Saturday, 29 December 2012

DON'T FORGET THE OLYMPICS

CE could find needed advantage there

The UK's New Years Honours List for 2013 has been published today, and you might think that there is nothing important happening in the world. It manifests so many of the Brits' besetting woes: Ruritanian Royalty, rank, flummery, snobbery, class, cant – and this year, the Olympics (both of them). Indeed, to judge from today's UK's media you might also think that the Olympics were back in full swing, this time with proper medals, awarded by Her Maj (well, actually, by Her Maj's Government.

The year 2012, quite a good Olympic year, I gather. Not, however, the best year for Conductive Education. How are the two connected? That's my point: hardly at all.

Before Christmas the Rainbow Centre in the South of England brought the two strands together:
 
In September, Norman Perrin and Paces produced a promotional video that made the comparative point:
 
Susie Mallett has posted numerous times about matters Olympic, and not just over the relevant months of 2012, on both her blogs:

I am sure that there have been more that I have missed to connect the Olympic and the conductive in the public mind, with respect to both practice and theory. There were, weren't there?

Bounce!

If not, the CE has missed a potentially valuable trick. Apart from the much needed PR gains that might have been made, there is the substantive light shed upon the conductive process by consideration of what athletes and the like have to undergo order to excel. During 2012 the two could have been united to CE's advantage. For the most part, they were not. Instead, upon both the PR and the substantive fronts, effort was presumably directed in other directions.
 
There will be other opportunities, both to find and to create. In preparation I can suggest no better than Matthew Syed's little book Bounce! – surly a basic text for anyone seriously trying to understand Conductive Education.
 
A couple of previous postings, obliquely relevant

http://www.condctive-world.info/2012/09/olympics.html
ttp://www.conductive-world.info/2011/06/performance.html

Reference

Syed, M. (2010) Bounce: how champions are made, the myth of talent and the power of practice, London, Fourth Estate

Friday, 28 December 2012

CHARITIES OUGHT TO CHANGE

Charities may find that they must
Including their product

It has been remarked before on Conductive World that if Conductive Education were to give serious attention to services for the disabled in the developing world then it might learn useful lessons towards developing positive services for disabled children and adults in the already developed economies.

Georgie Fienstein started and runs the presently London-based development charity Afrikids. She was on BBC Radio 4 just before Christmas, offering sharp criticism of charitable aid for developing countries. Here is my edited synopsis of what said

We are still stuck in the 1980s. It is past time for the charity sector to provide, and the public to fund, a new form of charity, one that is respectful, engaged and creates independence. Guilt, shock and pity are [at present] the motivating impulses. But you have been donating to images like this since the 1980s. So why has nothing changed? And where did all the money go? This type of fundraising is antiquated, delivers the wrong message. If good money follows bad, nothing will change and it is actually a net negative for society at large.

I suggest that you do not donate. Instead I suggest you write to your favourite charity and ask three simple questions:
  • When will the project they are fundraising for stop?
  • How will they know when it stops that it was successful?
  • How will they share the information on its success or failure with you, the donor?
Any good charity can answer these questions. Many can, but unfortunately, there are many more that can't. Charities should also get serious about sustainability. As a concept, it is uncontroversial – teach a man to fish, or better still build his own fishing rod and all that. For me, though, sustainability does not mean solving today's problems. It means ensuring that local people can solve their own problems independently of external assistance. In practice, this means funding businesses. My charity chooses ones which meet social and economic objectives while also delivering a 'multiplier' effect in the local economy. This effect will ultimately produce greater benefit than, for example, other more immediately profitable but limited enterprises. The end result of this approach is that my charity is on track to be sustainable in the next five years. And with that, it will close in the UK in 2018.

If the wider development sector is ever going to achieve sustainability in practice, we are all going to need to take a radically different view to supporting more commercial-type enterprises, and contemplating the possibility of closure, than they do today. If the wider development sector is ever going to achieve sustainability in practice, we are all going to need to take a radically different view to supporting more commercial-type enterprises, and contemplating the possibility of closure, than they do today. Until both the industry approach and public perception of charity changes dramatically, I fear we will not unlock the key to effective development.

Until both the industry approach and public perception of charity change dramatically, I fear we will not unlock the key to effective development. Both donor and charity have a role to play in this, but let's start simple – say No to pity fundraising – it belongs in the past. Today, the public and the people we seek to support, deserve more. I used to say that you'd never see a billboard for my charity at the train station, until 2011 when we were donated the whole platform of billboards in Canary Wharf station in London. It was too good an opportunity to miss. The slogans on our posters were:
 
They can't depend on us
Please help us walk away
Help us close down

Summarised from Saying No to pity, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 19 December:


You might think that her message to charities is not dissimilar to the 'conductive' message that CE holds out to disabled children and adults, to their families, and to anyone or any institution relating to them. Perhaps CE might think more widely of turning its own critical methodology (like 'Feuerstein's finger'!) back on to itself and its institutions.

If only out of enlightened self-interest

Why change the charitable model that has served Conductive Education since it got into the Western charitable act in the late nineteen-eighties? After all, hasn't this done the business well enough over the last thirty or so years?

There indeed are a few small centres in the UK that raise enough charitable money locally to provide 'free Conductive Education'. More strength to their arm. But this has no potential for bringing the benefits of meaningful, continuous CE to all those who might potentially benefit, nor of fund even a skeletal national expansion. It is no basis for creating a social policy, any more than is the fond expectation of 'state funding'. If that is what CE has set its eyes on, then it has failed.

And things get ever tighter for charities, as for everything else, while the recession drags on into its unknowable future, as Robin Wigglesworth reports in the Financial Times –
 
The woes of the global charitable industry are deepening as donations – both smaller individual gifts and philanthropy – continue to contract as demand for the services of non-profit organisations keeps mounting. Charity officials and experts harbour little hope for a meaningful recovery in 2013. Individual donations – the single biggest source of revenue for most charities – have shrunk sharply in many western countries. Bigger gifts from philanthropists and endowments have also slumped after the financial crisis took its toll on their assets...
 
In some countries, particularly the UK, charities have also been hurt by a dependency on public sector outsourcing contracts. These contracts have been among the first to be cut or cancelled altogether when austerity 'bites. 'This was a difficult year, and I think 2013 will be another difficult year,' said Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. 'It’s a pretty grim picture in terms of income.'
 
 
Relying on the mixture as before may prove increasingly unproductive, and this may go for the product offered, the service-model, as much as it does fot ways of financing it...
 
References
 
Fienstein, G. (2012) Saying No To Pity, BBC Radio 4, 19 December
 
Wigglesworth, R. (2012) Charities hit by austerity measures, Financial Times, 23 December

Sunday, 23 December 2012

ANGELS AND MINISTERS OF GRACE

Defend us
 
Suddenly I am surrounded by images of angels: long attenuated ones with trumpets, little fat ones sitting on clouds, fairy-like creatures atop Christmas trees. I have no idea what such images signify to those who produce them or, outside specific contexts of the sort that I avoid, what they are expected to convey to me, I live the rest of the year without messengers of the Lord, angelic guardians, supernatural guides, and I do not wish to be reminded of all the centuries of theological dispute about what sex they are (Christian problem) or whether they have free will (answer: No, they just carry out God's commands – Muslim tradition).
 
I am happy to regard the wide concept of angels as another human concept belonging to the realms of history and anthropology – and as for believing in angels – well, people find their social and personal opiates in far stranger notions.
 
Pető and the angels
 
András Pető had something going for angels.
 
Károly Ákos first alerted me to this. Károly told me this back in the nineteen-eighties but, hard-headed materialist that he was, it was enough for him to dismiss András Pető's thoughts on this matter with a snort. I heard no more from Károly about what András Pető actually believed. What angels? Angels in what tradition, Jewish, Catholic, Oriental – or something more arcane, or something more popular?
 
Much later, again in Budapest, Margit Balogh gave me cause to muse further on this – but just more questions, no answers:
 
 
Then this last year, when editing the book András Pető I was reminded of this unexplained and unelaborated quirk in András Pető's thinking. Or was it more than just a quirk? Here was Károly again, to hint a a little more specifically, linking András Pető's angels to gnosticism (p. 94). András Pető a gnostic? It could fit (sort of, but then so does a lot else) – enough at least to open up a whole field of further speculation and confusion around him and the conceptual origins of Conductive Education! And two of András Pető's own little poems, of which this (p. 159) is the more personal example –
 
I want to see the angel
Yonder on the slope
Under the almond tree.

I want to see the angel,
I want to approach him
And kiss his garment.
 
I want to perish on the spot.

Make of that what you wish.
 
The voice of the Lord
 
I do not wish to come over all theological, not at Christmas of all times. As I have expressed before, not uniquely, the tenets and traditions of Conductive Education can appear preserved and exercised as much in the form of religious beliefs as of modern rationalism and enlightenment. This has helped to make Conductive Education an opaque mystery for many who try to look in and understand from 'outside' – and perhaps for not a few 'insiders' too.
 
Who are the angels in the post-Pető Conductive Education that Mária Hári worked so long and so hard to transmit concretely to the future? Who in this context is the Lord whose messages such angelic messengers convey, who is the God whose command they obey without will of their own?
 
I do not subscribe to the image of' conductors as 'angels' in the conventional, sugary, sentimental sense of this usage, as these seem to bring with them the danger of a cosseting that is potentially antithetical to the goals of conductive upbringing and conductive pedagogy. And some of them are the very Devil. Nor do I regard András Pető as a god. But conductors remain the chief channel for the practice that MH inherited, and her tradition of cultural transmission remains a defining strand within the Conductive Education story. In that sense at least, conductors, are angels.
 
References
 
Maguire, G., Sutton A. (eds) (2012) András Pető, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press
 
Sutton, A. (2008) 'We all have an angel within us' – András Pető. Some angel! Conductive World, 11 November
 
 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

WC8: JOINING UP

Creating the Congress programme
 
Structure and content
 
The structure of the 8th Conductive Education World Congress to be held in Munich in October 2013 has been on line for some time now:
 
 
The actual content of the programme now begins to be filled in.
 
Keynote presentations
 
What is a 'keynote speaker? What a question! Do not be embarrassed if you have to ask this question, you are not the only one! Here are a few pointers towards an answer:
 
 
There are now twelve invited Keynote Speakers announced for WC8,including two'main'ones: 
 
 
The rest of the formal programme
 
This will depend to no small part upon what is selected from what you submit to be included in the programme.
 
To be included in the programme you will have to submit an 'abstract':
 
 
You have until 30 April 2013 to do this.
 
The complete programme can of course be published only when all abstracts have been submitted, considered and confirmed. In practice this usually means when the Congress actually begins.
 
If you have problems or questions regarding the abstract submission, or any other matters, the company organising the Congress will be pleased to help you by telephone or by email, presumably in German or in English:

+49 (0)351 484 2964

info@ce-worldcongress2013.org
 
Essential informtion for submitting
 
Congress focus
 
Guidelines for submission
 
Submitting your abstract
 
Submission form
 
Good luck!
 
Meanwhile...
 
1 Further details will be appearing in the Congress website
 
2. Conductive World will report these as they appear:
Possibly other websites will too.

3. You can register with the Congress (no cost or obligations on either side) at http://wcce2013.abstract-management.de/
 
Mentoring
 
Many people in and around Conductive Education have little or no previous experience of conference-presentation. They might reasonably find all this business daunting, even intimidating, and therefore be put off from contributing. This is a great loss to the world of Conductive Education.
 
Two years ago, for WC7, I tried to help in this matter by providing various degrees of mentoring – for example. discussions around possible topics, active, encouragement, help with writing abstracts and even 'lektoring' actual presentations. Perhaps others did too. There is still time for potential mentors and mentees to seek each other out.
I myself shall not be providing this service this year.
 
A social network?
 
Two years ago SAHK provided an interactive Congress website, a social network, not just during the actual event but in operation in advance of the Congress itself and potentially after:
 
 
As yet there has been no notification of whether such a social network facility will be provided for WC8.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

LITTLE GREEN MAN MEETS THE SCHOLARS

What will he ask for next?
 
The little green man from Mars offers a handy algorithm for seeing what Conductive Education looks like to outsiders. I am surprised that I have brought him out for a run only a couple of times before:
 
http://www.conductive-world.info/2011/03/one-conductors-life.html

I was recently asked what there is readily to hand on line about András Pető, something scholarly. How would I advise the proverbial little green man to find out?

Simple. I shall suggest that he looks up “András Pető” on Google Scholar (motto: 'Stand on the shoulders of giants'):

http://scholar.google.co.uk/

Given the Hungarian way of writing names, I suggest that he try “Pető András” too.

There are perhaps other versions of the name that I could suggest, but I do not want him to think from the start that he could be in for a hard time.

Hits

There looks to be a quite a bit of scholarly stuff on line mentioning András Pető, and Pető András. The UK version of Google Scholar pulls down 109 hits, and a quick scan suggests that this includes only a few misidentifciations:

The same edition of Google Scholar finds fewer for Pető András (36), with rather a higher number of false identifications.

Items for free

I have no intention of paying up thirty or so US dollars needed actually to read many of the items listed, so I suggest to LGM that we restrict our immediate attention to articles that are available on line in full and for free. Cautioning that I have no way of knowing how representative this minority is of the whole, I find him a good morning's read of online scholarly materials mentioning András Pető (and Pető András).

Job done? Not quite, I would prefer now to leave him to get on with it. but I know from past experience that even knowledgeable humans need considerable help to talk them through 'literature' that on its own is often virtually meaningless and bears little or no relationship to other items found – so this could take the whole day.

AP in scholarly writing freely accessible on line

András Pető
There are also some half-dozen items written in Chinese characters but my computer is presently having compatibility problems and we have to let these go for the moment.

Pető András
Including this one, surely the weirdest offshoot ever:
Not a lot in Hungarian.

What does it all add up to?

There is some interesting and useful stuff in the above lists. And some dreadful nonsense too. By the end of the afternoon LGM is beginning to flag. This is not because the material itself is intellectually onerous but because he is struggling to separate the wheat from the chaff and make sense of the whole. In other fields surely, he asks the people involved have mechanisms that on the whole serve to separate what is worth knowing from what is not, to establish a structure, a hierarchy of knowledge. Here, however, is a field that paradoxically trumpets the virtues of holism while at the same time doing nothing to bind together for itself a coherent, mutually compatible knowledge base.

Take me to your leader
 
I knew that sooner of later he would ask that. LGM always do.   What do I say to him now?









Monday, 17 December 2012

INTERESTING PhD STUDY – DIFFERENT

From the sub-discipline of health geography
 
Rae, Jacqueline (2005) Free for all? Processes of change in health care provision in Hungary from 1987-2002, unpublished dissertation, University of Durham
 
Available at Durham E-Theses Online
 
Abstract

Recent reforms in Hungarian health care delivery officially began when the Reform Secretariat was established in 1987. Broadly speaking, the reform process aims to restructure the hospital-centred curative system into one based on primary preventative health care with greater importance placed on individual responsibility. The reform process aims to "change" the centralised socialist ideology of health care delivery to a more pluralist model with various players becoming accountable and leading to the "retreat" of the government as the central supplier. In order to understand the "changing" health care delivery system in Hungary the roles of different actors (state, local government, international organisations, health care workers and voluntary civil organisations) and their complex interactions in health care provision and reform need to be taken into consideration. This thesis develops an understanding of health care provision change in the framework of academic discourse of welfare states, governance and civil society. In so doing, this thesis shows that implementing health care reforms formulated at the national level into local care sites is by no means a straightforward translation. Indeed, health care reforms can be undermined and obstructed or shaped and influence by a variety of health care actors beyond the state. For example, this thesis reveals how notions of change are contested at the local level and how prevailing political cultures and informal social practices of for example, parasolvencia can undermine and obstruct reforms. In addition, reforms strategies can also be influenced and shaped by actors beyond the state in the form of alternative processes of change. Alternative processes of change in the context of this research mean the innovative role of voluntary civil health organisations, which are addressing legacy gaps in care, left by the former socialist system. Thus, this research is set in the context of the complex roles and interactions of different health care actors located in a variety of health care sites in Hungary. This exploration considers not only the "changing" formal health care system but also alternative mechanisms of change such as the role of civil health organisations and the power they have to influence the reform process.
 
 
The full text of the dissertation is to be found at:
 
 
Written from the perspective of health geography this study offers an interesting, introductory background to some of the the processes of social change that swept up PAI over over the years, 1987-2002 – critical years during which it became clear to outsiders that all sorts of hopes and dreams were evaporating.
 
Note that the author was not a Hungarian-speaker, nor a Hungarianologist – nor a conductivist – all of which restricted the critical attention that she could bring to bear. That said, those with serious interest in the development of CE, could do with more such contextualising investigations from those outside the CE goldfish bowl, perhaps particularly now into its 'early-modern' years from the mid-eighties onwards. This one serves as a useful question-raiser for those concerned the social-welfare context of CE in Hungary over the period, 1987-2002. The years that it covers closely corresponds with the first generation of serious attempts at the internationalisation of Conductive Education.
 
Specifically...
 
The Pető Institute was one of three civil organisations that provided case studies for this investigation (the other two were the National Association of Cancer Patients and Ashoka). As far as the PAI was concerned, this involvement appears to have offered limited data:
 
No wonder perhaps, that the successor to the founding seat of Conductive Education did not apparently sway the author's presumption that she was dealing with an institution unproblematically within health care. Her three sources on CE and the PAI were: 
  • a single website
  • interview with an unnamed conductor
  • non-participatory observations during visits to the Institute

See Appendix 9 (pp. 311-2) for what she understood from this.

More generally...

Hungary is no longer the country that it was when this dissertation was completed, in 2005, and now the age of Fidesz is upon it! As ever, therefore, readers should remember the fast changing social context, and that any validity for the data presented here must be construed in terms of history as much as geography.

The website referred to

www.petoinstitute.hu

This site is an interesting period piece in its own right. It was at times little quaint and blinkered with respect to content but as far as non Hungarians are concerned it was the most accessible of the PAI's successive websites. It served at the time as a useful window into and useful window on to what many Hungarians understood about CE at the time (and possibly in some cases still do).

This website ran from May 2001 to February 2009. It is no longer directly accessible on line but much of it has been captured by the Web Archive's Wayback Machine, on which it remains open to all:

http://wayback.archive.org/web/*/http://www.petoinstitute.org

What else is out there?

I stumbled upon this dissertation altogether by chance when looking for something quite different. I consider it worth mentioning here in order to key its existence into the study of Conductive Education. I wonder how much other relevant material exists out there is out there, awaiting chance discovery!

Friday, 14 December 2012

OPEN LETTER

To conductors and others

From Paces, Sheffield. An open letter from Ray Kohn –

Dear conductors and others
 
For some time I have thought that a key breakthrough for conductive education in the UK would be persuading the neo-natal clinical assessors to refer babies with CP to conductors. We all know the reasons why they do not: but this might change if we could identify a specific condition where there was evidence that referral to a conductor could be shown as more beneficial than any alternative.
 
Gabor Fellner at Paces has told me about one condition that seems to fit the bill. Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is a condition that he recounted to me as one where standard UK practice sees babies referred to a physiotherapist. His description of the outcome was that such a referral would virtually guarantee that the child would never walk. Referral to a conductor would almost certainly see the child as ambulant from aged three.
 
Not being medically trained, I pulled out research evidence that I could find on the Internet and mapped out a short report that I could use when beginning a discussion with clinical assessors (viz. attached). However, before I start that process I would like to collect as much evidence of how conductors have dealt with this condition, what outcomes have been achieved and what experience families have endured when their child has had this diagnosis.
 
If you can help me by sharing any of this, I would be most grateful.
 
Best wishes
 
Ray Kohn 
 
Please respond to Ray direct at:


Do let us know how you get on, Ray:
  • in attracting responses from conductors and others
  • in framing your approach and
  • in how the 'neo-natal clinical assessors' respond...
Good luck.


Appendix


Ray appends the following information to his letter –


Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)

According to the Syracuse University’s hosted CPParent Listserv website, there is no specific treatment for PVL. Current research focuses on identifying risk factors and on preventing PVL.

Information provided to parents asserts that damage to the periventricular areas usually affects muscle control, although other brain functions may also be involved. The three most common problems resulting from PVL are:
 
cerebral palsy (CP)
developmental delays (including mental retardation)
behavior problems.

PVL is a leading cause of cerebral palsy in children. In 1995, Pinto-Martin, et al (1). reported a 14.6% incidence of CP among infants with PVL whose birth weight was between 501-2000 grams. Infants with PVL who weighed 501-800 grams at birth had a 7 to 20% incidence of CP.5 The variation in outcomes is due to the variation in location, size, and extent of PVL.

Infants with PVL have varying degrees of mental handicaps. Some may show normalintelligence and development. Most, however, have developmental delay and handicaps in their ability to think and learn. According to an assessment of 13 patients with PVL by Yokochi (2), 23% of the infants had severe mental retardation, 38% had moderate mental retardation, and 38% had mild retardation. Mental handicaps may also have been influenced by injury to other areas of the brain in these sick premature babies.

Among babies with PVL, the type and severity of disability appear gradually over time. It is very important for babies who have been diagnosed with PVL to have frequent developmental assessments.

The website goes on to say that there is some evidence that massage therapy, a range of motion exercises, and oral and visual stimulation may reduce the level of disability. They pose little risk to your baby and may help. You should ask your baby's nurse, doctor or occupational therapist about this.

Evidence from the most experienced practitioners of Conductive Education, however, would indicate that when PVL is diagnosed within 30 days of birth by ultrasound, MRI scan or CT scan of the brain and a structured conductive programme is undertaken with a trained conductor, major gains can be identified by the age of 3. Most obviously, the spasticity preventing ambulant development is almost always overcome by the age of 3 whereas intervention only by masseurs and physiotherapists almost never result in the child being able to walk.
 
(1) Pinto-Martin, JA, Riolo S, Cnaan A, et al. Cranial ultrasound prediction of disabling and non-disabling cerebral palsy at age two in a low birth weight population. Pediatrics. 1995; 95: 249-254.
 
(2) Yokochi K. Clinical profiles of subjects with leukomalacia and border-zone infarction revealed by MR. Acta Pediatr. 1998; 87: 879-883.