Susie Mallett

Parent blog

Monday 26 May 2014

Hope springs eternal

Spring in England, 2014


In the many years that I have been involved in Conductive Education I have read about, and talked to many parents of children with disability about, how Conductive Education came into their lives and with it brought them a sign of hope.

It was the hope for the future that had been missing from many of their family lives since setting off on a road living with disability. Dealing with medical services, social services etc. daily struggles for information and advice, had worn away any hope that they had after the birth of a child with a motor disorder.

Suddenly, on discovering the possibilities offered by living a conductive lifestyle, many families report that they also rediscovered hope. Conductors and Conductive Education came with high expectations for an active enjoyment of life and families often reported that they became functioning families once more after embracing this new hope.

I remember well a personal experience with a family and the rediscovery of hope from many years ago, when I was with a German conductor-colleague visiting a family in Germany. This family had already had a wonderful, eye-opening experience of Conductive Education with their child with Hungarian conductors. They had then got in touch with me wanting advice on how best to continue a conductive lifestyle at home, something they so desperately wanted to do. As the family lived a long way from my home, but quite near my friend’s, we made the house-visit together hoping that one of us would be able to offer help in the future. I remember it so well as if it was yesterday.

We were chatting away to the Dad as if we had all known each other for years, discussing the difference that their knowing about conductive pedagogy and upbringing had already made to their family life, when he asked –

 What is it about conductors, what is it that they all bring into our lives, into our home? There is almost something tangible in the air when they are about!

What is it? There is something, no matter what nationality the conductor is, that radiates from all of you, something in your souls that is so similar whether British, German or Hungarian?”

I said that I have heard many parents talk about how something different is in the air when they speak to conductors about their children. They say that conductors discuss the abilities and not the disabilities.

The father we were talking to suddenly realized that what seeped out of the souls of the conductor and into the souls of the family was the hope that goes hand in hand with conductive upbringing, a renewed hope and the assurance that as parents they could make a difference to their disabled child’s life, that they could learn to teach their children how to learn just as they do for any other children.

I have never forgotten the chat with that Dad. It was one of the experiences in my own conductive life that I learnt from. I realised then that there are different kinds of hope. Families that discover Conductive Education have often been searching for something for a long time, they have not given up hope, but have lived in hope that hope could one day be restored.

I live in hope

I live in hope – as someone said to me recently this is an odd expression. Living in hope that hope will be restored is even odder, but I think that it is this that we experience and hear about in Conductive Education, having not given up hoping to find hope – hope has been restored while practising conductive living.

That’s how it worked for me anyway.

We hear so much from the families that we work with, from parents and grandparents, carers and siblings, that finding out how to live conductively has restored their hope.

But what about when living in hope is not such a positive experience?

In the 09.05.2014 The Guardian Weekly I read a sub-heading that made me stop my search for my favourite article – Nature Watch – that is always my first read.

On the page headed – This column could change your life, I read –

‘A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope… you realise you never needed it is the first place’

– which of course was an invitation for me to read further.

What, I thought would the families I work with think if I was to say this to them?

Giving up hope

As I read the article I realised that I was reading about a different kind of hope. Not the joyous, positive hope that our families share with us, but perhaps it’s the kind of hope that they refuse to let go of as they search, but that they really can give up when they find Conductive Education with the renewed positive hope that comes with it.

In the newspaper article Oliver Burkeman describes how someone experiencing long-term unemployment always has the hope of finding a job, always feeling permanent pressure to search for work. It is only when this pressure is removed, when retirement age comes along, that life can start to recover. When someone reaches retirement age they can let go of the hope of working again, they are released from the pressure of living the ‘norm’ and can recover and live with other hopes, positive hope.

Hope reborn

Burkeman also suggests that one recovers more fully from widowhood than from losing a job perhaps because widowhood is irreversible and there is the hope of being happy again. After losing a job there could be a long road ahead, searching and desperately hoping.  You can read more about his thoughts on this here –

The families we work with that rediscover hope through Conductive Education need time to recover too, from the period in their lives when the positive kind of hope was missing. Conductors, as that Dad told me so many years ago, pass on hope through their work and take an active part in the recovery of many lives and many families.

Only just last week I took a step back and watched the children in our afternoon conductive group radiating hope through their chats about life now and their dreams for the future. A happy atmosphere, a positive atmosphere, a hopeful atmosphere was all around me as I worked. I could almost reach out and touch it.


Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian –