Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Paths to lives

Jolly Professor with one of his own inventions

Some short stories of some people and their shared paths to lives


While I was putting the finishing touches to the book that got sent to the printers last week, I was working with Laddo in his home.

At round about the same time I started to write an article about my work with Little Princess and Jolly Professor, and their friends in our after-school group.

To add to all of that I have been carrying around a newspaper article in my notebook from 2 December 2011 issue of the Weekly Guardian, about a man who suffered a stroke. I had been planning one day to write about it here.

Getting round to it

I was curled up on the sofa on this snowy Sunday afternoon with a cuppa and a book when I suddenly realized what it is that all these success stories have in common and why I have been collecting certain snippets from them in my thoughts and notebooks for so long.

All these people live in the centre of their own network, a network so well coordinated that lives that were threatened to become dysfunctional by injury, illness or disabilities caused by birth, are able to develop into fulfilling lifestyles.

The expanding worlds of adults 


Waltraud’s wonderful story about surviving a stroke is told in her book, the one that will be published and on sale from 24 February 2012. Over the years, here on my blog, I have regularly published snippets of her story, told through my own eyes. Her small but fast-growing network began with her husband, her father and her mother, but it soon spread to include her brothers and sisters too. Later on the network widened to include different therapists and neighbours. More recently it has included choir members, book designers and many more as Waltraud’s lifestyle has opened up. I have been lucky to have been part of her network for most of the years that this progression to a functional lifestyle has taken place, sometimes helping to coordinate parts of it, at others just giving a little bit of moral support.

Through childhood to adult life

I have been around for fourteen of the twenty-one years of Laddo’s life, and I have not only witnessed his development but have also been instrumental in expanding the network around him. I have been actively assisting with its coordination. Often I have introduced ideas such as attending the local water-aerobics class that his families have helped to implement, at others I have been practically involved, for example when learning to ride the buses. I am always looking out for new openings for him and people who may be interested in helping, joining the local network to encourage future developments.

Laddo now has the swimming instructor in the village as part of his weekly programme, the horse-riding instructor too. But they are more than just a part of his weekly life, they provide huge milestones for him. He is going snorkelling in Egypt this year with the swimmers and he plays the role of Saint Martin every 11 November on the horse that he rides regularly. Further afield, in a local town, he meets my conductor-colleague, with whom he practises his bus-riding and his social skills. At the same time he learns to keep appointments and to organise trips to museums, swimming baths and other excursions with her.

Children from Kindergarten to school, already enjoying their paths to life

The children who left our integrated Kindergarten to attend mainstream school still join us in the conductive group in the afternoon. They already have a huge network, each one ever-expanding and encouraging these children to progress along their paths in life.

Many of the links in their networks are coordinated by the conductors. The conductive centre is the constant link in their lives and in many cases the conductors are the people who know well all the other links in the network.

This week I have been overjoyed to discover just how well the school-teacher, school-assistant, child and conductor network is succeeding.

Two school assistants spontaneously arrived at the group this week to tell us how well everything is working out and I received a wonderful thank you letter from a mother who just wanted to tell me how well her son’s life is progressing at the moment, not only at school but also that he is ice-skating and learning how to stand up from the ice.

1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

To top it all, each day during the week a different child arrived with a story of the first top marks received in a test. 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, are not only numbers associated with a conductive programme, they are the scores that are given to German school-children, from a very early age, for their work, with a One being the best.

All of our children wish to attain a One so much. They know that they are capable but there have always been so many problems that have prevented it. Some of the children were occasionally at or near the top of the class in their early schooling, in German or in Maths, but that was before the stricter marking system comes into use as they get older and does not carry with it the same feeling of success.

Some children are slow at writing, others have problems with their eyesight that make it difficult to copy words and sums from the blackboard, some have problems with speech and there are difficulties for them in conveying what they think the correct answer to be.

When all the children came in this week exclaiming about their successes in German Dictation, Religious Education, English and Maths, it was an indication to me that this part of all their networks was working well. Each member of the group had achieved top marks in at least one subject.

It was time to celebrate, but we would need to invite all the networking group to the party. Every link plays an important role in the creation of the happy souls that achieve such success and if we cannot leave just one of them out, for the party or at the moment in the lives.

The time will come when some of the people in the network blend into the background to make way for new links in a wider world.

“Team ties transcend injury”

Now I come to the newspaper article

The words in the title above sound very much like a title that could be given to all the stories mentioned here. It is in fact the title of a sports feature by a Guardian newspaper journalist, Louise Taylor.

She writes about a football scout and former Middlesbrough player, Gary Parkinson, who suffered a severe stroke in the autumn of 2010. At forty-three years of age he was left with what the article describes as “locked-in syndrome”. The article goes on to tell us that he is almost completely paralysed, while his mind remains alive and active. His only means of communicating, just like for many others with the same condition, is by blinking. He began to develop this method with his family. Then his network of people who work together on the development of his fulfilling lifestyle expanded to include his colleagues from work and he communicates with them in the same way. The managers, coaches and others who work for the football club travel almost two-hundred kilometers to meet their colleague and collect the assessments on the players who Gary Parkinson, the scout, thinks the management should, or should not, follow.

Gary Parkinson compiles his reports working with members of his family then meets with his colleagues to pass them on.

This man communicates by blinking and by using this method he is able to work. Through the good coordination of his own network he is also in his own way taking steps along his path to a fulfilling lifestyle.


Gary Parkinson -

Friday 17 February 2012


My festive gingerbread biscuit

I have not yet been asked for advice about organising a wedding where there would be disabled guests or when the bride or groom are themselves disabled, but as my young clients get older, several of them very near to completing their university education, I am sure that the time is not far off.

I have just discovered an article in the Guardian that deals with just this subject: