Tuesday, 30 November 2010



In the macro-world of the self-styling 'international community' this has been the week of the leaks (demonstrating once again, as if anyone needs demonstration) just what sound hands our big world is, the hands of the Great and the Good, and their 'diplomacy'. .

In the microworld of Conductive Education we have our own Great and Good, sort of, and our own sort of diplomacy. Much of this will be on display at the CE World Congress next week.

Hardly the Congress of Vienna, but there will be wheeling and dealing, maybe even deals, plots, rumours, gossip, pletyka, spats and rows, and lots and lots of secrets. And where there are secrets, there are leaks.

If any of these seem of  interest, or even just amusing, I shall be reporting them here on Conductive World.

Monday, 29 November 2010


It's wintertime in the British Isles

I was due to go to Sheffield today, to talk with the Trustees and Patrons of Pace, at its Annual General Meeting.

This was arranged several months ago, the first time for a few years that I have been asked to speak publicly on Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. I have been rather looking forward to it.

Sheffield is a hundred miles or so north of the Midlands, about an hour and a half by train. Paces is on the edge of the Moors, just to the north of Sheffield in the direction of Rotheram, but administatively just within the city limits.

I should be on my way right now. I have called off. What an unconscionable whimp I am.

It has snowed. The earliest such heavy snow in Britain since records began, they keep on saying (we British have all sorts of weird and wonderful stataistical superlatives about the weather – rather like about cricket, and equally dull). People say that I should be mad to travel anywhere today, and to set out northwards would be out-and-out barking. The people at the railways agree, and a look at the station arrival screens tells me why.

I will resist another British obsession, moaning about the railways and making comparison with the fabled clockwork precision of railways in Canada and Europe, where winters are winters and railways are railways. Like everyone in this country I know all the reasons why things have to be different here. I should do, I have heard them and repeated them often enough.

So, sorry to Norman and to Paces. I do hope that your AGM will go just as well without me, and that the circumstances of your more local journeys there and back this evening will give you nothing to concern you. You are spared my thoughts on conductive upbringing. Sorry for myself too, though, I should have enjoyed the jaunt.

Over the last couple of days Conductive World has run two consecutive items on contentment. Such hubris! So here, for the sake of balance, is an item of discontent – for which winter can stand as symbol, as it has done in English for at least as far back as Shakespeare, long before the railways.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

More contentment

Let's hear of lots more

Postings on Conductive World are notified on Facebook (on Twitter too), where yesterdays's posting on contentment propted the following comment, from Sheila Fuller –

I was only used to working with children in a conductive education setting until recently. A young man in his twenties following an RTA has been having sessions at the Institute in Birmingham and the impact on him, in my uneducated eye, has... been phenomenal. He has gained dignity, confidence and ability. He literally is so motivated I would not have believed it had I not witnessed it myself. He respects the conductor and wants to please and achieve and she has expectations of him that his carers were unable to recognise. Needless to say they are now behaving in a more positive way to him and his needs.
Oh and let me add from a young man who could not manage his body at all, on Wednesday, with some facilitation, he wrote his name. No not a miracle just knowledge, dedication and expectation on the conductors behalf and for him an achievement he never expected. He is so proud.
This works.
Well done Richard and Nicola

Thank you for sharing that, Sheila. I know Nichola but not Richard. Yes, congratulations and best wishes to them both.

I know that people have been reporting this for yonks but there can never be enough such stories. On a comment to Conductive World's contentment posting yesterday, Susie Mallett wrote –

This could well be what is happening in many other places throughout the world. If only we knew.

Too true. Keep shouting it (gently) from the rooftops. Maybe one day some of the important messages here might get through.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Feeling of contentment

Evaluate that



(NB Serious methodological issue here!)

Friday, 26 November 2010

CE in the New Zealand educational press

Good news... and bad news

Good news

The good news (for me) is that today I found a longish feature article published in the New Zealand Education Review back in June:

– (2010) Hungarian technique meets a special need, New Zealand Education Review, 2 June

This focuses on the IRIS centre in downtown Aukland, and incorporates some personal reminiscences of conductor Zsofia Olah.

Even better, there is no mention of the dreaded word 'controversial', no whingeing, sniping or moaning from any quarter. Most incontravertably CE seems to be establishing itself in New Zealand and it is surely a further positive contribution to this process to have it reported here in this way.

I was very interested to read Zsifia's saying –

I was 17 years old when I saw a documentary by the BBC about a little boy, Joe, with cerebral palsy whose family moved to Budapest to get him into Conductive Education.

I was so touched by the film and the way conductors worked with him I decided I had to see if I could be a conductor.

I wonder how many other youg Hungarians joined up because of that.


Not such good news (for me) are some of the other thngs that the article says, trivial enough perhaps in themselves:
  • At IRIS Conductive Education, 90 per cent of the resident teachers have relocated from Hungary to live and work in New Zealand... 90 percent of five?
  • the 1930s – really?
  • what neuroscientists have proved via several studies since – really?
  • ...Conductive Education, teaches, encourages and motivates children to develop and achieve to their greatest potential – surely rather more that this?
  • the time when the method received world-wide attention with Princess Diana’s visit to the institute – really?
Readers might like to spot their own.

Does it matter? I think that it does. Conductive Education is too important to permit potentially influential public reports on it to be littered with such errors. It is good to see CE so unquestioningly acknowledged in this way, as 'a good thing'. But watch out for when the slings and arrows start to fly. Don't make it so easy for opponents to shoot you down.


Another way here too?

Norman Perrin has being reading Robin Murray's Cooperation in the Age of Google a review commissioned by Cooperatives UK, and yesterday he blogged on this. He is reminded of something that I have been musing upon recently, a possible New Wave in what we call 'Conductive Education'. In substance this centres upon family-oriented conuctive-upbringiing, and in terms of organisation, upon independent small-scale action.

The 'New Wave'

Of course, neither such a conductive substance nor such a mode of organisation is new, both having been central to the experience of establishing Conductive Education in the Western world right back to the very start of trying to do so. Over this period, however, both the substance and organisation of Conductive Education have, with notable exceptions, been articulated and publicly construed largely through school-based pedagogy and institutional measures to deliver this.

The possible difference now is growing awareness that the the last twenty or so have not been widely successful in deliuvering the dream of Conductive Education as a widespread benefit for disabled children and adults, and their families, nor do they show any sign of doing so. Perhaps, then, the parallel 'folk tradition' might potentially offer one alternative way forward, in conjunction or in substitution.

Training too?

I like commenting on blogs. Somehow this permits a much more spontaneous, unqualified response (oh, how we CE bloggers wish that more people would take up this opportunity!).

This is what I wrote on Norman's yesterday (typos corrected!) –

In the light of the current fuss about the cost of higher education in the UK I began to wonder how much of student fees actually go to provide them with training experiences, and how much go to meet the huge cost of bureaucracy, flummery and academic pretence ('research').
Perhaps HMG thinks that, with respect to teacher-training, much of this can be bypassed by on-the-job training 'in the schools'. It will be interesting to see, however, whether bureaucracy and the desire for flummery will go to ensure homeostasis, in cost and in effectiveness.
If one wished to train 'a conductor' at no more than the cost of the actual training, and to hell with any formal requirments for recognised qualifications etc. that are not central to the task in hand (but a lot of effort and money), then how cheaply could one do it?
One would of course have to define and operationalise what 'it' actually is. The students would learn their craft as apprentices, under a 'master' (mistress more like!) and would be earning their keep from Day 1.
Do you have a more practical idea how to spread the craft in the 21st century, other than through such traditionally tested apprenticeship model? Or one with more honourable antecedents?

Another nice thing about commenting on blogs is that bloggers usually respond. This is one of the very few ways to get a public dialogue going in Conductive Education. When I went back to Norman's blog a few minutes ago, to get its URL to post here, I found that he had already responded. Vey interesting and corroborative this is too:

And other things?

Conductive Education Press is a New Wave operation. So is Conduction
What else? What for example might constitute New Wave research in Conductive Education?

And where else?

I have dwelt here upon 'the Western world' – the one I know. But what about the developing world (and to take the biggest specific question) what about China?

Contradictorily, everything cries out for family-based, low-cost, non-'professionalised' self-help approaches while, in some places anyway, social circumstancsd and economics might push towards big-batallion solutions.

Very interesting.

At the Congress

This time next week I shall be in Paris, en route to Hong Kong. For the most part, the Western contibutions to the Seventh World CE Congress look, well, very twentieth century – with the twenty-first showing as ripples rather than as a gathering wave.

And (to use a lovely phrase from the Congress programme) what about 'the blooming Chinese'?

Very interesting indeed

Thursday, 25 November 2010

World Congress information: and still it comes

Yet more details from SAHK

How did people manage before the the Internet?

Arrival guide:

SAHK's prolixity stands in remarkable contrast to what has been happening on the Congress's social networking platform:


This matter merits revisiting.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

World Congress: final programme

Tight scheduling

SAHK has published the final programme for the forthcoming World Congress in Hong Kong

It is a very full programme, fitted into a constrained timeframe. Individuals may perhaps have to prioritise and miss or cut short some things to fit everything in that they would like, and participants as a whole will have to exercise more than wonted discipline if things are to run to schedule.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

What a very strange thing to do

On line and in substance


On line

Posting this little boy's business so publicly in this way. Presumably there is a reason...

In substance

'Assessments'. What do people mean by this? I know what I would mean (and I wonder how much of this could be implemented by video), and I know what the world means. What lies between? What was meant in this specific example? What does the should-be conductive world understand by the awful, retrograde word 'assessment'?


A matter of contemporary ethics and a fundamental technical issue -- not a bad little microcosm...!

On its own now

Former Scope centre fending for itself

It is hard to credit now the enormous public and professional pizzazz with which Scope (formally the Spastics Society) launched its School for Parents initiative at the start of the nineties, supposedly to bring the 'principles of Conductive Education' (never stated) to locally funded bodies around the country.

CE's gloss seemed to go off  for Scope by the turn of the century, and times now get progressively harder. In Nottingham the Rutland House School for Parents has been operating as an autonomous small charity since 2001. Staff at Rutland House School for Parents now includes two conductors (from Hungary). Running costs are £20,000 per month.

In 2011 it will need to find new premises and 'the funding situation is quite scary'. A £50,000 Christmas Appeal is under way.

Good luck.



Monday, 22 November 2010

World Congress – directions and access

On line and by request

SAHK has now published further guidance on how to get between various Congress destinations in Hong Kong:


This include some more details on disability access. There is more still on a separate document, called:


Apply to the Congress Secretariat for a copy:


Very nice donation

Shame about the history and theory

Ralph and Sue Garlick have donated US$100,000 to the Conductive Learning Center in Grand Rapids Mitchegin, in honour of their granddaughter Lilly, who was one of the first students to participate in the program.

This news story comes from the current issue of the Aquinas Magazine, which continues its story by explaining --

Dr Andras Peto developed the conductive educational system in 1945 to demonstrate that the central nervous can form new neural connections despite previous neurological damage. Peto discovered that by repeating tasks and integrating movement with learning, the brain creates alternate paths to send messages to muscle groups to create movement.


Such intentions, such a discovery, such a tale!

This endowed scholarship is available through the School of Educa-tion to benefit a student who is part of the Conductive Education Program. I am still not clear about how many students are presently enrolled on this program. Can anybody help?


Sommerville, L. (2010) The CLC continues its growth, Aquinas Magazine, Fall, p. 14

All at sea on the Internet

Flotsam and jetsam

Washed up today by Google Alerts on the diurnal e-tide of e-detritus was a little something that looked rather familiar. Google had sent me long page of hits from the eBook Library, devoted to items to do with swimming education:

Well down the page, nestling between Guidelines for Swimming and Water Safety Education Programs and 2010 Swimming Pools Part One, I found the following gem:

Conductive Education: sink or swim
Conductive Education: sink or swim? Presentation to the concluding plenary session of the ... My title for this presentation, Conductive Education: sink or swim? ...

I recognised it today because, nine years ago, I wrote it, and performed it too  in less than conducive circumstances!

It wasn't bad. If you want a piece of vintage Sutton apocalyptica, well, here's one for nothing! Still valid after all these years  or more so...

I rather like the final paragraph

What should we say to people who sincerely believe that they provide Conductive Education when they have little or no pedagogy and, worse still, no conduction? I shall misquote the Bible [I Corinthians, xiii, 1]
  • Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not conduction, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
To be truly ourselves we have to define conduction, in clear, material terms, and when we have done so we shall have no choice, indeed we shall have the duty, to say what is not.

You might find other things there to amuse.


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

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Looking for a job?

What about running some 'Conductive Education'?
Spades and bloody shovels

An awful long time ago I was taught (yes taught) to write English. Later, as I grew into adulthood, I tried to learn from what I saw others doing, their triumphs and their dreadful errors. Nothing erudite or creative, you understand, almost entirely things to do with work. And as my own circumstances developed I tried to pass on to others what I had learned, to teach them, colleagues, underlings and students. Guiding principles have included clarity and a sense of audience.

I am no all-star in this department, but I know enough and I am sufficiently sensitised for my stomach to go into spasm when I ingest raw gobbledegook. What on Earth does the following pompous, managerialist, tosh mean?

I think that it means that Scope (the former Spastics Society) is employing a recruitment agency to find a new headteacher for one of its remaining schools (possibly, by elimination, Ingfield Manor).

I note that actually understanding what the school does (something to do with CE, residential and social care) are regarded as somewhat secondary issues, and I deduce that Scope's plans to close its residential schools have been shelved.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Mystery book auction

No takers – but still time!

Regular readers might recall this item from 12 November:


This on-line auction expired on Wednesday 17 November, without any bids having been made. Not a good couple of weeks for the vendor: the breadbin and the homeopathic textbooks also failed to move!

The sale has been extended over the weekend. Closing date to bid for this mystery book, Conductive Education – (motor disorder), is held over till Monday 22 November.

You can find this sale at:


Friday, 19 November 2010

A conference

But not proceedings

I have just stumbled upon the on-line record of a conference held a little over a year ago. I see that Gill Maguire notified this on her blog at the time (though Franz Schaffhauser's contribution was not then included). I am ashamed to admit that I did not pick up on Gill's notification at the time. At least Franz's contribution is now in place.

Innovation in Conductive Education – Educational Equality
European Conference on Conductive Education
Helsinki, Ruskeasuo School
10 October 2009


Unfortunately this document does not amount to 'proceedings', comprising instead a collection of speakers' overhead materials.

A wasted opportunity.

I have just stumbled upon this

Goodness me


I could not see a date. It could be from years ago. It might be from yesterday.

Unites States: Green Cards and visas

Offer of help and guidance

In response to yesterday's posting on permission for foreign conductors to work to work in the USA, conductor Andi Tóth writes –

I have been living in the US, and have had the pleasure of going through this ridiculous immigration system. I could possibly get my MS in immigration law by now!
In general
Getting a visa is as possible now as it always has been, as long as the sponsor can prove that there is a shortage of conductors and no US workforce to fill in the same job title. Generally conductors can get only H visas. Depending on their experience and education their employer can file for their Green Card. Conductors with an MS, or a BA+5 years of experience, can get into the employment-based 2 category, and receive their GC immediately. Everyone else will get into Cat 3, and that means a long, long wait. The backlog is four, five or six years. I could tell you more about the restrictions and the process how to file, and what to follow, but I do not want to digress.
An H visa will allow a conductor to stay in the US for 2 x 3 years (when petitioning for a GC, the rules change). But after the third year the renewal never gets denied!
Visa applications get denied because the documents were not filed correctly, or the company that sponsored the visa failed to prove its financial stability, or its offer did not meet the state minimum. Maybe it tried to file the papers on its own, saving the pricey lawyer fees, and ended up missing out a document.
There could be millions of reasons. I have never heard of any center being denied a visa that many times.
In my opinion, things have been pretty much the same. My experience is that working in the US sounds tempting but unfortunately the visa is your 'leash' and does not give you too many options and rights in the system!
It is very complex
It is a very complex system. We all sat on pins and needles when four years ago the Republican Party wanted to resolve the immigration issue (because there are lot of families separated for decades due to the long backlogs). President Bush started a war instead. This time, during his campaign the now President Obama promised to update the immigration system and cut down on the visa and GC processing times within the first year of his presidency. Unfortunately the world recession in the economy put this issue on the back burner yet again. It iss sad to say this, but things have stayed pretty much the same.
(One thing worries me though. I heard a few years ago that because OTs, PTs and STs were afraid of letting CE and conductors in the US medical system – and therefore they would be losing money – someone created a few-month-long certified training in CE specifically for these therapists. If that is true, then in the future these American 'conductors' will be filling the jobs, and not foreigners.)
Do you need advice?
I have been trying to keep in touch with lots of young conductors in the US, to advise them or help them about their visas (and often their contracts and rights!!). I'm no lawyer, and I learned it the hard way, but I have been a new-comer and I wish that I had had someone to give me the 'US Immigration for Dummies'
So, if anyone has questions or troubles about visas, please direct them to me. I would be more than happy to help!

Yesterday's posting on this topic

This now includes some interesting further data in a reader's comment:


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Green cards and H1Bs for conductors

Getting harder – or just the same?

I do not understand such things, other than to know that a availability of green cards/H1Bs for foreign conductors (the question of what they actually do when they get there aside) is essential for hopes of a legitimate extension of Conductive Education in the United States.

So I have no idea what to make of the following:

If this signifies that just one center has had three applications denied, then is this a lot, indication that things are getting very tight – or just par for the course?

There is also, I presume, a tourist-visa trade...

Today at the dentist's

Ownership and nature of professional practice

It is impossible to do dental surgery without being invasive, and there is no such thing as absolutely pain-free dentistry, unless you have a general anaesthetic. So, given what I had to have done this morning, how can I have found this episode such a satisfactory experience? Almost a pleasure. Honest!


It is not that my dentist (note my unthinking appropriation – my dentist) acts any more kindly, or politely, or even caringly than did the medical staff who dealt with me at the hospital two days ago. Whatever minute quantitative differences might be discernible here, one way or the other, qualitatively her care, and that of her dental nurse, and their receptionist, were no different They were all kind and nice to me. Following the line of yesterday's account of a visit to a hospital out-patients' department, I have to response that the difference lay the 'ownership' of my awful mouth of teeth and gums.

Quite clearly they are mine. Her role over the years has been to labour mightily to ensure that they remain so, at the expense of the least possible personal suffering on my part. Her work, my gain. What has happened along the way, within the limits and imperative of my faltering biology, has always been something that I have decided, maybe wisely, maybe foolishly, in the basis of the advice that she has given me.

Not just the problem has therefore been mine, but responsibility for its solution too.

At least, that is what I have thought all the way along and, as far as I am concerned, what I think is pretty central to my subjective reality.

Our interactions have been conducted formally enough. She is not matey – I don't go to the dentist to find a mate. But I do trust and respect her for what she does and has done. And I could not have had a much greater ownership of what was going on this morning if she had handed me the pliers and suggested that I pull for myself.

Confounding variables

There is never a simple, single-cause explanation for the workings of the human mind. Mere 'ownership' of my problem and of its solution is not sufficient to account for my ease bfore and during this morning's proceedings. A couple of possible further factors are that I have been her patient for a long time now (I don't know, maybe fifteen years or more of dental care from her and her dental nurse), and that hers is a tiny one-woman band of a dental practice (she is that very rare commodity indeed, a truly 'NHS dentist').

There were doubtless other factors at work here. Of course, I cannot know precisely. This is important, because it would be lovely to identify the active ingredient(s) here to bottle and use elsewhere. Where else? Guess.

Conductive Education

How many times has one heard that Conductive Education is an educational process, that is about learning but it involves emotional factors too – and of course it is interpersonal and social? And how often does one hear or read about the mechanisms actually in play here, about how precisely all these wondrous things are to be ensured in practice? Not a lot.
For this is yet another aspect of the knowledge base of Conductive Education that operates at the implicit, subliminal level It is presumably transmitted during conductor-training by osmosis, by 'working with Nellie'. Maybe there are indeed explicit principles, values, techniques for establishing potentially productive interpersonal relationships with clients, and perhaps these are conveyed in various training courses around the world. None of this has surfaced at the explicit level, howewer, so presumably all one can do is ask conductors about how such information figured in their training, and how such conscious knowledge now contributes to shaping their practice. Good luck.

Wouldn't it be humiliating if a 'profession' so eager to get itself publicly and officially accepted around the world should be discovered to have nothing to say on such a front-line issue within its practice?

Perhaps I have just missed it.

Towards some explicit principles

At the rhetorical level at least, other professions evidence concern over such matters, that is why rehabilitationists can point to a considerable formal research literature in, say, 'family-centred practice'. To my personal embarrassment, I have being saying for years that, if CE has to be regarded as a 'therapy', then this would be best done in the light of what is known about psychotherapy, its ideas, practices and research. This is embarrassing in that over twenty-odd years this notion has met minimal explicit support from conductors or their institutions, and I have never been in a position myself to advance further along this line.

Just as a simple thought experiment, what does my time in the dentist suggest as a model for conductor practice that might help engender a feeling of ownership amongst clients?
  • a small practice – maybe a conductor + an assistant + some clerical help
  • a protracted period of mutual involvement – not necessarily continuous but stretching over years
  • continuous attention to ensuring that service-users are maximally informed about what is going on
  • maximal influence upon decision-making within this intervention is the informed choice of users
  • explicit recognition that, as service-users own their problems, then so also they have to take ownership and responsibility for solutions – because, ultimately no one else can or will
  • within this context, practitioners (here conductors) work more as servants than as owners.
There are settings where all this undoubtedly all occurs, and more, and some other where it does not. With such a slender tradition of internal communication, how could one know?


Conductive Education as a practice presently has great advantages should it wish to establish its credentials and credibility in this aspect of professional practice.
  1. It has spread across the world largely though private practice or within organisations within the voluntary sector, apart or even ostracised from the mainstream of professional practice in countries where it seeks to take roots – it is therefore less directly exposed to pressured to become yet another bureau-semiprofession.
  2. Conductors have not yet been generally able evolve their professionalism through collective adoption of standards and values that protect primarily their own interests and those of their employers.
  3. Close involvement with active, articulate, self-actuating parents has ensured that the movement to internationalise Conductive Education potentially comes with its own hefty suspicion of the motives and even proberty of existing professionalism within various public services.
  4. There are academic resources out there waiting to be mined by those looking for further critical ideas, and even analogous empirical support. Within rehabilitation, 'family-centred practice', taken at its face value, offers Conductive Education a lot to think about, practically, professionally and academically – so thank you Rony Schenker for alerting me to this, so that I can cast it into the wider winds here on Conductive World.
There may be more.

I did admit in yesterday's posting to the satisfaction of having one's preconceptions confirmed, so I cannot resist remarking here how well this aspect of practice seems adapted to what elsewhere I have described as the 'New Wave' in Conductive Education.


1    An item on Conductive World yesterday, which might be regarded as a Part I or a prequal to this present posting, was sparked by a research review of evaluations of 'family-based practice' in rehabilitaion, and led to consideration of an appointment at a hospital out-patients' department in terms of the ownership of professional practice:

Sutton, A. (2010) A patient patient. It could be YOU. It probably will be, eventually, Conductive World, 17 November

2.    The review article in question draws upon fifty-two sources:

Bamm, E. L., Rosenbaum, P. (2008) Family-centered theory: origins, development, barriers, and supports to implementation in rehabilitation medicine, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, vol. 89, pp. 1618-1623

Abstract.  The concept of family-centered care was introduced to the public more than 4 decades ago, stressing the importance of the family in children's well being. Since then, family-centered values and practices have been widely implemented in child health. The purpose of this article is to offer an overview of the development and evolution of family-centered theory as an underlying conceptual foundation for contemporary health services. The focus includes key concepts, accepted definitions, barriers, and supports that can influence successful implementation, and discussion of the valid quantitative measures of family-centeredness currently available to evaluate service delivery. The article also provides the foundation, and proposes questions, for future research.

And mirabile dictu, the full text of this article is available on line, open-access and  free of cost:


3.     For Conductive Education as psychotherapy, and some implications of this, see:

Cottam, P. and Sutton, A. (eds) (1986) Conductive Education: a system for overcoming motor disorder, London, Croom Helm, pp.173-174

4.    In the years since that was published, in 1986,  I have returned to 'CE as psychotherapy' many times. Here are a couple of examples from Conductive World, from which can be seen that such a perspective takes one immediately to dimensions far removed from much of the general discourse around Conductive Education:


Some of these are currently most extensively explored on the Conductor blog.

'Internationalising Conductive Education'

New URL for ordering

For technical reasons Conductive Educaton Press has had to change the URL for viewing and ordering copies of this book, written by parents and conductors, about setting up and running new CE centres or programs in Australia, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.

If you would like to see and perhaps order a copy of this book, click here:

Further details


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A patient patient

It could be YOU
It probably will be, eventually

A couple of evenings ago I had an email 'conversation' with a long-established and well-respected correspondent who had dropped me a line to recommend an article published on line, a research review on family-centred therapy.  In response, I expressed my long-standing concern about professionals' extolling 'collaboration' with parents and other client groups and the (to me) spine-chilling concept of 'partnership'.

My objection is that ownership of the given problems does not lie with the professionals in the first place, so it is not for them to dispense a share of this, whether through collaboration or partnership. The use of such words implies that they have indeed appropriated ownership, though they like to deploy the smoke-screen that they regard it 'good practice' to share in some way, in collaboration or in partnership.

In what other walk of life would you have something taken off you, then to applaud being granted some supposed say in its future use?

I do not regard any branch of bureau-professionalism to be particularly guilty in this respect, having seen the crocodile smiles well exercised and flourishing away at close hand over the last thirty-odd years, in child-care, education and health. Nor from what I hear is this circumstance unique to the United Kingdom.


That was two evenings ago. Yesterday I went to my local hospital for an out-patient appointment. Nothing serious, worse things happen at sea – nothing immediately so anyway, though I did not know that till the end of my appointment.

Nice hospital. Modern buildings, well maintained. Cheery and welcoming atmosphere. Staff universally courteous, smiling and helpful, though they come from the ends of the Earth to tend our increasingly ageing population. A couple of longish waits between stages in the process but it was warm and cosy there and I was free to do what I always do in such circumstances, nod off. So no problem there – and, given the numbers being processes over the course of the day in this large and busy out-patients' department, no grounds for complaint either.

Amazing technology. Brilliant computer graphics and all sorts of other gizmos. Cracking good pharmaceuticals. All state-of-the art stuff, readily and plentifully to hand. No fears that my specific problem was not being investigated from from the heights of present-day knowledge.

Nice people, and intelligent too. With extensive (and expensive) systems of training behind them. This all shows. You cannot say all this for large swathes of the public services (including less esteemed parts of the health service) but here I was under a branch of surgery, high-status and justifiably respected, top of the tree.

So everything was all right, then...? Well, no, not really.

At one level, everything went swimmingly. My problem had the attention and the genuine interest of a senior specialist nurse, a registrar and a consultant, plus a trainee something-or-other, I know not what as she was not introduced. In fact none of them was introduced to me, either by themselves or by each other. Nor was I introduced to them. I worked out who they were from their name tabs, from what was written on the door, and from what I know about how the system works. I myself presumably needed no introduction, as within only a couple of visits my case has already accrued a fat paper file and I am in the computer too (odd duplication, that).

Anyway, it did not seem important to their processes and their work to know who I am.

And very interesting their work was, to watch and listen to. They had a difficult intellectual judgement to make, whether there is something wrong with me or not, a pathological process requiring intervention of some kind or whether I am just getting old. The computer certainly had it down as the former and the lower-order staff appeared governed by this

This work was intensive as well as intellectual. Their working day was already drawing to a close, they were running late and there was a corridor of patients still waiting to be finished . The exceedingly pretty young registrar (she looked about seventeen, and dreadfully bright) was not really on my case. She had rushed in to ask the easy-going consultant something about the case that she was dealing with down the corridor, but she lingered then came back because there really was a difficult and interesting technical judgement being made here. I did not mind, not only because she was so lovely but because I recognised that she has her training needs too, and meeting these extended and raised the level of the technical conversation about my problem.

Very interesting it was too, just to sit there where I had been left on my own in a funny chair in a corner of the room. I rather enjoyed it. And when all had been made clear, and the ladies all understood the basis for the judgement being made, the consultant could turn his attention to signing a bunch of end-of-day papers that someone had brought in for his attention part-way through this. Then he suddenly remembered one small detail not yet dealt with. Me.

He looked up and they all followed his glance. 'Did you understand all that?' he asked me in a pleasant manner, the first words that he had addressed to me.

'It means that it is within the range of normal variation?' I asked back.


'So I don't need any treatment?'

'Of course not'. Then he added 'We'll review in six months,' and went back to his papers.

My further presence seemed redundant so, like they used to write in the News of the World, your reporter made his excuses and left them to get on with their work.

Their work. Not mine. I had no ownership of it.


What do I make of any of this? Not a lot. I am reminded of my powerful suspicions about the workings of established institutions and about the class interests and actual motives of the professional (and semi-professional) classes that work for them. I find  this orientation explanatory and reassuring. I also find that I am no longer thinking of Milton (the poet, not the mild disinfectant) and am truly grateful to the health service for assuaging this anxiety – without enquiring too closely about where and how the question was ever raised in the first place. Anyway, no great harm was done along the way, and I enjoyed a leisurely and interesting bit of participative observation, a single-case study of personal alienation within high-tech, managed health care.

Along the way I had the satisfaction of having some preconceptions confirmed, to my own satisfaction, so I can continue to look askance at any suggestion that such systems, in health or anywhere else, can regard the client, the patient, the citizen, primarily as subjects rather than... well, primarily as objects of their labour. It looks a good-enough hospital, but I did not feel that I belonged there, and certainly not that it belongs to me in the first place! I was a commodity, not a soul, so reciprocally I experienced my dealings with it as soul-less.

Does any of this matter? Perhaps not. But in a modern, economically advanced, liberal democracy, the chances are that most citizens will have all sorts of chances of experiencing this for themselves,  personally or through their families, sometime over the course of their lives. 

Of course, if there is disability in your family, you probably already have.


This article is continued at:


Been there, seen that, done it

No T-shirt, though


The CE virus

How it spreads
Good luck!

Fundraising for Conductive Education Program!
We (me, 4 other moms, and Mary Hare owner of Gaitway, Tucson) are raising funds to have a Conductive Education summer session here in Phoenix starting in June. Katie and a few other local Phoenix kids attended at Gaitway in Tucson for 2 months last summer, and under the guidance of Mary Hare, we are hoping to extend the summer program to Phoenix also. The Phoenix program will help a total of 12 kids with motor disabilities. 
Whether you can donate $10 or $25,000 (the total cost needed) or just good thoughts - it is appreciated so much!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Conductive Education – like the Nazis

Bitter anti-CE campaign

One of the factors impeding development of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom in the nineteen-nineties and beyond was vigorous opposition from a vocal and, it proved, influential wing of the disability movement. This has immeasurable negative effects upon the understandings and attitudes of many disabled people toward Conductive Education, and upon many people working in education and local authorities. One suspects that it also had a hand in the distance that Scope (formerly the Spastic Society) put between itself and Conductive Education, a position that it has maintained.

The number-one guru of this movement was Mike Oliver, then Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich. An article that he wrote in the journal Disability, Handicap and Society has been particularly influential in advancing this opposition to Conductive Education. It is of course available online, on the journal website, but on a pay-only basis:

I have just stumbled across an open-access copy in the proceedings of a seminar held in the West Country in 1996, in what was then the artificial County of Avon, in which document Mike Oliver's article is republished as additional reading or reference material:

This seminar may be of general interest because (a) it was laid on jointly by a disability-advocacy group and a quasi-official body, (b) the dark, angry mood of the contents as a whole and (c) the number and level of the local participants being exposed to the ideology involved (see below). Repeated across the country, this cannot but have had substantial effecs,t not just upon those attending the seminars themselves but cascaded down into that middle-level of local policy-making and implementation that parents and Conductive Education centres have had to deal with in their everyday affairs.

You might be interested in the sort of people involved at the first level of this cascade. For reference purposes and as historical raw data the list of participants at this Avon seminar is reproduced below, as an appendix to this item. Where are they now, I wonder, what do they do and what do they believe?

Unfortunately for quick reference, these proceedings are not paginated. Scroll down and you will find Mike Oliver's article about three-quarters of the way to the bottom.

The journal Disability, Handicap and Society was a strongly ideological publication. Even so, it drew back from publishing Mike Oliver's article in its original form and the text that finally appeared (and which your can read in the seminar report linked to here) is somewhat milder in tone than the original. Copies of the original manuscript did, however, circulate in photocopy form quite widely at the time. This included much more direct comparison between on the one hand Mária Hári and András Pető and on the other the Nazis and the Holocaust, a singularly crass comparison given their personal experiences in Austria and Hungary before and during the War. This CE/Holocaust theme continued to be exercised for educational and ideological purposes (perhaps most shockingly in the 'Red Nose video', circulated free to every school in England, one copy for the staff and another for the school governors – but that again is another story).

The County of Avon has been dismantled. Mike Oliver has retired. A too-quick search of the website of the Universisty of Geenwich finds no disability studies. I wonder, however, whether echoes of this powerful anti-CE campaign still resound around relevant bodies in the United Kingdom.


Avon Disability Equality Forum and Avon Equal Opportunities Unit (1966) Inclusive Education Seminar, 2 March

Oliver, M. (1989) Conductive education: if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. Disability, Handicap and Society, vol. 4, no 2, pp. 197-200

Inclusive Education Seminar Participants

Novvy Allan Community Education Coordinator, South Gloucestershire
Simone Aspis (Speaker) "People First
John Ashton Councillor. Chair Education Committee Bristol
Joan Avery Primary Teacher/SENCO
Carol Bannister (Speaker) Teacher Coordinator - Barnardo's/Somerset Inclusion Project
Daphne Branchflower Disability Advisor, Bristol City Council
Pam Brown Primary TeacherBarbara Burke (Speaker) Assistant Director Education, Newham
Anne Bush Education Psychologist, Avon County Council
Geoff Butterfield Parent
Dennis Casling Disability Equality Consultant
Mike Coulson ADEF; South Gloucestershire
Ruth Davis Councillor, South Gloucestershire
Pat Duffield Parent
Jo Forrest Councillor North Somerset
Yvonne Friel West of England Coalition of Disabled People
Penny Germon (Chair) West of England Coalition of Disabled People. Co-Chair ADEF
Phil Gregory Councillor, Bristol City Council. Bristol School Governer
Fazilet Hadi Policy and Equalities Officer, Lewisham Council
Neil Halsall Councillor, South Gloucestershire
Vanessa Harvey-Samuel Assistant Director Education, Bristol
Elke Hein Parent
Lee Hennessy Parent
GovernerMildrette Hill (Speaker) Disability Equality Trainer and Consultant
Pat Hogg Councillor, Bath and North East Somerset
Tony Hurley West of England Coalition of Disabled People. Disability Adviser, Bristol City Council
Anne Johnnson Supportive Parents for Special Children
Anne Jones Avon Disability Equality Forum
Linda Jordan (Speaker) Former Chair, Education Committee, London Borough of Newham
John Kenworthy Psychologist and North West Action
Victoria Kilroy Councillor, Bath and North East Somerset
Claire King Disability Equality Officer,
Avon County Council Dot Lee Teacher
Robina Mallett Supportive Parents for Special Children
Preethi Manuel (Speaker) Parent, Teacher and Writer
Ray Martin Councillor, North Somerset
Micheline Mason (Speaker) Alliance for Inclusive Education (formerly Integration Alliance)
Geralyn Meehan (Panel Member)Bath and North East Somerset (Avon Equal Opportunities Unit)
Mary Montgomery West of England Coalition of Disabled People
Saadia Neilson (Speaker) Disability Equality Trainer and Consultant, Way Ahead North
Anne O'Bryan Parent Governer
Hazel Peasley Southampton Centre for Independent Living
G T Perry Avon Disability Equality Forum
Ruth Pickersgill (Panel Member) West of England Centre for Integrated Living
Krysia Piotrowska Governer Training Officer, Avon County Council
Ian Popperwell (Speaker) Disability Equality Officer, Avon Social Services

Monday, 15 November 2010

Australian archive video

Quite a surprise

History can be disjunctive. People today may find it hard to believe how Australia was a leader in the early days of the modern movement to extract Conductive Education from Hungary.

A sudden and unexpected reminder of this was published this morning on You Tube, posted by Sare Jarm, now a young woman in her twenties, a video recording of an item from the 7.30 Report on Australian TV.

It's all there – questions that twenty-odd years later remain unresolved, not least in Australia, publicly aired at rather a higher level than you may hear today.

Simon Haskell and Tony Catanese provide a thoughtful academic analysis, parents state their powerful case, desperate attempts to emulate surface aspects of the work seen in in Budapest, extracts from Standing up for Joe, and original footage shot over there especially for this report.

And Sara herself at four years of age, and her parents David and Clair, in Budapest where I first met them.

Did we really look like that in the eighties?

Thank you Sare for posting this. Most salutary (and I do no refer just to the blokes' facial hair).


See Sare, David, Mária Hári and other familiar faces, plus a bloody good commentary, on as item fom 60 Minutes in 1988, also posted by Sara:

What, oh what went wrong in Australia?

Again, thank you so much, Sare. Keep'em coming.

The 'Three Cs' for economic survival

The future may be (relatively) bright

Gerard Lines is Chief Economist for Standard Chartered Bank. plc, so presumably he casts a mean rune.

He was casting one at 0615 this morning on the radio, for the benefit of sad insomniacs, about his report published today on the big picture that he prognosticates for the world economy. For example:

We are in an economic 'super-cycle', he says. Never mind the present problems of the Western economies, these are occurring within a context of massive growth in the world economy as a whole. So, if the developed economies play their cards right, they should do OK too.

Then you can amuse yourself by relating this to the circumstances in which you yourself will be living and working over the foreseeable future, and to the foreseeable future of Conductive Education.

Three Cs

Believe me, what he says is all rather cheering. It give one hope because it puts destiny back in one's own hands (sound familiar?). All that is needed to benefit are cash, commodities and/or creativity.

Take the UK, for example. It certainly has no cash. It has no commodities worth speaking of. But it does potentially have creativity, and there its future economic salvation should lie.

Take Conductive Education (please), that is the loose bundle of individuals, activities and institutions through which it is largely manifest. What does CE have of the 'three Cs' to enable it to thrive and expand in this new global world?
  • cash (certainly none of that)
  • commodities (not a lot – unless you include conductors here though, if you do, you have to ask whether most of them have the basis for successful 'export' to emerging countries)
  • creativity (there is enormous potential wealth here, as long as institutional arrangements emerge to stimulate such creativity rather than stifle it.
Immediately relevant

Gerard Lines' analysis is immediately relevant to consideration of two items posted coincidentally on Conductive World over the last twenty-four hours:


CE's New Wave – creative, not beholden

Independent, small-scale action
Towards 'transcendent purpose'

On Thursday last Conductive World drew attention to a 'graphic' lecture published on line by the RSA – the Royal Society of Arts – as recommended to me by Ben Sutton. Readers' responses suggested that this was appreciated. Yesterday Ben suggested another one:

This is a lecture by Dan Pink, very germane to Conductive Education's impasse over its own initiative and creativity impasse. Dan Pink's theme is organisation to motivate for transcendent purpose.

Watch this before going on to read my own responses below (oh dear, this sounds a bit like a lecture!). The video takes only ten minutes or so but, I warn you, you may want to watch it nore than once!

How does this chime with me?

With some immediate personal clang responses –
  • this is how the modern movement to extract Conductive Education from Hungary first got off the ground, through the work of the 'Birmingham group' (Philippa Cottam, Jayne Titchener, Ronni Nanton and myself) in the early nineteen-eighties
  • this is how the explosive force of RACE – Rapid Action for Conductive Education – was ignited in the Unite Kingdom in the late nineteen eighties
  • this, I suspect, is what got Tsad Kadima so effectively off the ground at around the same time
  • ditto, somewhat later, for the start-up phases of a variety of local and in rare cases national initiatives in other countries
  • fast-forward to the present time, this resonates with how Gill Maguire, Elliot Clifton and I have started Conductive Education Press (though none of us have 'day jobs')
  • you can feel it echoing in the words of parents and conductors, in the pages of all three books that CEP is publishing over 2009-2010
  • it is certainly there in the small conductive initiatives described recently in Conductive World as the 'New Wave' – you know who you are
  • there is a sense that, every time an individual and/or a family discovers the conductive cause, there is a potential (private) start-up phase that accords with Dan Pink's analysis
  • and not to forget history, fast rewind to the early beginnings of the late-life work of András Pető, in the late nineteen-forties and early nineteen fifties, when he began what we now call Conductive Education – him too
If you too recognise something relevant in Dan Pink's analysis then this is because you already have your own such list.

What about the big battalions?

Victory belongs to the big battalions. So said Napoleon Bonaparte. Is this true in Conductive Education?

Tghis posting not a denial of the place and purpose of larger organisations withing Conductive Education, though in all truth a 'large' CE organisation (with the anomalous exception of the Pető Institute) is still small beans. There is indeed a lose dynamic realtionship between the two sizes, as many acorns wish to become oaks (though some do not wish it and most do not attain it) – and all oaks had an acorn in their life stories!

Perhaps it all depends on the battle that you are fighting.
  • If you wish to provide services to as wide a population as possible, then maybe growing larger organisations is an effective way to go about achieving this – though you might have to argue hard from the track record to date to specify precisely how this has been done, and there are possibly other ways of achieving this goal.
  • If you wish for flexibly and creatively, to develop the enormous potential for Conductive Education to make the world a better place, and do this globally, then perhaps Dan Pink's analysis had someting importantto say to you.
Personal experience colours my own understanding. I remember back to the end of 1986. Victory. We were on the road. But euphoria was more than tinged by the awful realisation that we could only cash in the fairly large sums of money pledged, and slip through the (fast shrinking) opening that the English state system then had open for us, if we had committees, management, 'line management' even, job descriptions etc., etc. – then,  later, goals and targets and all sorts of other such stuff. I recall looking aghast into a future that I could not understand and where what we migh create could prove enemy of initiative and creativity.

I take my hat off to those very few people and institutions in any field who manage to square this circle, resolve this contradiction – put it how you want. You too know who you are.

So thanks again Ben, you certainly hit the spot with this one.


Pink, D. (2010) Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, RSA Animate

Sutton, A. (2010) Great graphics – and some relevance, Conductive World, 11 November

Sutton, A. (2010) The new wave – personal, family-based conductor practice, Conductive World, 12 November
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