Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Acquiring language

The two most recent postings on Conductive World directed approving attention to the parents' blog from Centre La Famille in Brussels:

These two items commented on a theoretical posting. This promised a second, practical article and this has now duely appeared Here is a rough and ready English translation

Sign language in the service of speech
No education without communication, testimony of Hugo's parents

Putting it in context

Before sharing our experience of communication and conductive education, it is good to reveal our state of mind at the time that communication came on the agenda. Fabian has spoken of parents' tendency to carry on from their starting line. At the time, we come to La Famille by way of people whom we trust, we appreciate the 'people' and the framework proposed by the school. We do not have this vision of the finishing line or even of a starting line, as there are many questions, the answers are missing. There is no starting point or destination, not even a direction. Conductive pedagogy is not yet an issue as such but, in retrospect, I realise that it was already all around us. Very soon, Hugo is taken in charge at all levels and we can little by little resume our role as parents, parents who have found an appropriate framework, a solution, at last a solution …

For parents who wish it, the school and the team are very available, even on demand, to explain their work, what they do and why they do it.  Little by little we take an active role in this new system that integrates education and therapy, and little by little we make contact with conductive education. La Famille and conductive pedagogy have suited and supported us, shown us the start and given us direction, Hugo's famous flight plan.

Communication at the source

Very soon, communication came into our our discussions. Hugo has motor difficulties, and while ordinary people associate 'motor' with mobility, we soon get the measure of its real meaning and above all its extent: eating, swallowing saliva, breathing and of course talking are important topics in Hugo's flight plan, and it is in a very positive state of mind as we approach them. Fortunately, because the level of his language, this is the first time that we have to confront a counter-intuitive approach – gestures. Gestures, we are told, are a very important step towards language. They are a tool that Hugo will use to talk. Naturally, we tend to believe that this is another language and we do not see the connection. We even thought of it as a 'distraction'. The same goes for those around us who doubt it and are intuitively against this school of thought that they do not know or do not always believe in. Even today, we do not always have logical or technical arguments, but we do have experience. And it is this experience that we can share today.

Hugo on his first anniversary

At first Hugo's gestures are a basic communication tool, 'more', 'eat, 'drink', 'bye-byes', all these words have gestures. It amazes some of our friends who have older children, but an exchange limited to behavioural observation, so that we know whether he is hungry, thirsty or tired, gives Barbara and myself the luxury of conversing with Hugo. A luxury for parents, indeed! But above all, a tool for exploration for Hugo. Very soon he is discovering the world through communication. Each week, new words arrive to complete the picture, increase his vocabulary and therefore the transactions with those around him. Hugo speaks, Hugo asks, he wants Dad, Mum, a story... He wants to work, to drive a tram .... He takes its place and is open to those around him, not just his parents but our whole family and friends communicate with Hugo. Barbara and I think that this will be a major asset in his life. We are already well beyond basic communication.

Gestures are great, but 1t would better still if he could talk

'Don't worry, it's normal for his age.' Yes, of course ... but when is he going to speak? The first words are difficult and gestures always seem easier. Again, this intuition returns ... 'It's normal that he uses gestures, it is easier for him, is it really a good idea for him to make them?'

For Hugo, each word is learning, articulation is hard, there are sounds that he cannot yet say, especially those produced at the front of the mouth, 'l', 'f', 's', but without knowing it always in the course of play, Hugo's works on them and one by one he integrates them. What gestures are you telling us? Today, the gestures act as a spare wheel, when he does not know how to say a word or it is not being understood, it is made clear. But we see much more than that in it. Gestures have given him the structure and a start of syntax that allow him to put things in order. Gestures indicate certain tonalities to him too. Indeed, there are gestures for words and gestures for sounds, this is called 'verbotonal'. Making an upward finger movement indicates an 'i', for example. And it is in making this gesture that Hugo little by little master the sound 'i' that had needed to pronounce the name of her godmother: Sophiiiiiiiiie (with the finger sign).

Since the start, gestures are one of Hugo's tools, a tool to communicate directly but also a tool for building language, syntax and sounds. A tool that is appropriate and gives him commands, commands that he takes up with pleasure and make him more and more in control of its flight plan. Hugo pilots his development, more and more with every day. For it is one of the objectives of conductive pedagogy to give children the tools and skills needed to continue to develop themselves on their own.

Hugo is constructing himself and is surprisingly involved in his own construction, his language is coming, word after word is sharper, and that gives him pleasure.

Communication always and without hesitation, with gestures too.

This seems well to exemplify the theoretical orientation to which attention was drawn in those two recent postings on Conductive World.

Any corrections gratefully most received. 


(2012) Le language des signes au service de la parole, Les parents et la pédagogie conductive, 3 April

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