Saturday, 30 April 2011

Leaving a trace

Or not, as the case may be

This excellent extended article by Sumit Paul-Choudhury in New Scientist very much relates to Conductive Education as it is jolted into a new age – and out of its past:

Paul-Choudhury, D (2011) Digital legacy: The fate of your online soul, New Scientist, no 2809, 2 May

There's more...

...and more still...

The UK will have an extra day off on Monday (public holiday) and, if our gardens get their much-needed rain, there'll be extra time to catch up with reading.

Friday, 29 April 2011

A day out of time

But life goes on

What an odd day. Nothing to listen to on the radio, even the mahem in Syria and Morocco hardly gets a look in. No doubt the televison is even more so. To turn the radio on for a news or weather bulletin is to be immediately assailed by hushed tones reporting how well behaved the pageboys are being, how patient the horses. Being British, I have rather heard all this before. Now I gather that being foreign is no guaruntee of escaping it.

Surprise, surprise, not a soul anywhere in the world clicked into Conductive World between the hours of eleven and one. Was everyone else in the world really glued to the tele?

Oh well, in a few days all this will have been brushed aside in the public consciousness, by inflation, bloodshed and natural disasters, and people can get back to their everyday concerns of life and work – even Conductive Education.

Odd that, Syria and Morocco. What places to be beginning CE projects. Wherever next?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A dog is for life

A long, long way from those wretched 'principles'!

Dogs motivate us all to get moving – as so many of us well know at different points in our lives, in all sorts of different ways and contexts. And as we all know too, humans and dogs interact socially and humanly, we work and play together, as we humans do with no other species.

So no dogs in Conductive Education?

Actually, I have heard verbal accounts of isolated individual examples of dogs' involvement in conductive practice but, like so many activities that are not regarded as 'traditional', these have not been celebrated. Last month the Hungarian teachers' magazine Köznevelés ['Public Upbringing'] did just that, celebrate the dog's potential role, through an enthusiatic report of just such activities incorporated into conductive upbringing at the Pető Institute.
  • Lie, sit, stand.
  • Touch, stroke – his ears, your ears.
  • Help find the stuffed toy in the other room.
  • Liven up.
  • Go out for a walk, and keep on going...
Obvious stuff really. Let's hear more such confident, celebratory reports of other 'non-traditional' practice.

And not just with children.


(2011) Kira, a nevelő foxi, Köznevelés, vo.67, n0. 10, 4 March, pp. 8-9

For non-Latinists

The magazine Köznevelés has been going since 1868 (under its (present title from 1945). Its masthead is a Latin tag: Gutta cavat lapidem.

The full sentence comes from Ovid: Gutta cavat lapidem non vi, sed saepe cadendo.

I have recently been gently reminded that Latin really is getting to be a dead language now. In English this sentence means 'A drop of water hollows a stone, not by force but by continuously dripping'.

I cannot think of a better motto for the advantages of steady, attritional conductive upbringing over short, 'intensive' exposures to conductive pedagogy, however good in itself this latter may be.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

An American story

A huge success

Nearly three years ago, Conductive World reported on one of the many remarkable individuals who emerge out of disability – and particularly out of Conductive Education.

This concerned the then 28-year-old Rafal Strzalkowski who had grown up in Poland with cerebral palsy. As a boy he attended the Pető Institute in Budapest for four years, till the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990. He was then around ten years old.

Then…? A summary does not do his his story justice. Read my source at the time to see where he was by then, in Gainsville, Florida, advocating for Conductive Educatrion, studying law, and fighting the US immigration authorities to be allowed to remain in the United States.

Since then Rafel, now Ralph, has from time to time kept me in touch with his continuing story. This week he writes to tell me of being sworn is in as a Florida Attorney at Law–

As my ceremony was little last minute there was no media coverage, but on April 19th I took my Oath of Attorney in front of Florida Circuit Judge for the 8th Judicial Circuit of Florida, David E. Glant.
The Oath allows me to practice in Florida. UF Law school Chair of Admission from both the year I was rejected because of the LSAT debacle and later accepted was in attendance. Originally in doubt whether I'm fit for law school she's now a great supporter. Also in the picture, James Klausner, friend and boss, director of the Jordan Klausner Foundation Foundation that I volunteered at and served as Associate Director in hopes to bring some attention to their Conductive Education Academy.
We are also hoping to create a legal assistance program and workshop for people with disabilities. It is a big program in America to get people to understand that American with Disabilities Act is law like any other. Just few days ago I threatened to sue the City of Gainesville - they were training their drivers not to assist the wheelchair users the way the law requires. Their initial response was to say be adamant about it and say that that's their policy and even misinform me that the law doesn't mandate it. They were very apologetic about it later when I announced I'm an attorney but how many people don't even know they have rights or even that they should talk to somebody after being shut down? It feels to me ADA is viewed as some form of lesser law that is there, but really isn't. Our big challenge- structuring the program in some way to have somebody pay for it, sponsor it.
The Foundation is also setting up a free Conductive Education Camp this Summer for kids:
Exceptional Opportunity for Volunteers!

See pictures, and follow his story further:

The earlier posting on Rafel

Friday, 22 April 2011

Old photos, new technologies

And an old mystery

In 1984, when I first went to what was then still the State Institute for Motor Disorders,, Mária Hári gave our small party a room to use as our base, at the end of the long corridor on the right. This room was used for meetings but in earlier times, she told us, it had been András Pető's office, the room in which he had died in his birthday, nearly seventeen years before.

It contained a table, some chairs and a couple of shiny wooden cupbooards. There was nothing to reflect its earlier occupant, except the single black-and-white photo, no more than a snapshot, of a still-vigorous András Pető, working with a little boy, with a youngish woman leaning over them.

In those seemingly distant days, the Institute was very far from being 'world famous', so Mária was able to give us considerable time (I rather suspect that she and her Ministry were not at all sure what to make of us and our visit, nor of the apparent interest of HM Ambassador in those still Cold War days). So, perhaps to play safe, they gave us a lot of attention and time. Mária spoke much about Pető, and the way in which she did so soon had us exercising out imaginations, not about the man himself but about what sort of relationship the two of them had had.

There were very few photographs of him that we saw, but that stark, over-exposed snaphot stared down upon our conversations. And on our attempts to see whether the woman in the photo was Mária.

We certainly did not dare to ask her!

Blogger, Facebook, Picasa

Now that photo has appeared on the Internet, along with a couple of others also taken during the years 1957-59:

The first of the three is the one that used to hang in his room, the second shows children settling down for sleep on their plinths, the third is of András Pető flanked by student-conductors.

Looking again at that photograph, having seen quite a few of the younger Mária during the years that have passed since then, I am certain now that it was not Mária in this photo.

But who was she?

Due thanks...

I have to thank Susie Mallett for setting me off today on the trail that took me to this photo. Yesterday a posting on her Conductor blog referenced the Pető Institute's Facebook page for directing her to a really excellent video, a one-hour-long video of a programme with people with multiple sclerosis:

I had not previously spotted this Facebook page. Most reemiss! It looks a veritable cornucopia. It is in Hungarian but that is nothing that Google Translate cannot cope with (well, usually!). You can find this page at:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Conductive pedagogy has changed my view as a father

Pegagogy into upbringing

I have often written about this in abstract terms. It is better and more concisely expressed by those who really know it, in practice. Fabian Gillard writes –

In a few words I should like to share my experience as a parent of a child with neurological problems, and specifically to note that the arrival of conductive pedagogy into our family's life has profoundly changed the way in which I look on my son Mano.

Following a massive stroke that occurred when he was a little over a year old, Mano presents essentially motor difficulties

Following this accident, I formed a hyper-protective view of him; again and again, I promised myself to protect him against the hostily of the outside world and against everything that could pose him a problem. In hindsight, I realise that I unknowingly gave myself the mission to overcome his difficultiesfor him. I viewed him as a child to help, and therefore I often deprived him from overcoming the obstacles of daily life for himself (climbing stairs, eating alone, undressing, looking for something).

Since we learned about the basis and the method of conductive pedagogy, my view has changed. I now see my beloved son as the bearer of its own solutions. I realize that he is capable of facing up to the vast majority of the obstacles that he meets, without me.. And even if this diminishes my role as 'papa protector', this evolution of view has brought me many positive things: healing, joy, pride. And that is priceless.

Gillard, F. (2011) La Pédagogie Conductive a modifié mon regard de père, Les parents et la pedagogie conductive, 20 April

Monday, 18 April 2011

Who is helping Shalom, aged five, from Kenya?

The Niederpöcking Fortschritt

Shalom is five and comes from Kenya. She has suffered severe epilepsy since malaria as a baby. The German humanitarian charity Parea – Dein Projekt in Berlin and Munich, and friends and neighbours of the family in Kenya, raised the money to send her with her mother to Germany, for treatment.

She also has cerebral palsy. Conductor Anita Jager  at the Niederpöcking  Fortschritt who has been working with her says –

When they came to us she could neither walk nor stand still. In addition, the mother gave her to eat only pureed food. Shalom can now walk up, and eat while sitting. Sometimes we even give her solid food –  it's madness, the progress Shalom has made in just two weeks. 

The drugs help her epilepsy, but her mother asks the inevitavbkle question –

How can we go home without the support of the conductors?

Peter von Quadt has a dream, a microproject Konduktive Förderung in Kenia – Conductive Educatio in Kenya. Where others merely follow, and talk, Peter is something else. He'll do it.

Notes and references

– (2011) Wer hilft Shalom (5) aus Kenia? Merkur-online, 1 April

Parea – Dein Projekt

Niederpöcking  Fortschritt

Peter von Quadt

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The complexities of practice

 They make you think

A couple of days ago Susie Mallett's Conductor blog carried a long posting, called 'Let us be careful about aphorisms, principles and proverbs', expressing concern over some of the simplistic and potentially misleading terms in which conductors' work is often described. This was couched in a characteristically complex account of actual conductive practice. I commented under this iconoclastic and challenging piece yesterday, but it would not let me go.

It made me think. I do hope that some who read my words here will take the time to read this posting. You too may find it though-provoking, as I did:

One of the things that it had me thinking about was the (to me) ever-interesting problem of 'Conductive Education research'.

CE-research: find the paradigm

What implication might the complexity of the mechanisms of conduction hold for empirical outcome-evaluation (which is all that many mean when they talk about 'CE-research')?

One of the problems  for adopting the sort of research methodology that is so often called for under the call for 'evidence-based practice' is how to ensure that would-be comparative groups receive comparable input. In the past, taking the lead from the critical research review by Due Ludwig and her colleagues in Alberta, I have often (somewhat mischievously, I admit) advocated the proposal of using 'treatment manuals' as a step towards achieving this. I am not altogether sure, but I rather suspect that Susie Mallet's referred to here rather explodes this possibility – not that anyone has tried out treatment manuals in CE-research over more than ten years since that research review was published).

I doubt that there is anything new in what I am writing here. This problem must have been apparent since the dawn of research into teaching processes, of any kind. Of course it must be widely known (and probably deeply theoretised too) that every instance of teaching and learning is unique, of itself, never to be repeated. I do not consider there to be anything profound in expecting that it could ever be anything else, given circumstances that are of their nature so multifactorial, interactive and dynamic. I really wonder whether a 'treatment manual' can really match the continually flexing nature of good conductive pedagogy – so why bother to try? Why try to jam conduction into the Procrustean bed of clinical-style comparative evaluation? And if one cannot manage a treatment manual, how can one pretend to be comparing treatments?

So what is a poor empirical evaluator to do about this? This is not immediately my problem – but I do not consider a satisfactory answer  to be 'Ignore it'. Perhaps a start would be 'Admit it', then dip deeply into the phenomenon to be studied, and come up with something altogether new, sufficient to the task. Perhaps this might involve asking some very different questions.

As usual, I wonder what others think.


Ludwig, S. and others (2000) Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy, Edmonton, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.
Specifically relevant here are their mentions of 'treatment manuals, see pp. 27, 27, 30, 31 and 36

Mallett, S. (2011) Let us be careful about aphorisms, principles and proverbs, Conductor, 10 April

Saturday, 9 April 2011


What to do for the best?

Yesterday on my Facebook page I comment unfavourably upon something just sent me by Google Alerts:

....focused therapeutic exercise program called Conductive Education to help repair or form new connections from the brain to the muscles'

Not the first sighting of such a 'new connection', by a far too long chalk, but I did feel that this one was boldly going into a new dimension, out into the peripheral nervous system, to which I commented –

This seem to be a peculiarly North American CE-myth, stemming (I think) from uncritical repetition of a remark in the commentary of a TV news report some years back, perhaps growing in its retelling.
One wonders what such proposed reconstruction of the peripheral nervous system is supposed to mean in biological reality, and how anyway it would relate to the nature of CNS-based anomalies of development and living, such as cerebral palsy and stroke.
Why do people say things like this?
Why do others let them get away with it?

Susie Mallett and Anna Wittig chipped in.  Here is an edited version of what they said.

Susie developed my point –

...many similar statements, as you say, can be found in many videos and websites about conductive education, conductive pedagogy, conductive therapy, Pető therapy etc., and they are spreading the word very fast. I often ask, as you do here, why do people say things like this? I ask, even more often, why do people who are conductors say things like this, and not only in America? Where does this information come from? And as you ask here, I also ask “Why do others let them get away with it?” I do not have any answers just more questions. What can we do? How can we prevent it spreading like it is?  There is enough in the Internet to read about what conductive pedagogy is, with no mention of changing brains, and I certainly did not learn as a student, or since, that it has anything to do with new connections in the brain.

Anna responded –
  • Susie, I did ask someone lately why they use this neurotosh and apparently it is to sell CE.,,, organisations trying to sell their product.... I think this is a very dangerous short-term solution. People who are looking for cures to their brains in general do not stick with CE for long, because a lifestyle change is hard work and mostly not what they hoped (and even signed up for). I think we in CE should stick to what we know. By the way have you noticed how little news coverage there is lately of CE that doesn't have braintosh? I tried to get some newspaper to come around but without braintosh and reality it seems like CE is not newsworthy. It doesn't hit the Zeitgeist of neuroplasticity.
Susie responded in return –

Yes, I suspect that the neuro-tosh is to sell something, but not conductive pedagogy. And not to the people who are looking for a way to bring up their children. The buyers as you say will be those looking for a cure, who will soon leave, disappointed that it is not what they signed up for. What happens when someone starts asking the people who are talking about brains questions about how this works? There are no answers, there is no cure, neurologists do not know very much about what happens in brains. Looking a fool is not going to sell any amount of CE. If you look at the TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson... you will hear education being talked about in a way that would give space to conductive pedagogy without any mention of brains... It is interesting that on the new site of the Belgian parents there are four videos, with brains and some without. I wonder which way the scales will tip there. My French is not good enough to know whether this is intentional or not. The question still remains 'What can we do about it?' How can we survive doing what we know in a time when the Zeitgeist requires us to do something we do not know? Something that I have found is that since I have become involved in the schooling of children, who have been brought up conductively from two or three years of age, the emphasis is on education rather than on therapy. It is also less on changing brains and more on learning and transforming and making every wish a possibility. I find the same when working with adults who are hoping to return to jobs, to driving a car, or to their lives as parents and partners. We discuss changes in lifestyles, transformations in how we approach problems. We discuss how to make wishes a possibility. We steer clear of the neuro-tosh. Anne we can, I hope, survive on selling what we know and do, until the Zeitgeist allows us to flourish.

In response to specific points raised 

Facebook serves well to launch discussion topics. It is perhaps not so good as a platform for the actual discussion. Here are my own thoughts on what has been said on this topic so far –

  • One source of the specific notion promoted here probably originated in the highly hyped and much linked-to CBS report 'Mind and muscle…'. The TV company must have got the idea from somewhere, but whether it came from the production team itself or from somebody at Aquinas College we may never know.
  • The 'new connections' story – usually set 'in the brain' – is more widely spread and goes back quite a long way. Apart from obvious factors at work her, such as wish-of Communism, in any sector concerned with human learning, would have known this – and felt the need to parrot aspects of it whether they understood or agreed with it or not. Some of this drifted into the CE 'literature', and may have helped nudge some people towards 'new neural connections' etc. As a remedy, I recommend a good course in Luriya!
  • Why do we let others get away with it? I can speak only for myself. I find myself in a contradictory position – and I am too soft. My position is contradictory in that I dearly wish that more people in CE, users and providers (especially conductors) would speak out, describe what they do, explain what it is that makes CE so special. When some do this, I have applauded for the sake of the individual involved, and drawn attention to it pour encourage les autres. I do not wish to carp over specifics: it makes me sound a miserable old curmudgeon and, more importantly, might discourage the very actions that I wish to encourage. So I tend to take the soft option. I suspect that I may be remiss in this – striking the wrong balance. In future I should of course still give due praise, but at the same time vey gently point out that some of the things said by the ingenue are wrong and may be actively harmful to the cause. Two current buggaboos going round at the moment are the 'neuro' epidemic and, more parochially, the astonishing resurgence of the 'five principle'. There are too many instances of both to do them retrospective honours but I will try as kindly as possible to follow this line in future. I do hope that others will join me. 
  • As for the Zeitgeist, there's the final frontier for you., Crack that and CE and the other transformative pedagogies (cognitive educations) will have no further problems! Don't ask me how to do this – if only I knew!. In the meantime, it is worth remarking that the neuro Zeitgeist that both Susie and Anne mention is an ignorant Zeitgeist – pop science rather than the peak of human understanding. People in CE should be operating at a higher level of scientific understanding than this Zeitgeist, and drawing reassurance from what is said by the better class of brain scientists (and psychologists, and educators).  fulfillment, the wish for prestige, there is perhaps a simple misunderstanding of something within neuropsychology.  A. R. Luria and the Soviet psychologists, and before them the physiologist I. P. Pavlov, were concerned with establishment of temporary connections. All those working in Hungary in the post-War years, up to the fall
There is plenty else to elaborate on and criticise on this posting. Do feel free, via the comments below, on Facebook of you prefer, or elsewhere.  And as usual, if you have a problem using Blogger's Comments system, email me and I shall post what you want to say for you:

The general term for unconsidered and ill-informed discussion around the brain is 'neurobabble'.

On Facebook I dismissed the particular statement quoted here with the word 'neuro-tosh'. On reflection, I prefer the term 'neurotrash', for both its obvious but differing associations in American and in British English.

Ken Robinson's TED talk:

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Aux armes, citoyens

Conducere (Latin) – unite!

Last weekend's day conference in Belgium has given voice to frustrations experienced by families struggling to benefit from Conductive Eduication. The Belgian association behind the day now reaches out to others.

Fabian Gillard writes –

Parents' pain

Today's discussions (April 2, 2011) let us address several issues: 
  • the content of conductive pedagogy,
  • modalities of its implementation, 
  • its impact on the lives of beneficiaries, and
  • its positive impact on parents' lives,
  • its methods of distribution , and
  • the limits of information about it
A point that has not been addressed, however, seems essential: parents' pain.
In fact, this pain found its place at the very heart of this day meeting. I saw it in the eyes and sometimes in the tears of speakers and members of the audience.
It seems fundamental to open a door on to this pain, not to hide it, certainly not to prohibitit in the name frogress made bt the child.
For let us be clear that, if our children benefit from conductive pedagogy behind this there is a problem, there is a fracture, there is pain.
And if managing this pain does not come into the sphere of professional skills, it seems appropriate to open the door to parents' associations.
I therefore propose that we take advantage of being united, to invite different associations to open up to each other. To create a space for speaking and listening between parents who are certainly happy for their children but also in a delicate situation at the emotional level.
To put it simply: our Association is ready to lend an ear  to anyone facing the reality of "neurological disorders", in a perspective of exchange.

Remember: the very word 'conduction ' means 'unite'.

Yesterday's posting on Belgian day meeting ________________________________
The French word douleur may be translated into English as 'pain', 'grief', ' distress', each of which words comes with its own bundle of associations. I do not know the best Enlish word to use here. I have used the phrase 'parents' pain'' because it is nicely alliterative – and makes a strong point.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Conductive Pedagogy is a Loch Ness Monster

Parents demand change

In Begium, a day conference:

Journée Plateforme: le 2 avril 2011 à Inkendaal Ziekenhuis - 1602 Vlezenbeek
"Regards croisés sur l'Education Conductive"
Témoignage de parents, bénéficiaires, professionnels. Débat.
Ouvert à toute personne appartenant aux réseaux belge et français d'Education Conductive

In short, there was a one-day meeting in Belgium last weekend, open to anyone in the Belgian and French CE networks, for the testimony of relatives, beneficiaries, professionals – a debate.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but this sounds like something that has not been heard in the English-speaking world since the 'early days'.  n the name of the Association for Parents of La Famille, Fabian Gillard writes –

In the current socio-medical context, conductive pedagogy is a particular form of Loch Ness monster... comething that people speak of but nobody really knows what it looks like, nobody really knows where it comes from and where it goes, some are wary of it others deny its existence and ignore what is essentiaaly a marvel.
And if the Loch Ness story may be an amusing tale under certain circumstances, this is absolutely not the case here... I would even go further and say that it is unbearable for us to see that a method whose impact is so important for the lives of children and parents dealing with neurological disorders remains so widely misunderstood...
We therefore want to call with all our strength for a radical improvement in communication and information about the existence of conductive pedagogy and places where it is applied. We will fight with every means at our disposal so that conductive prdagogy should be known in medical circles, in nurseries, schools, centers for social assistance in the political sphere, in the media. It is essential to ensure that it is known for what it is, going beyond the image of an almost barbaric method from deepest Hungary. We fight this battle with conviction. But we know that we are small. That is why we call for implementation of a structure for communication about conductive pedagogy.

A Facebook page has just been opened. You might like show a little solidarity there by completing a short questionnaire.

What role for parents in conductive pedagogy?
  • A critical role to assure conductive pedagogy's continuity at home
  • A passive role, leave it to the professionals
  • A secondary role, parent being the primary function
It is in French but have no fear: this is all that it asks. Just tick a box:

Monday, 4 April 2011

Air France Airbus

News of flight 447

In the early hours of this morning, Reuters reported –

France says locates wreckage from Atlantic crash
France has discovered what appears to be part of an Air France aircraft that crashed in the Atlantic almost two years ago killing all 228 people on board, accident investigators said on Sunday.
A salvage vessel equipped with unmanned submarines located pieces of an aircraft in the past 24 hours and French experts believe they come from the missing Airbus A330 passenger plane, the BEA accident investigation authority said.
"These pieces have been identified by the BEA safety investigators as parts of commercial airliner Airbus 330-203, AF flight 447," the BEA said in a statement.
Further details will be announced later, it said.

Further details have indeed emerged, at a press conference this afternoon, making this a major international news story around the world – for example, this report from the BBC:

The fate of conductor Rita Szarvas and her companions is of course recognised in Hungary –

Pető Intézet munkatársa, Szarvas Rita (†31) kisfiával, Andrással (†7), párjával, Gallasz Józseffel (†45) és egy ismerősük kisfiával, N. Arnolddal (†10) együtt veszett az Atlanti-óceánba.

Distressing news

French Minister of Environment and Transport, Natalie Kosciusko-Morizet, speaking at this afternoon's Press Conference –

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