Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Éva Beck on what it's all about

What did we learn from Pető and what did we pass on to the next generation?
Pető thought that an integrated programme was essential for any appropriately implemented method to succeed in modifying wrong functions which had emerged due to damage to the nervous system. The educator cannot develop from one side, considering only one point of view at a time. The structure of the programme is crucial to achieving progress.
The tasks comprising care and activity must be carried out by one person in a structure of a higher level. It was vital that during any session the educator had to induce purposeful, feasible, active intercommunication, play or other intellectual activity which had to seem spontaneous. In the course of task execution the anticipation of goals, the importance of intention, the focus on motivation and the use of playfulness were also important principles.

Once something is taught in a given situation it has to be implemented throughout the day for even the best method makes no sense if the child or adult cannot see its practical use. Pető kept to the principle to never explain anything; he would name the sources where we could look things up. Mária Hári also adopted that principle.
Pető taught us comprehensively, thorough monitoring. We were not allowed to tell the bare diagnosis; we had to describe and expound the problem in detail. He considered full-day observation essential for planning the following days. He always endeavoured to have an overall picture of the group. For the lying programme we had to arrange the plinths in two rows while chairs were to be placed in a semi-circle or circle for the sitting and the standing and walking programmes. We had to prepare very carefully for the meetings where we had to give account of the group’s results. On such occasions conductors from other groups were also invited. We were given typed copies of the task series, then referred to as exercises, which we had to hold all the time as improvisation was not allowed and we had to keep strictly to the written text. Pető saw the task series as a unity.
Apart from generalities, goals and tasks, the programme also included the way of execution. The programme formed a methodological unity which was applied throughout the day while changing place and position, speech, vision and self care were practised.

Pető did not know the term ‘incurable’; it was unadvisable to pronounce it in his presence for dismissal from work could be the possible consequence. He thought that constant prompting as a pedagogical method was out of date. Negative evaluation had to be avoided even in thought. 'Children must be given interesting and challenging tasks' he kept saying. Success was to be achieved and real success takes an effort.
As regards Pető’s relationship with his staff, he believed that everybody was suitable for something; he detected the positive side in everybody. His respect for children and adults with disabilities manifested itself in small details as well, e.g. he would not let them use the tin plates which were typical at the time. The groups had china plates and real glasses. 'You are a child and a human being as anybody else' he would say.
In a documentary film of the series Great Hungarians of the century introducing András Pető, one of his former pupils, the poet Zoltán Vitó told about him: 'Behind his strictness there was a warm heart, infinite as the sea'. Dr. István Eke, lawyer, said: 'He was very strict but humane, always having our interests in mind'...


Beck, E. (2009) Remembering András Pető, presentation to the 2nd International Conference for Theory and Practice in Education. Pető Institute, Budapest, 29 May, pp. 7-8

I had prepared the above extract to post yesterday, but was diverted by following the news from Budapest This reminder of what it is all about seems particularly apt today.

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