Susie Mallett

small66711@aol.com

Friday, 22 April 2011

Little Henri

"Great-Auntie gets to read a story on the floor"


Little Henri

It is several months ago now since I discovered a wonderful site that is all about Henri:

http://www.der-kleine-henri.de/page1.php

Actually, whenever I think about him I always think of him as Little Henri as this is the name of the blog that is written by his mother.

I mentioned Little Henri on my blog:

http://www.susie-mallett.org/search?q=henri

I left a comment on his site to say that I had done so and since then I have got to know Little Henri’s Mum from exchanging mail through cyberspace.

I have always maintained that a conductive upbringing is for everyone who wishes to embark on the path and can find the guidance that they need. There are lfortunately other conductors who believe this too and Little Henri’s mum found one nearby to help the family on its way.

Henri’s Mum sent me their story to post on my blog. I have translated it into English and post it in the original German first followed by my translation. Go to Little Henri’s site to see the photos of his life so far and more stories from his Mum. Thank you very much Henri and family for sharing your story with me and my readers.

Unser Sohn Henri ist 8 Jahre alt, er kam mit Down-Syndrom und einem komplexen Herzfehler zur Welt. Aufgrund von drei Herz-Operationen und wiederkehrender Infekte mit schwerem Verlauf hat Henri die ersten beiden Jahre seines Lebens mehr Zeit in der Klinik als bei uns zu Hause verbracht.

Henri hatte – wie wohl die meisten behinderten Kinder – vor Petö eine Reihe von anderen Therapien durchlaufen und die meisten seiner Therapeuten haben mich nicht gerade ermutigt, es mit Petö zu versuchen. Es gibt schon eine Reihe von Vorurteilen, gerade unter Fachleuten.

Viele glauben, Petö sei .- wenn überhaupt- nur für cerebral geschädigte Kinder geeignet, nicht aber für Kinder mit einer allgemeinen Entwicklungsverzögerung, z.B. aufgrund von Down-Syndrom.

Henri war 3 Jahre alt, als wir 2005 mit Henri zum ersten Mal in die Kinderklinik Kohlhof zur ambulanten Petö-Therapie kamen - er hatte gerade das Krabbeln gelernt und an Laufen war nicht zu denken.

Bis dahin hatte er sich, soweit es seine gesundheitliche Situation zuließ, vor allem auf dem Po rutschend, seltener auch krabbelnd, fortbewegt. Im ersten Behandlungskurs stand Henri erstmals aufrecht am Sprossenstuhl und bewegte sich langsam vorwärts, indem er diesen vor sich herschob.

Die Aufrechte war für Henri eine neue und beglückende Erfahrung und er nahm mit großer Begeisterung am Behandlungsprogramm teil. Das Behandlungsziel „freies Laufen“ lag für mich als Mutter damals in sehr weiter Ferne. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt hatten wir gerade unser Haus geplant und es aufgrund unklarer Prognosen hinsichtlich Henris Entwicklung behindertengerecht ausgestattet.

Neben dem Laufenlernen hatte die Therapie einen weiteren Schwerpunkt. Henri aß nämlich zu diesem Zeitpunkt aufgrund einer ausgeprägten Kau- und Schluckstörung nur Brei und Gläschenkost - alle Versuche, ihn allmählich an etwas festere Kost heranzuführen, blieben erfolglos. Umso größer war die Freude, als Henri im Rahmen der Petö-Therapie bereits in der zweiten Behandlungseinheit erstmals etwas Banane und stückchenweise auch Knäckebrot aß.

Während der folgenden Einheiten, die jeweils 10 Therapietage umfassten, machte er weitere deutliche Fortschritte. Zunächst einmal lernte er, sich an Möbeln hochzuziehen und begann dann, sich mit Hilfe des Rollators fortzubewegen. Was anfangs noch mühsam war, wurde ihm bald zu seiner liebsten Fortbewegungsart, ging es doch viel schneller und bequemer als Rutschen und Krabbeln.

In Kohlhof machte Henri auch erstmals Bekanntschaft mit dem Töpfchen - was ich mir immer schwer vorgestellt hatte, ging überraschend gut. Auch zu Hause setzten wir die Sauberkeitserziehung fort und heute braucht Henri Windeln nur noch zum Schlafen.

Im Alter von vier Jahren machte Henri im Rahmen einer weiteren Behandlungseinheit seine ersten freien Schritte. Er stand an der Wand und ließ sich nach zwei, drei Schritten in meine ausgebreiteten Arme fallen. Aus den wenigen Schritten bis in meine Arme wurden immer mehr, er lernte sich selbst aufzurichten und mit fünf Jahren hatte er es tatsächlich geschafft. Er konnte laufen!!! Die Freude darüber war umso größer, als es für uns keineswegs selbstverständlich war, dass Henri jemals laufen würde.

Dass er es geschafft und damit ein großes Stück Selbständigkeit und Unabhängigkeit gewonnen hat, verdankt er vor allem der Petö-Konduktorin, unserer lieben Fr R.H., deren Umgang mit ihm von Anfang an von Zuversicht und Vertrauen in seine Fähigkeiten geprägt war. Was uns Eltern fast unmöglich schien, hat Henri mit ihrer Hilfe erreicht.

Die ersten Schritte, die erste feste Nahrung, die ersten Apfelstückchen sind nur einige Beispiele für das, was in der Petö-Therapie angelegt worden ist und worauf wir zu Hause aufbauen konnten.

Während wir bei anderen Therapien oft mit Henris Verweigerungshaltung zu kämpfen hatten und dabei mehr Energie in seine Motivierung als in das eigentliche Therapieziel geflossen ist, hatten wir diese Schwierigkeit im Kohlhof nie. Frau H forderte viel von den Kindern, aber stets mit einem feinem Gespür für das richtige Maß. Sie hat ein sicheres Gefühl für den Zeitpunkt, wenn auf Anstrengung Entspannung folgen sollte.

Leider hat die Petö-Therapie, zumindest bei uns in der Gegend, nicht die Aufmerksamkeit und Anerkennung, die sie verdient hat. Wer ein Kind mit einer Bewegungsstörung hat, sollte einen Versuch wagen- es lohnt sich!

Our son Henri is 8 years old. He was born with Down syndrome and a severe heart condition.

Due to three heart operations and reccuring infections, Henri spent more of the first two years of his life in hospital than with us at home.

Before Petö, Henri, just like most disabled children, had been through a series of different therapies, and most of the therapists we met had not exactly encouraged me to try Petö.

There is a long list of prejudices against it especially amongst the professionals. Many of them believe that Petö is only suitable, if at all, for children with cerebral palsy and not for children with a general developmental problem, for example because of Down syndrome.

In 2005, when Henri was three years old he went to the Kindergarten in Kohlhof and experienced Petö therapy for the first time – he had only just learnt to crawl and as yet we had no thought about him learning to walk.

Up until this point, so far as his health had allowed, he had moved around mostly by sliding on his bottom, occasionally also by crawling. In the first Petö sessions Henri stood upright holding on to ladder-back chair, he moved slowly forwards by pushing the chair in front of him.

Being upright was a whole new and joyful experience for Henri and he took part in the sessions with great enthusiasm. The aim set for him of walking freely was for me as his mother far in the distance. At this point in time we had just planned our house and, because of an unclear prognosis on Henri’s development, we had adapted it for his special needs.

As well as learning to walk the therapy had another important aim. Up until this time because of problems with chewing and swallowing Henri had only eaten semi-solid and liquid foods – all attempts to encourage him to move on to more solid foods had been unsuccessful. So the joy was even greater when in the framework of the Petö-therapie, as early as in the second session, he ate, for the very first time a small amount of banana and pieces of crisp bread.

During the next ten sessions he made very definite improvements.

Next he learnt how to pull himself up on the furniture and then began, with the help of a rolator, to move around. What at the beginning was very strenuous for him soon became his favourite method of getting around. It was far more comfortable and much faster than sliding along on his bottom, or crawling.

In Kohlhof Henri experienced sitting on a potty for the very first time. This was something that I had imagined to be very difficult but it went surprisingly well. So at home we continued the potty training and today Henri only needs nappies for sleeping.

At the age of four during another course of sessions (at the conductive Kindergarten) Henri took his first free steps.

He stood against the wall and after taking two or three steps he let himself fall into my wide open arms. The number of steps to reach my open arms gradually increased, he learnt to stand up on his own and by the age of five he had made it. He could walk!!

Our joy in this was even greater because we had never taken it for granted that one day Henri would learn to walk.

That he achieved this, and at the same time received a huge amount of independence and freedom, we thank more than anyone the Petö conductor, our lovely Fr R.H. who right from the beginning was full of optimism and trust in his abilities.

With her help Henri achieved what we as parents had thought to be almost impossible. The first steps, the solid food, the first pieces of apple, are all only small examples of things in which time is invested in the Petö-therapy and what we can build on at home.

Although during the other therapies we often needed to deal with Henri’s non-compliant behavior, we never had this difficulty in Kohlhof. Fr H’s expectations of the children were high but she had a fine-feeling for exactly how high. She also knew exactly when it was time for relaxation to follow a period of exertion.

Unfortunately Petö Therapy, in our region anyway, has not had the attentions and the recognition that it deserves. Anyone who has a child with a movement disorder should take the risk - it is worth it!


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Questions on Conductive Upbringing - Part Three

First published on the Conductor Blog on June 2nd, 2009.


All this "luck" found between 15.45 and 15.50, June 2nd 2009


Part Three

By the time that I had left the Petö Institute in 1993, my qualification as a conductor safe in my pocket, I had several different experiences of conductive pedagogy and upbringing.
I had worked with adults in 2-3 hour twice-weekly sessions for over a year and I had experienced the conductive input in the premature unit of a Budapest hospital. In between these two extremes I had experienced the whole range of groups at the Petö Institute for Conductive Upbringing

I worked with the mother-and-child group, in which parents worked for three hours each day with their young children, with one or two conductors working with them. The children attended until discharged or moved on to full-time kindergarten group.

Residential conductive upbringing

It was while working in one of these kindergarten groups that I experienced for a whole year the 24/7 conductive upbringing of Hungarian children, by conductors. The children boarded until they were independent enough to join a state school and moved home, or they moved on to a school group within the Petö Institute.

I worked in one of these school group too, with seven-to-eleven-year-olds, and experienced yet another type of upbringing which included the curriculum of the national school system.

Until these residential children left the Petö Institute I saw NO input from parents. When children left the Petö Institute they returned regularly, every three, six or twelve months, to the outpatients’ department. It was at this time that the parents became involved once more in the conductive upbringing of their child.

At these out-patient meetings a conductor would discuss with the family the child’s life and all the progress made since the last visit. Advice would be given and any problems would be discussed, whether physical, psychological or social, relating to school or to home.

Tasks for future development would be given for the child to carry out, alone or with a family member.

I found it very interesting to observe how the situation of the child had changed so dramatically from being brought up almost 100% by conductors to moving into the hands of teachers and parents. These children were incredibly independent, they were so aware of their own abilities and needs. They would speak up for themselves, they would describe clearly their recent progress and express any points of concern.

Although the conductive upbringing by conductors 24/7 was not a perfect solution, the children in the outpatients’ department were exceptionally independent and very self-assured. There were nearly all very good at interacting in their new social environments. Usually they fitted in quickly and well.

The whole life of these children during the time that they had spent at the Petö Institute was 100% “conductive“, and they left the Institute only when they had become sufficiently independent in movement and problem-solving to attend a state school.

The International Kindergarten Group

As mentioned in “Conductive upbringing part two”, during my years of training I experienced yet another variation on the theme when I worked in the International Kindergarten group. Here it 8/5 conductive upbringing for three to six weeks at a time.

These children arrived at 8.30 a.m. and were collected again by their parents sometime in the afternoon. The parents saw little of “the action” in the group and what they managed to learn about Conductive Education came from elsewhere, not from within their child’s group.

It was often the parents of these children in the International Groups who became the “pioneers”. They were the parents who decided that they wanted to have Conductive Education at home. They started importing it to all over the world and Conductive Education began to take on as many different forms as there were centres and pioneers. Rarely do you find a centre offering what I described from my experiences in the Petö Institute. Perhaps in England where training also takes place. Israel maybe comes close to it too. But nowhere provides “100% conductive residential” like I experienced in Budapest.

Taking it out of Hungary

Every one of these pioneering parents had to consider how the method could be transferred from Hungary to their own situation and society. There would be many aspects that influenced its establishment and its development once they got it there.

One major influence was the understanding that these pioneers had of Conductive Education. This differed enormously from person to person.

Much depended also on their reasons behind importing the method in the first place.

  • Were they just wanting to import the group that their child was working in, to be nearer to home?
  • Or were they looking at a longer and wider project, wanting to import the whole system, providing services for babies and parents, toddlers, children, teenagers, adults, carers and follow-up, and of course the most important, training for conductors?

Germany

Most of the centres that I experienced in Germany in my early years there, in the 1990s, were providing Conductive Education for the age-group of the pioneers’ own child or children. Gradually some of these centres introduced other groups and a few looked further ahead and developed a wider concept, the biggest of these possibly being in Starnberg, Bavaria, but still no conductor-training.

Over the past twenty years Germany has seen a wide range of services develop, providing for a wide range of users, but in the main groups and centres remain small and are mainly for young children.

Many of these German centres have grown as a specific need arises, when children grow into adults or when two or three new clients turn up, which may be enough to form a new group or employ another conductor.

Developing my own conductive upbringing

When I was newly qualified as a conductor I moved to Germany to live. There, with the beginnings of a “new” Conductive Education happening all around me, especially in Bavaria where I lived, I considered how I could best provide a service.

Within weeks of arriving my phone began to ring with enquiries and I began to get an idea of what people wanted. Mainly I began to understand that families had no wish to travel any more in search of Conductive Education and did not want to be separated for long periods of time. Even with the rapid development in their own country, services were often four hours’ travel away. They wanted Conductive Education but they wanted it on their doorstep.

What did I want?

I did not want to be a 24/7 conductor, with no role in the family. This was not my idea of a conductive upbringing.

  • I wanted to offer something long-term, something which would influence all aspects of my clients’ lives.
  • I wanted to offer more than a three-week summer camp, which was originally all that many centres throughout the world could offer.
  • I wanted to offer more than three hours’ Conductive Education a day to children who were not receiving a conductive upbringing at home.
  • I wanted to work within families, to act as a catalyst for a conductive upbringing.
  • I wanted to work not only with the child and not only with the mother and the child. My wish was to involve the whole family which includes Mum and Dad, brothers and sisters, and also Granddad and Grandma, aunties, uncles and cousins. And even beyond this to therapists, teachers and friends.

This is what I set out to do:

  • To influence all aspects of life.
  • To meet teachers and visit schools, to work alongside the physiotherapist and also to invite them to watch us at work.
  • To play with my clients in the garden, with siblings and cousins, to walk in the woods, go on picnics, watch the local football team, attend concerts, learn to swim and ski and ride mini-tractors, go karts and scooters. My aim was to do all of this within the family environment and not in a “therapy” centre where a child gets sent for three hours once a week.
  • In a familiar environment I wanted to be involved in the learning of all that was done by the whole family, each and every day.
  • This includes washing and dressing, eating and drinking, cooking and cleaning, gardening, shopping. Simply getting on with life.
  • I wanted to work in such a way that as many people as possible who came in contact with the disabled child would have the opportunity to learn through me to influence this life conductively.

My conductive upbringing

To a large extent I have achieved what I intended. I have worked like this in some families for many years, some of the time directly in the home, sometimes by way of letters and on the telephone.

Most of the children from these families have also attended Conductive Education groups in block form. Often they have attended conductive groups before I met them, as a starting point for getting to know Conductive Education, and it had been from this that had stemmed the wish for something else. Sometimes they have attended blocks on my advice so that they can have contact with other children.

I have had long-term involvement not just in the conductive upbringing of children, I have worked for over ten years in the same way with some adult clients, working with them both in their own homes with their families present and in my adult groups.

I can offer them four or five three-week blocks a year, with individual sessions in between either in the conductive centre or in their own homes.

With both adult and child clients, I attend appointments with them if necessary with specialists, I become involved in the decisions when changing schools, learning to drive, returning to work. I have often attended school prize-givings and parents’ evenings, and assisted in choosing new equipment or shoes. I have attended weddings and christenings and even a family funeral.

I do believe that I have achieved my aim of providing conductive upbringing for whole families. It is a provision that is on-going and ever-changing. Many of these families I am sure will come back to me again and I will take on whatever role is needed at the time.

Of course I still work in conductive groups, I always have done. Over the years we have had a huge variety of conductive provision in Nürnberg where I live.

  • There has been for several years now a conductive after-school-care-group, where the children eat lunch, do homework, play and do “sport”, all with conductors.
  • We have parent-and-child groups, teenagers’ groups and after-work adults’ groups.
  • We have an integrated kindergarten.
  • We have groups for adults during the day and individual sessions.

  • Always the group work is accompanied by home visits and the offer of individual session between blocks. Parents and carers are invited to be as involved as they wish to be, either by attending sessions or by being present on home visits.

Upbringing through flexibility

These examples of my work, including conductive upbringing within the family, are as diverse as the services on offer at the Petö Institute at the time that I did my conductor training but there is a very important difference.

It is very important to be able to offer what clients want and need at a particular time. I try to be as flexible as I can in my work. I am able to adapt to new situations and to work spontaneously if need be. Conductive upbringing at home with input from a conductor is not always the answer but I believe that it is a very good basis, from which other conductive
pedagogic options can be considered and put into action.

Case study 1
Long-term conductive upbringing

We met at a clinic in southern Germany, that at that time offered Conductive Education as small part of a residential therapy package for parents and their children. I had been called at the very last minute by the clinic to step in when all the children had arrived for the course but the conductors to run it were absent.

When we met he was just seven years old, he had just learnt to walk independently and understandably he didn’t want to stay in one place for long! He found it very difficult to be in this group of children who were more severely disabled than he was. His mother was therefore looking for something more, something different, something which suited their family of six better than did the present situation.

They had experienced Conductive Education in Budapest and in another centre nearer home but still with a journey too long for daily attendance to be possible. They were trying it out at the therapy clinic for a third time but were still not satisfied with what they were getting.

This little boy was adamant that he did not want to leave his three siblings and extended family at home anymore to travel to different kinds of “therapy”. He did not want to be away from his loved ones for weeks on end. It was mainly from his initiative that his mother asked whether I would visit them at home in northern Germany, with the possibility of working there three times a year for three weeks at a time.

He was even more adamant after my very first visit, that all he ever wanted in future was to work with me and to do it at home.

So that was it .This arrangement continued for many years, becoming reduced to three times a year for only two weeks as time went on and needs changed. Eleven years on we still meet three times a year for “Petö” and often on other occasions for concerts, birthdays, end of school celebrations and the like.

What began at seven years of age as a very conventional five hours of conductive pedagogy plus conductive input in the early morning and evenings while dressing and washing and at all meal times, gradually changed. Soon it also included visits from physiotherapists and teachers, trips to town, walks in the village and lots of painting. We cooked lunches and afternoon teas. I went to parties with him to show him how he could eat and drink in a “foreign” environment.

Gradually our two main passions emerged painting for exhibitions and marching kilometre after kilometre in the countryside. Both of these activities evolved as a means to get through those terrible teenage years. The years of anger about being disabled and not be able to join in all activities with his brother and sisters.

He earned extra pocket money, not by delivering newspapers as his siblings did but through selling the paintings that he put on show. He became fitter and fitter by taking long walks with me, in my work time and in my spare time, so that he could march with the shooting club when he came of age.

Our programme has changed and is still changing to fit his needs and those of his family. The home is also the family business which has meant, Mum and Dad, Grandma, Granddad and siblings are ever present and have always been ready to learn and discover how they can help with the development of all aspects of his life

Case study two
Short-term conductive upbringing

When we met this child was six years old, he was just about to start school, the same school that his older brother attended. He could not walk independently, he had always walked holding someone’s hand or had been pushed for longer distances in a buggy. He could not stand up alone from the floor. In most other aspects of his daily life he was as independent as all six-year-olds are.

His family had just discovered Conductive Education and where experiencing their first three-week block. They were, as is often the case, many miles away from home when we met. They were enthusiastic and wanted to continue exploring using the conductive approach to encourage their child’s development but they wanted it nearer home.

I was invited to work with the child within the family environment.

One of the immediate questions that the family had was what to do at school. It had been suggested that this child should need a wheelchair but there was concern that if he got one then he would never learn to walk independently. I was concerned about this too, but I was also convinced that it need not come to that as he still had time to learn to walk.

It took 3 days!

In the safety of his own family home, with Mum and Dad and brother, dog, cat and even rabbit all around him as motivation, with Grandma and aunties on the end of the phone sending encouraging words, we were in a world apart from that strange environment of the conductive group where we first met.

It seemed like I had a different child beside me as we worked.

Nearly all that we did for the first two days was to walk around the house, up and downstairs in and out of the front door and always finding the appropriate hand-holds to retain balance and an upright posture. The house was small there were no big open spaces, he could always find a spot to place his hand.

After 3 days he just let go.

He did not just take four steps he walked four metres. He did not do this just indoors, he did it out in the street and on the lawn. He had found his feet. He had discovered that he could walk. No, it was not a miracle, as Grandma claimed it to be. He just had not known what he was capable of. No one in the family had known. He had not had the confidence or the belief in himself to give it a go. He and the family had not known how.

By the end of my three-week stay he was not only walking independently he was out on the back lawn showing off to the extended family, playing basket ball with Dad. The world was his oyster and the wheelchair for school long forgotten.

I worked with this family on three occasions over the space of a year. After this time conductive input from a conductor stopped but the family had learnt enough to continue on their road to independence without it.

Case study three
Adult conductive lifestyle

Three years after suffering a stroke this client, then in her late forties, contacted me through her local district nurse.

In Germany it is often the case for stroke-sufferers that services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, are reduced two or three years after the stroke has occurred. The health insurance companies refuse to pay for them any longer, maintaining that a peak of learning has been reached. They believe that rehabilitation can progress no further!

Often at this stage people begin to search for an alternative, a few find Conductive Education, as did this lady who has now been my client for twelve years.

When we met she could stand and walk but only when concentrating 100% on these tasks and on nothing else. She could speak a few words but could not hold a conversation. She could find words more easily in English than in her mother tongue, which is German. She was a singer and had studied music, she could find the words better if we sang.

For the first four years we met in her own home once a week until I began groups for adults at a conductive centre nearby.

She slowly but surely learnt to speak by practising long forgotten English folksongs.

After twelve years not only do we now discuss every topic under the sun, but my client can also carry out long telephone conversations, not only with friends and relatives but also with strangers to book appointments and make official enquiries.

She has her conductive pedagogic input organised and understands it inside out. She has attended four three-week groups each year for the past eight years and in between times I visit her at home for two hours once every two weeks. She lives “conductively” every minute of every day of her life. She sets herself aims that we work on together or alternatively she develops them alone.

She learnt to sing again while standing so that she could return to the local choir. She has progressed so far that she has now taken over the choir’s musical direction. As an added bonus she has also taught me to sing, not an easy task..

In the conductive group she first learnt how to make a cup of tea or coffee, then to bake biscuits. At home we then progressed to cooking Christmas dinner. Eventually she could do all of this while standing up.

She learnt to recognise colours again and to extend her periods of concentration, which has led to a return to hobbies such as embroidery, painting and jigsaw puzzles.

After she had learnt to sing while standing we progressed to talking while walking. She can now converse with her husband as they take a stroll together.

She has progressed from being the quietest member of the group to being the one to offer new and interesting themes of discussion from Greek mythology to the newest medical developments.

Through my contact with her family at home her husband has always been involved in the conductive way of life. He offers tremendous support by encouraging his wife at home where he has insisted that they played scrabble every single day since the stroke occurred and where, amongst many other things, he has taught her how to choose colour schemes when she dresses.

It is not only at home that he so supportive but also in our group, where he and other partners and carers often join us for the final session to participate in our discussions or the in singing “programmes”.

I am not sure if this should be called “conductive upbringing” in the same way as with children, but it is certainly a “conductive lifestyle”. Each day is filled with problem- solving and striving towards a fulfilling life, all carried out with a healthy soul.

Notes

Questions of Conductive upbringing part one -

http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2009/01/questions-of-conductive-upbringing.html

Questions of Conductive upbringing part two -

http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2009/01/questions-on-conductive-upbringing.html

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey susie.

I really enjoyed reading your blog today (not that its different to any other times I read it). I really liked how you pictured you experience at the petoe institute with how the familie and parents have been involved and how you changed it to something 'new' and well needed. I think its an important part of our work to individualize and find a way to make conductive eduaction into conductive upbringing for the child and family at home. I feel sometimes, at a centre those parts even when attempted, do not get fully addressed.
I loved reading those positive stories and would love to her more details on how you worked with those clients at home. Where did you start?I can imagine its different then in a group in a centre as you are entering their surroundings, their comfort zone, their home. And im curious on how you managed to merge into those homes? I can imagine this is not easy to answer and I do not really expect you to, but sometimes i would love watching you bringing the magic of conductive upbringing home to your clients.
Aenna

Gillian Maguire said...

I think this is a wonderful overview of the wide range of possibilities Conductive Education can offer to those who receive it whether in the short term or the long term.

Please keep up these very interesting snapshots of what a conductor can do to help. Maybe others will join you in promoting such positive opportunities for those with a motor disorder.


Susie Mallett said...

Thank you for the positive comments. It is nice to hear that you can visualise how I work from reading my descriptions.

Aenna, it would be lovely to have you watching me at work with the magic of conductive upbringing of course you would be very welcome to come to see me.

You won't be the first to say or do this! The next one will be here in September and I already have a short programme arranged for her.

If you feel like sending me an email I would like to know about your work too.

Questions on Conductive Upbringing - Part Two

First published on the Conductor Blog on January 23th, 2009.


Karen and Holive (my sister and I), 1959


Part II.
Upbringing by conductors.


What did I experience in the four years at the Petö Institute?

In a nutshell – for the most part it was conductive upbringing of children, by conductors, twenty-four hours a day, often seven days a week with very little imput from parents.

For Hungarian children: 24/7

This is where and how I learnt about the value and fun of the “bits in between”, as there were always far more bits in between in the Petö Institute groups than there was of anything else. Of course we all did the lying programme, walking programmes and sitting programmes but more often than not these were “bits in between” too, blending into the general routine of a day.

By “bits in between” I do not mean the bits which join all the different formal programmes together, for example how the individuals in a group move from one room to the other to eat lunch, or move to the bathroom to get ready for bed. I am talking about the whole day being “bits in between” because it was “life”, everyday conductive living.

For example in a kindergarten group once a week the plants would be collected to be watered. The more independent walkers would bring them to a table where other children needing parallel bars or a plinth to hold on to would care for them, take off the dead leaves and water them. They would then be returned to the appropriate places in the room by the independent walkers.

Maybe in the summer the walking and individual programmes would be a walk down the stairs or a ride in the lift, walking out into the garden, to learn how to use a swing or slide. The sitting programme would be a puppet show or a theatre performance, or role-playing of some kind, perhaps doctors or teachers. A hand programme could be preparing food to be eaten by the group, or creating decorations for a particular celebration.

This is what I experienced every day and this is how I learnt to work in a group of 20-24 children. As a first-year student I was given a group of three or four children during the individual walking programme and asked to devise games for them specifically to learn certain movements and abilities, all within the framework of the given theme for the day.

In school groups it was slightly different as the playing was replaced by lessons.

The day began with a lying programme which incorporated an introduction to the day's school work, and this was followed by individual walking programmes to the school desks.

Throughout the lessons the children were encouraged to make all the movements that would have been practised in activities in their kindergarten groups. With the younger children, the transition for learning movements through play to their automatic use in school was done slowly and precisely.

The school bags would always be placed either on the floor beside the children to encourage bending to the side or they would be hung on the back of the chair to encourage turning to the right or the left. The whole class would be asked to look in their bags for a specific book and they would be facilitated by conductors in whatever way necessary to do this task.

The class would be asked to point to pictures in their books with the left hand or the right hand, with the index finger or the little finger. Just as in the kindergarten, where they may have practised ironing and folding clothes, the same movements were used in the school lessons when, in unison, the children were asked to turn the page a book. Again facilitation being given by conductors.

Letters were learnt by using huge arm movements, scribing with a hand in the air or on the desk, later just using a finger in a tray of sand and finally with a pen on paper, the size of both depending on the stage that the child had reached.

In the school groups the days were again filled up with bits-in-between, the bits-in-between now had changed from play to school life. In between the lessons were times when formal tasks could be set for individual children when walking to the bathroom, preparing the tables for lunch and tea, doing homework and leisure activities, preparing for bed.

Both at kindergarten and school age the whole day was planned for each child both individually and as a group. There was not one minute in the day when the children did not know what their tasks were. Whether watering plants, reading to a friend, chatting around the tea table, solving a mathematical problem or making their bed, the whole group always knew where they were and what they should be doing.

During all of the activities of the day the group would be lead by a team of two or three conductors in one of three shifts, along with the hierarchy of students from first to fourth years, maybe as many as ten at one time. Conductors and students were allocated their tasks for the week and as a team they planned their activities within the framework of the group.

On week days the upbringing of the children aged between three and thirteen was carried out entirely by conductors. At weekends activities were planned by conductors for children who remained in the groups. Some children would be collected by their parents to spend a day or two with their families. I am not sure how “conductive” the upbringing of these children was within their families as I was never involved in or witnessed meetings between parents and conductors.

For foreign children: a very different experience

I spent one year of my conductor training at the Petö Institute in the International Kindergarten Group which had a entirely different daily routine to that of the Hungarian groups. The children did not board in the International Group as they did in the other kindergarten groups, but were brought by their parents to the Institute each morning at nine and collected again each afternoon at four. It was not possible to incorporate dressing and washing, cleaning teeth, bed-making and day-to-day living skills as intensively in the international groups as is was in the groups where the children boarded. The hours before or after school or kindergarten were missing from the routine of the “international” children as they went home in the afternoon, and so it was impossible to know how “conductive “ this time was for them in their own family environments.

The foreign parents had little involvement in the daily routine in the groups, usually a few hours of observation during each visit of 4-6 weeks, and one consultation with a conductor during this time. It could be fair to say that many parents had not yet learnt how to bring up their children conductively at home. It is easy to wonder how any of them actually did manage to learn this from the Institute, with so little hands-on experience with conductors at their sides to advise them.

Amazingly, some of these parents, exceptional people, did learn, despite the fact that their children's “conductive upbringing” within the hours of this group was done primarily by conductors (and us students!).

There was a very different atmosphere in the International Group to that in the Hungarian groups. The Hungarian groups were vey much like a big family unit that had learnt to run like clockwork. Of course there were lots of changes everyday, new experiences to adapt to, new games to play, new children occasionally joining the groups and new school activities, but the structure was known to the children and to the conductors, and this created a calm, and at the same time very active environment.

The International group was always in a state of change, with most children coming and going every three weeks, but some staying for longer periods and others shorter. Sometimes on a Monday morning half of the group of 25 would be new faces and many of these faces sad, confused and often tearful. It would always take a few days to bring a calm atmosphere to the group.

During the time in which I was studying at the Petö Institute I met many foreign families and I witnessed how many, filled with renewed hope for the continued development of their child, began the process of taking conductive education out of Hungary back to their own country. Some of them did this on a larger scale than others, reaching out and offering conductive upbringing to many more families back home. What happened then will be continued in “Conductive upbringing Part III".

Previous posting in this series


1 comments:

Norman said...

Sounds about right, Susie, in my experience as a foreign parent at the Institute in the early 90s and as a parent who sought to have an impact on returning home.

Very briefly, some quick thoughts:
i) I was vaguely aware of the different experience of local, residential, children from that in the International group.
ii) my dream for a centre in Sheffield was more akin to the local group rather than the International group; that is, CE 24/7/365. However, if this was to be a non-residential service, there were implications for the role of parents.
iii) the reality was that initially, 1996-about 1998, in Sheffield, we broadly followed the International group pattern, with a small, fairly stable children's group, with conductors coming from the Institute in 6-week (approx half term blocks); since then, we have followed a typical UK non-residential school year - plus a summer school.
iv) the big questions with the day-school, school-year model ( a very dominant cultural model, of course) are: what happens as regards conductive upbringing when school's out and how do we engage parents in the conductive upbringing of the child?
v) theoretically, it should be possible to provide and fund through the broad understandings that underpin 'Every Child Matters' and the need for parent training. In practice, I suggest, the barrier to carrying this forward is still the medicalisation of the general understanding of CP among education professionals and others.

That's all too brief to make much sense, perhaps. However, for me, your reflections raise some profound questions about the service parents and children need if we are serious about conductive upbringing.

Questions on Conductive Upbringing - Part One

First published on the Conductor Blog on January 8th, 2009.

A green, but not yet green, "Green Man"
by Susie Mallett, 7th January 2009



Part I.
Problems with words


I been mulling over this subject for a long time now and the simple posting that I had wanted to write just isn’t getting finished, but getting longer and longer and beginning to cover a wider area than I had first visualised. So I have decided to do it Hollywoodsty-le, which seems to be quite the trend these days, and do a bit of sequelling.

One of the things I had been wondering about while working in Norway, and since, is how the term “Conductive Education” ever got established in the first place.

English and Hungarian


At the time in the 1980s when the world was getting to know about the Petö Institute and its work, the term "Conductive Education" was already well established but only used outside of Hungary. This is true to this day.

You will find the term Conductive Education used in English translations, English presentations and in the English version of the Petö Institute’s own Website, but in Hungarian practice and theory as far as I know it is always referred to as konduktiv nevelés (“conductive upbringing”).

The expression "conductive pedagogy" is the term used in Hungarian, and occasionally in English, to describe the actual pedagogy used within the practice of conductive upbringing. When I discuss conductive work with Hungarian colleagues in Hungarian, wherever I am in the world, we use the term conductive upbringing and not the various foreign adaptations.

Mid-1960s

I was sure that the term Conductive Education had been coined by Ester Cotton after her early visits to the Petö Institute in 1965, but Gill Maguire at the Conductive Education Library posted a blog on Tuesday 6th January saying that Ester Cotton had made no mention of Conductive Education in her 1965 report.
I had asked Gill Maguire whether she has any more information on this and, as you can read on her blog, she immediately came up with some interesting facts one of which is that Ester Cotton did use the term but not until 1967.

So from this I can probably assume that my belief that “Conductive Education “ was being used in England at the end of the 1960s by Ester Cotton and her small band of associates is correct.

But who actually coined it and why?

Is it an accurate description of what they were actually trying to describe? But then there is the question of how did the people who might have coined the phrase actually understand and interpret what they were seeing. Their interpretation of what they saw would certainly have influenced the terminology that they used, especially if they didn’t speak or understand Hungarian.

I do have one more bit of information on the early usage of the English term “Conductive Education” Certainly when Dr. Mária Hári first went to England in 1968 she and her translator both adopted the expression.

Dr Hári read two papers at a study day at Castle Priory College in England in 1968 and in both of these there is absolutely no reference to conductive upbringing but constant use of the terms Conductive Education and conductive pedagogy.

It is stated in the introductory pages of the book that contains these papers, “Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy”, that the interpreter who accompanied Dr Hári chose to use Conductive Education to translate konduktív nevelés. Or did he/she choose? Did the translator just adopt a term already in use (Cotton, 1967), or was it a term suggested by Dr Hári herself?

Different times, different places, different words

Lots of questions and musings, all of which arose while I was working in Norway. Why is it important to state that it was in Norway that many of my questions where formed? It is because there the term Conductive Education isn’t used, they say “conductive pedagogy”.

I begin to think about the many different forms that Conductive Education has taken on as it is practised around the world. I wonder about the similarities and the differences between what Ester Cotton saw and described in the mid-1960’s, what many Western parents first saw and decided to bring out of Hungary in the mid-1980’s and what I experienced and learnt between 1989 and 1993.

I also got to thinking about the words that all these people used to describe what is being practised, and how these words might influence the acceptance or rejection of this “new” method.

The conductors I worked with in Norway were very much interested in the actual words used in the conductive programmes, which is understandable as they have three languages to deal with while working. I on the other hand was much more interested in what terms were chosen in translation to present the work to the public. This has had a huge influence on my work here in Germany, especially on its financing. We should not underestimate the importance of the choices that we make about this, as the terms could be around for forty years, and other people may have to live with the consequences.

Back to Gill (another angel), hopefully not for the last word

Perhaps Gill will come up with more answers. Maybe we shall never get to the bottom of it.

As she says on her blog it would be an interesting research project for someone with lots of time!

Notes

Gill Maguire, Conductive Education Library When did konductiv pedagogia become Conductive Education?
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/2009/01/when-did-konduktiv-pedaggia-become.html

Conductive Education material
– Profile No. 2
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/2009/01/conductive-education-material-profile.html

Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy – Edited by Gill Maguire and Andrew Sutton, ISBN 1897588 22 4, available from Conductive Education Library, http://ce-library.blogspot.com/

Gill (another angel) - refers to several of my blog postings in December 2008, for example http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2008/12/susie-and-lill-in-hamar.html