considering the possible future direction of professional training in Conductive Education – at whatever level of professional autonomy this might be pitched.

Louise Tickle's article described how in remote areas of the British Isles it is now possible to undergo nursing training, through distance learning in combination with a judicious mix of practical placements.

In the British Isles we hardly know what the word 'distance' means! This article cites as examples Jersey in the Channel Islands and the Mull of Kintyre on the west coastof Scotland (yes, the latter is not just a dire drone, there really is such a place).

Let us assume that Conductive Education emerges from the current vale of economic tears in a fit state again to take up the task of preparing people to provide professional services for individuals, families and institutions. The dazzling variety of such services, at whatever professional level, in perhaps ever more outlying locations, will likely need to be matched by an appropriate range of innovative training progtammes.

Does the account of 'distance' nursing-education provided here strike any chords, in respect both of the basic geographical conundrum and the feasibility of adapting nursing's response to this to Conductive Education's possible future needs for training and educating conductive practitioners?


Tickle, L. (2010) Distance learning provided training for would-be nurses in remote regions, Guardian, 20 April

Friday, 18 June 2010

Something for the weekend?

Apply to open a 'free school'

Download the application form:
(word, 594kb)

A little more of the official line:


Previous item on this topic

(Now includes a comment by Norman Perrin, proposing collaborative action.)





No, it is not 1 April, this is not a hoax, neither is it an intellectual game nor a thought experiment. This is for real. 'Free schools' are a central commitment of the the UK's new Coalition Government for educational reform in England (not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland),

Check for yourself with Reuters and the BBC:


The Government's official announcement of this expected development was made only an hour or so ago.

Details of application will be announced today.

The first Free Schools are expected to open in September 2011.


Start by completing the application form that is to be published on line.

Is there a catch?

At first sight this looks like it could solve at a stroke the problem of establishing free-access Conductive Education. Awkward questions immediately arise.
  • Are the compromises to be made to meet the requirements of Ofsted (the state schools-inspection agency) too great to permit the genuine manifestation of an alternative educational philosophy (the 'conductive essence)?
  • What is a 'conductive school' – are the models so far established robust enough to meet aspirations?
  • What about the rogues and charlatans – and the fools – who might look to exploit this possibility?
  •  Is there energy or talent around in the conductive movement to make the most of this apparent opportunity – and avoid the pitfalls?
Etc., etc., etc?

Negative thinking! The first step will be to consider the form. Watch out for it. Travel hopefully.


More questions. The Government cites Sweden and the United States as its model for this policy.
  • What is the genuine track record of Sweden in respect of conductive schooling – where has this been reported?
  • The one attempt to establish a Charter School, Rising Star's in Ohio, came to naught – what happened?
  • What is the honestly expressed experience of school-based Conductive Education already in England of accommodating to the philosophy of the state's educational system?
  • How are Montessori, Steiner etc. managing – and what are their better organised infrastructures going to do in this new situation?
Such a lot of questions – already!

Parents and professions, and freedom

Michael Gove, Secretary of State has been on the radio, and admitted that this policy initiative is directed primarily towards teachers rather than parents –

We're talking primarily about liberating teachers and other professionals.

And do take note that henceforth in England the term 'free school' will now mean something very different from what it did a generation or so ago (and may continue to do elsewhere). It could even turn out to mean altogether the opposite! It is to early in the game to say yet for certain but perhaps 'freedom' here in reality might not run to alternative educational philosophies, and to the independent pedagogy, goals, curriculum methods etc. that stem from these. What will define the limits of the new freedom?

Asked how the the new system will be policed, Mr Gove replied –

Ofsted. At the moment there are clear measures to ensure that before any new school can be established it has to be inspected by Ofsted, once these schools have been set up they will be rigorously inspected and we know that, if an academy fails, just as Charter Schools have failed in America, that's it, the funding agreement will be terminated, the school will close.

Let's be clear. These are schools of choice. The schools that we are setting up will be schools set up by people who want to enhance what is already there. I am not anticipating failure, I am anticipating success, but we will be rigorous in ensuring tat those who do go down this road will be equipped for success. But if things go wrong, if there's any degree of failure, schools will close

'Free' may prove no licence for liberty!

Another source of questions for the future conductive movement...