Thursday, 23 February 2012


Not just for cerebral palsy

There seems frequent coyness amongst those who work within Conductive Education when it comes to providing services for children other than those with cerebral palsy conditions. This can go further, amounting to overt denial.

It cannot be stated too often that this indicates misreading of the history of what is presently called Conductive Education, and of its theoretical base. This matters, because it may deny many children and families access to CE's potential benefits, and needlessly limit struggling CE services' possible markets. It may also deleteriously influence the direction of research and training in the field. If CE were to have a social policy, this could wreck it.

Discuss it more

This question of CE's broader relevance does from time to time at times rise to CE's public surface. Here is a recent, rare example:

In this matter, as on many others, parents are less coy about discussing things, This last couple of weeks the very jolly and lively Mumsnet (strapline: 'By parents for parents') has shown a couple of examples on its Talk page –

From 'isw'. We also do conductive education, there are a lot of kids in her placement that have GDD [general developmental delay] rather CP...We are in Scotland and do the access to education programme at the Craighalbert Centre. (17 February)

From 'varga'.  We're going to our first visit to The London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy tomorrow-although my DD hasn't got CP,they do conductive education and that is something we were advised to do. She had a few sessions a year ago in Hungary but didn't respond very well... (12 February). ..We had our assessment in the conductive education centre. It went really well. DD responded brilliantly to the conductors and showed everything she can. The place is amazing and they offered us a place for a one-to-one session once a week. I can't wait to start. The only downside was the journey there. We live in Central London and the centre is in North London,it took 40 minutes to get there by car. My DD got sick in the car, got really upset and just screamed. It happened on the way back too and then she fell asleep, it was 5 pm. (22 February)

Creative tension

A generalisation, robably not one-hundred percent the case: parents lead, professionals drag their feet. A working generalisation nonetheless, on this matter as on many others. There are plus and minus facts and arguments to be stated on both sides of this case. But unless they are just that – 'stated' -- then the potential for practical and theoretical advantage will be restricted to individual experiences. Private benefit where it can be achieved is all for the good. For the better would be means to raise this to public benefit.

Two centres in the UK 'outed ' over the last couple of week as serving children, families too probably, who are not 'classic' CE clients. How many others? I know that this underground trade is more common than might appear from the public image.

At the very least one might expect responsible centres involved to come out and declare more widely and vigorously what they are doing, for everybody's benefit.


  1. Andrew,

    I was in Hong Kong in 2010 and was disappointed to hear in the final words from the Petö Association at the World Congress that we must not forget that Conductive Education is first and foremost for children with cerebral palsy. I was told that this was more or less what was said in the previous congress in Sweden too.

    I was astounded to hear this especially because we had seen and heard so many presentations in Hong Kong describing successful practise with clients with other diagnoses than cerebral palsy. Yet still this wonderful work was not being acknowledged by many people.

    As anyone who reads my blog regularly will know, it is my opinion that conductive upbringing is for everyone, the limitations come only with the conductors and the centres, and what they are able or prepared to offer.

    Recently I was in Budapest at a meeting where people gathered from all over Europe. At one point they were discussing the wording of a paper that was to be published. In one section they wished to state that Conductive Education was primarily for children with cerebral palsy.

    I was shocked.

    I just had to speak out because there I was at the Petö Institute where I had done my training. There were people present who had been involved in my training when I had worked in a group where there were children with many different diagnosis, and were the work had been very successful.

    It was the International Group where I saw this work and it was a group that reflected quite well the client group that centres throughout the world were also providing conductive sessions for then, and I think this still applies now. During the time that I worked in that group at the Petö Institute, at any one time there were always two or three children from twenty, with a diagnosis other than cerebral palsy. Even at that time, and despite the children having been accepted at the Petö Institute, some conductors and trainee conductors were reluctant to work with these children. I always worked with them and I gained a lot of very valuable experience in that group and that is how I learnt at the PAI that a conductive upbringing is for all.

    I often ask myself why it is that when I was taught in my training that conductive upbringing is for all why it is that as you say:

    “There seems frequent coyness amongst those who work within Conductive Education when it comes to providing services for children other than those with cerebral palsy conditions. This can go further, amounting to overt denial.”

    Thank you for bringing this subject out into the open.


  2. Conductive Education is definitely not just for population with cp, as its basic notions are relevant for all people. Yet, I believe that pedagogic tools to practice CE in other disabilities than cp, are not yet well developed (if at all)and examined, to question these options. Currently, Tsad Kadima is operating (as a pilot), a day care group of children ages 2-3, diagnosed with PDD (Autistic spectrum). A task series for children with Autism is much different from this of children with CP, although these children demonstrate movement disorders in many cases. Moreover, methods of facilitation are partly different as well. Yet the group, the rhythmical intention, etc. are most beneficial.
    We shall write a report, at the end of the year, with initial recommendations on the above.
    I thing it maybe most beneficial if those centersqconductors who practice CE with other populations, would share their experience, not waiting to the next world congress.
    Unfortunatelly, as I have screamed before, the CE community is generaly mute and this is a shame!!!

    1. Task series are different for all of our clients, just as they were different for all these groups of clients that I came across at the Petö Institute, in Budapest or in one of the centres in the countryside: - spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia, accident victims, people bitten by ticks, genetic disorders, childhood and adult illnesses and diseases often leaving spastic or ataxic symptoms, tumour patients, cerebral palsy, autism, genetic disorders, etc.,etc.

      Conductors learn in their training to use and develop their pedagogic skills with all of these clients when not more.

      The pedagogic tools to deliver a conductive upbringing where taught to me and my fellow students while we were at the Petö Institute. From my experiences having worked with several generations of conductors from PAI, and from NICE, I think I can honestly say that this is still the case.

      We were all taught how to differentiate tasks and how to work spontaneously, our skills were developed in observation and we were taught how to build a coherent programme for what could appear at first to be anything but a coherent group. We learnt a pedagogy that we can apply in any situation that we find ourselves in.
      Conductors all over the world have been practicing this for years.

      I do not think that I am different to many other conductors. I work with a very wide range of clients. I have been lucky enough to work with a small group of pre-school children with the diagnosis ADHD, all three going on to attend schools with a mainstream education, just as many of the children in our groups do. I have worked with clients with autism, with children with genetic disorders and in all cases I have had the pedagogic tools of conductive pedagogy and upbringing at the tip of my fingers to develop the upbringing of each client.

      In our training we learnt a pedagogy, we practise it with many different clients when we are students and then as conductors we can apply this pedagogy to the work we are called upon to do with our own clients anywhere in the world. We carefully measure out the ingredients in whatever proportions are needed. As it has often been said, there is no recipe in conductive pedagogy. We conductors are taught how to add and takeaway ingredients by observing and making changes infinitely. We teach our clients to do the same in their lives.

      Methods of facilitation, rhythm, or task series differ with each individual not only for each diagnosis; they differ from day-to-day and week-to-week.

      A method that is used with one person with autism is not always suitable for a different client with the same diagnosis, anymore than the same means of facilitation or rhythm suits each child with spastic diplegia. We use our pedagogic tools to solve the problems presented to us and our clients, we develop them daily whether working with a group of children with cerebral palsy, a group of adults with multiple sclerosis or a group or adults with a disability caused by a car accident injury to limbs or the brain.

      Is it so easy to forget the work that has been done at the PAI with such a diverse range of diagnosis?

      When the foreigners arrived in Budapest conductors were invited to travel to all corners of the world to work primarily with children with cerebral palsy because this is what the centre managers and parents wanted. This does not mean that conductors with their conductive pedagogic skills are not able, when willing, to apply them to anyone who asks for their services.


  3. When saying that pedagogic tools to practice CE in other disabilities than cp, are not yet well developedAs, I did not, of course related to the 'classic' population, such as children with Spina Bifida, and adults with neurological conditions, but rather to the more rare conditions in which movement disorders are not the central feature, such as a variety of syndroms, PDD etc.
    'Standing up for Joe' was about a child with CP, this is in my opinion the reason why CE is mainly percieved world wide as a pedagogy for persons with CP.
    If what you say is right (which I am sure is), than why is the reservation expressed of working with other disabilities?

  4. Emma McDowell writes –

    Can I suggest – as a mere parent and observer – looking at this THE OTHER WAY ROUND?

    It is only CE that is is effective – or can achieve significant progress, i.e. is POTENTIALLY SUCCESSFUL – for children diagnosable with one of the many forms of cerebral palsy.

    (Note: the term English term 'cerebral palsy' used to be translated as 'csecsemőkori agyi szélütés', nowadays it is more frequently 'csecsemőkori agyvérzés', though not as much part of everyday Hungarian; as 'cerebral palsy' is in English).

    'Children and adults with movement difficulties” were expressly welcome to the open surgery hours at Villányi út – and most of them were given a chance to try out what was offered there in the groups.

    Need I refer, though, to the spina bifida groups or to Pető’s success with particular polio-victims? I know about the official dismissal of the work with spinal cord injuries – but willpower and pedagogy had effects there too anyway, as they certainly have done in the case of my own son George, a 'classic' cerebral palsy case. I also of course know of other, similar, 'classic' cases of cerebral palsy where Conductive Education was evoked but not carried through – hence the result was not as successful might have been, had the subsequent 'home upbringing' along learned conductive guidelines been maintained…