Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Monday 25 October 2010

A change in practice

This was first published on Conductor on Saturday, 21 February 2009

I have decided to repost it here on "Upbringing" because of just one sentence that caught my eye and summed up for me the change being spoken of in the condcutive world. The change thatis already taking place,or still needs to take place in conductive work of the future:

"It is essential that parents, partners, carers and the clients all understand what conductive upbringing is all about, that it isn’t about lying on a plinth and counting 1-2-3-4-5 while a leg or an arm is being bent, that it is about something much more than this.

It is about learning to live,..."

Looking forward to spring by Susie Mallett

There is quite a long correspondence going on in the comments section of one of my previous blogs: .

The correspondence is about camps and how parents learn about conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing if they are experiencing a conductive camp for the very first time (or second or even a third time come to that).

Who needs a plinth?

It is essential that parents, partners, carers and the clients all understand what conductive upbringing is all about, that it isn’t about lying on a plinth and counting 1-2-3-4-5 while a leg or an arm is being bent, that it is about something much more than this.

We need ballet, driving, singing and snow!

It is about learning to live, learning how to attend ballet class, even learning how to get there alone. Learning how to stand up and sing at choir practice and even once more becoming the conductor! It is about learning how to get in and out of a car and maybe one day driving it yourself, or about dressing yourself to go out in the snow then learning how to build a snowman.
It is about motivating oneself to be active in the life that one has at this given moment, and it is about continually striving for change.
It is about spiralling upwards and onwards, with everything that we have already learnt influencing every other thing that we have learnt, and influencing absolutely everything else that we do. It is about living with a soul that is healthy.

Relating and giving conductive tips

A child or adult client, parents and carers need to be shown how to relate the tasks given in group to real life situations. Yes, it may be easier at first to hold a solid stick in both hands and bring it behind one's neck but would it not be a good idea to actually make clear that in doing this movement we are learning to put a scarf around our neck, or lift our arm to comb our hair, and then actually try it out with the real thing, try it out in the bathroom at home with a conductor giving tips!

I am not saying that these things don’t take place at camp. Of course the children get dressed and go outside, fetch themselves a drink from the fridge etc, but if there is something missing then it is the link between the tasks in a programme and real life.
And who do we need to provide this link?

The parents and the carers, and the conductors.

I have heard it said so many times that clients have suddenly realised why they practise specific tasks, the penny drops and they realise that a certain movement facilitates a certain activity at home. I sometimes hear from parents (or carers) that they didn’t know how their child/ partner had learnt to do something independently in a group.
Both these statements tell me that there is a failure somewhere in communications, something is missing. That same link is not there to real life.

What can be done to change all this? How can this link be forged?

I have recently had the experience of working at a centre where the children attend groups regularly throughout the year but, because of the great distance travelled, the families stay at the centre, just as they do in many camps. I have seen the many hours of living done as a family outside group, hours that could be utilised. The question is how could this be done to give the whole family the best during their precious few weeks at camp, how can they gather as much information as possible to take home with them?

I suggested, in a comment on my previous post, that perhaps providing another shift of conductors who would work outside the group hours might give the answer. Conductors to work alongside the family, there to advise when out on shopping trips, when getting in and out of the car, getting on and off a bike, when playing cards or board games, preparing breakfast, dinner and tea together. The conductors there to give tips on how the child might be as active as possible in the daily life of the family.

Another suggestion, more on the theoretical side, would be to provide seminars in the afternoons or perhaps in the evenings for parents and carers. Perhaps something about Dr András Petö and his life, the development of the Petö Institute under Dr Mária Hári, the bringing of Conductive Pedagogy out of Hungary, how the many different countries then developed and changed it to suit their personal situations.
Most importantly there could be lots of practical examples to show what conductive upbringing is about and lots of question-and-answer sessions.

I have the feeling that something needs to change. These camps are so important to these families, they save up their time and money to attend. It is the responsibility of the service- providers to see to it that after a five-week camp that parents and children alike go home with a very good understanding of what it is all about.

In Germany

My work in Germany is very different. We have regular contact with parents, carers, adults and children. They live locally so we can phone and make house visits. We can be called to meet teachers and physiotherapist. We can be there when a new wheelchair is fitted or when new moulds for shoes and splints are made.

When I have new adult clients coming to my groups I usually make a home visit before we begin working together. We can spend an hour or two talking about conductive upbringing, the groups, our aims and their personal needs. As work in the group proceeds it is essential that in every block we spend some time discussing conductive rehabilitation and how the clients use at home what they learn in the group. We discuss their everyday lives, other family members come in to join us, to observe or ask questions, and everyone gives everyone else “conductive” tips.

Children usually come into the centre for an initial assessment and this is also gives the conductor the opportunity to explain about conductive upbringing and to give printed information and answer questions. In subsequent parent’s meetings, with and without the child present, we can discuss the child’s progress and what is happening at home and at school on a regular basis. We can talk more about conductive upbringing.

We work with the children and adults five times a year in our groups, bt they live locally and we have contact them all the time. I visit other families up to three times a year in their homes and we have regular telephone contact with each other in between times.

We have a different system here to that of the “camps” We do offer a “conductive holiday camp” to our “regular” children in the summer, although these are usually just for the children, parents don’t stay on site. In our system ,with regular contact between families and conductors, we do not have convey so much information in such a short time.

There are twenty-four hours in a day

So back to the question how do parents at camp learn about conductive upbringing. They are there on site twenty-four hours a day for several weeks. Their children disappear into group for maybe six hours a day, where they are working with the conductors on the programmes developed for them. Maybe it really is time to use those hours outside the group time to help the process along.

What do you all think?

Do you already do this/experience this?

Is it already happening?


British Conductor said:

Hi Susie, I have enjoyed reading your blog for sometime now and you have certainly hit the nail on the head with this posting.

At our centre we realise that we are not doing enough to teach the parents/adult clients how to follow through with their learning outside the program. We see the majority of our clients once weekly then for an intensive 'camp' during the summer. Our main problem is that with the time spent in programs through the week, we have not had much formal time to provide the necessary training to the families we work with. One could argue that we are spreading ourselves too thinly, but our past goal has been to enable access to a good quality program to meet the need and demand and successfully establish a permanent program. This means that 'spare hours' though the day have steadily been replaced by new programs and new groupings of clients. We desperately need more conductors, more space and more funding to enable the conductors/space to be reality!

Currently during informal discussions at the beginning/end of the programs we do offer advice and suggestions for each child on how to develop their skills and apply what thy have learnt at home and at school and often follow this with reports and written documentation, but I am sure that without the background understanding of conductive pedagogy and upbringing, this 'advice' does not translate to the home environment well. Similarly, we have often had classroom assistants from schools attending with a specific child with the purpose of teaching them the skills to follow through with the child's achievements at school and this has been successful.

We even have an observation room that enables parents/carers to watch. The problem with this is that their observations are not directed and the activities their child takes part in are often misinterpreted. We also have other professionals observing occasionally who similarly do not interpret accurately what and why the clients are doing the tasks and activities. Another 'training' issue to be addressed in the very near future.

We have some handout type information, but with the large range of clients we now see -this has to be revised and revamped to cover relevant topics for different client groups (another issue of finding the time).

Our vision is to be able to provide training sessions/meetings in the evenings for parents/carers/clients to attend to enhance their knowledge of what our program is all about and to help them gain maximum benefit. I guess we need to set ourselves a schedule to get this training in place. Time and energy are really the only factors holding us back and on reading your posting you have certainly inspired me to find the time and get our new and improved conductive program up and running by the summer time.

Our progress reports, written 3x year for children and 2x year for adults contain a section on recommendations in which we ususally give or reiterate ideas to follow through with at home and at school. Again I feel like with out the prior in depth understanding of conductive learning and upbringing it is difficult for the families to translate to their everyday routines. Also, it requires us to give step by step advice to follow through with at home instead of teaching the families to develop their own expectations and opportunities for their child themselves.

I recently attended the chiropractor for the first time, who before even meeting with me to discus my needs, provided a information session that was compulsory to attend before beginning treatment. This gave me huge insight and understanding into his practices and theories and enhanced the treatment I received. This is the type of provision I hope to be able to introduce along with regular 'refreshers' with opportunities to deal with questions and give specific advice. I would be interested to hear if anyone already runs this type of programming for parents/carers and to get advice on getting this process started.

I feel like despite being a small centre (2 conductors) we have the same demands in terms of training, recording progress, developing an understanding of the CE program as the larger institutions, but with way less man power, time and resources.

Susie, you have picked up on the main factor holding the development of our clients and program back and I take full responsibility to remedy this situation. Thanks for keeping me focused on improving our conductive practices.


Kate's Blog said:

How the exercises apply to everyday life? I can tell you extensively which things my little eight year old has trouble with. I can't tell you which of the exercises here at Ability camp will help improve some important functions she needs to accomplish tasks. Here is one example, all weekend Cassie had trouble getting in and out of a chevrolet pick up truck. The step was high, the bar slick, one time she managed to climb in and was stuck amost laying on the floor yelling for help, She got her legs twisted up a few other times. These situations embarrass a high functioning girl who is extensively trying to exercise and strengthen her body. I have about 20 more tasks that frustrate my girl because she cant quite get her body to work when she needs it. But hey who bothers to ask a parent before they begin to assess and treat. Parents input is invaluable and if it is not a team effort the gains will be very slow for a young child.

Susie Mallett said:

Kate, thanks for keeping the discussion going.

It is really important that clients, whether children or adults, know why they are doing the really quite abstract movements in the conductive programme. They must talk about which part of their daily life each movement relates to. They, their carers and/or parents need to discuss with conductors what is it that is difficult for them in their daily life at the moment, identify where they wish to become more independent or efficient. Establish what it is that they want to learn.
The programme needs to be formed so it will be continuously developing these needs, and continuously relating the practised movement to the real life situation.

The ability to relate the abstract to the concrete is so important, without it how is conductive living going to take place?

It is in order to build this relationship between the two, between the abstract and the concrete that I put many “bits in between” in my work. This means a lot more preparation work is needed but it makes the “work” easier for the clients. We all know it is easier to practise a movement when the need for a movement is actually there. While being creative it is much easier to crouch down to retrieve a dropped pencil or to clean up some spilt flour from the floor. It is easier to lift a hand with a paintbrush to finish the highest corner of a painting just as it is easier to bend and stretch while unloading the dishwasher and putting things on the highest and lowest shelves. It is easier to do all of these than to stand at the wall bars and do a standing or sitting programme.

Today we were going to put so much into practise of that which we learn in a more formal setting in the group. We were going to shop and then cook the lunch but four inches of snow put a stop to that, snow and rolators are not very compatible.
We have postponed, but not cancelled, the activity due to the weather.
Mum could have gone shopping for us but then we would have missed out a lot of the “bits in between”. For example the step up into the car which replaces a wooden box, the stretching of arms to the high shelf were the cheese is that we need, the crouching down to pick up the pennies we dropped, the pinching of coins to count out the money, the reading of the list or looking at the pictures then finding in the shop what we need. We would have missed out on the necessity to walk head held high while searching for items around the shop, instead we would have practised this with a bean bag on our head in the group which is fun but very abstract.

Of course I am not saying that the formal programme is not important or is not necessary. What I am saying is that it is no use to anyone when a child who learns so much in this formal way in a four week camp has no idea what for and can not relate it to every day life. If the parents and carers have no idea either how on earth can conductive upbringing take place.

The practice carried out at the Petö Insititue for years and years and as far as I know still being practised, could possibly work in boarding schools in other countries when there are only conductors responsible for the upbringing of a child. There was little or no parental involvement because the children were rarely with their parents. The conductors did it all, the formal and the bits in between.

At a “boarding school for four weeks”, a camp, there needs to be a different kind of practice. Conductors are only responsible for the upbringing of the child for a very small part of the day, and a incredibly small part of the year. It is absolutely essential that the parents/ carers are involved otherwise we must ask ourselves what we are trying to teach the child or the adult in this short “abstract” time.

Susie Mallett said

Gemma, thank you for taking so much time to write this long and interesting comment. I was absolutely thrilled to read it.
I would like to pick up on some of the points you made.

I have experience of working in a centre with an observation room. The door was always open so both the parents, carers, teachers and therapists spent a great deal of time watching the group. It became very apparent as the course developed that the parents were not understanding or were actually misunderstanding most of what they saw, or thought they saw.
I am always happier when visitors sit in the room we all are working in so they can be involved in the work more directly. I think that an observation room can only really be of practical use when a conductor can sit there along side the visitors and talk about what they are watching, answer any questions and clear up or avoid any misunderstandings. This could perhaps be developed so that visitors are given some observation points written on paper which can be discussed afterwards with the conductors.
As you point out in a small centre with a staff of two it is impossible for a conductor to be sitting in the observation room and to be leading the programme at the same time.

There are many differences between centres which offer services to clients on a weekly basis and those who offer a four week block once a year. Of course there is a need to educate all those involved in each of these situations, but when clients attend on a regular basis there is always the chance to catch up with questions that have cropped up during the past week. When a client lives miles away and will perhaps only meet the conductor again in six months or even in a year, this regular exchange of information and ideas is much more difficult. Although technology could rectify this.

I too have learnt a great deal from personal treatment from different kinds of therapist which I have found very useful and been able to apply in my work. Not only as you describe from the information sessions they provide, but also from experiencing the physical closeness of a stranger touching my body. Our clients are in constant physical contact with strangers, doctors, nurses, physios, orthopedic shoe makers, conductors, etc.. I wonder if they ever get used to it. They appear tolerate it very well, but I am not sure that they actually get used to it.

Thank you again Gemma for getting involved in our discussions. Please keep the comments coming and if you don’t have time for your own blog feel free to let us know more about your work by using the comments facilities on the blogs of others.

24 February 2009 20:40

Friday 22 October 2010

I wanted to say some more about painting

The following posting and part posting appeared on Conductor in January 2009.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Snow in the city

From drab to sparkly and tingly overnight, just like Cinderella going to the ball!

We walked and did other things indoors, like observing the snow from the window.

I am still so inspired by the snow and the light effects from Norway, with its pink skies at night and never-quite-light days, with the blues and purples reflected in the snow, that I had been talking to my clients about it. It is really quite a change for our senses when suddenly overnight our surroundings change from the winter drabness of the grey and brown earth colours, with a hint of dull green and black branches of trees, to a delight of dancing lightness when it all becomes covered in deep snow.

The white reflects the light and a weak sun changes the colours constantly, shadows on the ground are no longer black they take on colours, either warm or cold.

I talked to my clients about all of this, about the brown-to-white overnight, about the colours and the whiteness, the shadows and the shapes. I did this with the hope of inspiring them in some painting. It is difficult to guide people to see what is there and to help them transfer it to paper, rather than for them to put on the paper what they think they see, without actually looking. It is just as much about changing how we think and see and move as all other aspects of my work.

We attempted some paintings of our German snowy landscape which, although very different to what I experienced in Norway, was still very beautiful. I put a selection of papers and colours on the table and we had thirty minutes' relaxation with music and painting and enthusiasm.

January 5th 2009

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

I wanted to say a little bit more about painting

Organised spontaneity

In the Tuesday evening workers group I rarely plan any "extra activity". Most often it occurs spontaneously, depending on time and inclination. This is the advantage of working in a very well equipped and organised environment: everything is at hand, which makes organised spontaneity always a possibility.

Just a minute, was that a hint of hesitation?

The reactions that I received yesterday to my suggestion that we painted the beautiful snowy landscape were very interesting. One woman was immediately engaged but the gentleman seen in a picture on my previous posting and at the top of this one, was very hesitant. This man with athetoid cerebral palsy had surprised himself with his dexterity last week when we were sweet- making and he was about to do the same with painting. His arms, which tend to flail around when he attempts to grasp something, suddenly calmed when he quite spontaneously extended two fingers of one hand on to the forearm of the other hand, which held the paint brush. In this manner he painted to his heart's content! There was not one drop of paint or water flying across the room as he feared might be the case and had prompted his initial hesitation

What did I do?

I certainly didn’t teach him to paint. I certainly didn’t teach him how to hold a paint brush. The time was much too short. What I did do was to give him was the opportunity to be active.

In the group I give him the opportunity to use his arms and hands in many situations and, as most athetoid clients do, he finds his own solutions, usually by combining the many suggestions that I make to suit his needs.

When I suggested painting he was afraid, as this is a relatively new activity for him and he had yet to discover that some of the solutions he uses in other activities in his life could be just as well implemented here, or very easily adapted. I reacted to this fear by not reacting at all and by assuming that all would be fine (and being, as always, prepared to clear up lots of mess if necessary).

I had actually planned on sitting down and painting with them but I was so engrossed in observing how this young man controlled his movements so spontaneously that I got stuck with the camera in my hand instead of a paintbrush.


Again, I ask myself, what did I do? Initially I had ranted on about the lovely light and colours and dancing snow but my client just wanted to give it a go and overcome his fear, especially as the other lady was almost finished with her snow-covered trees. So all I did was to stick the chosen paper on the table, squirt the delicious paint on a plate, arrange three different-sized paint-brushes beside it and say “Off you go”! And off he went, very successfully at that, in the manner described above, calmly creating a picture that he was very proud of.


Just a Minute

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Life can be painful

First published on Conductor on Saturday, 20 September 2008

There was some pain in the stroke group yesterday and in the MS group today. There was pain in my shoulder all last week and pain in two of my colleagues backs. It seemed appropriate for me to repost this article all about pain.

Schau mir in die Augen, Kleines

The all seeing eyes, 15th September 2007, by Susie Mallett

Can I show you my pain?

Today I was working with a client who looked deeply into my eyes and asked “ Would you like to see my pain?”

What could I say?

I could have answered that I had been looking at him since the session started and seen the pain in his eyes all the time, and not just the physical pain, the emotional pain too. I didn’t say this but we did talk about his pain and what we could do to relieve it and to work with it.

This client had been in a lot of pain for a long time and the cause of it had been overlooked. He had conceived the pain from a broken hip, that happened in a fall, as knee pain and therefore the knee had been x-rayed several times but not the hip. So the actually injuring remained un detected for many months.

A dreadful mistake and a common experience

I have worked with many teenagers and young adults with cerebral palsy who have had hip operations and they have all told me that the pain often appears to be more severe in the knee than in the affected hip.

Now the physiotherapists and I are trying to get today’s client back on his feet and to do this we have to overcome the real and the imagined, the physical and the emotional pains.

When my client asked me if I would like to see his pain I told him that I knew he had pain and, above all, I knew the difficulties that he must be experiencing from such an extreme change occurring in his life. Having been an independent person, walking without aids and needing little help to lead an active life, he now needs to use a wheelchair and depends on others to help meet many of his needs.

We talked more and I told him that there was no need to show me his scars, which was what he meant by showing me his “pain”. We discussed how much pain he could bear and how he should tell me when we should we stop working because the pain was too much. He became calm and responsive and appeared almost a different person – he had started to communicate with me at last.

Talking about pain, not ignoring it

As a conductor I am confronted by pain every day but when I was a student this subject was never discussed in detail, it was not the subject of any lectures, it was not something talked about during practical training.

I have had to learn about this on the job, through my contact with clients and through discussion with another conductor...

Tarczay Klára had taught me at the Petö Institute, I still pick her brains when we meet and collect her wonderful tips, and it was she who told me as I finished my training - “ Keep an eye on your clients, look them in the eye, for there you will see almost everything you need to know”. How right she was, I have practised what she told me for many years and today as I worked I realised it is time to write about it.

The pain threshold

I can see when the pain threshold has been reached by looking in the eyes of my clients. These clients often wonder why I ask them to work on certain tasks with their eyes open, I explain and some smile knowingly at me while others immediately shut their eyes again, not wanting to reveal anything!

Stroke clients

In my stroke group it is so important that I see when this threshold has been reached. The clients will often push themselves too far and it is my job to put on the brakes. It makes the difference between achieving that which we are aiming at, gradually increasing the range of movement and having a painful inflammation in a joint. Here is an actual example, from practice in the stroke group.

The clients are on the plinths, on their backs, aiming to lift their clasped hands above their heads, bringing them down on to their foreheads and finally sliding them down behind their heads into their necks. This very complicated movement can be the cause of pain in many places: in the fingers, in the back of the unaffected hand (spastic fingers digging in), in wrist or elbow and in the most likely place the shoulder. Usually no one complains, no one refuses to do it, all those who are able attempt it do alone while the others wait for assistance.

I need to be in control here, I move up and down the row peering into each person’s eyes, from where I receive the information that I need so I know when to say stop or when to begin a different task.

Try it out, it works nearly every time, you can have even the toughest, most highly motivated person in the group who never gives up and never complains, but you will see his pain in his eyes. Such high motivation is good but experiencing unnecessary pain is not the aim of our conductive work, experiencing improved movement is, and we have to find the balance together with the client.

Some stroke clients experience a different kind of pain. A pain which is very difficult to describe so I will use the words of a client I have known for ten years and who, over the years, has explained to me in great detail many aspects of her disability and her rehabilitation.

She tells me about what happens as feeling begins to return to her fingers and how everything she touches with her fingers is experienced as pain – "It is only the hypersensitive peripheral nerves", she tells herself over and over again, until her sensory organs have understood the difference between a gentle touch on the skin and a painful prod. Each time that she feels pain in yet another part of her body that has been paralysed by the stroke she repeats the same process. It may take days or weeks before she perceives the “pain” as a feeling of touch similar to what she experiences over the rest of her body, but however long it takes eventually the pain is replaced by normal feelings.

Now she tells me that each time she experiences such pain she can smile even though it hurts, because she recognises it as the beginning of yet another step in her healing process.

We can assist this path to normal feeling by alternating warm and cold, rough and smooth applications to her hand.

Pain and spasticity

Spasticity shoots into a muscle, or more than one muscle, it is visible as arms fly up, a head jerks backwards, legs stretch out or the whole body folds up in a ball. But less visible is what is felt, as
this process is more often than not accompanied by pain.

Not just pain caused by a resulting fall or from knocking a bony elbow on the wall, there is pain in the contracting muscle, something similar I imagine to the pain that we all have experienced when getting cramp in a leg during the night or when playing sport.

It hurts, but our clients rarely tell us this.

I try to teach my clients how to anticipate this contraction and stop it before it begins. They practise breathing, they count, they learn how to move their bodies to minimise the pain.
They learn to react to their bodies and relax the muscles before the spasticity shoots in.
It is a long learning process, especially with adults. As conductors maybe we should also be considering how conscious we are of this problem when we work with children with cerebral palsy, are we doing enough to teach them how to achieve a life with less pain? Even to let them know that we recognise that they have pain is a step in the right direction, as I experienced with my client today.

Pain and multiple sclerosis

Again I write from the mouth of a client who describes the twitches and jerks, accompanied by pain that prevent the body coming to rest at night and prevent sleeping. He also describes having a pain in his body like a wide metal belt being tightened around his waist as the spasticity in his muscles increases. He talks about the pain as he slowly stretches his legs in order to stand up and then the increased pain as they suddenly jack-knife back to the bent starting position.

He learns in the conductive group through breathing exercises to relax the muscles around his waist and therefore reduce the pain, he learns actively to stretch his legs only to the point just before spasticity shoots in, he learns to actively bend and stretch his legs to reduce the jerks and twitches, and the pain, and therefore allow his body to rest.

This client has also learnt to talk about his pain, to describe it and to work out how to minimise it, but many clients do not say a word and this is when I need to recognise it and be prepared to discuss it with them.

People with multiple sclerosis are liable to push themselves too far, they find it hard to recognise their own limits. It is very important for these clients to learn that even though today they may feel fit to conquer the world, tomorrow is another day and they then may regret having exerted themselves too much.

Through a conductive lifestyle they can learn where their limits are, they can get to know their bodies well enough to say "If I do this today I will feel like this tomorrow”. They learn to decide for themselves how much exhaustion and how much pain they are willing to have tomorrow in order to do something today. They learn how much exhaustion or pain their body can endure without making their symptoms worse.

As a conductor I must know my clients and their symptoms and through our programme show them how they can learn this too. I need to know whether we should work with weights on the plinth today and still be able to move the arms tomorrow. Tomorrow’s pain I can’t see in the eyes of my clients, it isn’t there yet, but I can see the tiredness or the exhaustion.

Personal solutions

My clients learn their own methods to solve their problems and reduce the pain. One client strokes her upper arm and talks quietly to it, another stares at his hand and talks sternly to it. They all learn which tasks to do and which not to do and I learn when to put the brakes on and I continue to look into their eyes while they learn to look back into mine.

Dealing with pain and stretching its boundaries is a very difficult aspect of my work and it is one which rarely gets discussed. How much pain can I expect a client to experience how much is an individual willing to experience. Each client is different, each client’s body reacts differently on reaching and crossing the pain threshold. Conductive upbringing and lifestyling is not just about exercising, but the tasks are part of it and sometimes they hurt, just as walking or putting on a jacket or holding something in a paralysed hand can also hurt. As a conductor I must recognise when enough is enough or when to push on just a bit further. I must know when pushing on will do good and when it will do harm. Not only must I know these things I must know how to teach my client to recognise them too.

Yes, we should reach that border and go slightly beyond it to stretch a muscle a little, to achieve a bit more movement, but for clients to have so much pain that I can see it in their eyes, no that is definately not what my work is about.

Through conductive living clients can learn how to build up their stamina and strength, they learn to become more active or to increase their range of movements, all without experiencing unnecessary pain. We can use the rhythm of the movement, the direction of the movement and the speed of the movement all in controlling pain. We can speak and count and improve breathing techniques, we can learn about all aspects of the body and the influences that the whole of the daily routine has on it, including the influence of the weather!

The "pain of tomorrow" I can anticipate only through experience and in the group we can build up stamina and strength and learn the movements needed to prevent it being there at all.

No pain, no gain!

My german clients often say to me while we are working that nothing can be achieved without some measure of pain, the slang phrase they use "Ka Schmerz, bringt nichts" translates well into English as "no pain, no gain!"

Together we learn to discover the limits and achieve the balance between the two, between the pain and the gain.


Tarczay Istvánné- Vezetö : Felnött Nevelési Egység , Head Conductor, Adults Department, Petö Institute.

Casablanca- Dirk Bogart and Ingrid Bergmann
In the German version the last sentence Rick says to Ilsa, “Here’s looking at you, kid”, is translated as “Schau mir in die Augen, Kleines” , (“Look me in the eyes, little one”).


Laszlo said...

Dear Susie,
I have just read a paper on lived body experience. In it there is a part which deals with the experience of pain in a group of osteopathic patient. It provides some evidence to suggest that the people in pain view their pain as impersonal, yet, at the same time, they recognise the deeply personal influences pain has on their lifes. They seem to demonstrate an adherence to a mind-body dualism in their behaviors and their accounts. The paper is by Robert Shaw, the title is "Towards a sociology of lived-body experience" in The Journal of Contemporary Health, Issue 6/ Autumn 1997. I enjoyed reading it just as I did your post about pain because as you mentioned it correctly we never had such conversation about clients' possible feelings during our training at the Peto Institute. If you were lucky or interested you could have personal discussions with teachers, by for example Tarczai Istvanne but pscychology lecture times were never used to learn about such things.


"Norwich Cathedral" by my Sis, 19th October 2010

I had a conversation with a friend today, about friends. Yes, I think that it is right to say that this was certainly someone I can call a friend who I was talking too.

We spoke about how not having friends during childhood makes growing up a much different experience than it is for children who have many.

My friend and I both had no friends as children, but I was lucky to have my sister and with her I also got all of her friends. Fortunately for me she had many and they never minded Little Sis tagging on for a small part of the time. for just as long as I could bear it. They never had to ask me to go away, as they knew that sooner or later I would go of my own accord. They actually seemed to like having me around.

Sharing my sister's friends was an awful lot easier for me than having friends of my own. I could just come and go, join in or not, however the fancy took me, and I did not really have to get involved. I had a couple of Teddy friends, and animal friends in the garden, and I had a very faithful three-legged dog called Tim, but no "girly" friends. I found it OK this way, until I got older. In my teens I wished that I had learnt how to make my own friends and not always borrow my sister's.

I found my first ever "girlie" friend, the sort teenagers giggle with and little girls play dollies with, only about four years ago. As I always say, it is never too late to learn, even how to giggle with a friend!

Conducting friendships

It was because of the importance of children making friends, and the fact that disabled children do not always having the same opportunities to make friends as do their not-disabled peers, that I organised during last year's pre-Christmas bits-in-between time a "Petö" afternoon to which new class-mates could be invited along.

The littlies who had just started mainstream school all brought a child with them from their new class, someone they would like to get to know better. It really was a great getting-to-know-you session. After this breaking the ice together, friendships started to blossom. It was especially successful for the littlie who has difficulty with speaking: she had a bit of help from us to get her started.

This session was so successful and our schoolchildren have been so hard working that I am in the process of organising another bring-along-a-friend session. This time will be during the autumn school break, and this time they really will be friends who come along, not potential friends.


My sister sent me the painting that heads this posting this evening. It was accompanied only with the comment:

“Cathedral [Norwich] water colour. What do you make of my latest attempt at art!?”

I think it is brilliant!

This is the second painting that she has sent me since the beginning of the school term. She is a volunteer worker at the local school and it seems that the six- and seven-year-olds are doing an art project which the adults join in too. The last picture that I received was her own family's heraldic shield, one that she had designed and painted herself, with her family and the dog, her dancing and our new baby.

It was receiving the above picture today that prompted me to write this posting about friends.

All of my life my sister has been just that, my big sister. She is all of twelve months older than I am but it seems more like twelve years, and she is as socially adept as an adult as she was as a child, so when I am at home she can still share her friends with me!

What is most interesting though is that over the years she is gradually becoming my friend too, and no longer only “my Big Sis who knows best”.

It is also no longer only our Dad who sends me his delightful works of art to enjoy, Sis is doing the same now, and she is also asking me for my opinion.

Well, I think that she paints rather well for a beginner and I hear that the schoolchildren think so too.

I have already offered to give a family art session next time I am home.

My wall of artwork by my Mum as a teenager and my Dad as an octogenarian will soon have art by Bis Sis joining it, as soon as I get my hands on an original that is!

Sunday 17 October 2010

"Autumn poppies" by Susie Mallett, 2008

As I mentioned this morning on Conductor Anne Wittig, over the Atlantic in British Columbia, and I have been communicating in the form of comments on this site. I have decided not to leave this communication buried but to publish it here Perhaps it may encourage others to start communicating with us on this or another theme.

It may even encourage someone out there to send me something of their own to post on this site. I am still enthusiastically waiting for a response!

Anne Wittig said on 16 October 2010:


I agree with you when you say: "I believe that the term conductive upbringing as Mária Hári described it and used it, has still not been fully understood everywhere where “conductive education” is being practised ". In fact I just had conversation with my conductor friend in Winnipeg about it.

I might be a bit controversial with saying this but I think its because the understanding of conductive education is not consistent within the conductive professional. One of our lectures at University said that her understanding of conductive education changed with time. It was different from when she started studying it, evolved when she finished her degree, changed again when she had 5 years and at 10 years experience, etc..

I am in total agreement with this. My understanding of it changes a lot and it really is as if it develops the more experience I gain. Lately, I have been more aware of the importance about increasing motivation, creating activity and allow spontaneity to happen.

It's not that I never heard about those things before, they are a huge part in the training to become a conductor, but relevance and interrelationship between each thing we do becomes more apparent with time. It actually starts to have a meaning to me that I'm more able to verbalize which I know couldn't before. I think in the beginning you work a lot on developing your teaching skills and when you become more confident with them you are able to really explore each aspect of CE with fresh eyes and learn. I do have a question: what do you mean by" it depends on ... to develop a system? I feel I might not fully understand it.

Susie Mallett replied:

Anne, yes I think you are right some conductors do feel that they need to develop their teaching skills when they first begin working as conductors. Others have a need to develop different skills. I think this is very much dependent on where they work and what experience they already have.

I had been a teacher and an art therapist for several years before trained as a conductor.

When I began to work as a conductor I began immediately to work as a pedagogic up-bringer and I developed these skills. These were the skills that I wished to acquire and the reason for my studying at the Petö Institute.

Conductive work takes place all over the world in a way that suits the country, the users and/or the providers. In the case of self-employed conductors, to suit conductors too.

It is the pedagogy that directs how we work, the type of practice takes its shape from the situation that we find ourselves in.

Yes, I think too that the understanding that we have of conductive pedagogy develops with time.

I have never worked in a country where the work is known as conductive education so my understanding of the work of a conductor has always been that it is nevelés, Erziehung or Förderung, upbringing or development. I think that this has had a huge influence on how I understand it.

Our aim as conductors is to guide our clients, children or adults, so that their lives becomes conductive. The conductor is present in the clients' life as much or as little as is necessary or that the situation allows.

The conductor also educates the other up-bringers and carers of the clients so that the whole life transforms into a conductive upbringing.

This will result in the client using their full potential in all situations with the assistance required given at the right moment, but not necessarily by a conductor.

For me conduction never meant working for an isolated three hours with my client, it always meant reaching further a field, visiting and working together with as many of the people as possible who are involved in the twenty-four-hour day of the client.

If I had written this posting today I am sure that I would have worded the sentence you ask about differently. I would almost certainly have used the words conductive lifestyle instead of system. That is:

“ depends on the willingness to transform, to bring about changes and to develop a conductive lifestyle”.

For a conductive upbringing to be successful we need cooperation between lots of people, with transformations continuously taking place as conductive living seeps into every aspect of a client's life.

Anne Wittig’s response to this:

Hi Susie...

Thanks for your long response.

I really like the phrase "it depends on the willingness to transform, to bring about changes and to develop a conductive lifestyle".

I also agree that conductive upbringing should reach in all aspects of the person's life. I feel that the way I work now (independently) I have a better opportunity to do so than I had before working in a center. At the center working with all aspects of the clients life was encouraged and we tried as good as we could. Different circumstances meant that some clients CE upbringing stayed at the center.

I think you made a good point with this sentence: "I have never worked in a country where the work is known as conductive education so my understanding of the work of a conductor has always been that it is nevelés, Erziehung or Förderung, Upbringing or development. I think that this has had a huge influence on how I understand it" .

I think that sometimes peoples understand education as something that happens in an educational setting Kindergarten, school, university etc., so somewhere else. Not necessary, as something that happens at home.

And you are right, its our job to change this.

Learning how to sprial upwards and outwards!

Conductive upbringing is not something that you go somewhere to have done to you. It is something that you learn to use as your way of life. You may do this learning through your parents, or through a carer, with the guidance of a condcutor. Learning about a conductive upbringing or lifestyle can be done in a group or in individual sessions. At home, at school or in a specialist centre.

Friday 15 October 2010

No need for a spectacle

First published on Conductor on Sunday, 14 September 2008

As I refered to this posting in the previous one I thought it appropriate to follow on with it.

The Traveller, 2003 by Susie Mallett

I have been away again

Two weeks with one family and one week with another, and as usual the work was great. Of course there are ups and downs, and the children decide enough is enough and go on strike, but its all part of life and therefore conductive upbringing.

On my return to my computer I have just read on, Conductive Education World, Andrew Sutton’s “Relevant thought? A discussion point at least…?"

And it got me thinking

I go to work in many places being a self-employed, peripatetic conductor and through this I have discovered that there are places where Conductive Education/upbringing takes place, with or without conductors, with or without the furniture, with or without a big institute and there are also places where it is not taking place.

It is of course possible to build your “arena” for conductive upbringing with bricks and mortar, you can fill it with the best equipment, plus ladderback chairs, plinths, wall bars and boxes, you can import some conductors or send some students off to be trained, but does this mean that there will be Conductive Education/upbringing?

Not necessarily.

I visit families for whom Conductive Education is completely new and they are working with their disabled child more “conductively” than some families who have been sending their child to a “ conductive” group for many years.

I have worked in some places where the “conductive group” is just that, a group which works conductively for a few hours a day or a week but the work does not extend outside the group into the daily life, to home to school etc.. Sometimes it does not even extend as far as the car (as I mentioned in "Time for finding your feet ", August 30th 2008).

I have worked in family situations where every one from little sister to great-grandfather are involved in the “upbringing” of the whole family and where the concept of conductive upbringing filters into every minute of daily life, and not only for the disabled child, everyone is influenced by it.

Even in the newest initiative with lots of funding behind it conductive upbringing can only take place when understanding is there and the will to make change is there, when the wish to “nurture and to educate and socialise children in their entirety” is there.

This quote comes from Andrew Sutton’s description of conductive upbringing at the beginning of Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy. He goes on to define it as implying more than just academic education but also as “ the creation, direction and correction of personal traits, behaviour, values and morals”.

I believe that the term conductive upbringing as Mária Hári described it and used it, has still not been fully understood everywhere where “conductive education” is being practised, the term Conductive Education having replaced it in general use and the concept then becoming one of academic education and not of upbringing.

Conductive upbringing is more than teaching, it is more than an education at “school”, it is something much wider involving many people and all aspects of a child’s life and personality.

Successful conductive upbringing does not depend on how big and polished and grand the arena is, on how many conductors are on hand, on how many hours a day a child spends in a conductive group, it depends on the willingness to transform, to bring about changes and to develop a system.

I believe that conductive upbringing can take place anywhere, not only in the arena, if given the creative atmosphere and interest, and of course the Seele!


Spectacle: something exhibited to view as unusual, notable, or entertaining ; especially : an eye-catching or dramatic public display

Andrew Sutton - Conductive Education World, “Relevant thought? A discussion point at least…?" September 8th, 2008.

Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy, Translations, terminology and statistics.
Edited by Gillian Macguire and Andrew Sutton
ISBN 1-897588-24-0


Norman said...

Suzie, on reading "It is of course possible to build your “arena” for conductive upbringing with bricks and mortar, you can fill it with the best equipment, plus ladderback chairs, plinths, wall bars and boxes", I was reminded of Andrew once saying "It's not about the bloody furniture!". The thought amused me then and amuses me still.

Laszlo said...


there is a phrase in Hungarian: A szambol vetted ki a szot! which shortly means I was going to say this...


Susie Mallett said...

Norman, I did think about including this "Suttonism" but decided to leave it unsaid, it appears my instincts were right, my readers knew exactly what I really wanted to say anyway!

One of the reasons that I like working with children at home is because there is no "furniture" to get in the way of the understanding!

Laci, you also often "take the words right out of my mouth".


Rony Schenker, OTR, PhD said...

Talking about 'best eqipment'and'Suttonism'my association was of Andrew's ciniq writing about those visitors who think that 'singing rimes over wooden ladderback plinths" is what conductive upbringing is all about...

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Something to ponder over

First posted on Conductor on Thursday, 18 September 2008

Rastafarian, by Susie Mallett 1981

Do we need conductors to carry out conductive upbringing?

If I say you do not need a conductor to carry out conductive upbringing then I would soon be out of a job, I also do not think it is true. What I can say is you do not always need a conductor to carry out conductive upbringing.

This is how I work when I work with people in their homes, it is my aim that conductive upbringing can take place without a conductor. Surely this is the aim of all conductors, to motivate activity in not just the child but the whole family so conductive upbringing continues when conductors are not present.

I think what you do need are conductors to bring about an understanding of conductive pedagogy and when an understanding has been reached then it may be possible for conductive upbringing to take place without the conductor.
This harks back to the correspondence of a week or so back beginning with Szogeczki Laci’s posting, about conductors finding a voice.

Conductors need to find their voice to educate, to change the way of thinking, to influence and activate all of the people dealing in all aspects of a child’s life and then, maybe then, can conductive upbringing take place without a conductor.

And what about the “bloody” furniture?

I can practise conductive upbringing without a single piece of furniture. I can take a child on the bus, to the shops, out in the garden or into the swimming pool without taking along a plinth or a ladderback chair! If they are there in a room and help in a particular situation then I use them, but if not I find alternatives. That is what being a creative conductor is all about, isn’t it?

I still believe the less furniture the better especially when I work at home with the child.
By observing us at work parents can learn how to use what is there on hand and learn how to adapt what is in the home and then see what they may need to provide at a later date.

I believe that the less furniture there is the more creative the conductor, the more creative the client and the more creative the parents.

And with less furniture the more normal is the environment in which they all live.


Szogeczki Laci
Voice of conductors, 6th September 2008

And what about the “bloody” furniture?
This refers to a comment from Norman Perrin on "No need for a spectacle" 14th september 2008

Norman Perrin

Monday 11 October 2010

One "Petö-Packed" hour

First published on Condcutor on Monday, 4 August 2008

"Versuchskannichen" by Susie Mallett 2002


How do you do an hour of “Conduction" with someone with cerebral palsy and autistic tendencies, and know that we will have achieved more in this hour than is sometimes possible in a whole day?

This is how we did it.

My client arrived very late, first she had lost her glasses at home and then she lost herself. She eventually found the glasses and eventually found herself and me!

We tried to solve the glasses problem by deciding to have a permanent place where the spare ones are kept, so they are always on hand to help in the search for the others. The problem of loosing oneself is more complex.

My client had thrown away the map I had given her because she thought that after two visits she had surely memorised a few landmarks and would surely get here without it. She had not considered that the yellow bike, often chained to the lamp post at the end of my street and one of her important anchor marks, is sometimes being used and therefore not there. I am not sure whethermy client then spent an hour searching for the bike or if she arrived by pure chance in my street.

We decided that the Satellite Navigation system for pedestrians, which her mum had offered her, would certainly be a good idea. My client initially rejected the offer because she wanted to prove she can do without. We discussed how there are so many people, disabled and not disabled. I have stroke clients who are very thankful for this tool to help them overcome the orientation problems that they experience when trying to get back behind the wheel.

Perhaps with this “sat. nav.” my client can improve her punctuality that is especially important now that she will soon be entering the “real” world of appointment-keeping She will start teaching and will need to get to places on time.

So in the first five minutes of the session we had recognised a problem … orientation and spatial awareness... and we had come up with a few solutions. First to accept the gift of the “sat. nav.” from mum and secondly stick the maps that she uses to find somewhere for the first time and maybe even the second time, into her address book and never throw them away!

With regards to punctuality and organisation we discussed doing the organising of the contents of her bag and the choosing of clothes that she would wear for an appointment, the night before an early start. In addition we considered the possibility of putting all clothes in the appropriate place the moment she takes them off, to avoid the chaos which prevents her from finding her glasses.

What else did we do?

I massaged aching feet caused by being lost, then we decided together that the shoe inlays should be found immediately and used daily. A bit of manipulation of muscles was followed by some conventional 1,2,3,4,5, and some bending of legs. Then there was some proper walking-practice, not getting lost and having to walk for miles walking, with arms stretched high to prevent the wobbling.

Then there was some more discussion about problem-solving: organising movement, organising self in space and organising personal belongings in the space available at home.

At this point in writitng I am reminded of the importance of sometimes doing school homework within the conductive groups. Not because there is no time for things in the evening at home, but because it is such a good learning opportunity for children to improve their organisation skills and spatial awareness. They learn how to place their bag so they can reach everything easily, they learn how to place things on the table so they keep within their own personal space and they learn how not knock their books and pencils on the floor. Things get knocked off the table very often because our children do not always watch where they place items and therefore do not know where they are in relation to their own body. It happens at meal times too, glasses get knocked over because the eye/hand coordination is missing and movement in the head is restricted.

Back to the client and her visit and our problem solving

We had observed that as my client talks, and as she walks her head moves continuously from one side to the other. This gives her too much visual stimulus so it is no wonder that she gets lost or cannot concentrate on her tasks. Her homework after this session is to try to fix her eyes on one object in the distance and continue to work on tasks returning her focus now and then to the object she picked out. She could develop this method to keep her head in the middle and to improve her concentration. She realised that if she had concentrated on following a map she would not have been distracted by other visual stimuli and quite possibly she would have taken a direct route to me.

After ten years working together we are a great team we find solution quite quickly. We have both reached a greater understanding of conducitve upbringing through our work. Recently I suggested that my client should seek advice from the Autistic Society in Nürnberg, and since this time we have come forward in leaps and bounds, developing ideas within the framework of a conducitve lifestyle to solve problems associated with her autistic tendencies.

I wrote this posting yesterday afternoon. Just as I was finishing it I was bombarded with text messages on my ancient mobile phone that peeped away in protest at the speed at which it was having to work. The following is the “collective-message” that I received from the above-mentioned client. If I had known it was coming I probably would not have written my posting, but it is good to hear both sides of the story.

Maybe it is also something which will interest Gill Maguire for the collection of articles written by people living conductively.

Conductive Education is being an hour late for some important work but still getting more done than usual!

Conductive Education is also drinking coffee or sleeping, instead of exercising, and it is finding suitable jobs for two very unique people. (We often develop ideas on how to find jobs for both a conductor and a disability studies student with cerebral palsy, who has hidden mathematical talents, autistic traits and the evident gift for learning foreign languages).

Conductive Education is finding creativity and orientation in the chaos of dyspraxia, in other words - Conductive Education is good for the entire central nervous system in all of my daily life.

You don’t believe at least a part of this?

Well I am permanently late because I don’t have much feeling for time or space. First loosing my glasses at home and then getting lost in a construction area made me three hours late for Petö, which broke all records. My conductor was naturally a little bit annoyed but she understands and we talked about the problem and its practical solutions, such as planning buffer times and taking mum’s advice, which is buying a pedestrian navigation system.

We discussed how this was conductive (Latin for bringing things together) and education as it made us aware of the potential of change.

We don’t know of any previous studies concerning Conductive Education and dyspraxia or autism but we found out how for me to walk straight is partly a question of concentration often defied by "autistic" over-stimulation. We agreed that Conductive Education is the whole central nervous system in action.

Conductive Education is life, it brings together such topics as teaching, regarding oneself as worthy, managing time, managing talents and weaknesses, following urges of the body essential to survive (having breakfast supplied when I arrive three hours late), pursuing art and culture…..



Versuchskannichen : guinea pigs, as in trying something out for the first time.

Sat. Nav.:

Gill Maguire: Feedback from the otherside, 22nd July 2008