Friday, 9 July 2010

Breakout at the Szalkai Farm, Pálmonostora?

Back to the the future

Two hopes

Right from my earliest involvement with Conductive Education I had hoped to see this approach join and synthesise with other, parallel transformative approaches with quite distinct practical specifics but running within clearly parallel theoretical frameworks – and develop onwards outside the relatively confined limits of the 'motor disorders'.

In the United Kingdom I helped the BBC to make a TV documentary series and publish a booklet pointing up the parallels between some such 'transformative' approaches, in the unrealised hope of following up on the astonishing runaway success of Standing up for Joe.

This short series of documentaries, called The Transformers, included an hour-long film about a most obvious contender for such a coming-together, Reuven Feuerstein's Mediated Learning. This seemed a particularly practical possibility because of Reuven's own hope for such a convergence, and at Tsad Kadima's Tentieth Anniversary Conference, held in Tel Aviv in 2007. Reuven opened his arms to the world of Conductive Education.
  • Over the years around the world a few individuals have expressed interest in working in this way and a very small number of conductors have been on introductory Mediated Learning/Instrumental Enrichment courses. Most conductors, however, have not been overly concerned to take on a whole new system, whatever its theoretical parallels.
  • In Belgium Jo Lebeer has had practical experience of Conductive Educatio as a parent. made a theoretical contribution as a neurologist, and has laboured in the international movement to for greater application of Feuerstein's system.
  • As for most CE centres/programs... well, I doubt that they even know of the potential here. One that has shown an interest is SAHK and it may be very interesting for those who go to Hong Kong this December to see how far SAHK has progressed in incorporating mediated learning into its work with children with intellectual impairments, including Down's Syndrome into its present system.
By and large, however, Conductive Education has not enriched and renewed itself by drawing upon powerful parallel systems of doing and understanding.

I am very sorry indeed if I have failed to mention people's hard work. I just cannot recall having seen relevant report of such work, in any language.
  • This may be due to my declining cognitive powers – in other words I have just forgotten things.
  • It may be simply be down to limited grasp of the literature – especially, articles are appearing in Chinese journals about combining something described in titles or abstracts as 'Conductive Education' with a variety of distinct approaches, such as acupuncture. As I cannot read the actual articles I have been lazy and not checked futher. What might one be missing here?
  • On balance, however, I suspect that, even if there is indeed hard work and achievement of this kind out there, then it is falling victim to CE's chronic and pervasive failure to document itself.
The same goes for my other, linked, unrealised hope mentioned at the start of this posting, to see Conductive Education break out of the confines of 'motor disorders' – indeed out of developmental disorders as a whole and into the wider world of human problems. The present confined scope of what is now called Conductive Education seems to have been product of the transfer of András Pető's State Institute to the control of the Hungarian the Ministry of Education back in the early sixties. (Please, here and everywhere, let us forget the silly teleological accounts of the history of Conductive Education, that tell us that CE was developed specifically for working with children with cerebral palsy.)

What has Conductive Education achieved over the years outside the tight confines of what sometimes are impudently referred to its 'traditional' conditions, with clients who are, equally impudently, referred to as 'non-traditional'? Who knows? Where is the literature whereby one might find out? There is no known literature on this. If it has happened, there is no historical record. To restate the brutal reality, whatever the hard work by everyone involved, whatever the real and potential human benefits from this, for the rest of the world it has not happened.

Maybe now, however, harsh economic pressures might now push conductive practice out beyond those supposedly 'traditional' conditions...

Something unfamiliar

István Szalkai's farm, situated in Pálmonostora, near Szeged on Hungary's Great Plain, has been converted into a vendégház (a guest house). It looks idyllic:

It is advertised for use by teachers, families and others wanting to use its services:

The farm is recommended for those who want to know the rural-farm way of life, its beauty, simplicity and tradition. We welcome all who wish to see the sunrise and sunset on the Great Plains, who want peace and quiet, who want to rest in a natural way.

A 'Foundation', has taken up this offer and is advertising the following (in English):

Unique Program for Women with Emotional Disorders Rehabilitation in a Pastoral Setting

The program on a tranquil country farm combines a number of internationally renowned therapies, in an environment that promotes functionality, recovery and independence. The therapies include Instrumental Enrichment (IE), Pető Conductive Education (CE) Ergo therapy, riding therapy and more.

I. For Whom:
A small group of five adult women aged 18-40, with mental/emotional disorders who are ambulatory, at non acute levels. Those who are voluntarily in treatment and are medication compliant, with safe behavior in a normative setting. Must know English.
II. Location:
Szalkai Farm located in Palmonostora village, Hungary. Five days a week. At The Foundation of Mediated Learning, Budapest Hungary-2 days a week. .Round the clock care-takers; Psychiatric & psychological counseling always available.
III. Set up and Therapies
A. On Szalkai Farm, the women will experience Ergo therapy- Community farm life that includes growing produce, tending garden, interaction with farm animals that boosts self esteem, planning, precision and competence. Art therapy and pottery: Bakery; Aqua Therapy – Healing properties of thermal spa and swimming: Riding therapy.
B. At The Foundation – a unique combination of two acclaimed ‘learning’ therapies, now also applied successfully to mental disorders.
1. Prof. Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning and Instrumental Enrichment (IE)
Cognitive and emotional growth through structuring of thought processes. Changing regressive thought patterns that stifle positive growth. Strengths based model. Warm, supportive, professional staff and environment. One on one.
2. Pető Method of ’Conductive’ Education: CE Positive body imaging through exercise, movement. Promotes relaxation & lessens anxiety. Physical changes can assist competency, assertiveness and personality. Group therapy.
IV. When:
Two months X 3 sessions (6 months) recommended but with flexibility for less. First session to begin on July 25th or first week in August. For those interested there will be Rosh Hashana and Y”K services at the Great Synagogue in Budapest.
V. Contact:
Tova Lebovits, Jerusalem 02-6235149 Cell 0504-492145
Krisztina Bohacs program supervisor and coordinator:
1141 Cserebogar St. 49 Budapest Hungary
+36 30 82 66 515

*Kosher healthy home grown food available
*Shabbat as a day of rest.
* Farm. (click on Kepek for pictures).
Immediate questions

A first thought is that this does look redolent of the Central-European sanatorium tradition in which András Pető worked intermittently for a while in Austria in his first years after qualifying.

The Professional Director (szakmai vezetõ) is Pál Rózsa and the teacher (pedagógus) is Krisztina Bohács. The latter is a qualified Instrumental Enrichment worker and works from Szeged University where she is the local contact person for the Daffodil Project. ('DAFFODIL' = Dynamic Assessment of Functioning Oriented at Development and Inclusive Learning is an international collaboration centred on Antwerp, where its International Co-ordinator is Jo Lebeer),

Beyond this I enter into realms of questions and speculation.
  • What did this initiative stem from?
  • What is 'the Foundation'?
  • What is the Israeli connection?
  • What precisely is 'a unique combination of two acclaimed "learning" therapies, now also applied successfully to mental disorders'?
  • Are there other such initiatives in operation or under consideration?
  • Will this prove a major breakout for Conductive Education, or a side show?
One will have to write and ask.


Minnis, F., Overell, G., Sutton, A. (1990) The Transformers, London, BBC Broadcasting Support Services

Sutton, A. (2007) Conductive Education and Feuerstein, Conductive World, 21 November

Sutton, A. (2008) Reintroducing Reuven, Conductive World, 2 January


  1. Knowing the advantages and the common denominator between CE and Feuerstein approach, Tsad Kadima contacted Prof. Pnina Klein, a former student of R. Feuerstein, who developed the MISC (More Sensitive and Intelligent Child) on the foundations of the mediated learning of RF, an evidence based educational approach, proved to enhance the cognitive and emotional development in early childhood, based on improvement of qualitative interaction between parents and children, as well as between teachers and pupils. Up until recently Prof. Klein had no experience in implementation of the MISC on children with CP.
    Seven senior conductors from TK, went through a year course where the acquired the skills and methods to enhance the quality of interaction between conductors and young children with CP. Through videos, analyses and measurements of the process were documented and supervision on implementation of the course in a group setting took place for one year there after.
    We did not analyse the data yet, but we find this collaboration fruitful and relevant.
    I suggested the organizers of the 7th world congress to invite Prof. Klein to deliver a plenary on the MISC, as I thought it is a unique contribution and a relevant one to conductors at large and to the conductive body of knowledge. This, however, did not work out. Maybe in the next congress...
    To read more about the MISC:

  2. I shall get in touch with Reuven and set up a meeting to learn more about collaboration between us (god, if I had one more day every week...).
    Feuerstein's lecture in TK's conference was published in RACE:
    Feuerstein, F. (2008).Conductive Education and Structural Cognitive Modifiability, RACE, 7(1), 5-8.
    With the publishers permission this article appears in TK's website where you have an open access to:

  3. God has only one day a week to offer you and I suspect that you already appropriate much of that one for CE already.

    The salvation her has to be a human one, recognition that pursuing the development of knowledge is a vital component of the continuing well-being of practice. That is up to TK whichk, like most other CE organisations, may find it hard to hallow this activity with the resources required. Oh, to know more about your experience with mediated learning.

    Thanks anyway for rising to my challenge and putting what you have here in the public domain. Allons-y les copains!

    And thanks to for telling about the availability of Reuven's presentation. Most remiss of me to have forgotten this (or maybe I hadn't known: it's awful when you no longer remember whether you have forgotten or not!).

    What other gems lurk on TK's website (in any language)?


  4. Specifically, I guess, this page:

    This page is mainly in Hebrew:.Without doubt it is probably the most important (and at the same time unnoticed) CE-listings page anywhere on the Internet.

    A rashly superlative judgement – so here is another one. The final link listed on this page is to a brand-new ten-minute video 'Twins', potentially the most important single CE-video since 'Standing up for Joe':

    The video is partly in English, partly in Hebrew. So far it has accumulated 125 views over its short online life.

    This Comment will be republished immediately as a posting in its own right on 'Conductive World'. It will be elaborated upon in the near future.