Travellers for CE
The old State Institute in Budapest had always been open to foreigners in particular circumstances, but this was taken up only in small numbers and mainly from the 'fraternal republics' of the then Eastern Bloc. The Institute was not 'world famous', indeed hardly anyone had heard of it at all, or of what it did – and who in a right mind would take a disabled child 'behind the Iron Curtain', for some unheard-of and poorly described process?
But by the mid-eighties word was trickling out. A handful of British and Australians families went to budprst, to the about-to-be renamed Pető Institute . Then it happened. On 1 April 1986 the BBC broadcast Standing up for Joe, documenting the experience of one of these early British families – and the rest, as they say is history. British families took themselves en masse to Budapest, and as Joe was shown by other public-service broadcast companies, they were soon joined by families from Israel, Australia, New Zealand... The cat was at last out of the bag, though Germans did not arrive till the early nineteen-nineties, and Americans even later. Remember, there was no mass Internet as we know it today, and television (spread as much by pirated video tapes as by broadcast) was the vital medium for communicating this message – along with print media of course.
Ebb and flow
The first wave in the process of internationalising CE, the first tidal flow, was for parents to travel, perhaps uprooting themselves and settling permanently in a new country, as the only way in which they and their children might experience Conductive Education. For most people this was just a temporary wave for, by the turn of the century, the tide was turning, drawing out conductors to work where families actually live.
But the sheer numbers of those who might benefit have meant that the traelling tradition has persisted as a commonplace of the CE phenomenon around the world. New places of pilgrimage have arisen and (albeit smaller) tidal flows established. People have travelled to NICE in Birmingham from across the world, Australians have gone to New Zealand (and the UK), Americans have gone to Canada, Russians to Budapest, families of Third World elites to the best places that their money can buy (as for all their treatment needs).
Some of these travellers have returned home and for various reasons let Conductive Education go. Others have built upon their initial experience to 'set something up for themselves'. Families who have taken their children abroad for CE have taken leading roles in establishing new CE centres around the world, for their own children and for other people's too. Others still of course take no heed of historical trend and take their children to the original places of pilgrimage. One still routinely reads in the British press stories of families desperately raising large sums of money to go to the Pető Institute in Budapest, when they could achieve a less expensive and certainly more convenient service 'down the road'. In many cases they and their children (and those who fund them) might be better served by the local option.
A Mexican wave, in the age of the Blogger?
Just commenced on the Internet is a new blog, recounting the experiences of an American family taking their child to Mexico:
The largest economy in the word, with the most highly sophisticated special-education and rehabilitation technologies, in the height of the recession – and impoverished, crime-ridden and much reviled Mexico. No stranger than comparisons made when people went off 'behind the Iron Curtain' twenty-odd years ago. In this as in otherrespect Conductive Education continues to cut across usual comparisons and terms of reference, and defy conventional thinking.
(It can continue to do so for as long as what families experience something extraparadigmatic for their pains, an altogether different way of viewing and responding to disability, something outside back-home conventional ways and outcomes. Remember that as the tide tries to take a new turn, and CE tries to move on from just setting up in a new country to adapting and nativising there.)
The Revel Family from California are experienced bloggers. They had their first taste of CE in travelling to Ability Camp in Canada. They have been in Mexico now since Saturday and are on their third blog posting rom there already.
It will be interesting to watch this unfold – and to look out for whether other CE-hungry families turn their attention to centres in Mexico, or Brazil.
Notes and references
The blog in question: Familia Revel
Books offering some previous documentation by travelling families:
Internationalising Conductive Education
Includes chapter on first bringing CE to Mexico
Covers different stages in the tidal flow – and a chapter on Brazil
Fundaciòn P.E.T.O. is a new service in Mexico:
'P.E.T.O' = Programa Educativo de Trabajo Orthofuncional
('Educative Program of Orthofunctional Work')
Con Nos Ostros:
The original Mexican service