Thursday, 29 October 2015


You might have to back this up

Quite a lot of people like to call Conductive Education a 'therapy'. Doing so may of course reflect no more than their lack of knowledge, or misunderstanding of what they do know. It may also be a genuinely reasoned position – though I have not heard or seen it expressed so.

Very often, however, a choice has been made at a different level, generally that this word 'helps explain what CE does' or some such – or, more specifically, something like 'to explain it to the doctors'.

There are various reasons not to call Conductive Education a therapy, but I have just noticed one here in the United Kingdom that I had not spotted before – to avoid trouble with the ASA (the Advertising Standards Agency), a non-statutory body body created by the advertising industry to regulate advertisers.

I have no doubt that other countries have their own similarly regulatory systems where similar questions might arise.

Learn from the CAMs?

The acronym CAM signifies complementary and alternative medicine.

The wide range of CAM practitioners, people who provide complementary and alternative medicine, may of whom state themselves as therapists, have experience of this. Sensible CAM practitioners have no wish to act irresponsibly or harmfully, but they may find still themselves up against a problem when it comes to the ASA –
We can all agree that non-one should make claims they cannot substantiate and that when any claims are made these should be supported by some kind of evidence.

But what is evidence? The ASA has no legal grounds to reject honest verifiable evidence that you have gathered whether that be the list of clients you have treated and helped successfully or other evidence of the efficacy of a treatment. However, the ASA usually requires (at least for natural health practitioners) some kind of randomized control trial to support a claim when adjudicating on a complaint.

Why should the ASA pick up on particular advertisements?
When someone makes a complaint about a practitioner it is, in the first place, more often than not done by someone who is negative towards natural health therapies. Their motivation is to close you down.

You don't advertise? There can be few conductive services that do not have at least a Facebook page and usually a website as well, straining its sinews to attract the attention of possible clients – not to mention all those widely publicised fund-raising events that often include a short statement of what Conductive Education does and is.

And you don't ever mention 'therapy' in any of these? In many cases never. But there are other wys that might be thought to mislead. Foe example, mention of 'rewiring the brain' or similar formulations might prove a claim that one find it hard to substantiate.

Take steps

I was reminded of this question by a letter to the magazine Positive Health from the campaign group F4H (Freedom for Health), a campaign group that advocates –
...the right to choose your own system of health. To promote it responsibly as a practitioner or to have the information of different kinds of treatments as a user.

To be a responsible practitioner or provider of Conductive Education requires that you consider very carefully what you say or write – or cut and paste – so always watch your language, and what it might imply. Try to leave as little room as possible for people to misinterpret or misunderstand.

One may not agree with the notion of Conductive Education as a treatment/therapy, or of conductors as therapists, but the field of complementary and alternative health has been going for a long time and is a very broad church. Problems over advertising are just one area in which Conductive Education might look to the experience of the CAMs and perhaps learn some useful lessons.

Over the specific issue of advertising, the GRCCT (the General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies) offers a complex certification process for advertisers: 

Yes, of course it costs, commercial activity usually does.

And just remember that András Pető was a natural healer.


Freedom4Health (2015) Vital Information re the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Positive Health, no 226, November

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


A disclaimer

On 31 August this year Conductive World published a posting summarising the website of a German organisation Petö Global Connect – Gesellschaft für Konduktive Förderung:

One may find this website at:

Over the last couple of months the site has grown. On the right margin of this page, under the heading Petö Global Connect – Info’s, there is a drop-down menu linking to other pages on this site.

Select Kunden & Partner (3). In English this means 'Customers and partners'.

Under this category are listed the András Pető College in Budapest, the Hungarian Consul-General in Münich, and myself:

Neither myself, Conductive World, Conductive Education Press nor Conduction is or has been a partner or customer of Petö Global Connect, nor has considered being so. Neither I nor any of my associates has been contacted by or made contact with Petö Global Connect, either with a view to becoming a partner or a customer, or on any other topic.

Conductive World has reported this website, once, in the expectation that there might be people in Conductive Education who might otherwise not hear of Petö Global Connect and its activities. It did so as part of the public-service function of Conduction. Conductive World's report was made altogether independently and reflects no commercial relationship of any kind, nor any other connection, either corporate or individual.

An independent report is not necessarily an endorsement.

Sunday, 25 October 2015



On a complex but essential concept

On a train

The train was new and clean. It was running smoothly and on time, there were enough seats for everyone and the conductor (guard) had even been round to check the tickets. This in England!

Then the conductor made an announcement over the loudspeaker –
This train will shortly be arriving at New Street Station where it will end its journey.

What a shock. What was going to happen to my nice train? Was it to be taken out of service. Scrapped? Of course not, I immediately realised.


I have been reading rather a lot of late around disability, special education, Conductive Education even. Perhaps following the extensive circulation of that little story about 'Belgium', the word 'journey' is now quite widely used both popularly and professionally in this context, often perhaps implying no more than simply 'life', 'living' or 'life course', along with a conventionally fatalistic and passive acceptance of going through life and what it brings. But it may, however, hark to another, metaphorical use of the word, such as in the phrase 'spiritual journey' –
A long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
(Oxford Dictionaries)

I was surprised that it was this metaphorical meaning that was my immediate understanding of the conductor's announcement, quite overriding the actual reality that our journey was coming to its end in Birmingham's New Street's station approach – a far from spiritually transformative place, a long way from Nirvana.

On consideration, however, I find it rather encouraging that a single word has been adopted from society's existing cultural store to express and important aspects in the lives and understanding of so many involved with disability. In this sense it offers recognition and finds expression for a complex concept:
  • long
  • difficult
  • process
  • personal
  • change
  • development
There is enough in this list to frame a sermon, a lecture, a book, a programme of research, the structure of intervention, social policy.

What's in a word?

Thank you to that (train) conductor for obliquely setting me in mind how important it is that not uniquely, the world 'journey' cannot just be used or heard unthinkingly, in Conductive Education as anywhere, without consideration of the intention of what is being said:
  • Does it simply mean the same at 'life', or 'living', or 'life course', wholly within existing understandings of what shapes these?
  • Is it another example of 'virtue-signalling' (a fairly recent term for where words are used less for their actual meaning than to suggest that the speaker has right-on, bien-pensant views? *
  • Does it reflect deep consideration of what may be involved in, for example, bringing up disabled children –  in which case this word may have  plenty to say?
*   On his blog C.E. Jottings, Norman Perrin has recently pointed to –
Language used to disguise lack of real thought
Much the same sort of thing, I suspect.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


He respected it

I have been reminded of the book Don't accept me as I am by Reuven Feuerstein, Yaacov Rand and John E. Rynders.

Some of it is viewable on line, at no cost, including most of its second chapter, 'Structural cognitive modifiability: outrageous myth or observed reality?' 
In concluding this chapter, we wish to emphasise again that the active-modificational approach is of paramount importance to the development of the individual with retarded performance, for both his present and his future prospects. The contribution of each person to his self-modification is of tremendous value and should be emphasised in all our interventional endeavours. For all those who resonate positively with the title of our book, Don't accept me as I am, we ask them that they also adopt the challenge 'Make me a partner in this activity of modifiability. Do it through me and with me. Don't do it for me'.

Immediately preceding this is an extended passage (pp. 28-30) in which Conductive Education is held up as a prime example of active modifiability (as opposed to passive acceptance), that went beyond what even Reuven himself had regarded as modifiable through a 'direct attack approach' 

The pages referred to here can be seen on line amongst those parts of the book that are open-access.


Feuerstein, R., Rand, Y., Rynders, J. E. (1988) Don't accept me as I am, NY Plenum

Sample posting on Reuven Feuerstein and CE

Sutton, A. (2013) Reuven Feurerstein, crossing paths, Conductive World, 20 September

There are plenty more. Enter “Reuven Feuerstein” on the Search box in the top left corner of this page.

Monday, 19 October 2015


Soon come the ice and snow
Thousands of refugees stuck in the cold in 'knee-deep mud' have crossed into Croatia after it gave in and opened its border with Serbia.

'Without any announcement, the borders opened. When the borders opened, everybody rushed,' said UNHCR spokeswoman Melita Sunjic.

'The last person to go was a young boy without a leg, and we helped him cross in a wheelchair.'
This news item offers the best map that I have yet seen of the catastrophe unfolding in Central Europe.

Few of us in the rest of the world have much idea of the geography, Serbia, Croatia Slovenia, Hungary – yes Hungary – of the peoples who live there, the languages that they speak, their histories, the terrain, the weather... especially the weather.

Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary... just names. But see them on the map and see how Hungary fits in, both geographically and as a player now in the lives of tens of thousands of lost souls.

Look out on the map for the thick black line. Food, shelter, sanitation, disease – and cold, soon bitter cold.

There was never going to be an easy anwer, but there is no problem that cannot be made worse...

Much worse now, and we shall see a death march.


(2015) Refugees rush across as Croatia opens border, Sky News, 19 October

Previous item on this

Sutton, A. (2015) General Frost: snowdrops in the spring, Conductive World, 17 September


At my age I should know better

Things that were dear to my heart once included understanding the philosophy, the psychology and the pedagogy around L. S, Vygotskii, and in the UK the futures if any of educational psychology (that's school psychology to most people) and special education.

On his blog Norman Perrin has notified a recent book in which the two matters apparently come together. Such a treat. Perhaps...

Vygotsky and special needs education: rethinking support for children and schools, edited by Harry Daniels, Mariane Hedegaard

I can read a bit of this book on its publisher's somewhat dysfunctional website, but not enough to get my head round it. So there goes twenty-two quid off to Amazon for next-day delivery. I won't promise to review the book here as from what I have seen so far it looks that this might be pretty toe-curling.

I have no idea how far such formulations either shape or reflect educational psychologists' practice – I supect that there are far more pressing determinants of this in the educational psychologists' workplaces – but it does no harm occasionally to take a look at an articulation of the myth and rhetoric.

You can see Norman's blog-posting (and link to the publisher's website to make your own judgement) at:

Thursday, 15 October 2015


Lovely phrase

This expression emerged out of today's sitting of the Parliamentary Public Administration Committee. It may prove generalisable to other utterances in other contexts.

'Verbal ectoplasm' is not a new phrase, going back at least to the 1990s. It not unknown in a UK Parliamentary context, but is not uniquely British. Perhaps this recent airing will enhance its currency.

Who knows, it might even find application with respect to Conductive Education.


Gayle, D,(2015) Kids Company hearing : Batmanghelidjh accused of 'verbal ectoplasm' – as it happened, Guardian, 15 October

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

GEOFFREY HOWE (1926-2015)

Reminder of an earlier time

The sudden death last week of Geoffrey Howe attracted considerable and favourable attention in the British media, most of it focussing upon his achievements as Margaret Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer and of course his pivotal role in her downfall. Much was said and written about his gentle, courteous and accommodating manner, and I am very pleased to confirm this from my own limited experience of him.

I met him two or three times over breakfast when he was Foreign Secretary, I guess during the first half of 1989, at his official residence in 1 Carlton Gardens, off Pall Mall, along with his wife Elspeth, and a very nice little dog. The purpose of these meetings was to keep him informed about what was happening over Conductive Education, not in the UK of course but in respect to its place in relations with the People's Republic of Hungary where the communist regime was on the brink of breakdown.

As far as I know, his successor as Foreign Secretary, John Major, showed no interest in Conductive Education (once the Cold War was over, what was the need?)  Elspeth Howe became a Trustee of the Foundation of Conductive Education.
The late eighties

That had been a strange period for Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. For a while Conductive Education moved in circles, both in London and Budapest. Contact with the British Government was not, however, straightforward:
  • The Department for Education and Science was against Conductive Education. Ministers appeared not to be interested and there was disapproval and even outright opposition from within its civil service. This opposition framed 'the Birmingham research' and the highly damaging way in which its results were leaked.
  • The Department of Health and Social Security supported the Foundation's goal of establishing Conductive Education in the UK. The minister responsible was Nicholas Scott, minister for the Disabled, who went out of his way to be helpful, financially and morally. His civil servants followed suit and took a positive and intelligent interest in the practical and micropolitical problems of setting things up in the UK.
  • The Foreign Office had its own agenda. In the end game of the Cold War, Hungary had a role to play in the Anglo-American strategy of hastening the economic and social malaise of the crumbling Eastern Bloc. Following Standing up for Joe (1986) the UK's Embassy in Budapest found itself with an extraordinary situation on its hands, a massive influx of UK parents, with media and politicians in its train, arriving in an East European city that was altogether unprepared for such a phenomenon. This was not just a challenge, one that on the whole both diplomatic and consular staff met extraordinarily well, but also an unexpected political opportunity. The Embassy's agenda, and presumably that of the Foreign Office, was of course directed to achieving foreign policy, and was not primarily concerned for Conductive Education and developing future services for the UK. Notwithstanding, thus did Conductive Education unwittingly play its small role in the fall of  the 'Evil Empire'.
And in Edinburgh, there was another strand:
  • The Scottish Office –  Later, Health Minister Michael Forsyth did his own thing with respect to Conductive Education, as in much else, but that is another story.
Stirring times, and not without their contradictions. Things certainly moved fast, though rarely in the directions anticipated or with the consequences intended. Maybe some other time...

Maybe not.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Satisfaction, but what satisfaction?

Summer holidays are under way in New Zealand. Lisa Gombinsky has taken the opportunity of surveying her Parkinson's group –
I surveyed them to find out what they were happy with, what parts of the program they enjoyed the most or found the most useful, what they didn't enjoy, what they struggled with, and what suggestions they have for future sessions.
Lisa asked about the usual things that people think of when talking about Conductive Education for people with Parkinson's –
...things like learning to change position and to stand up fluently, seated exercises, arm and shoulder exercises, fine manipulation and handwriting, speech and facial expressions, walking and balancing activities, memory and concentration work, stretching, and I included the pre-program greeting round and the post-program morning tea amongst my activity list...
My clients were all happy with the program and with the balance of the activities and few had suggestions about what they wanted done differently. They listed outcomes that included better balance and being able to get up from the chair easier or safer, or having less shoulder pain.
Hardly unexpected findings. these. But there is more...

Lo and behold...
...when asked what the most important thing that they got out of the group was, not a single person listed an activity or something mobility related.

You guessed it – psychosocial outcomes were once again featured as the most important.

For the conductor too

Lisa is also one of this group –
Two weeks later, and that really isn't a very long time, I realize that I miss them. That I miss the community spirit of this wonderful group and their wives or husbands who often come along; That I miss the laughter, the fun, the games, and the fellowship, and that I'm glad that the school holidays are over and that I look forward to getting my dose of this wonderful community again this Friday morning.

It is hardly a new observation that if conductive pedagogy has to be considered a 'therapy' then the way to think of it is a psycho-therapy. Nor that its mood-enhancing effects encompass everyone in the group.

Outside observers have also felt and reported this over the years.

Shout it from the hills

It is pity that academic evaluators have so persistently missed this effect. Small-scale, self-constructed surveys like Lisa's reported here (the conductor as researcher) should be more widely shared, as she has done on her blog, to contribute to a wider discussion of what Conductive Education really involves and implies, to help further a maturer societal understanding of what CE does – with implications for funding, research, and the well-being of clients. 


Gombinsky, L. (2005) It takes a community, Conductive Magic, Transformations, and Me, 12 October

Sunday, 11 October 2015


20th Anniversary

Cross the Margaret Bridge after dark in Budapest from the Pest side, and facing you on the lower slope of Rózsadomb there used to be a large, crimson, illuminated sign blazing across the nearer rooftops:

This stood on the Youth hotel of the Socialist Workers' Party, quite a nice place to stay actually. I did once, and found that I was not the oldest youth there, particularly noticeable being middle-ranking Soviet Army officers having a whale of the time in decedent down-town Budapest.

I was reminded of the Ifjúság hotel by a story in today's Budapest Times. Following the fall of the old regime the Ifjúság was surplus to requirements and ownership transferred to the state. The Council of Europe was looking to establish a second youth centre, somewhere in the former Eastern Europe, and in 1995 the old Ifjúság was reborn as the European Youth Centre Budapest. It is now celebrating its twentieth birthday in that role, with more than 40,000 young peoples from 72 countries staying there on average every year mediate the basic European values – human rights, democracy and rule of law – to the next European generation.

I hope that they have a much fun doing this as it looked like everyone was having when last I was there, a long time ago.

I would like two women...

I recall a warm evening some time in the late eighties, shortly before the regime changed. I was no longer staying in hotels by then but using the small studio flat that the Foundation maintained close behind the Hotel Budapest. I wanted to catch two visitors to Budapest whom I knew to be staying at the Ifjúság hotel: disability activist and CE pioneer, Angie Smith; and her travelling companion, Janis Firminger (of Hereward College in Coventry).

It was late and the entrance foyer was a mass of people, many in jolly and vocal mood. There were two blokes on the desk, rushed off their feet, looking very hot and altogether overwhelmed. I has to shout to make one of them hear what I wanted, in my clumsy, home-made Hungarian 
Szeretném két nőt – egy fekétet, egy fehéret 

The poor bloke rolled his eyes heavenwards, presumably guessing my meaning from his experiences of guests there, and answered wearily –
Én is

I didn't find them.

I cannot see from the picture in today's Budapest Sun whether the outwardly most prominent feature of the old hotel persists, the big, inviting welcome sign on the roof, Ifjusag – an Hungarian word that invariably brings a smile to the lips of Brits (and possibly other English-speakers too) when they hear it.


Kalkum, B. (2014) On behalf of human rights, democracy, rule of law: European Youth Centre Budapest celebrates 20 years, Budapest Times, 11 October

Sutton, A. (2014) Fight the good fight. Meet Angie Smith, aet. 52, Conductive World, 13 August


Glimpse into start of CE in New Zealand

The modern history of Conductive Education began in 1986, specifically at nine o'clock in the evening of 1 April when the BBC screened its TV documentary Standing up for Joe. This is no arbitrary date but a real instance following which nothing would be the same again for what has come to be called Conductive Education, with the focus of the action thereafter shifting increasingly out of and away from Hungary.

New Zealand was soon up there at the forefront of this action and,over the ensuing years, with its generally upward progress in expanding and coordinating its CE services, it has remained a leader.

A thesis submitted in 2008 by Adrienna Ember in part fulfillment of a PhD in European Studies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, offers an overview of how this progress got under way –
Conductive Education
Another important and successful joint project between New Zealand and Hungary was in the reverse direction: with the assistance of New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mike Moore, and PGG director John Paterson [Pyne Gould Guinness Ltd., stock agents], Hungarian expertise was exported to Christchurch in the form of Conductive Education in 1991. This case is an excellent example of how established diplomatic and business contacts can have a positive influence on other areas in the home country. Conductive Education (Figure 7.7) was developed by Professor András Pető in Hungary between 1930 and 1945:
[It is] an intensive, comprehensive and structured learning programme for the rehabilitation of people with motor disorders. The aim of the Conductive Education is for an individual to gain maximum independence through the improvement of all areas of development: fine motor, gross motor, communication and social skills, cognitive skills, self help and life skills. (New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education, 2005, p.2)
Sally Thomas, manager of Conductive Education Canterbury, explained that many families saw a British documentary Standing up for Joe (BBC 1986) about a disabled child who was bought to the Pető Institute in Hungary and who made very good developmental progress. A group was set up with the intent of bringing Conductive Education to Christchurch. Contact was made with PGG director John Paterson who used his contacts in Hungary to assist with the employment of a conductor who was specialist trained in Conductive Education practices, and he helped with fundraising efforts to help bring this Hungarian conductor to Christchurch.

According to interviews with John Paterson and Sally Thomas in 2005, in establishing Conductive Education in New Zealand, challenges were encountered in gaining recognition for the organisation and getting New Zealand government funding. The concept was not well known or understood and was originally seen as being a rather negatively perceived 'alternative' type of therapy, both by professionals and nonprofessionals alike. All Conductors were brought over to New Zealand from Hungary, where Conductive Education is taught over four years as a tertiary degree. The Pető philosophy was adapted to be compatible with New Zealand customs and education system. Today, ten Conductive Education centres operate throughout New Zealand, offering nationwide rehabilitation from pre-school age children through to adults.

(pages 230-231)

Yes, there is an elementary factual mistake in the first paragraph quoted above ('Conductive Education was developed by Professor András Pető in Hungary between 1930 and 1945': it was not, as he was not in Hungary over more than half of those years, the most mysterious period of his mysterious life). And others who took part in events to establish Conductive Education in New Zealand might tell the tale a little differently. As for the rest of Adrienna Ember's story, from half a planet away it has the ring of academic plausibility for what it reports. A history comes together over time, through sifting and testing sourced material, not necessarily all agreeing, to create a broadly based and intellectually plausible tale.We may never have a history of pre-modern Conductive Education (it would be wonderful to be proven wrong on this) but writing the story of CE in NZ could be a realisable task...

History does rather belong to those who tell it.
Ember, A. (2008) Enlarged Europe, shrinking relations? The impacts of Hungary's EU membership on the development of bilateral relations between New Zealand and Hungary, University of Canterbury, unpublished PhD thesis

Saturday, 10 October 2015


Árpad Göncz dies at 93

First, beloved President of Hungarian Republic

Árpad Göncz died this week – 'Uncle Árpi', antifascist fighter, 1956 activist, political prisoner, self-taught and prolific translator from English literature, author and playwright in his own right, twice full-term President of the Hungarian Republic, liberal politician, protector of a free press, humanitarian, widely respected nationally and internationally. 

Those were the days...

Thursday, 8 October 2015


What's news?

There has been a small flurry of excitement in the social media over the last few days over yesterday's declared World Cerebral Palsy Day, including in the world of Conductive Education. Some CE services have put on public events and there has been effort to interest the media.

The show is certainly not over yet but what one day later, has been the media coverage in terms of public awareness and understanding, qualitative and quantitative?

There are doubtless many means to gauge the outcomes of such a Day. One is to look at the media awareness generated. Public media coverage is not of course the only index of how aware people are of a given topic, it may even distort the picture, so treat the following with care, and note that it refers only to what has happened in the English language

Cerebral palsy in this morning's Google News

Go to Google News. Use your own prefered edition. I used my local one:

Enter the search term “cerebral palsy” into the box at the top of the pager (the box with the little magnifying glass). Click.

The new page that comes up gives you links to where cerebral palsy has been mentioned in newspapers etc. with online presences (i.e. most of them).

You might find it useful to view these in date order, most recent first) You can do this by clicking on Search tools (top right-hand corner of page) then on Sorted by date that comes up in the middle of the next line.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the numbers there to go to previous pages.

Scrolling back through the first ten pages of results indicates the wide range of stories mentioning cerebral palsy that appear as a matter of routine, not all of them pleasant reading, and permits a view of how far World Cerebral Palsy Day has affected this.

Scroll back through the first ten pages of results. This morning, doing this will take you back into 6 October.

There may of course be further media coverage of Wednesday's Day later this week, as weekly publications go on line. Look out therefore over the next couple of days for a fuller picture.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


And keep on kicking

Within the last couple of days, and from quite different angles, two bloggers whom I follow have spontaneously touched on an old theme. They are both activists though, at a superficial level at least, their specific causes are not identical – either with other's or necessarily with my own.
Ralph Strzełkowski.

...somewhere in the process of becoming thick skinned and understanding I started making excuses for other people. I begun to settle. I started accepting limitations... There are things that I must get angry over today, tomorrow, ten years later, although it might be more comfortable and easy to just let it slide... But if I don't get upset over things that I see, who will? Where will the change come from if I choose to look the other way? And what point have I reduced myself to practically apologizing for my own existence? Letting things go... Maybe I should get back what I have so obviously lost?

Norman Perrin
Quoting last week's obituary of Fast bowler Frank Tyson, who had retired from first-class cricket aged only thirty: 'I seemed to be wasting my energy on pitches made of cotton wool... Slowly, very slowly, the desire, incentive and will to bowl fast evaporated and with it went the real and precious gift of being able to do so.'
And only yesterday Rony Schenker reminded me that it is now some seventy years since Conductive Education was born:

How long must a struggle continue before self-evident humane benefits break through, take off and become the new norm? Or just peter out through revolutionary fatigue? Once more into the breech, dear friend, and keep on kicking against all those pricks out there...


Sutton, A. (2015) A new paradigm: Paralysis versus revolution, Conductive World, 5 October

Perrin, N.(2015) Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson: flat wickets and motivation, C.E. Jottings, 5 October

Strzełkowski, R (2015) Getting used to it, Lawyer on Wheels, 4 October

Monday, 5 October 2015


Paralysis versus revolution

A paradigm is a generally accepted way of thinking and doing things in a given context, a philosophical and theoretical framework for understanding and action. In the fields of disability, special education and rehabilitation, Conductive Education represents a new way – a new paradigm.

Conductive Education is a new way because its focus is not upon physical conditions as such but the host of social and psychological effects that stem from them in the circumstances of learning and of life, and their effects upon every aspect of individuals' developing personalities – and of course upon what might done practically to ameliorate these effects through social and psychological mediation.

The focus of this new paradigm is not physical conditions as such, sought through physical interventions that aim for physical outcomes, but rather upon the psychosocial effects of such conditions, mediated through psychosocial means in order to bring about psychosocial outcome. Its angle of attack is not the musculature, the reflex mechanism, some insufficiently understood part of the nervous system, but personality, morale. etc.

This new paradigm does not deny understandings and interventions at lower levels but requires their incorporation into a wider human whole.

Change to new and better, higher-order ways of thinking and doing do not necessarily come about smoothly. Sometimes people and institutions may get stuck immovably in old paradigms. In such 'paradigm paralysis' service-providers may know of no other way forward than providing more of the same, researchers may think of no conceptual advances than more precise measurement. Worse, no matter the general disappointments about how things are currently done and what is achieved from doing them, there may be outright refusal to see beyond current models of thinking and action – even stubborn opposition to possible new ways'

In the context of 'mature science' the usual developmental pattern is for general successive transitions from the one paradigm to another, one after another, as revolutionary new ways of thinking and doing overthrow the old: 'paradigm shifts'. These may be hard, even painful for some of those involved but are an essential to the advancement of understanding. Special education and rehabilitation are not, however, mature sciences, and have no mechanisms to incorporate new ways or to dispense with the old.

Whatever widespread and keenly felt disappointments there may be with what is presently on offer in special education and rehabilitation, substantial expansion of Conductive Education around the world may be limited until conditions emerge to combat paradigm paralysis and force possibilities for general paradigm shift.

The transition from segregation to inclusion may be construed as a paradigm shift. Concepts such as cerebral palsy may be overdue one. Conductive Education is situated on tectonic faults.