Monday, 25 June 2012


An opportunity for CE

Rony Schenker has just forwarded me a copy of an invitation to next year's Regional Conference of the International society for Early Intervention, to be held in St Petersberg:

I was pleased to read here that A. J. Sameroff is still very much alive and kicking. Thirty-odd years ago he was a bit of a hero of mine, for demonstrating that a progressive position on human mental development can still flower even within the dark shadows of Western psychology. Next year when he will give one of that international conference's two key-note addresses. Here is how the invitation letter announces him – 
  • Arnold J. Sameroff is currently Professor Emeritus in the University of Michigan, His influential theoretical work on ecological, transactional models of development has helped to move researchers to more dynamic, system-based research efforts for understanding healthy child development, and his research on environmental risk and promotive factors has fostered a more comprehensive understanding of what is necessary to improve the cognitive and social-emotional welfare of children.
Evocative, isn't it!

Those were the days

This Regional Conference conference is partly under the patronage of the Early Intervention Centre in St Petersberg. I was reminded of my own contacts with this lively and Western-oriented centre some ten years ago, involving reciprocal visits between Birmingham and St Petersberg. A quick internet search found one trace of this contact still on the public record, in Russian London (a publication summarising UK media coverage of Russian-related topics) 

Deputy Director of St Petersburg Early Intervention Institute on fact-finding visit to Birmingham's National Institute of Conductive Education
23 октября 2002, 12:57
22 October 2002 Deputy Director of St Petersburg Early Intervention Institute on fact-finding visit to Birmingham's National Institute of Conductive Education Natalya Baranova, Deputy Director of the Early Intervention Institute in St Petersburg has spent two weeks (14 - 26 October) at the internationally renowned National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham to learn about the pioneering work going on there with children with cerebral palsy and finding out how inclusion is working in the United Kingdom. 
Commenting on her visit, she says, 'I have found it very enlightening to observe the fantastic work going on at NICE to help children with cerebral palsy achieve inclusion. In Russia, there is still a view that children with severe disabilities are uneducable and it is hard for parents to find schools for them. One of our goals at the Institute is to work with parents and change attitudes to prevent such children being put into institutions. It is interesting to learn about an approach which does not see mainstream settings as the only answer for children with physical disabilities, but rather seeks to understand and meet the needs of each individual child.' 
Over the past year, the Foundation has played host to a range of agencies from afar afield as Canada, Norway, Australia and Germany keen to learn how to establish Conductive Education services and training courses of their own. Natalya Baranova's visit to Birmingham has included observations of Conductive Education in practice at NICE, visits to local schools and centres to see how inclusion is working on the ground, interviews with parents and observation of the Foundation's first-degree training course for conductors. 
The Foundation for Conductive Education advocates that society should go beyond the sterile debate between segregation and inclusion. Instead the Foundation proposes a model of dynamic inclusion across the life-span, that bridges the gap between health, education and social services, in which children may move from one experience or setting to another, according to their changing needs and circumstances at any given time. Particular emphasis is placed, within this model, on providing real and meaningful experiences at the time of transition into and out of school at 3-5 years and 16-19 years, with the aim of facilitating more effective social and educational inclusion.
'Natalya is the latest in a long line of professional visitors to the National Institute from the countries of the former Soviet Union,' says Andrew Sutton, Director of the Foundation for Conductive Education, 'a country with a most contradictory history of providing for children with disabilities. On one level, the theoretical, Soviet psychological and pedagogic sciences made huge advances, achieving paradigm leaps that we here in te West can still barely recognise. On another, practical provision for disabled children their families, they lagged a couple of generations behind.

'The New Russia possesses the enormous advantage of highly sophisticated and humane specialists like Natalya in the long and difficult social struggle to make up lost ground in providing decent services for the huge numbers in need. They know their own strengths, they want to learn from our experiences – and avoid our mistakes. It is a privilege to be asked to contribute to this.' ENDS

Pictures of Dr Natalya Baronova's visit to the National Institute of Conductive Education are available from Newsteam International Ltd on 0121 246 5511.

1.  Conductive Education teaches children with cerebral palsy how to overcome their disability and lead more active and independent lives.
2.  The Foundation for Conductive Education is an international charity dedicated to making Conductive Education more widely available.

3. The Early Intervention Institute in St Petersburg provides services to approximately 700 children and their parents each year. The Institute's approach is based on there being no such thing as an 'uneducable' child and believes in working closely with parents, seeing them as the 'experts' in the care of their children. As well as services the Institute also provides training to twenty satellite early intervention centres across St Petersburg. 
That winter (2002) I went to the Early Intervention Centre in St Petersburg. If circumstances been different, it might have made for an excellent collaboration – but they were not and I do not know what subsequently happened there as far as CE goes...

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