Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ensuring coherent knowledge

Watching the Internet

I am not 'an academic' but I do still expect information to be not just practical but also coherent and valid. Information about Conductive Education, in which good is scrambled in with bad, has been a long-term, major impediment to take-up and implementation of this approach worldwide, a problem now exacerbated by the Internet. This leaves parents and adults with disabilities (and professionals in adjacent fields) facing possible confusion, disappointment and snake-oil.

Viktoria Szolnoki and Donnie Brainard have spoken out strongly about notions of 'therapy' for cerebral palsy:


I admit to having been rather gentler and more oblique when it comes to mentioning misleading/confusing information about Conductive Education,

A dilemma

Perhaps I and others have been too gentle, too oblique. Recently I have been urged to greater frankness of expression. I acknowledge that people mean for the best when they look to inform others (well, a lot of them, anyway) and when they do a franker response may serve especially to offend, in which case I really am sorry. Alternative suggestions of how to resolve this dilemma would be most welcome.

Ultimately it has to be the responsibility of the informed conductive movement to police the Internet, an impossible task in any field and one that no individual wpould be be wanting to do, even if it were do-able. Meanwhile there will be a stratum of sites left stuck in the middle, knowing that there is an important job to be done in informing those who really matter in al lthis, but not having the means to pick their way through the minefields. I am so very glad that I do not have to begin from where people are now. and then try to consolidate all that I find into some sort of sense.

A couple of weeks ago Conductive World commented critically upon a parental-information blog from British Columbia in Canada:


The site offers rich access to conductive upbringing on the Internet, but adds in hang-overs from rather balder, off-key ideas (motor acts/skills, furniture), mixed with existing understandings of cerebral palsy (and Down's syndrome) from outside the conductive tradition. To arrive at your own judgement you can see the posting referred to above at:


This morning came a reproach:


Very well worth reading.

And more...

Conductive Education seems to be really hotting up again in British Columbia (credit presumably to James Forlitti). Just lobbed to me is another page of Internet links that includes a section on Conductive Education, this one from the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC:


Check what parents might find at the end of some of these links. So it goes

I have no time now, immediate or longer-term, to continue commenting and correcting upon the specific content of URL after URL, the Cottonism, the long-closed programs, batting back every ball of this sort that Google Alerts lobs over my net. The numbers and the confusions are likely only to grow. I have already promised as a Christmas present to myself that I shall be closing down all my Google Alerts, and that this gift will be not just for Christmas. I doubt that anyone else will be daft enough to take up this cross, nor should anyone necessarily try. Good luck to you if you do – but please don't call me.

There must better ways. One way might be through local collaboration and action. Perhaps in British Columbia, for example, there is now approaching a critical mass of people interested in Conductive Education sufficient to take on the challenge that, in British Columbia anyway, citizens might in future might be better informed on this topic.

I suspect though that, important or even essential as this might be, more will be needed than that. What do people think that to be...?

Monday, 30 August 2010

More about camps with a difference

Contributions from Susie Mallett, Mhairi Watson, Yuval Tsur and Tim Ahrens

On 24 August Conductive World reported briefly on the March of Dimes Summer Camp in Ontario a year ago, and hinted –

Accounts of other such experiences, not necessarily in Canada and not necessarily in the the form of 'camps', would make a most useful contribution to other people's attempts to break out of the confines of some current practice.


The following responses exceeded expectations.

From Germany, conductor Susie Mallett  wrote –

Andrew,

We call them Überlegungscamp!


The children and teenagers thought up the name, they thought it was funny, sort of a 'survival' camp. A holiday with conductors, they knew that it would not be a doddle! They took the word from Überlegung, which is what you do when you give something some thought!
We book one of the buildings that schools use when the whole class goes on their yearly trip together instead of spending the week at school. There are plenty of these dotted about the country that are rented out to various groups during the summer holidays. They are well situated with access to various activities, near train stations and bus stops, swimming pools, lakes, beach, parks and sometimes even in the middle of a city.

Over the years this has style of camp has developed. The last two years have seen a rise in the age of the clientele wishing to take part, so what is on offer has changed too.

Last year the group went to Italy and this year, yesterday they went off to the north German coast. There has been more of a Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday feel to it than a survival camp the last couple of years. The "campers" are mostly all old hands, they know the ropes and have a lot of fun.

Holiday living is done conductively. Outings, evening games, crafts, washing, dressing, showering, cinema visits, leaping over waves, visiting a museum, drinking iced tea in a cafe. All that takes place is done with conductors.

Something to interest everyone, just as it is on a group holiday.

From the final day of this year's Ontario camp, conductor Mhairi Watson wrote –

Funny you should choose today to make this posting, Andrew.
As I type I am sitting at overnight camp talking two of our teens through their morning routine. This is the last morning of our overnight camp and the teens have had a blast.

I have just asked Andrea why this camp is important to her and what she gains from it. Mean of me to ask her to be coherent and with it at 7 a.m., I know, but here is her response.

'This camp is important to me because I don't really get any other opportunities like this. Usually when I go away it is with my family and they are always hovering over me and doing pretty much everything for me. Here I get to work on skills to make me more independent. The highlight of my camp was going kayaking yesterday. I found it really relaxing and much easier this year after practising lots of long-legged sitting this month in our regular CE class in Toronto.'

One of our younger boys came to camp with his Dad for the first time this year. Dad has been furiously Facebooking the experience from his iphone each time his child participates in something new, makes a new friend and chooses his new friend over the grown-ups for companionship. I will forward him your link and see if he will share his experience on your blog. This way we can hear their story first-hand.

Time to go, the kids need to pack and get ready for breakfast

Yuval Tsur, Tsad Kadima's Camp Director wrote –

Summer camps of Tsad Kadima run every summer since Tsad Kadima was established 22 years ago. The camps changed their contents over the years. At the beginning, these camps were designed to allow a glimpse of the conductive world for families and their children. Over the years, Tsad Kadima has based frameworks which provide conductive services for all ages in Israel. Currently they are designed for teenagers and young adults aged 14-24. Every summer about 30 young adults meet at Kibuts Hanaton in northern Israel for a week of intensive work. The work combines motor activity and activities with a social orientation. The aims of the camp are several:
  • A social gathering that includes improving social skills and enabling access to the contents related to the world of adults with disabilities (group dynamics, relationships, sexuality, etc.). The camp allows interaction between the young adults in unstructured situation without the mediation of the staff.
  • Maintain the spirit of motivation in the individual-level to continue the never ending work towards improving functional skills.
  • The camps enable new staff to enter the world of adults with disabilities.
The camps are the highlight of the annual activity. They also draw young adults who do not regularly participate in TK's activities. Camps were opened in the past for young adults from abroad. We see this as an opportunity for international meeting and we look forward to such initiatives and convinced that if they carried out, this would be an unforgettable experience. 
The camps are also an attraction for people who do not work or will work with our young adults,. These volunteers become full partners in work and serve as ambassadors of Tsad Kadima everywhere they go.

There is no doubt that today you can not imagine the annual activity without the summer camp. 

I hope that the frequency and the duration of these camps will grow in favour of young adults with disabilities. 

Yuval also forwarded the following impressions of priest Tim Ahrens who was at Kibuts Hanaton by chance and turned from a spectator to an active partner –

For one week at Kibbutz Hannaton, I was blessed to share the dormitory and cafeteria with 32 young adults with cerebral palsy. In addition, over 25 adult staff and volunteers, plus their children, completed this glorious array of 'The Children of Abraham'. They are Christians, Muslims and a beautiful array of Jews. Most of all, they love one another.

Their days were filled with laughter, hugs, singing, high ropes, social activities and moving. They were always on the move! They call themselves 'Tsad Kadima' (A Step Forward).

To me, they are my newest friends in Israel. They welcomed me as family to every activity and meal. I have rarely been so warmly welcomed by complete strangers. Meir, Michal, and Yair took me in. Michal is a lovely young woman who loves everyone. She is amazingly engaging. She would make a great actress. Meir is an athlete and loves conversation and interaction. He is also very funny! I met Yair singing Hip-Hop one night. Moreover, he writes and performs Hip-Hop. He has five of his own Hip-Hop songs on www.MySpace.com. You can find them if you go to MySpace and then cpmc1.

I have wonderful memories of our time together. But, my favourite memory of the group was watching those in wheelchairs and walkers get on to their feet and walk great distances throughout the day. Their training department leader, Yuval Tsur said it best: 'They step forward with love'.

I would add, love plus patience, perseverance and presence. 

http://www.first-church.org/Downloads/tim%20ahrens%20blog.pdf

Thank you so much, all four of you. It is up to readers to draw their own conclusions about what these experiences show in common, in respect both to what is present and what is not. The camping season must be just about over now. 

Does anybody else have any contributions to offer?

Tempora mutantur

Et nos in illis mutamur

OUP

Oxford University Press, I read yesterday, is preparing the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (thirty volumes of it in the second edition). So far the third edition has taken twenty-one years  and umpteen millions of pounds to prepare. It is in the news now because OUP has announced that there will no paper edition – instead, the third edition of the OED will be published online.

Shame about the long line of new, dark-blue volumes that will not now be gracing library shelves, but I understand and respect OUP's reason for doing this. The world has changed, in ways unimaginable in the twenty-one years ago since work began on the the OED's third edition, and the mechanisms and economics of publishing dictionaries have to change with them.

I gather that atlases may soon be following along the same road.

CEP

Conductive Education Press held a strategy meeting last week. That sounds grand but means no more than that Gill Maguire, Elliot Clifton and I spun out a cup out of whatever each for two hours or so in Starbucks in Birmingham's Bullring Centre. We are currently putting two books to bed, to appear before Christmas, so it is a good time to raise out eyes and consider what we do next, to ensure the future of CEP in 2011 and beyond..

As in great things, so in small . To put it differently: from the sublime to the ridiculous. Amongst the topics that we discussed last week was on-line publication – e-books

CEP is about as far removed across the scale of things from OUP as it is possible to get. OUP is the largest university publishing house in the world, bigger even than Harvard's and Yale's. CEP is a part-time interest of three unemployed, unwaged people who make not a penny out of this venture and never will, and who cannot pay their authors either. All the same, we smell the same technological and economic wind as does OUP

We are in no hurry, there is no business plan to be served and our market is hardly yapping at our heels. So all that we concluded on Thursday was that e-publishing is bound to come, quicker probably than we and our market currently foresee, and that shall keep the technology and the economics under review, so as to be ready when it does. Things might look rather different in a year's time, and we had better be ready.

CE

In ways unimaginable in the twenty-one years since work began on the third edition of the OED the world has changed immeasurably, in more than just publishing. Work began on the third edition in 1989, around the time of the first heady flush of attempts to establish Conductive Education outside its country of origin. There has been lime for a lot of change, and for a lot of plans to come to naught. Yet more change may be hurrying close behind.

Meanwhile, watch out for announcement of two new (paper) books from CEP. Together they offer source materials aplenty to for consideration of the impact of economics upon individuals' endeavours to extend the benefit of CE, and to prompt one to wonder about whether new technologies ought at least to be playing some small part towards achieving this goal.

And being printed on paper, they may even become collectibles!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Missed a beat

Shape of things to come

Yesterday was an odd day, the time being definitely out of joint as the English summer holiday period drew towards its end in a chilly flurry of squally showers. And my Internet connection was playing up mightily. Perhaps unjustly, I blamed the latter on the aftermath of a less than satisfactory attempt to Skype a couple of days earlier, that resulted in mega-frustration to partners in both Hemispheres.. A Skype crash seems to leave my poor little computer with a bad headache and mental dysfunction for days.

As a result, I was trapped indoors by the foul weather yet at the same time almost completely excluded from Cyberspace. Several things promised to be done over the weekend, real and virtual, were not achieved. And I broke a pledge.

For nearly a year now the promise at the top of the left side-bar of Conductive World – to be a daily ezine – has been faithfully fulfilled, whatever the day of the year or wherever I might have been. Yesterday I missed the witching hour of midnight by fourteen minutes – I could not even get through enough before then and 'cheat' by posting at least the title to bag a timeslot in Cyberspace. So yesterday – no new posting on Conductive World.

No big deal in the great scheme of things. But I would have liked to be able to look back and say that I had written/published a daily, online ezine every day for a year. Serves me right for hubris. I won't have a second chance, since there are now less than four months to run of Conductive World's allotted span in its present form.

The gods and gremlins of Cyberspace being willing, I do hope that this will not happen again.

Revisionist history

Perhaps we all need it

If you are in the United Kingdom you may know that we are in the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

I write 'may' because, despite all the public attention, I gather that some younger people do not know what this was. We Brits – especially perhaps the English – can be very careless of our history.

It was all so different once. I was there, seventy years ago, under one corner of the Battle (Essex), not yet one year old and not therefore taking much notice of the goings-on in the sky above me, despite one near-miss that I cannot remember. It was different later but my generation grew up in the shadow of the War, the country just would not let it go, and the more our Empire slipped away the more important the glories of that recent past – all the way to Suez.

All a long time ago. Long enough for the old to grow old and all the belligerents in that European war of 1940 to be all Europeans together now. Long enough ago to have the myths of yesterday exposed by the harsh, factual, comparative light of revisionist history. So it seems no problem now in 2010 to thrill to those glorious myths of national (and international) destiny while at the same time being reminded that the RAF and its supply system were actually better organised than those of the Luftwaffe (i.e. we had greater reserves of aircraft). The clipped-voiced officer chaps who flew our fighters were just a minority, outnumbered by sergeant pilots and men from the Commonwealth and Empire and other countries of occupied of the world, including Poland, Czechoslovakia and other parts of occupied Europe The destruction of the RAF was not that critical anyway for the Germans' intended invasion of Britain – Continental waterway barges on the Channel: the Royal Navy could probably have swamped them by just sailing past at full steam. The major long-term effect of Hitler's turning away, to the East, was that Britain remained available a year or so later to serve as an American springboard into Europe. Anyway, Americans or not, the Western Front was only ever going to be a sideshow to the Eastern Front where the European War would be won and lost. And in the end, who won the War? Not Churchill and Roosevelt – Stalin.

There are still those (Brits mainly) who would find the above paragraph deeply insulting, grossly offensive etc. As a teenager and a young adult I should have felt the same. Now, while I can still thrill to the stories and deeply respect the reality behind them (on both sides), I see it all rather differently – and now there are many who do not thrill, and not interested or even aware that any of this happened at all.

History has been revised. It takes a time for this process to bite but it is a process as inevitable as history itself.

Revising the history of Conductive Eduction

If the British nation can come to re-understand its own history, and its place in world history, then as in relatively big things so in little ones. Time has also marched on for what many people around the world now call 'Conductive Education'.

There are some grand stories about about Conductive Education's origins, András Pető, the hospital-director, the  neurologist and mystic, for a start. Who/what was he? Mári Hári's still widely quoted outcome 'statistics'. What might have been the real figures? The extraordinary behaviour of all sorts of bodies and professionals, in Hungary and a lot of other places, in the years following 1986. Hidden scandals? Konduktív pedagógia – a Hungaricum. Really? The contribution of conductors around the world to the present situation of Conductive Education. Ah-hem.

Maybe if we knew differently, maybe we might act differently.

My own small role in some of these events is now drifting into history, and I have to revise my own history, as part of deciding what I do next.

How about you​?​

Friday, 27 August 2010

Road to life *

Brave steps on a long path

Here is a nice report of one small child's journey into life through conductive upbringing/pedagogy:


There are other such reports published, but few and far between where there should be a swelling crescendo.

Poetry in motion

*   The allusion is to A. S. Makarenko's Road to life (A pedagogic poem). An epic of education

In 1986, relatively early on along my own conductive road, I wrote:

Education is hard to describe... Perhaps the work of education is ultimately conveyed only by a work of imagination.
Unfortunately, Conductive Education still awaits its Makarenko.

The blog posting referred to above is not a work of imagination, in that it was not 'made up', but perhaps it gives a steer towards the sort of content, transmuted into a work of the imagination, that might help convey the human 'truth' within Conductive Education, rather better that has the seas of words that have washed around it over the years.

Cottam, P., Sutton, A. (eds) (1986) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorders, London, Croom Helm, p.27

Two stories of death and life

Doctors baffled

Norman Perrin's blog relays a fascinating story about a man in Southern England, now 66, who suffered a serious stroke in 1993, and spent some time 'locked in'. He is now out:


And within an hour of reading that I saw a SKY News report of a two-pound baby in Australia, apparently dead at birth, who is now apparently progressing satisfactorily at five months:


Interesting pair of stories, different but in some ways similar. Compare and contrast!

At opposite ends of the Earth, at very different stages in the lifespan, and both construed in biological terms ('unused brain capacity', 'kangaroo baby'), though the psychological contribution screams out loud for investigation.

Coincidence? Totally unrelated phenomena?. Perhaps. Or perhaps there is quite a bit of it about, in one way or the other. The only surprising thing might be our surprise.

Define conductive upbringing

(And the equivalent for adults)

Yesterday evening I received an email, asking as follows – .

Can you please send me your extract definition of conductive upbringing?

I picked this up only very late, and tore off a quick, tired, and unsatisfactory reply –

Upbringing is.. upbringing. Like in a Jewish upbringing, or a military one, or a liberal one,or a Dr Spock-style one, or a traditional one, or a Chinese one, or whatever. 
I am not clever enough to spot their common substance...
And conductive is... er, conductive.
This brings it all together, brings the child up focussed for a purpose, but how precisely is it done...?  No 'precisely' I suspect, this way or that way, to suite, according to society, individuals or circumstances.
An infinite variety!

Consideration of what constitutes 'conductive' is well-trodden ground on the pages of Conductive World, but my correspondent's challenge, to define conductive upbringing, raises something to the level of explicit question that deserves much more attention that I can give it. Just possibly the notion of 'upbringing' is presently receiving a little more, much-needed attention than it has before in the Western world. Maybe I misjudge this. If it is so, though, the question 'Why?' arises, and some interesting possible future practical developments emerge.

By the way, what do you call it when it is adults who are involved? I have heard the term 'conductive lifestyle used. I cannot think of a better one.

No definition here

My own late-night response was certainly no definition. I was just trying to share my own established framework for construeing the question. In the cold, grey light of dawn, a few further thoughts also dawned to me on this:
  • some might think it helpful to think of upbringing in terms of 'socialisation'
  • others might find it more helpful to use the commonplace English phrase 'bringing up children'
  • upbringing is a matter for the whole of a culture/society, with the family comprising the primary cell for realising this
  • social institutions, not least the school, play major roles in bringing up children (and may act to enhance the upbringing sought by the family and/or society – or wreck it)
  • upbringing imparts values, standards, goals, understandings, beliefs – without which skills and such like are no more than meaningless and purposeless facts (I suppose that this reflects in no small part the well-trodden distinction between formal and empirical knowledge)
  • upbringing is exercised through such mechanisms as care, love, emotions, discipline, example, beliefs
  • day-to-day upbringing goes on, and on and on, and spreads out beyond the family
  • upbringing develops into adult self-direction, self-image, self-actuation etc...
These points also perhaps do no more than frame the question. Presumably such broad truisms apply to all upbringings, good or bad, and probably those who read these words can readily add to this list. or amend it.

Suffice it here to say something equally simple and truistic, that upbringing is not a matter for a few hours intervention whenever, it is not an 'intellectual' or 'cognitive matter', it is something to which anyone can contribute (not just specially trained specialists) – and there is no single way of going about it.

Questions of 'conductive upbringing' can of course be approached from the standpoint of 'Conductive Education'. It might be more productive at our present stage, however, to turn these questions round and ask them from the standpoint of upbringing, on which there is immense technical literature and immeasurable popular experience.

Quite a conundrum for the research-wallahs!

Don't ask me

Meanwhile, I am asked to define conductive upbringing – exactly. Which one? Anyway, why ask me? There are plenty of people out there far better qualified by practical experience or professional training. They should be the the experts. I gladly pass on the challenge and ask them to lend voice.

How do people define conductive upbringing? I should very much like to know too.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

More duff information

And no interaction for punters

The European Parkinson's Association has put up a page on Conductive Education (at least for those Europeans with developed English-language reading skills). In bold, red letters, the EDPA's page is headed

Freezing: websites & links
Conductive Education

Looks promising. If I or one of mine had Parkinson's, or if I were professionally involved in the field, whether or not I had ever heard of Conductive Education, I might well wish to learn more. Presumably, in posting this page, it is the Assocation's goal that I should do so, and it is gratifying to think that this should be so.

http://www.rewritetomorrow.eu.com/pdsymptoms/freezing/where-can-i-get-more-information/websites-links/?EntryId4=9106

Primarily this page comprises a link to a website, explained as follows –

This web site is aimed at helping provide an understanding of conductive education, pass on information and create a point of interest for not only those involved with conductive education as professionals, parents and children but also for those people who wish to find out more about the subject.

Sounds most promising... except, I might wonder at this point, what is that about children and parents?

What a let-down

The website provided is:


Ge read it for yourself, and wonder at how people can be so unthinking – or should that be unfeeling – as to provide anything so disappointing. And remember, that one day this could be you, or me, or somebody dear to us looking to find some hope in the face of a terrible disease. Instead of hope, this is what you willfind, if you persist right through it you will be readingnan undated site. possibly from some ten years ago, and with the unfulfilled promise of regular updates:
  • There is a hotch-potch on 'Andras Pëto' [sic], of perhaps greater-that-usual inaccuracy. You will be offered a 'principle hypothesis' forConductive Education. This might seem a useful start for a concerned adult but in its place you will be give aims, that include 'provide a programme that in some cases can be built into the framework of special and ordinary school'.
  • Then we come to that familiar $64,000 question, 'What is Conductive' Education?' Reading it, I have to smile, because initially I know the words. I should do, for a very long time ago I wrote some of them. No reference given, nor is there one for the strange thoughts that are then grafted on to them, for example Conductive Education 'uses only well-designed, good-quality furniture' – and it has 'FIVE main elements to facilitate the process.'
  • There follow some goals, I am not at all sure what you might think of these. But if you are hoping to see how they might be achieved you can move on to the 'five important elements to facilitate the process'. These are Ester Cotton's familiar and mistaken 'principles of Conductive Education' (though here they are called 'elements'), with supposdly helpful explanatory annotations, such as 'Each days [sic] programme starts with waking and ends with sleeping'.
  • You now come to the hard sell: Smirthwaite's own furniture catalogue (children's gear only), But why have you have been diected here by a Europe-wide Parkinson's organisation, via the shop front of site of a .org URL. Does nobody bother to read what is being given you?
  • Finally comes a list of six CE centres around the world,one in New Zealand, two in the UK and three in the US. Two of these URLs are defunct and of the remainder only one site makes the briefest mention of working with adults. It then rounds off with a 'noticeboard', with no notices.
What does all this say?

It speaks of carelessness – and lack of care.

Whoever put up this page seems not to have bothered. I am sure that this does not mean that nobody was bothered about people with Parkinson's – rather to the contrary, I suspect.

So, by default, nobody was bothered with Conductive Education as a possible positive force for people's benefit. It is not presented as something to be taken seriously. And if the European Association cannot be bothered to put up a serious case for CE, why should those who consult it think any better. If I were to read this as my introduction to Conductive Education, I doubt that I would bother finding out more. I might just discount CE as Mickey Mouse and irrelevant.

I cannot of course imagine myself into precisely that position. But I can conceive of other devastating, chronic, conditions that I might contract at my present stage of like. If I do, I shall no doubt use the Internet heavily! If a given approach is prenred to me in the bove fashion by a well-funded, apparently authoritative Euro-site then I shall draw my conclusions – and move on. Won't you, if/when your time comes? 

That is not how I should wish people to be told about Conductive Education.

What about freezing and such?

And what about some of the things that Conductive Education says that it does for the benefit for people with Parkinson's?

Nothing on this page from the EPDA, but wander around that site, pick your way through all those 'exercises' (so important as to justify presentation in nine languages – including Japanese) and you might find yourself directed to RESCUE:


If it were me doing the looking, I suspect that this might appear rather more plausible that Conductive Education.

A passive browse or an active response?

The EPDA's page on freezing and Conductive Education has nothing to say about – freezing. Careless website development perhaps, or just work in progress and there might well be something along soon – if I ever go back there to check.

Meanwhile,  there is no obvious way for me, the punter with a concern about the content of this webpage, to raise my interest interest and respond. Am I expected to be a wholly passive consumer of information? This is  strange and discourteous assumption about the likely client group, a thousand miles (in Europe, kilometres?) from my overwhelming experience of those with Parkinson's disease.

I could find no obvius immediate means whereby to contact the Assocation and gently point out the error of its ways with respect to perpetrating such duff information about Conductive Education.

In the morning maybe I shall find a way in.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

World Congress

Cheap deal: don't forget

Do you remember this?

In response to the request, we are pleased to announce that the deadline for early bird registration has been extended to 31 August 2010.


That means that the cut-price offer ends next Tuesday. Those registering after that pay full whack.

If you want to take advantage of the cheap deal, click on the above URL and get signed up.

ACENA's Sixth North American Conference

Begins tomorrow

A press release from last week, issued by March of Dimes Canada which is organising the event:


Inter alia this confidently announces –

Conductive Education (CE) is based on the theory of neuroplasticity – or the brain’s ability to repair itself.

Not teaching and learning? And what what about roles for parents, carers and conductors?

This assertion will take some justifying! In an already sceptical world, why make problems?

The Wikipedia problem

What to do?

I often use Wikipedia. I am aware of the basis on which its entries are compiled, though, so I take care in checking the referencing to help gauge whether what I am reading is well founded..

Sometimes I stumble across the entry on Conductive Education. I am sure that lots of other people do too as, not only is is some folks' first call when looking for information, this entry is currently number three in the first page of a UK Google search for “conductive education” in the strangely assorted collection of hits that floats to the surface there.

I avert my gaze

I do so because to read this entry is a painful experience and I just do not know what to do about it. Wikipedia's principle of collective, self-correcting wisdom just does not work in Conductive Education – or maybe it does, and the entry in question well reflects this!!!

Either way, is is an aversive thought to join this fray.

Now on Facebook

Now somebody (or some thing – see yesterday's posting on Conductive World) has put Wikipedia's entry on Conductive Education on to Facebook.

In case you have never read this, here is its first paragraph. It hardly does justice. Tick the misleading and pusillanimous –

Conductive Education, or CE, is an educational system that has been specifically developed for children and adults who have motor disorders of neurological origin such as cerebral palsy. It is based on the premise that a person who has a motor disorder may not only have a medical condition requiring treatment, but may often have a major problem in learning that requires special education. The spread of CE throughout the world has probably in large part been due to the advocacy of families who appear to have lost confidence in the existing systems of treatment. These families strongly regard CE as a potentially effective response to their needs. Because of the successes of and interest in Conductive Education, other scholars have begun to examine the CE approach. Research studies of the efficiency of conductive education have been inconclusive, however.

The enry then lists the 'key principles' of Conductive Education (including 'holistic', interpreted implicitly as the unmediated effect of brain damage upon the whole of personal development, and 'interdisciplinary', rather than the unidisciplinary approach of employing a conductor).

There follows a list of six 'components' of Conductive Education, in effect Ester Cotton's 'principles' – neither educational nor conductive.

The entry concludes with a link to over-long, uncritical list of things that one might read, mainly out of date (most recent items published in 2001) and mostly accessible only to those with access to an extensive library system.

I suppose that something will have to be done...

By the way, Wikipedia also has an entry on András Pető, a mercifully short one! Mária Hári has been spared...

References

Conductive Education on Facebook

Conductive Education on Wikipedia

András Pető on Wikipedia

Personal inadequacies

I do so wish that I were much more Internet-savvy.

I would love to to leave a comment on the Facebook item and link to this posting here on Conductive World. This Facebook item is, however, a Community Page ('the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic') and I cannot seen how to get in!

All that I can see to do is to say 'I like it' – which I do not!

Paradoxically, there are already links there to other things on Facebook connected to myself, which may offer the impression of my endorsing this stuff.

And yes, I have signed up to 'edit' (i.e. completely rehash) Wikipedia's wretched entry, but this looks so complicated to do that I should need specialist help even to get started.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Is this a rip-off

Or a boon, or a compliment?

Earlier today I was alerted (by Google) about fun and games at March of Dimes summer camps. Even though this information had arrived a year late, it raises a perhaps potentially useful general point about CE 'camps' and other short-term experiences, which I duly posted:


To open this page I had had to register for Docstoc, where I found a cluster of other old Conductive Education documents, clustered together like bugs under a leaf.

What is Docstoc?

Docstoc is the premier online community and marketplace to find and share professional documents. Docstoc provides the platform to upload and share documents with the world, and serves as a vast repository of free and for purchase legal, business, financial, technical, and educational documents that can be easily searched, previewed and downloaded.


I sent its CE URLs on to Gill Maguire to enter them into the Virtual Conductive Library, just in case she does not already have them all in her queue for registration.

One of mine

Amongst these CE documents published on Docstoc I found something of mine! This was surprising to me, as I had only just signed as a a new member of Docspot, and ad no recollection of ever having been on the site before. Putting aside (distinct) possibilities like sleep-walking on the Net and multiple personality, somebody else must have been into the site and posted it.

Who, when, why, how?
  • Who? The site tells me that my alter ego is somebody called called vvp81194 – or, more likely, some thing, a robot that has so far posted 2292 documents (also without their authors' knowledge?) on a dazzling range of topics.
  • When? The site also tells me that my presentation went up there on 20 July this year (since when it has reeived all of three visitors, two of them presumably being me discovering it and me again to write this posting!)
  • Why? Why did this robot pick on this particular document? Why indeed is it busying away doing this at all? I have no idea.
  • How? That's easy.The presentation is already floating around in Cyberspace (see References below). That explains how it was picked up but, as it is already freely available, I am even further puzzled about Why?
http://cms.tc.columbia.edu/i/a/914_petocongresspresentation.pdf

What, me bothered?

That presentation is my intellectual property, taken without my permission and put to a use that is not of my immediate choosing or under my control. There is a law about that.  Am I concerned about this in the particular case discovered here?

Not really. I am happy at the extra exposure. Those words have no monetary value. They add up to not the worst plenary presentation that I have ever given (though it was presented at the close of what was probably the most wretched conference, of any kind, that I have ever attended). So, what the Hell? If they are still of use, then perhaps that helps justify the effort of putting them together in the first place.

Maybe I am being careless, lack-a-daisical, irresponsible, but I am quite happy to see it up there. The question must, however, remain: What if I were not 'quite happy' at this? What if I should have contractual or other formal considerations that mean this old stuff should not now see the light of day? What if my ideas have changed so much since that time that I should like the presentation quietly edited, or buried altogether? (Oh dear, that opening adverb. Did I really know no better in 2001?) What if...?  I do not know.

Come to think of it, what else of my stuff is floating round out there somewhere that I do not know of. Maybe I should be less happy about people's reading some of that.

Or maybe, dear reader, some of  yours might be out there, somewhere?

Towards a Conductive Education Depository

As part of a much wider project, Gill Maguire and I are in the early stages of considering a Conductive Education Depository.

This is intended to put on line documents about Conductive Education that would otherwise never be seen. They would cover any aspect of the reality and the practice of Conductive Education, and all the circumstances in which this is embedded. They just might be extraordinarily important in the grand scheme of things – but they will be mainly the real, personal nitty-gritty of everyday living and working – and thinking. They can be in any language, and even hand-written. Access to this international archive would be free and wholly open.

Everybody who reads these words surely has something worth archiving in this way.

This is an early warning signal, no more. You may be hearing more of this on Conductive World – and especially on Conductive Education Information.

References

Sutton, A. (2001) Conductive Education: sink or swim? Presentation to the concluding plenary session of the IV. World Congress of Conductive Education Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, 12-14 September
http://cms.tc.columbia.edu/i/a/914_petocongresspresentation.pdf
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/47622152/Conductive-Education-sink-or-swim

Camps with a difference

Not for Conductive Education – with it
Do tell us more

In the short history of Conductive Education, the camps run by March of Dimes are probably not unique but they are described in a way that hints at a different way of providing short-term conductive pedagogy as a contibution to young people's long-term upbringing.

As stated, this approach is characterised by camps' that are not being run for Conductive Education, i.e. through provision of a range of context-free 'programs' (perhaps involving lots of wooden furniture) but by being run to achieve a range of other experiences of the sort that the young people's' peers might also be involved in at this time of year, these being provided in the ethos of Conductive Education

The conduction then comes not from 'programs' but from adults (here conductors) who arrange and run matters in a conductive way.

Judge the intention for yourselves from:


Tell us more

Accounts of other such experiences, not necessarily in Canada and not neessarily in the the form of 'camps', would make a most contribution to other people's attempts to break out of the confines of current practice.
This report comes from last year. Any news of how things have progressed?

These are very short experiences. It would be very interesting also to hear how these camps incorporate attempts to ensure generalisation into the children's/families real lives outside and beyond the camps themselves.

And how others do...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Social-science research for CE

New on-line resource
Sign up now for free trial offer

In July of this year Conductive World suggested, perhaps rather tongue in cheek, that those concerned with the inadequacies of attempts at evaluating Conductive Education through mainly or solely quantitative approaches might look at the thousand-odd pages of Sage's Handbook of Qualitative Research:


Tongue in cheek, not least because of the price:


SAGE Research Methods Online: coming soon!

Here comes another wave of information from Sage to help clarify and advance the thinking of those in Conductive Education on the look out for 'new' (to CE!) ways of social-science enquiry relevant to this field.
  •  An innovative new online resource from the world's leading research methods publisher
  • A dynamic research tool with annual content upgrades and evolving feature
  • A one stop methods shop for researchers and students in the social and behavioral sciences
  • Search and discovery tools to support researchers as they browse and discover relevant material
  • Launching with over 100,000 pages of book, journal and reference content from leading global authors
  • 2,000 methods, theories and terms, across qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods Launching 2010 – sign up now for regular news updates on this exciting new product
Sage's bumf is a bit coy about how much this might all cost in the long run (Sage is after all a multi-national corporation, not a charity) but there will be a free taster and you can sign up to be included in this.

At least take a look at the brochure:

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Abandon ship!

Sauve qui peut...

I have had a conversation with an educational psychologist (the UK term for a school psychologist).

She tells that she has just shelled out one-hundred and twenty squid (£120) to reserve a place on a one-day course in November.

The course is for psychologists, most of whom of course presently work in the public sector. It is run by the BPS – the British Psychological Society. It offers an introduction to private practice:


(What do conductors thing of the topics to be covered on this day?)

Not just psychologists

She also told me how her own local authority education 'support services' began six-week statutory 'consultation' before the long summer holiday. She believes that there will not be much left in the way of such services when term starts again in September. Nor does she believe other than this is only the beginning...

Oh, you don't work in the United Kingdom, so it hardly affects you? Maybe you are right. Do though have a look at the recent item on exporting radical British economic policies:


You never know.

Or maybe you work in a voluntary (charitable) service, sheltered safe from the harsh wind beginning to sweep through the public sector? Good luck: all this just might work to your advantage.

Or it might not.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Shock, horror

UK's failing university system

I picked up a copy of the free commuters' newspaper Metro on a local train yesterday. The front-page headline ran – 
Desperate for a degree? Better head for China

Hayden Smith's rather patched-together front-page story is certain pour épater la bourgeoisie (myself included). I can certainly make for a depressing read if you are in the UK, though I do not know what general truths can really be drawn from it.

On the more positive side, does anybody fancy opening off-shore conductor-training? Or is it a bit early to be asking this question?
 
Reference
 
Smith, H. (2010) Desperate for a degree? Better head for China, Metro, 20 August
This is a PDF of the page. Enlarge (magnify) the page to read it.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Summertime jobs

Still a conductors' market
 
Never mind the recession, and never mind the summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere, over the months of July and August, people are still looking to employ conductors. Over these two months there have been ten job vacancies advertised on CONDUCTIVE WORLD JOBS – from Hungary, Germany, the UK and the US, in a varied range of contexts. Here is a brief breakdown:
  • advertisers are beginning to take advantage of the opportunity of posting in languages of their choice
  • what they are NOT doing, though, is reporting back when their job has been filled
  • conductors themselves have not been advertising their availability (if this reflects a continuing, chronic imbalance in this market, then this too is a matter of note in the teeth of the recession)
  • no vacancies in Conductive Education other than for conductors have been advertised
  • nine of these ten jobs involves children, only one an adult, only three of these ten jobs involved working in an institution of some kind, one involved a Saturday job, two required a conductor to go with a child to school, the rest might be characterised as wholly personal or family arrangements.
To advertise your own vacancies – or to state the sort of job that YOU would like in Conductive Education, go to


...and post what is on your mind on the Wall.

What do you make of this?

I know what I do

Just published, more cerebral palsy research in the medical mode –

Horsman, M , Suto, M., Dudgeon B., Harris, S.R. (2010) Growing older with cerebral palsy: insiders' perspectives, Pediatric Physical Therapy, vol. 22, no 3, pp. 296-303
Abstract
PURPOSE: Research has shown that adults with cerebral palsy (CP) lose functional abilities earlier than persons who are able-bodied. Because CP is a lifespan disability, developmental therapists should be aware of these changes.
METHODS: We used descriptive phenomenology to understand the unique, lived experiences of adults growing older with CP. Data were gathered through in-depth, semistructured interviews. Open-ended questions asked what it was like to age with CP, how these experiences were understood, how strategies were used to cope with changes, and what are the meanings of these experiences.
RESULTS: A theme, Awareness, Acceptance, and Action, emerged from the data analysis. Participants were aware that their bodies were deteriorating quicker than those of peers who are able-bodied. They developed acceptance that hastened actions toward improving their quality of life.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide insights for pediatric therapists who work with children with CP
about what may be important to their clients as they grow older.

What do I make of it?

Medical research has shown what most people with relevant experience and common sense can already tell you (and, one assumes from this context anyway, paediatric therapists do not). Four well-paid people in Canada and the United States have got together to do some more. They have asked disabled people what they think, and find the same. They conclude that disabled people already know about this but, unlike themselves and their fellow-professionals, are getting on with life and finding their own ways to deal with it. No more research of this kind is needed.

Cynical, moi?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Chickens home to roost

What could have bedraggled them so?
It happens all the time. I read something in the Internet about Conductive Education, or even on paper too sometimes (in so far as I see anything on paper nowadays). Then I start to smile, because I recognise my own (unackowledged) words – and I know what is coming next!

Here's one that Google Alerts dropped into my in-box today:

What is Conductive Education?
Conductive Education is an active learning process that helps children with Cerebral Palsy and adults that have suffered a stroke learn to overcome problems of movement resulting from disease or damage to the central nervous system. These programs are not new, they were developed in Hungary over 60 years ago and have only started to spread around the world in the last 15 years starting in England with the help of Princess Diana. Conductive Education is not a traditional treatment or therapy it approaches motor disorders as a problem of learning or relearning - a problem that will respond to the appropriate teaching. If they can move and they can learn, they can learn to move. By repeating tasks and integrating intentional movement with learning, the brain creates alternate pathways to send messages to muscle groups creating the desired movements, recovery and rehabilitation. The success achieved when a therapeutic approach is applied to all aspects of daily living not just to exercises done on a sporadic basis are undeniable and simply make sense.


The blue bits are substantially mine, from somewhere or other long ago, written for I recall not what purpose, then published I know not where (very likely on paper in those days!), but I do know my own words. I know that the red bits are not mine. most certainly not.

I have no objection whatsoever to people's using my words, for whatever purpose they wish. If this were done 'properly', however, it would refer to the words' source . Their readers could then have a better chance of judging the value of what they read (they might also note that these are rather old words).

The trouble is that people often do not do this 'properly'. They simply cut and paste bits that suit and print them as their own (technically plagiarism, or theft of intellectual property, not that I care). Then they patch in some other words, from other sources. Again, if this were done properly then these other words would also be granted a source – and again their readers would then have a better chance of judging their value.

Without this, the net result is a dog's breakfast (unpleasant but graphic British figure of speech, referring to something found on a pavement, or on your couch or carpet, being the half-digested, mixed up product of what the unfortunate animal had eaten earlier that day).

I do sincerely hope that, when I wrote the original, I did not begin 'cerebral palsy' with capital letters, and that I did not use the relative pronoun 'that' to refer to children and adults, and that such irritating little errors represent 'improvements' by later hands. If I did, then my humblest apologies to the style police. But I will swear in the highest court of justice in the land (well, to be honest, in court I always affirm) that I have never said or written:
  • CE was established in the UK with the help of Princess Diana.
  • If they [who?] can move and they can learn, they can learn to move.
  • By repeating tasks and integrating intentional movement with learning, the brain creates alternate pathways to send messages to muscle groups creating the desired movements, recovery and rehabilitation.
  • the success achieved when a therapeutic approach is applied to all aspects of daily living not just to exercises done on a sporadic basis are undeniable and simply make sense.
These latter points are just misinformation and/or gobbledegook.

What does any of this matter? The Internet is littered with such meaningless jumbles of half-digested something-or-other, some of it originally good stuff, some of it plain poison, scrambled together as explanations presumably considered good enough for Conductive Education. Result:
  • yet more parents are confused (and maybe bamboozled too)
  • more people paid to know better are also confused, or fastidiously avert their gaze. I don't blame them.
Nor do I blame the father who has published the above paragraph on his blog, or others like him who, in all good faith, pass such information on for yet others to add to with yet more cut and paste, chew it over and then regurgitate it in their turn.

He has had a good experience of Conductive Education and he wishes to rejoice in his unwonted good experience and encourage others to share in this. All strength to his arm, But Conductive Education has ill-served him, as it has ill-served and continues to ill-serve so many others, by not ensuring that he is better informed... and not policing some of the nonsense that fills the information vacuum.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Marketing

It's an attitude

Rony Schenker writes –

Returning to our discussion about conductors' marketing the profession, the daily newspaper Israel Today has published a nice article on how companies sell us products that we do not really need. In the article there were three nice anecdotes (translated by me)
Two marketing managers from a well-known shoe factory came back from looking for new markets in Africa.
The first one summed up the journey, saying 'We don't have anything to look for there, everybody walks barefoot.
The other manger summed up the trip: 'There is a great potential for marketing there – nobody has any shoes.'

Back in the 17th century, in the little village of Cremona in Italy, three violin-manufacturers worked in the same street. They lived peacefully with each other until one day the son of one of the factories hung up a poster: 'Here we make the best violins in Italy'.
Soon after, the second manufacturer hung out a poster 'Here you can find the best violins in the world.
After some time, almost forced to, the third manufacture hung up a poster: 'Here you can find the best violins in this street'.
He was called Stradivari.

For hundreds of years the Cohen family made nails. One day Joseph, the father, told his son: 'I've been working in this factory for fifty years now, and never had a day off. I'm taking your mother abroad for a month and I want you to take over'.
After two weeks, the son emailed his father that all the nails were sold out: 'What should I do?'.
'How come?' said the father.
'I put an advert on the building,' said the son.
The father came back and looked at the advert. It showed Jesus nailed to the cross, and on the bottom was written: 'Cohen's nails last for 2000 years'. The father was furious and asked his son to take it down. 'It is like fuel for Anti-Semitism and will bring us nothing but problems.' He ordered that the amount of nails manufactured be multiplied and went back to his holiday.
Two weeks later, back once more at the airport, Joseph asked his son: 'How were sales over the last couple of weeks?'
'Well', said the son, 'they doubled again.'
'Don't tell me that you put that advert with Jesus back up.'
'No I didn't,' said the son, 'this time it's without Jesus.'
'I want to see it," said Joseph. They went to the factory. Joseph lifted his eyes, and there was a huge advertisement – with only the cross on it, no Jesus. Below was written:
'If only they had used Cohen's nails.'

The United Kingdom, radical?

Radical enough?
And this may be also be coming to a country near you

The Editorial in this week's Economist magazine (12 August) sees it like this:

Radical Britain Britain has embarked on a great gamble. Sooner or later, many other rich-world countries will have to take it too... In the heated debate between Keynesian economists (who worry that a weak world economy needs more government spending) and fiscal hawks (who believe deficits must be tackled now to stave off Grecian disaster), Britain is the prime exhibit for tough love.



Throughout the rich world, government has simply got too big and Mr Cameron’s crew currently have the most promising approach to trimming it. Others—and not just the tottering likes of Greece and Spain—will surely follow. That includes America. At present, unlike in the 1980s, there is no Reaganesque echo from the other side of the Atlantic: despite the Tea Partiers’ zeal, the Republicans seem as clueless as Mr Obama in producing a credible medium-term plan to balance America’s budget. But pretty soon, as in Europe, somebody will have to come up with one—and Britain, for better or worse, is likely to be the place they will come to for ideas.


(The webpage includes the lovely graphic from the front cover of this week's issue)

The Economist backs this appraoch and has high hopes for its outcomes. Well, maybe. There's lot more on this in the same issue (with social enterprise featuring large) to flesh out the argument:


Conductive Education: one radical alternative

One of the problems in introducing Conductive Education to the United Kingdom – and to many other countries – is that it has been just too radical an alternative to existing practices and systems. In response to this, Conductive Education has been forced to trim its sails and make reluctant (and possibly highly damaging) compromises.

Just suppose, though, that the Economist is right, and that the new order in the United Kingdom – economic social, political – does indeed turn out to favour really radical alternatives...

There are only two big questions, if it does:

  • Will such changes be radical enough for Conductive Education to take root and flower – properly, not at half cock?

  • Will existing CE institutions prove capable of demonstrating and articulating really radical alternatives to the present situation, in ways that the new order can recognise and embrace?
If the Economist is right, these questions may not be just for Conductive Education in the UK, but for CE in any country that follows down this road.