Friday, 29 November 2013


I am not in Co. Cork

Perhaps I should stop going to conferences, perhaps I should not use a handbag...

Meanwhile a bug has sent out a further scam on my behalf, and messed with my mailbox so that I cannot circularise about this.


I see that my persecutor has stopped addressing people with 'Hi' on my behalf in these emails, some progress there then.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


Here we go again!
PAI: grim news in Hungarian media
Budapest's finest called in

The Pető Institute recently enjoyed an unprecedented wave of favourable (and uncritical) media support and political interest. Then a month ago every thing went silent.

Story played out, fuss over, happy ending? Or another media and political phenomenon, well know to those who have enjoyed a bubble of public acclaim. Such bubbles tend to burst. When they do, those who recently ran so enthusiastically alongside, howling your praises, start yapping and biting at your heels. This is so common as to be almost lawful. Worst case scenario: the pack brings you down and start tearing at your flesh. Tell me about it.

Today the Magyar media silence is well and truly broken:

So far all the papers are publishing more of less of the same report. Here are a few key words –

...embezzlement, misappropriation of funds and a reasonable suspicion of forgery... staff have denounced the management to prosecution and police... five financial directors in three years... kitchen receipts... foreign earnings... tax... church funds... donations not paid into accounts... eleven points of complaint in all...

I am still not at all clear about what is going on, and I am not at all certain about the period of time over which all this is supposed to have happened.

But this story has surely only begun.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Certainly still strongly voiced in last decade
How widespread now ?

Continued from yesterday:

Widespread attempts to implement CE outside Hungary began first in the UK, resulting in a long time to pick up baggage. Resistance from existing institutions, opposition from the disability movement and inclusionists combined with CE's lack of a coherent, intelligible message of its own, have encouraged a lot of confusion and antipathy. Yes, some of what is believed and expressed is uninformed but it is no less convinced for that, and there can be o doubt that some of it reflects things that people really have heard, read, observed or experienced for themselves over the years.

Here are a few snippets from 2009, from two pages of online postings on a message board belonging to the BBC's disability programme Ouch! (no friend of CE). protesting about a stall in the writer's village raising money for Conductive Education –

I actively disagree with the principle of conductive education, it predetermines what makes a valid person. It puts too much emphasis on basic physical skills, and encourages the rejection of those who do not meet this narrow idea of perfection. If you aren't a 'walkie talkie' they see you as a failure. 

...think about the pavements, the bus service and the steps to the chip shop. far more productive than waiting for spontaneous re-wiring of a long-splatted brain.

By its very nature, it's demanding and kids often travel a long way from home to do it. And for what? The website states 'this is neither a treatment nor a cure': damn straight.

...the truly evil conductive education regime that many kids have imposed upon them.

I must (shamefully) admit that when I was at Hereward College, I participated in a few activities in support of Conductive Education. But that was long before I was politicised and found out what goes on at the Pető Institute. I feel like a bad crip.

The ideological underpinning of Pető was reactionary...

Are the principals of CE, the control over the reflexes etc, evil or is the marketing and execution of it evil?

The current ideologies surrounding CE are more often than not, oppressive...

In Hungary, the Pető Institute was instructed by the Government to "normalise" the children and to avoid using wheelchairs...

There are also some sensible letters:

Maybe in 2014 one no longer meets negative responses. Maybe people no longer think that way about CE. Maybe one should get out more, and check.


(2009) There's a Cerebral Palsy collection stall in the middle of my village, Ouch! 3 April

Footnote: more from Ouch!

There was a lot more misconception and anger on other exchanges on this message board around that time:

Sutton, A, (2008) Ouch! You couldn't make it up, 5 January

Sutton, A. (2010) Can anyone help with this gentleman's problem? 4 August

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


That was 25 years ago
Is it still held today?

Vic Finkelstein, disability activist and psychologist, visited Budapest in November 1988, at the height of the UK's great enthusiasm for Conductive Education. He was unimpressed by the Pető Institute's attitudes and the city's accessibility alike.

He subsequently published an extensive feature in the now defunct newspaper Therapy Weekly, stating the paradox of what struck him in Budapest and on a separate visit to New York –

Why did I feel so disabled in Budapest, where the world famous institute emphasises normality, and refreshingly normal in New York where disabled people have been in the forefront of campaigning for their rights as disabled people?
His article was influential in the backlash against Conductive Education in the UK and, though Therapy Weekly itself never made it to an online edition, the content of Vic Finkelstein's article did:

This has been widely cited in the academic/professional press. Along with Mike Oliver's, Vic Finkelstein's views were highly instrumental in shaping the negative view of Conductive Education of a generation or more of professionals in the UK –

Despite the extraordinary helpfulness of my Hungarian hosts who made every effort to provide assistance wherever this was needed a week in inaccessible Budapest, being the odd one out, stared at and immobile, took a steady toll. I felt thoroughly disabled and, for me, this found its ultimate expression in the values and goals of the Pető Institute...

As I sat listening to an able-bodied staff member making over-confident and somewhat trite assumptions about what were proper goals for disabled people I felt myself slipping into the final stages of resigned passivity that characterises so many disabled people who are overwhelmed by failure to make their way in the able-bodied world...

Let's face it, it is highly desirable to campaign and set up systems for good medical practice in relation to disabled children and adults so that we can be physically comfortable, free from pain and illness. But it seems to me that this does not imply spending ten years of one's life trying to be ‘normal’. There are a lot better ways of spending one's time and energy, discovering the delights of life, particularly in these exciting times when there are real prospects for disabled people to create their own role models and to define their own contribution to the welfare of society...

What a curious contradiction. In Budapest the Pető Institute concentrates on trying to make disabled people normal. The philosophy of ‘normality’ is paramount. As a result there is no recognition of disability as a ‘construction’ of the social and physical environment. The longer I stayed in Hungary the more disabled I felt – anxious, vulnerable and dependent. In New York there is a move towards accepting disabled people as citizens with normal rights. As a result disability is reduced by policies involving barrier-removal in the social and physical environment. The longer I stayed in the USA the less disabled I felt - increasingly confident in my ability to function and pursue my own interests.

Conductive Education is no longer anywhere near the top of the disability agenda. Were it ever to return to public prominence, then Vic Finkelstein's formulations could be ready and waiting for it. Many in CE today around the world are rather more sophisticated in their views on disability than what he perceived in Budapest in 1988, and modern-day Finkelsteins might not react so negatively to Conductive Education in the many places where they might now met it.

Vic Finkelstein died in 2011. Twenty-five years on from his visit to Budapest, it remains instructive to look back on what he thought and wrote.


Oliver, M. (2011) Vic Finkelstein obituary, Guardian, 22 December

Finkelstein, V. (1990) A Tale of Two Cities, Therapy Weekly, 22 March

Monday, 25 November 2013


Trail so far leads back via Bill Clinton to Hong Kong

Five days ago Conductive World took up a query from Conductive Education Info, asking about the origin of the following sentence –

Ask me not what I can do for children with Cerebral Palsy, but ask me what they can learn to do for themselves.

Neither enquiry, Gill's or mine, elicited a response. Of course not.

Five websites sites were found relaying this supposed quotation:

Now four more websites

Today Google Alerts sent me a new sighting of the term, referring me to a different (new?) page on Whoopsadaisy's website:

It contained a shorter version of the same sentence, but with slight variations in wording, phrased a little more colloquially, and without specific mention of cerebral palsy –

Do not ask what can I do to help but rather what the child can do to help himself.
So where else does this variant occur?

Buddy Bear Trust

Dame Vera Lynn Trust

Unnamed parent in United States

Janet Ng, Occupational Therapist from Hong Kong

From Hong Kong... Bill Clinton's Presidential Archive

Janet Ng's quoted this sentence as the epigraph to an article that she published in the Hong Kong CE Journal – if my memory serves, her article opened the first issue of volume 1 of that publication. The actual focus of the article notwithstanding (precise physical details of the furniture used at the Pető Institute), its opening epigraph set the publication off to a flying start with what looks a major pedagogical insight, attributed to András Pető (actual source unstated).

Janet's article is available on line solely because it was included as part of an extensive bundle of photocopies that was submitted in 1993 on behalf of the then American Conductive Education Association by American CE-pioneer Mina Roth-Dormfeld to President Bill Clinton, in support of the Association's submission that Conductive Education should merit most serious official attention in the United States

The Association's initiative appears to have led nowhere but in the fullness of time the bundle ended up archived in the William J. Clinton Library, part of the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, where it of course remains. The archive is also on line, including Mina's unsorted bundle and, as part of this, Janet's little article:

Janet's article has made a long journey into posterity. Along the way no one seems to have felt it important to note its source (or indeed the source of much else that makes up that bundle). Without a reference to anchor it, uncorroborated material may simply be ignored or even discounted – or may contrarily assume the unjustified but unquestioned status of authoritative fact.

But I am still no nearer to knowing where this sentence came from...


As far as the revealed items in this archive tell, nobody else seems to have contacted Bill Clinton about Conductive Education in his role as President.

I do not know whether other approaches have been made to the top in the United States over the last twenty years 

Saturday, 23 November 2013


50th anniversaries

All around the world today children and adults will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of 'the Doctor', on 23 November 1963:

A long time ago? Perhaps not. It depends upon your viewpoint.

Another time, two different worlds

In the Autumn of 1963 Britain and Hungary were worlds apart. 

There had been a parliamentary election in Hungary on 24 August 1963. The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (the Communists) had been the only party to contest the elections, and won 252 of the 340 seats, the remaining 88 going to independents selected by the Party.

Soon after that, on 11 September, came András Pető's seventieth birthday. He received a letter from Pál Ilku, the Minister of Education –
You have had to face lots of difficulties and obstacles on your way, and lack of understanding, but now it is clear that the large-scale introduction of your pedagogical method is inevitable and very necessary. I honour your strength and persistence in pursuing your noble aims.
The letter described András Pető's's work as being unique in the world, and confirmed its transfer from Health to Education.

Pál Ilku was a former soldier who served as Minister of Education from 1961 until his death in 1973. He had played a significant role in organizing the police strengths that consolidated the Communist regime following the 1956 uprising. Had he not died when he did, he might now be aged 101 – and possibly under house arrest like fellow minister Béla Biszku (now aged 92). Back in 1963 they appear to have been jointly instrumental in the Institute's transferring from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education, and becoming a főiskola (college) – so opening the door to conductor-training. This was András Pető's tactical masterstroke, freeing him from the direct control of the medical establishment – though there would of course be running battles with authority till he died four birthdays later, in the very room where he had likely received that momentous letter, on 11 September 1967.

Hungary was entering the period of 'goulash Socialism'. Meanwhile in Britain, 1963 saw the rise of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones – and the arrival of Dr Who. The Swinging Sixties were upon us (allegedly). Another world indeed.


Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (eds) (2012) András Pető, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press
(especially pp. 89, 94, 178, 216)

Sutton, A. (2013) András Pető's patient and supporter charged: Béla Biszku indicted
Conductive World, 16 October

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Translation into Hebrew
Tsad Kadima takes lead

Rony Schenker writes to tell me that she and Dr Amichai Brezner, head of the Department of Child Rehabilitation at Tell Hashomer Medical Centre, have translated and edited the recent book by Peter Rosrnbaum and Lewis Rosenbloom, Cerebral palsy  from diagnosis to adult life.

They have made it accessible to parents, teachers and heath professionals, with many footnotes explaining professional terms etc.

Rony has also contributed a chapter on Conductive Education and Tsad Kadima to this Hebrew Edition.

Not all Israelis can read English with ease, or have ready access to libraries and, anyway, the last book on cerebral palsy in Hebrew was published a long time ago, in 1979.

Rony and Amichai undertook this huge job on a voluntary basis. It took them a year.

Their Hebrew edition is already in the stores.

Tsad Kadima

Tsad Kadima (a Step Forward) – the Association for Conductive Education in Israelbegan in 1987:

It is parent- (and grandparent-) led. Its conductors are all Israelis (around seventy of them as I last heard) and it has established its own conductor-training course in Jerusalem.

Publication of this book marks another step forward, not solely for the book but for how Conductive Education has taken a lead in its country's societal response to an eligible condition (here cerebral palsy). This is quite a contribution, facilitating a whole society's access to up-to-date knowledge, especially  as access by parents was at the forefront of the translators' minds.

How long will it be till CE elsewhere does the same?


רוזנבאום פ., ורוזנבלום, ל. (2013).שיתוק מוחי- מהאבחנה ועד לחיים הבוגרים. הוצאת ספרים "אח" קרית ביאליק, ישראל.

Rosenbaum, P., Rosenbloom, L. (2012 ) Cerebral Palsy: From Diagnosis to Adult Life, NY, Wiley


Do not send money

I am not in Lille, France, and I do not need any money.

My computer has been hacked and people around the world have been receiving emails from a false account:

If you reply, you will be asked for money.


This well-known scam has gone out as an email and on Facebook too.  NEVER reply to such approaches.

Thank you for the letters of concern that I have received.

My real email address remains:

Wednesday, 20 November 2013



Gill Maguire raises a question. Where, she asks, does the following quotation come from?
Ask me not what I can do for children with Cerebral Palsy, but ask me what they can learn to do for themselves.
See more of what she wrote:

The words as stated do not quite ring true. His picking out cerebral palsy for specific mention does not sound right. And that resoundingly evocative opening clause? JFK (1961)? JFK's headmaster at the Choate School in Connecticut some years earlier? John Dunne, the poet (1624)?

It would have been nice if AP had said this, presumably in German or Hungarian. The ovrall sentiment is a good one. But... can one detect a touch of teleology?

If not AP, then who?

I have come across these English words before. Google tries to helps. When I enter the exact words that Gill quotes, Goggle finds as follows –
In memoriam Geoff Smirthwaite
Parent and journalist Melissa Mostyn-Thomas, quoting PACE's website

NB This is the only site listed here to offer a source

Independent Conductive Education Support
Where did these words first see the light of day in English? Who knows? I think that I have been aware of them for quite some time. All British, I note. I have my suspicions...

For the future, however, it is likely that András Pető will continue to be credited with them, from some language or other. Perhaps in time he will urn out to have said or written some other things too. Thus do myths grow.

Or just perhaps someone will answer Gill's reasonable bibliographical question, by citing a source.


Someone's gain, someone's loss

Those who follow Ralph Strzałkowski's blog will know that he often remarks on commonplace human matters that rarely or even never come up in the professional discourse on Conductive Education – or even in the more widespread public 'conversations' on disability as a whole.

This morning sees another one –
I guess you never stop being the parent of a cerebral palsy child, no matter how old the 'child' may be... new lease on life as exciting as it is for me, took something from my parents- that I never thought about to a greater degree. I was happy to get started- they were letting go of something, and miss it.
Read it all (it's not long):


It is a commonplace observation that children with motors disorders in their teens may experience adolescent emotional and relationship problems writ large. I have sometimes wondered – and I occasionally hear expressed – whether some young people who have experienced Conductive Education may risk their being writ larger still.

My experience is too small for this doubt to amount to any more than a niggle, and the numbers involved are far too small permit any reasonable generalisations that might help distinguish circumstancesout of which problems arise from those where none occur.

And anyway, as Ralph's posting illustrates, there is no necessity to invoke the notion of problem here, just simple developmental facts inherent in given situations. Things happen in life, and are lived through. Since this is 'developmental', it is not a matter for the child of young person alone, families are essentially irreducable wholes. Whether one thinks in terms of problems or facts, everyone is involved, and one person's solution may prove another's problem. Social facts can hardly exist without their contradictions...

Another light on Conductive Education

Self-evident and commonplace this may all be, but that does not mean that such matters should not be considered, discussed and accounted when families take the conductive path. Yves Bawin, Marie-Louise LeClerc and colleagues at La Famille in Brussels have been alone in Conductive Education in articulating the especial symbiotic link that develops between disabled children and their parents – and possible developmental problems of breaking it.

Yves and Marie-Louise have been concerned particularly with earlier stages of development. The French-Belgian psycho-analytic tradition (from Lacan) may prove a stumbling block to those outside this tradition, but offer a lead for elaborating conductive practice and theory worth considering.


Strzałkowski, R. (2013) Cerebral palsy parenting, Lawyer on wheels, 19 November

Sutton, A. (2008) Conductive early intervention (parent and child); a psychodynamic perspective from Belgium, Conductive World, 17 February

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Lots to grump about

Norman Perrin is the only person in what some would call a 'senior' position in Conductive Education to make public comments on the depressing socio-political context in which CE struggles to survive. His most recent posting on this stemmed from a junior minister's slippery oral reply in the UK Parliament to a question from opposition MP Emma Lewell-Buck to what I would have thought a fundamental question –

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the training and support available for the teaching of children with special educational needs.

As I often do, I felt compelled to respond.
Perhaps in 2013 teachers in the UK know so little about special pedagogies (through not having received appropriate training for so long now) that they are as a group year by year less and able to offer an informed opinion on whether they are adequately trained or not.
I doubt the the Minister has much idea of what he is talking about and I have looked up Ms Robinson, and would not expect her to hold much of a conversation on such matters either, if I have spotted the right lady...
Norman replied –
I do so agree, Andrew: teachers 'are as a group year by year less and able to offer an informed opinion on whether they are adequately trained or not.' As far as I am aware, the SEN element of initial teacher training is predominately disability rights, history of disability and inclusion studies. There simply is no disability-specific ITT in the UK (other than some excellent opportunities for ITT in sensory impairments). I would be delighted to be proved wrong.
And in my turn –
What might lie beneath could even more horrifying. Never mind teachers and what they know and think, at best in most cases no more than useful adjuncts to what happens outside of school). What a bout a society that may no longer believe, legislate, provide etc. on the basis that at least some developmental disorders, and even developmental delays, are not amenable to conscious, material, psycho-social intervention.
Could anyone possibly imagine such a ghastly dystopia?
Norman and I often have such little conversations on line, on our blogs and our Facebook pages. Do we express ourselves so because we are getting old. Or because we are men? Is 'grumpy' the right word.
Maybe other people express much contrary views, just as publicly, and I do not know of them. Where?
Not his finest hour

Edward Timpson is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families in the Department of Education.

For the sake of completeness here is the complete transcript of the interchange between Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields, Labour) and Edward Thompson (Crewe and Nantwich, Conservative)

Emma Lewell-Buck. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the training and support available for the teaching of children with special educational needs.

Edward Timpson. Teachers tell us that the quality of their training in has improved significantly, with 69% of primary teachers and 74% of secondary teachers rating their training as “good” or “very good” in helping them to teach pupils with SEN. That compares to as few as 45% in 2008.

Emma Lewell-Buck. Just over 1,900 pupils in my constituency have special educational needs. Those children need teachers who understand their unique requirements as learners and adapt their lessons appropriately. Does the Minister accept that such pupils lose out in schools that have unqualified teachers who have never undertaken any special educational needs training?

Edward Timpson. No

A few minutes earlier, Mr Thompson faced a further question on 'special educational needs', this one from Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, Labour)

Michael McCann. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of education for children with special educational needs; and if he will make a statement.

Edward Timpson. Many schools provide excellent teaching for pupils with SEN, but we know from reports by Ofsted and Brian Lamb that too often pupils are classified as having SEN but do not make progress. That is why our SEN reforms, including education, health, and care plans, focus on the involvement of families and the agreement of concrete outcomes, so that parents are clear that their children are genuinely making progress.

Michael McCann. I am grateful for the Minister's response. The 17 October debate in this Chamber on funding support for deaf children and young people highlighted areas of excellence in deaf education across the country, but sadly that is not the case everywhere. What steps will the Minister be taking to support, promote and ensure that we can distribute best practice for deaf children across the whole country?

Edward Timpson. The hon. Gentleman has a huge personal interest in this issue, and he made an excellent contribution to that debate. He is right that we need to ensure that, where there is excellence, it can be spread as widely and deeply as possible. That is why we are providing £1.1 million of funding to the National Sensory Impairment Partnership, to help to benchmark local authority service and provide guidance on good practice to support sensory support services, in an effort to get more children to benefit from the excellence that we know exists.

Christopher Pincer (Tamworth, Conservative). I am sure that my hon. Friend will pay triibute to Dig-iT, the dyslexia group in Tamworth, which does great voluntary work for dyslexia sufferers in the town. Does he agree that we need a level playing field in the teaching of children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, so that they get the best possible chance of success?

Edward Timpson. I have no doubt that Dig-iT in Tamworth is doing some incredible work to support children with dyslexia and dyspraxia, and we recognise that we need to do more to ensure a level playing field for those families who require extra support. That is why, over two years, we are providing £5.5 million to a number of different voluntary, including the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, so that they can give free advice and training on key aspects of SEN, to make that level playing field a reality.

Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak, Labour). I congratulate the Government on their education, health and care plans, which could make a real difference. The Minister will know that parents who are used to struggling for support are worried that the plans may be too difficult to access. Given the intention to suspend them in custodial settings and to abolish School Action and School Action Plus, there is a fear that the brave new world could be limited to too few. Will the Minister take those concerns on board? In fact, in this instance, why do not we try to work together and do what is right for those with special needs?

Edward Timpson. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his co-operative spirit on this issue. It is important that Parliament and Government give a single, clear message on ensuring that all children with SEN get the support that they need and deserve. I am aware of a number of concerns that have been raised, by parents and others working with children with SEN, during the passage of the Children and Families Bill. The important thing to remember is that we are not reducing or diluting any of the existing protections or rights. In fact, we are expanding them in many cases, particularly for those young people over the age of 16. We will continue to work on some of the remaining issues as the Bill continues its passage through the other place.

So that's all right, then.

The 'other place', by the way, is British Parliamentary language. Here it refers to the House of Lords.

And a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State?

No one who hasn't been a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has any conception of how unimportant a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State is.
(Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire)

The lowest of three levels of government minister in the United Kingdom, the first step up the greasy pole (or not as the case can so often be).
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