My visitors today

Sunday 27 April 2008

Conductive Education, a new way of life

The Resting Dancer, 2004 , by Susie Mallett

I was just reading a posting on a student- conductor's blog, entitled “What is Conductive Education?”. The student didn’t attempt to answer this, she went on to describe her task for a presentation that she was giving.

On her Comments board, Norman (I am assuming it is Norman Perrin) had left his own interpretation of one of Dr Hári’s answers to this question.

Norman wrote: “ Conductive Education is about enhancing the quality of intention to achieve.”

Dr Hári wrote:

"…conductive education enables individuals to build up a new quality of life and a new quality of intention to achieve higher levels of coordination and some increase in coherence and power… for the everyday course of life this means that the individual is able to establish aims (intentions), to retain them, to monitor progress towards them, to resist failure and to overcome obstacles to their achievement.”

I was interested in something that both the student-conductor and Norman wrote, that it depends on who they are talking to as to how they explain what Conductive Education is.

This is certainly true and sometimes it can be very frustrating when my head is buzzing with Hári said this and Petö said that and I know this isn’t how I am going to convince these people to become future clients. What I need here is to be more concrete and to show them the exercises and I start by explaining to them that Conductive Education is a way of life, it is a "life style" in which one learns how to create a new way of life! Through CE one learns, just as Norman states, how to be active, one is motivated into wanting to achieve.

I will be presenting “Conductive Education” to a group of people with Parkinson’s disease next week. Usually I over-prepare for such things and get over-anxious too, worrying whether I shall be understood and asking myself whether the audience, by the end of the 45 minutes, will be any the wiser about a subject that it has taken me years to understand.

At the last Parkinson’s self-help meeting I realised that I was not talking to the people my talk was prepared for and that I needed a different tactic to keep their attention. I threw my papers on the floor, pulled my chair up closer, told them about András Petö and his early work and then just got them to join me in doing some exercises.

I was not actually as well prepared for this as I was for the other, more formal speech. I was wearing a mini-skirt and boots, but I managed quite well. The group immediately became more animated and their “quality of intention to achieve” rose visibly, and not because of the mini-skirt I can assure you!

I will be taking the same approach next week. I will be prepared. This time no wads of paper, just my notebook and I will be wearing my stretch jeans!


Norman Perrin
Conductive Education. Occasional Papers 2. Orthofunction – A conceptual analysis. Mária Hári.

Student Conductor

Saturday 26 April 2008


As well as being begeistert (excited) by my work I am also begeistert by my new flat.

The reason for the absence of new postings over the past week was due to intensive searching for the “dream home”, the “happy home” that András Petö suggested all conductors need to be successful in creating the happy, motivating, inspiring atmosphere essential for our work.

Now begins the time when I will not only be creative in building this atmosphere in my CE groups, which enables initiative to develop, encourages creativity and activity, and motivates towards achieving independence. I will also be working on creating something similar in my own home. An atmosphere where one is in touch with the Seele is essential for maintaining high expectations and hopes.

I will create a cosy kitchen, a “womanly” bedroom and a den, with one corner for curling up on the sofa with a glass of port, one for posting blogs and another full of books and arty things for my painting.

The flat is in an old brick-and-sandstone house, five storeys high. It has a thick, solid, wooden front door, a wooden staircase, brass door handles, high ceilings and the most wonderful Seele. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios which have taken place there in the distant past. Lots of inspiration for paintings.

The stress is of course still not over as the move still has to take place but at least I know which path I will be taking in the direction of the City! I now know where I will be creating András Petö’s “happy home”.

I will no longer be a “country bumpkin” living out in the sticks. I will recreate myself as a “woman about town”! With a two minute walk to the city walls and with streets around me full of cafes it is easy to imagine where future postings will be written, not just on trains where this and many others have been written!

The flat is a stone's throw from the theatre and the opera house, two of my favourite haunts. What more can I wish for? Well, maybe some fine weather would do for a start, because instead of my usual six-minute cycle ride to work I will now need thirty.
Hopefully, I shall soon be fit and suntanned in my happy home!

Begeistert by my work!

Somerleyton for brunch, August 2nd, 1998, by Susie Mallett

I have just returned from a meeting which informed people with disabilities and their carers, and professionals involved in different aspects of their lives, about a relatively new law concerning the “Personal Budget”.

In Germany since January 2008, it is possible for people with a disability to take direct control over how they spend the allowances that they are eligible for. Until now allowances, for example for mobility, physiotherapy or care, have come out of three different purses and have been paid directly by the responsible department ( health insurance, social services etc.) to the service- provider ( taxi company, therapist or carers).

Now the choice is there to be more autonomous. Of the 30,000 users of such services in Middle Franconia ( pop. 1,712,162) only 150 have decided to take control of these finances themselves.
This is mainly because very little is known about the “personal budget”, which was precisely the reason for this meeting.

False hope?

We (conductors) and many of our clients were present, in the hope of discovering that at last there was a way to cover the costs of Conductive Education. In the event, the outlook for this looks bleak, the health insurance companies insisting that they will only give the money to pay for things that they have already been paying for e.g. physiotherapy.

The evening was far from bleak for me, however, and this is the reason for this posting.

One of the members of my stroke group was present at this meeting, a client who is also aphasic. She too was there to find out whether she could use her “Personal Budget" to finance Conductive Education.

Aphasia is a symptom of a stroke which is usually far more difficult for people to adapt to than the more visible symptoms of a hand or a leg that will not do what is expected of them. It presents itself in a variety of ways, from not remembering one's own child’s name, through not being able to articulate something, to not understanding what is being said. Sometimes the words of hundreds of songs are forgotten, the ability to colour-match clothes is lost. The ability to read can be lost, the ability to talk abstractly (e.g. describing an imaginary scenario) is also often lost . People with aphasia need to learn to speak again, as was the case with my client who attended the above-mentioned meeting.

She had developed from speaking just a few words to longer sentences, then on to songs and to telephone calls ( often using the phone is the final step before people say that they have “solved” their problem).

I can confidently say that this client learnt to speak through our singing together. She had studied music and has perfect pitch, which she didn’t lose, but she did forget the names and lyrics of a great many songs.

It is sometimes good to be foreign
What is even more interesting in this client’s speech development is that at the time we met twelve years ago I had only just started to learn German.

So there I was an English-speaker with very little German and no musical skills, teaching a German woman with perfect pitch and aphasia to sing. Actually, to be more exact, she taught me to sing and, through her doing so, her speech improved. She also had to choose her words carefully, so that I would understand, and I had to speak clearly in my “new” language too. We often reverted to English, which, as is often the case with a language that is not the mother tongue, she could recall faster than German.

It is now over twelve years since this lady had been left with numerous problems to solve after her stroke. She has been very highly motivated and thrilled with the smallest step forwards. She has learnt to cook and then to cook standing up. She has learnt to walk, then to talk while walking. She has learnt to sing and then to sing standing up. This last achievement has meant that another big change could occur in her life. After a twelve-year break shehas at last been able to return to sing in her choir.

A few weeks ago she came apologetically to the CE group, explaining that she would not be able to attend two sessions from the planned six. The reason was that she had taken over as the choir-leader and would not have the time for us. We all cheered and she was of course thrilled at our joy. This was an especially happy occasion as there was another man present who also had to cancel the next CE session, because he was also returning to his work, for one day a week.

Teaching a conductor to sing
Back to my client and learning to speak. Our methods of learning worked extremely well. I am no longer one of very few "orthodox” conductors (see posting March 30th “Back To my Roots”) who cannot sing and, as we discovered this evening, my client has made yet another enormous step forward in her development. This meant that I went home smiling yet again, despite the disappointing information regarding the “Personal Budget”.

At least two hearts were singing!
There were between fifty and sixty people present at the meeting and my client was able to stand up and present her questions. Her early stuttering didn’t discourage her and her husband prompted when he knew the words that she was searching for. The lady chairing the meeting also displayed her years of experience in the field of disability by allowing my client all the time in the world to relax and complete her question. She then congratulated her for asking a question to which she believed many of the audience were hoping to find an answer to this evening: the CE funding question.

The situation couldn’t have been more perfect if it had been planned!

The lady chairing the evening created the perfect atmosphere not only for my client but for the other people with disabilities present. She provided the environment to promote success. Here is an English version of the email that I sent to thank her :

“……… I would like to say that it was lovely to see how you used your years of experience in the field of disability to allow some of the audience to bring over their questions so clearly.

I listened with tears in my eyes as one of my adult stroke clients stood, was given the microphone and began to speak. You were so patient, waiting for her words to flow and then you thanked her so spontaneously for her interesting question.

This lady could only utter a few words when I first met her twelve years ago. We have worked hard using singing to develop her speech and the results were on display tonight, this was one of her highest achievements. I was delighted to see her at the meeting and even more delighted to hear her state her views. Her motivation and her will to continue learning are wonderful and a great motivation too for me in my work.

Thank you for providing the perfect atmosphere for my client to achieve this success. The provision of such a special atmosphere is a very important principle of Conductive Education. Through it the Seele becomes lightened and it then becomes possible to learn how to be creative, spontaneous, active or to take initiative, these being among the many aims of Conductive Education. “

Enthusiastic, thrilled, wowed.
Yes, I am begeistert by my work. I see the results at parties, at the Schutzenfest, at meetings and at the driving school (all references to previous postings of mine).

At work in Würzburg this week I was told that I am not the only one begeistert by my work, my clients were also of the same opinion. That is of course also nice to hear but the begeisterung is mostly mine, especially when I see the results as I did this evening in a “real life” situation.


Aphasia – loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words, usually resulting from brain damage.

Aphasiac, aphasic- partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease.

Seele - soul

Begeistert – enthusiastic, ardent, zealous, rapt, excited, thrilled, glowing, avid, zesty, wowed

Sunday 20 April 2008

And back to the Seele

Policing at the five-year level

It seems that the Seele will be cropping up often in my writings.

Andrew Sutton and Norman Perrin have both mentioned in recent blog postings a situation concerning a young man with Down’s syndrome and the police force in Scotland , reported in The Times newspaper.

Andrew Sutton wrote in his posting "Philology, philosophy, action”:

“The upper echelons have demonstrated some sense, but what does this whole sad shambles say about the educational level (yes, and the intelligence and sheer common sense) of the ’professionals’ and the 'managers’ who actually provide public services? I cannot see that without these important elements the worn old panacea of ‘more training’ can alone work the oracle. “

My immediate reaction to this was that you can offer more courses, insist on post-graduate degrees, offer further training, but will any of these help solve problems like the one with the young man and the Scottish police?

In my opinion it comes down to the Seele again. In this story it seems to be missing, where is the consideration for other people, intercommunication, unity and love? Sensitivity is needed in specific situations, spontaneity is needed, as is the skill to use initiative and adaptability. These are all things I have written about in previous postings. All of them comprise a huge part of a conductor’s training, which brings me back to the conductive Seele. The following is an extract from my own posting "Die Seele in my conductive practice" on 13th March 2008.

I could not work without mine or without its being in touch with that of my clients and helping them be in contact with (or feel) their own. The clients cannot work to the full without the Seele being involved, without my first getting through to their Seele. But what exactly is it? Is it the inner voice, deep within? Not only the client’s Seele is important, and that of the conductor, but the Seele of the group, the atmosphere created, is also important.”

In Norman Perrin’s posting “Special educational needs in initial teacher training”, he talks more extensively about “special training” for “special (school) teachers”. Or rather the lack of it. Norman writes:

”Is it fair and reasonable to conclude from this that when newly qualified teachers in England (and presumably the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland) begin their first day of teaching in a special school for children with cerebral palsy, they are largely bereft of the slightest clue what they are doing and why?

As I read this extract, I am also reminded that conductors have undertaken 3-4 years of specialist initial teacher-training to work with children with motor disorders before setting a first step in a classroom in earnest.”

I know exactly what he means because I started teaching in a “special” school with a teaching qualification as a secondary school art teacher, I also had a diploma in art therapy and two years' experience working with adults with multiple disabilities, which helped to some extent. Even so this was not enough not to feel out of my depth and from the first day I was looking for an opportunity to learn how to do the job that I had been appointed to do. It was during this search that I discovered Conductive Education.

After I had discovered CE and gone on to study at the Petö Institute I made many more discoveries. The most important of these was discovering what I now call my soul. Actually I rarely call it the soul, I usually refer to it using the German word “Seele”, which I learnt many years later.

I discovered that I was absorbing Conductive Education not only through my brain, but also through my body, something like osmosis, and it seeped deep into my inner self, into my Seele.

Not all teachers, therapists and other “people professionals” find the path leading to a full conductor-training in Budapest. Do they then ever find the means to do the job they are appointed for?

Do they discover their Seele?


Seele (German) -soul

Seep - to percolate slowly, to flow slowly through fine pores

Osmosis - any process by which something is acquired by absorbtion.

Andrew Sutton: "Philology, philosophy, action - It helps to watch your language "

Norman Perrin: "Special educational needs in initial teacher training"

This is London, 18 April 2008

Saturday 19 April 2008

What do Children Need?

I found a very interesting article abandoned on the window sill at work this morning. I have no idea where it came from, the only information on it states that it is an interview with Kinderpsychiater (child psychiatrist) Prof. Gunther Moll and Neurobiologie und Gehirnforscher (research neurobiologist) Prof. Ralph Dawirs, both from Erlangen.

The very first sentence reads:

“Was braucht ein kindliches Gehirn sich gesund zum enwicheln?“

which means

"What does a child’s brain need in order to develop healthily?”

Prof.. Dawirs stated that most people are of the understanding that we come into the world finished”, that is fully developed – but we are actually still nestlings and humans are in fact not fully developed when born. They still require communication/interaction with their environment.

When I read this I thought hold on a minute this all sounds very familiar. Did I write about this or was it Andrew Sutton, Norman Perrin or Dr Hári?

It was Dr Hári who wrote

“ The conductor creates the intercommunication and an active atmosphere (environment)”.

The interview continues to outline the mothering, educating/upbringing necessary to achieve this healthy development.

What I don’t understand is, if scientists around the world know what a so-called “normal” baby/child needs in order to develop a healthy brain/mind, why isn’t this then also the accepted path of learning for children with a disability. Why is it assumed that they need something different? Why do we, all over the world, have to fight for conductive upbringing as an accepted path?

Prof. Moll went on to talk about upbringing, saying that children need time, security, love and freedom to develop, which they often do not get:

“Many people think that the upbringing of children is self-kindled, but this just is not true.”

I think the upbringing of children is also seen differently in different countries. Upbringing (Erziehung, nevelés and vospitanie) is considered in some countries as work for each and every person who comes in contact with the child, – in others it is believed to be something that takes place naturally with not much intervention from others.

More words from Dr Hári:

“ The upbringing of (athetoid) children must include the same basic principles of pedagogy as in the upbringing and teaching of normal children. These basic principles of upbringing are also used in Conductive Education. The difference between the upbringing and teaching of normal children and conductive upbringing is solely the break-down of tasks for each child into parts, depending on his level in movement, speech and other functions.

The conductor’s most basic, crucial aim is the creation of initiative. The crux of the matter is to call into life a truly purposeful energy, as a result of which is created a single purpose, the ability to construct a goal-directed, high quality system, so the child’s upbringing should not have the fragmentation of many specialists with their own various aims.

The energy, on which we depend in the above system of upbringing can be created only in such an atmosphere. The child’s energy, his anticipation and the manifestation of his will are not in themselves enough…. The conductor, the teacher of the child, on the one hand helps the child achieve success and on the other teaches the correct manifestation of the child’s will and entails the correct way.”

Some points which come up in this piece from Dr Hári.

1. I talked about the creation of this energy that she mentioned in my earlier posting Nicht auf Zugeben. I experience the importance of this energy every day, and its great motivating power.

2. In Andrew Sutton's blog “Communication Problems…” from 14th April, there is a link which gives us insight into the life of a family where the children are seeing many specialists, fragmenting the children's upbringing. I do hope that this family and others like them are brave enough to take up the challenge and choose to envelop themselves and their families in a conductive upbringing.

As the child psychologist, professor Moll said in the article, children need time, security, love (intelligent love), freedom and space to grow and develop.

All of which is provided in a conductive setting.


For upbringing (English), Erziehung ( German), nevelés ( Hungarian) and vospitanie ( Russian), see Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy, edited by Gill Macguire and Andrew Sutton - section on translation, terminology and statistics.

For the upbringing of (athetoid) children, see Mária Hári: "The Conductive Upbringing of children with Athetosis", October 1981, in Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy

Norman Perrin: "Supporting families supporting disabled children into independent adulthood as active citizens, especially those with cerebral palsy and particularly through Conductive Education!".

Andrew Suttons blog “Communication Problems…” from 14th April

Steam, ICE, Art and Women

My dad on his retirement, 11th September 1990


I just love trains. Looking at them, drawing them, playing with them, and most of all I love riding on them. Maybe one day soon I will even get to drive one (see notes).

Being the daughter of an engine driver I grew up travelling on trains, to the coast on the railcars to visit great aunts or up to the Smoke on the diesels. Unfortunately never with steam.
Steam was only being used at the loco shed for shunting when I was a child, so although I still got to hang over the bridge and breathe in the wonderful smells, I never actually got to travel by steam to London.

Free train travel as an engine-driver's daughter meant that as a student I never had to hitch-hike, I went all over England by train. I even had the luck to travel every day by railcar to my first college and I still remember all the details of that 30-minute journey, the mist over the marshes, the tumbling windmills, the driver with big ears who we knew only as “Lugs”.

My favourite journey by train to date must be the 12 hours scenic route from Auckland to Wellington, New Zealand. Drawing and writing and looking out at the changing landscape for one whole day, what bliss.


Maybe you are asking why I am writing about trains. I didn’t actually intend to write about trains here, it is just that I was at the Bahnhof (railway station) at 6.30am today to catch an ICE train, which is the most exciting of all the trains I travel on. They glide silently through the landscape reaching speeds up to 300 kph.. On some models, the ICE 3, you even get to sit behind the driver in a tiered carriage like at the theatre!

The station at this early hour was quieter, emptier, slower, the people more relaxed, just waking up. It was perfect, just like the work was when I got there. I was off on my ICE journey to start a new job, starting up new adults, groups in an already established CE centre for children.

I wasn’t actually intending to write about work either but it was great, I entered the building and the first thing I heard were “orthodox” Hungarian accents descending the stairs to greet me.

What I did intend to write about was buying myself a treat at the station, an English newspaper. What I actually bought was in fact a German newspaper in English, one that I had never read before, the German Times. As I picked it up I thought "I am sure there will be an idea for a blog in here", and lo and behold there it was on the front page of the “LIFE” section.


“In the second half of the 19th century a few women in Paris did something they were not supposed to do: they painted. In the 20th Century not one noteworthy exhibition showed the paintings of the “revolutionary sisters”. Now ( in the 21st century) a superb exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt is bringing them to light”

I am so glad I wasn’t born in the 19th century, I cannot imagine not being allowed to paint!

The article goes on to discuss the art of four women who were painting in Paris in the late 1800s – Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalés and Marie Bracquemond. All of these women started off their painting “careers” quite successfully.

Marie Bracquemond learnt her skills at the Louvre, she was recognised by Degas, Monet and Renoir, but gave up painting in consideration of her artist husband ,who was less well known than she was. Mary Cassatt refused to marry from fear of being forced to give up her art. Eva Gonzalès painted with enthusiasm “a lot of cleavage and bare flesh”.

The only one of the four who really made it was Berthe Morisot, most probably because of the support she got from her artist brother-in-law, Edouard Manet (Olympia). Although she had a good relationship with men, including her “soul mates” Renoir, Camille Pissaro, and Monet, she rarely depicted men on her canvases. Instead she used women, in everyday life situations, "some in intimate poses, untying their shoelaces or pulling on their stockings”.


The article finishes with this statement about Berthe Morisot’s work:“Something else was breaking through, a free spirit that was not prepared to be just a woman, a mother and lover, a spirit for whom art could never represent a mere secondary existence.”

It seems to me that this new spirit is still trying to break through. How many of today’s exhibiting artists are women? How many of the contemporary Brit artists are women?

Nowadays painting is at least “allowed”, but there are still not many female artists around who actually earn a living from painting. Interestingly women on the screen and stage didn’t and still don’t have to struggle to receive recognition for their “art” (see "Womanly Women" list on right-hand side of my blog). From Marlene Dietrich to Lily Allen, Katherine Hepburn to Tina Turner they all hit the big time and are all household names.

How many of you have heard of Sarah Lucas, probably Britain’s best known living female painter? Frieda Kahlo, who maybe more people have heard of, is famous for her fighting spirit rather than for her art. She struggled to get recognition beside her very well known and successful artist husband, Diego Riviero, and later struggled with her disability.

It is time for a few more female artists to share the limelight alongside Tina Turner, more free spirits "for whom art could never be a secondary existence" breaking through.


Bure Valley Railway: Driver experience

Bure Valley Railway, Steam to the heart of the Norfolk Broads

New Zealand

ICE (Inter City Express ). ICE 3 ( classes 403 and 406)

The German Times

Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt

Mary Cassatt

Berthe Morisot

Eva Gonzales

Marie Bracquemond

Edouard Manet

Frieda Kahlo

Sarah Lucas

Lily Allen

Tina Turner

Diego Riviero

Thursday 17 April 2008


Learning from each other

Moving on from one amazing work place to another, I am back with my “adults”. I am particularly glad to be back with my stroke group from whom I always learn so much. I learn such interesting things which I will never find written in any text book. Things one could possibly find in a book describing personal experiences, but how many aphasia suffers are able to write such a book?

Sharing Wisdom

I have always thought I should write down all my clients’ "words of wisdom", but I never have. Luckily I have a good memory because now I have the perfect place to do just that. A place where hopefully I can also share the information with any interested parties.

Today’s work was just perfect, as it often is. Coming to the end of the first session of this new three-week block we had just a few more fine motor tasks to do and then maybe a game of blow football to finish up with. I was helping one client with both my hands and one of my eyes and the other eye was on the second client who was working independently.

Stopped in our tracks

The one who had just my one eye on him suddenly jerked forward. I enquired whether all was OK and realised that he had in fact fallen asleep.

It was a Sekundenschlaff, a one-second sleep, like those that cause those dreadful pile-ups on the Autobahn.
This sleep today didn’t cause a crash, but it did stop us in our tracks when I asked,“And did you dream?”

The first reaction to this question was that one doesn’t dream in a “one-second sleep”. I beg to differ as I have dreamt in a similar situation but that is another story. What did develop from my comment was a discussion on the affects that a stroke has on dreaming, a subject that we had never broached before.

It appeared that none of my clients this morning had remembered one dream since they had a stroke, before the stroke they had remembered them vividly. The clients missed remembering their dreams and we were left wondering if remembering dreams will be a part of their future progress.

After the group was over I went on to make a home visit, also with a stroke client, and I decided to do a bit more research. Here too I found the same phenomenon, but with a difference, for the client a huge difference.

Nightmares and phobias

Whereas the group in the morning were sad about not remembering their dreams my afternoon client described it differently.

She suffers from arachnophobia, she had experienced years of nightmares about spiders, right up until the stroke, and since then she doesn’t remember any more of her dreams or her nightmares.

This client sees her lack of dream memory as something positive, she is so relieved to be free of the nightmares. This freedom allows her to watch natural science films about spiders on television and by doing this her phobia is no longer as severe as it was in the “nightmare” days.

Hidden disabilities

I described above just one of many symptoms of a stroke that usually remain hidden, sometimes even the client himself doesn't actually realise, or is unable to verbalise, what has changed. These things are not obvious "disabilities", but they can often be more disabling than a leg that won't bend at the knee or a hand that won't open.

I have many such snippets about taste and smell, about colour and clarity, about interaction in large and small groups. One day I will have time to write about them all, with thanks to my clients who through Conductive Education are gradually able and willing to reveal them to me.


A comment on the side. The client I visited today at her home had her stroke ten years ago and continues to make progress. This afternoon I noticed that there was a huge improvement in her ability to converse, which was very apparent in the long description of the phobia and also in her later rendition of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean with which we concluded our session.

My singing lessons. Now that’s another story too!

Another comment on the side. It was not due to my slave-driving that one of my clients fell asleep. He had actually been up until three in the morning celebrating his birthday!

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Nicht auf zugeben


I have left the haven full of love where I have been working for the past two weeks.

My client thrives because of being loved intelligently – he actually gets very angry with anyone who tries to” love” him without this intelligence, as the “boy poor” sentiments I wrote about in the last posting illustrate.

He is part of a big extended family and he isn’t now and never has been treated any differently than his many siblings and cousins.

We did "our roundin-off" chat without either of his parents present. This was the first time we had done this alone. We discussed, wrote down and illustrated his homework and I asked for his comments, his thoughts and his feelings about our work together, I asked him to assess his own progress. I tried not to ask any leading questions.

Due to the problems my client has in articulating himself clearly I find it very important to take care how I ask him questions. I must leave him enough space to find his own answers and not lead him into the answer that I think he may want to give or that I might like to hear. It is also very important that I maintain a high level of interest, especially at moments when I have not understood well enough, otherwise he will give up trying to explain.

My client was eager to talk. I was enlightened, given a report on my “performance” and of his own development.

The first and most important detail he spoke about was how much he enjoys working with music playing. He said that working with music is very good, but it is also OK when I turn it off if he is not able to concentrate well.
I usually let my teenagers bring CDs to play, it is a sort of extension from the times when they would bring a fluffy toy, then a matchbox car or a football scarf to put at the end of the plinth. Now we have CDs.

My client and I have been listening to music while we paint for a few years, but now we also listen during the other programmes. This time we had a selection of all the latest chart-busters, including Amy Winehouse, Rhianna and all the young stars for the lying programme, plus Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Tina Turner and other great rockers to create a good walking-programme atmosphere. The music while we paint depends a lot on the mood and the subject-matter of the picture, but it is usually something to rock to!

The talk continued. “It is good that you are always happy and that we have fun while we work”, he said.

I asked whether he meant this week or always. He meant always.

I told him that it probably isn’t true that I have always been happy at work over the past 11 years, but if that is how he experiences it then that‘s absolutely fine by me.
This means I have succeeded in creating and maintaining a good working atmosphere, where any lapses of concentration or moments of sadness on either side is acceptable and incorporated into our day.

I explained that it is so much better to have fun when we work. I believe that through having a good time our energy levels rise which makes it then possible to do the oddball stuff, like the spontaneous walks and the cooking. My client complained that when he isn't having fun and is unable to concentrate properly he feels hubbelig. The translation of this into English is “bumpy”. It was difficult to know what he meant by this, whether his ride through his day or though life in general isn’t as smooth as it could be, or whether he is distracted, or whether he feels more jerky when he isn’t concentrating on his movement.

He went on to tell me that it is very good for him to have someone around for so many hours a day who understands his speech and is willing to listen to him expressing his worries about his future. As a teenager it is important for him not to have to repeat himself, for example when he asks for advice on determining whether he is in love or not. We actually decided he should ask the whole family this question, which he did,and they all gave their own opinions to help him out. Most of them said “It tingles”

I asked how he feels now the work with me was over, is he pleased with his success? I asked what he thought he had learnt, and this is the answer I received.

Nicht auf zugeben. He told me he had learnt not to give up.

Wow, I was speechless.

I had expected “I can make more controlled movements with my right arm” or "I can stretch my knees better”. I hadn’t expected such an abstract reply.

He was right, this is exactly what he had been learning since he was seven years old, when his CE life began - not to give up.

His mother said just yesterday that she admires the patience he has, trying something over and over again until it works. We had been observing him trying to get the last morsels from his plate on to his fork, which was difficult since he had removed the special rim from his plate. He didn’t give up, he got into his mouth.

Which conductor would not prefer receiving this answer that I got, the abstract “not to give up”, rather than more concrete answers about arms or knees? I was given another signal that this conductive upbringing really is working.

Of course, Dr Hári had something to say about this. Talking about teaching athetoid children, and of their learning, she said:

"It is slow but if they are conducted gradually and purposefully, building on the smallest actions, they can learn to build on their skills.

“Every child has to create his own appropriate technique for solving his problems and this is guided by the conductor.”


1) Dr Mária Hári – Conductive Upbringing of Children with Athetosis. 1981

2) The title picture is not one of mine but one of my client's. 2008.

Saturday 12 April 2008

Plinths or Parties, Wall Bars or Hills and Dales?


I am find myself preoccupied these days with something that Professor Schaffhauser, Rector of the Petö Institute, said to me in our recent meeting. He described me as an "orthodox conductor". In this preoccupied state I try not to let any elbows slip (ref. to my last posting) as I consider what is "orthodox" about me and my work. Is it the method of training that I received? Is it my method of working? Is it my way of thinking? Is it all of these or none? Or was it, as he said, learning with the sound of Hungarian songs ringing in my ears?

As I work with my client this week I ask whether this is the orthodox conductor at work? Not a plinth or a ladder-back chair anywhere to be seen! Am I right in thinking orthodox conductors don’t always need plinths and ladder back chairs? Of course they are helpful sometimes, but we can manage without them too.

Motivating Muffins

Someone who understands Conductive Education only as a series of tasks on a plinth, at a wall bar or sitting on a slatted stool, would have looked at our session this afternoon and wondered where is the orthodox conduction there?

We were in fact being highly successful in all our conductive tasks. We were cooking. We achieved quite a lot of firsts today… stirring with the difficult-to-control right hand, chopping a banana while standing, and washing the dirty baking trays alone. The best was that for the first time my client worked alone, while I took the photos, with nothing ending up on the floor.

It was a two-hour standing programme, hand programme and science lesson, to mention just three elements out of hundreds.

What better motivation than having the whole family, including Dad, hanging around at the oven door and then clearing the plate of all two dozen muffins at tea time!

Dancing the Night Away!

Last night we were doing our “CE” at a birthday party: opening the lemonade bottle and pouring a drink (managing this alone for the first time ever), standing, not sitting, at the table and eating with the men, talking clearly above the noise and being understood, and making the other guests laugh.

What better motivation can there be than not wanting to stand out at a party.

The importance of Mária Hári’s “spontaneity”

Of course we do the "traditional" stuff, we have been doing it for ten years, that’s why we can do all the fun things too. There has always been room for something a bit crazy, for spontaneity, for something different and for something a bit off the track, because that is just what life is like. It is unpredictable, full of surprises, things ever changing and with the need for adaptation ever present.

This is what makes life interesting and the oddball situations which we create to work in are what makes Conductive Education interesting for us both. If it snows then we must go outside and make snow angels. If we feel like eating cakes then we must go and bake some.

This interest is what makes my client say things like this …. “Oh am so I glad I carried on doing this Petö 'therapy' with you” ( he was referring to the bad times over the past few teenage years, when he wanted to give up). Or “ Why don’t you buy the neighbour’s house so we can do this every day?”

"Orthodox conductor"? I still don’t know what it is but I am glad I am one never the less, because what ever it is it certainly works!

Now for something (not so) completely different, another story which shouldn’t become a faded memory.

The Schutzenfest

How much easier can it get than turning up for work with a 16-year old young lad and being told by him exactly what it is that he wishes to learn.

He explained that he had a few weeks in which to get “fit” enough to march in his first Schutzenfest weekend parade.

In this particular village the Schutzenfest takes place on the second weekend in July. In Sauerland you find Schutzenfest celebrations somewhere on each weekend from the beginning of May until the middle of August.
All young lads who are members of the shooting/hunting club, and are 16, are allowed to begin marching with their fathers and uncles. The Shooting Club members don’t actually go hunting anymore, they carry wooden replica shotguns on their shoulders.

The fest begins with the “Shooting King” of the past year and his “Queen” marching through the village followed by the club, all in their uniforms, birch branch stuck in end of wooden gun and accompanied by a brass band.

A big knees-up takes place in the evening, with visitors from villages in the area. On the following day the bird is shot down, the highlight of the weekend, which attracts 30 or 40 young, and not- so- young, men. They swap the wooden gun for a real one and try their luck shooting at a specially constructed wooden bird till it topples from its high perch. The one who succeeds in doing this becomes the Schutzen King for the following year.

Some men shoot only because it is macho to shoot, but they deliberately shoot wide as they believe it isn’t quite so macho to become the King, or because they don’t have anyone to be their queen.

On my client's list of aspirations, alongside learning to drive, is to have a turn at shooting the bird from its perch above the village, and then of course he would get to choose his “girl”.

The original tradition of the Schutzen King probably was to honour whoever brought home the biggest bag from a day out hunting.

When the King has chosen his Queen she has to rush off to buy a beautiful ball gown to wear for the march through the village on that same evening. Then follows yet another knees-up, and another celebratory march the next day.

After carnival, the Schutzenfest is the highlight of the village calendar and my client just loves it. He was not going to miss out on the chance to be right in the middle of it all, in the limelight, marching alongside his twin brother and Dad for the first time, especially when he had me there to help him out in his hour of need!

He had made the decision to ask me to teach him to march and assist in getting him fit for the big weekend. We had twelve days to do it and what a whale of a time we had getting prepared.

The biggest part of the challenge was that this particular village is built on the side of a hill . The Schutzenstraße, where the march begins, is high above the village and the Schutzenhalle, the marchers' destination for their knees up, is far below. There would be lots of going up hills and down dales. Particularly difficult would be the “down dales”. The walking speeded up down hill, which would mean a lot of trodden-on heels if we didn’t get that sorted!

When we began our work we were blessed with the most perfect weather, but on most days by 11am. it was 35 degrees and, as only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in this sort of heat, we did our “marching” between 8am and 10am each morning.

This 16 year old boy has walked independently since he was three years old, but as is the case with many children with physical disabilities, he doesn’t often walk long distances. He goes to school in the school bus, he goes to physiotherapy and to riding in the car, the only walking he does is up and down the stairs and in the home or in school.

We soon discovered that we needed to build up his stamina, the staying power and his muscles!
We began by making circuits of the backyard with the Radetsky March blaring out of his CD- player and soon progressed to once around the house, still with the CD player to accompany us.
As he got stronger and fitter we went further afield. As I refused to carry the music centre with us I had to sing to keep the tempo going. Luckily most of the time we only had cows for an audience and there were no complaints from the farmers that milk production was reduced at this time!

We usually marched to the sound of Tina Turner’s Simply the Best. We are both too old for the Grand Old Duke of York and both great fans of Tina T.

We clocked up the kilometres and when exhausted would phone for a ride home, but only if the mobile phone network was working. As we were often out of range we would collapse at the roadside, eat our provisions, wash them down with “lashings of ginger beer” then trek homewards (actually it was tap water we drank but our adventures were as exciting as any that Enid Blyton wrote). We would admire the landscape and collect ideas for paintings. We would discuss life in general and collect four-leaf clovers. We would tell each other stories when we couldn’t sing any more.

Most importantly we got fit and healthy, managing 10 km, sometimes more.

Now with enough stamina for a two-hour hike it was surely enough for three 30-minute marches over two days.

We decided that we had done enough, we were prepared, though my client was worried that it wasn’t quite enough and arranged for people to go out walking with him on the days between my departure and the big day!

On the “Big Day” there were a few of the older villagers watching the procession who on seeing my client were shocked and suggested that he sat out the next round, he must have a rest. They asked why does the poor boy have to walk so far, he doesn’t need to do it. It is just as well that he is so determined, he kept going and refused to allow them to spoil his glory.

Thankfully people like this were in the minority.

During our training days so many people had observed us and knew about the determination and the hard work. These people were lining the streets passing on words of encouragement as the procession passed by, my client there with head held high. I suspect there was many a moist eye at the road side. My client was furious at the old biddies, but delighted to have so much support from people who really understood why he was doing it, how much work he had put in to it and how proud that he, his twin brother, his dad and his uncle all were to be marching side by side.

This summer will be their third Schutzenfest together. We will be walking hills and dales again in the weeks beforehand, getting fit to march and once more he will be there, head held even higher.

Who knows, now we have the marching sorted it may be time next year to begin the target- practice so that maybe one day he can get to pick his “girl”, having shot down the wooden bird.
If and when this time comes my client is sure to let me know and enlist my help for the training sessions. I can’t wait to be summoned!

“Conductive shooting”, now that could that be a first.

For some the Schutzenfest is just an excuse for partying and beer-drinking, but for someone with a disability, who has to work so hard to be able to join in the fun, it is yet another opportunity to show that he can do anything that he sets his mind to if he gets the right guidance (and along the way of course manages to get in a few "orthodox" conductive lying programmes!)


Orthodox - (a) : conforming to established doctrine, especially in religion (b) : conventional

Snow angels - Snow angels are made by lying on your back in the snow and moving your arms and legs simultaneously up and down at the sides of the body.Try it, there is still some snow about in most parts of Europe this April. It is a wonderful conductive game, my client taught me how to do it!

Tina Turner - Simply the Best

Johann Straus - Radetsky March

Traditional - Grand Old Duke of York

Enid Blyton - adventures and picnics with lashings of ginger beer.

Schutzenfest - a celebration organised by the shooting club of a village
Schutzenhalle, the village hall. Schutzenstraße, the Schutzen street.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Was war?

Sweet Moments

I find it wonderful when something happens while I am working that makes me realise in a flash that this “Cond. Ped.” is really working.

I suppose my brain is full of memories, stories which could be used to illustrate this, some more concretely than others.

Dr Hári wrote about the work of a conductor saying: “ The conductor creates inter-communication and an active environment and then directs this level of activity that she has created and utilises it. The conductor’s most basic general aim is the creation of initiative.”

Andrew Sutton wrote when outlining Conductive Education: “CE - a range of techniques and teaching methods appropriate to task, including emotional bonding between teacher and learner.”

Of course there is much more to Conductive Education than the inter-communication and initiative that Dr. Hári talks about and for me this “moreness” is in the direction of Andrew Sutton’s “emotional bonding between teacher and learner”. While I work with my clients a symbiosis is created. A unity develops between myself and my client and this unity is such an important part of conduction and the true test of the effectiveness of Conductive Education.
Sometimes these moments of unity are so “sweet” that they just need to be recorded and not just kept as memories, which can fade.

Sensitivity and Unity

Dr Hári said ” The most important aspect of behaviour of a conductor is the habit of observing and watching the minds, movements and states of the children.”

I add to this “and vice versa”.

The children learn to watch and observe the conductor and get a feel of different situations, and sense how their “teacher’s” brain is working, just as a baby senses its mother’s moods. As the children develop and grow they begin to sense the moods of a wider circle of friends. They learn how to react to a tone of voice or expression of face, they discover how to interpret body language. They learn how to act, react and interact in groups, using this developing sensitivity to mood. It is through this observation on both sides that a unity is created and Conductive Education becomes effective.

Just one more statement from Dr Hári before I get on with the “unified” moment which gave me the insight that this “Cond. Ped" was “working”. She said: “it is the structure, the organisation of the work and the conduction in the teaching that are its principles - and its result, social integration, is its fundamental characteristic.”

By social integration I understand life and living. The development of such sensitivity described above is learning about life, learning about living.


This morning I was preoccupied with an email I had received.

I have to admit that at the beginning of the Conductive Education session my thoughts were not totally with my client or on the lying programme. My client was in position on his tummy, hands clasped in his neck, I was helping him to lift his left elbow. He could not see me, we were silent after verbalising the task. Then whoops! My hand slipped. Luckily his elbow hit the padded mat and not the tiled floor. I apologised, he accepted, no harm done, we carried on with the rest of the tasks in this position, my mind now fully concentrated on elbows and tasks.

Five minutes after the incident my client turned to me and asked Was war? - 'what was up'? I immediately knew what he meant… slipping elbows just never happen and he knows it. He is so sensitive that he knew without seeing my face, he knew I had been deep in thought and they were not thoughts about his elbow!

I remained silent I didn’t what to put words into his mouth, I didn’t want to influence what he was going to say to me next, which was “ We were in the middle of an exercise and I thought something has happened to Susie. What was that about? Do you have an admirer?” (He knows about being distracted by admirers as he is newly in love with a classmate).

I just had to lie down beside him and laugh, then he laughed too as we abandoned our lying programme and I explained to him my preoccupation. I told him he was quite right I had been somewhere else with my thoughts and not with him and his elbow!

Boot on the other foot

He knows about being preoccupied not only because of the new love in his life, but because he usually has a hundred and one things going on in his head and many questions which need answers. He is always asking why it is that on some days he can’t carry out tasks which yesterday were much easier. It usually comes down to the thoughts in his head being elsewhere other than on the task in hand!

He loved gaining the knowledge that he isn’t the only one, that the same thing can, and obviously does happen to me. That makes us in his eyes partners in crime!

It isn’t the first time in the years we have worked together that my client has been so sensitive to my mood, it happens often. Once I stood behind him watching him paint. I must admit to having had a tear in my eye as I looked in wonder at this athetoid child, standing as calm as could be with a paint brush in his hand. After a while he “felt” me watching and, without turning, worriedly asked if everything was OK. I assured him it was and told him I was just enjoying a wonderful moment and sometimes such wonderful moments make me cry. He carried on with his painting, such instances of unity are becoming a normal part of his life.

As conductors we teach a children to be aware of and use all of their senses, to be aware of their immediate environment, and teach them how to adapt accordingly.

This is what I had observed working so well today.

I will give Dr Hári the last word

“In order to bring an equilibrium between a child and environment we do not change that environment but adapt the child’s constitution “


1) Dr Mária Hári – Conductive Upbringing of Children with Athetosis. 1981

2) Andrew Sutton – Conductive Education As Exemplar Of The Emerging Paradigm Of Dynamic Inclusion, With New Emphases For Educational Research. 1998.

3) Dr Mária Hári – The Short Story Of Conductive Education. 1970.

4) Dr Mária Hári – Introducing Conductive Pedagogy. 1968

All Dr. Hári’s words here are taken from Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy, edited by Gillian Maguire and Andrew Sutton. Foundation for Conductive Education, 2004, ISBN 1-897588-24-0

Saturday 5 April 2008

Danke für Heute

Having defeated the Hungarian flu I have returned to work.

I am once more enjoying the company of my artist client and we gradually come to the end of the “order” list from the last exhibition.

A comment today from him, telling me how glad he was to have the two difficult “reproduction” paintings of sailing boats behind him, reflected my own feelings about painting. There is a huge difference between painting directly from the soul, while letting an idea take shape on the canvas, and soullessly reproducing something to order. It appears I am not the only one who prefers doing the first of these.

When I offered free choice of activity for our last hour of work together today I received this reply.. ”I haven’t painted yet today, may I paint? Just paint?” I think he was in need of feeding his soul, of feeling the calming affect of painting, instead of being creative to order, which can often be quite stressful.

So we both painted from our hearts and concluded a long day.

We had at least 6 hours of “hands on” conductive work behind, plus the hours of eating, dressing, cleaning teeth, discussing the newspapers and chatting. We were both very tired, but something happened which sparked me back to life, filled me up with energy again, albeit with a tear in my eye. Something happened which I have never before experienced in nearly twenty years of Conductive Education.

This young man turned at the door as he left, put a hand on my shoulder and said quite simply (and very clearl), Danke für Heute, "Thank you for today".

What more can one wish for as the conclusion of a long day. It was perfect, spontaneous, straight from the heart. It wasn’t as if we had been out somewhere special, or had a cooking day or had visitors. We had had a good, hard-working conductive day and it was obviously much appreciated.

More and more often these days I ask myself who is motivating whom? Who is learning from whom? It appears that while working together my clients and I move together in interlocking spirals. Like trees growing upwards in their natural spirals, their branches intertwining until it is no longer possible at a distance to tell them apart from one another. The branches reaching outwards and upwards, ever-changing with the seasons, just like conductive upbringing, conductors and clients.

That “thank you for today” gives me the feeling that new buds are opening, new branches developing and breaking out into new open expanses.

My client leaves school in a few months, he awaits this moment with joy. He looks forward to moving on into the more adult environment of Further Education, he is eager to learn and grow.

It is I who must say "Thank you" to this charming young man for Heute.

My previous blog "Conductive Upbringing-Painting by Petö, March 24th 2008

Thursday 3 April 2008

On the Road to Orthofunction

Germany 1993

News of my arrival in Germany in 1993 seemed to have travelled ahead of me. The phone never seemed to stop ringing, families and new centres searching for conductors. One such family lived not too far away, they had heard about me in the Petö Institute from other German families.

I began working together with this family in April 1994 when the child was 4 years old, she was already a "Petö Child", having been in Budapest 3 or 4 times in her short life. I always went to work with her at home with her family. This was another case of the family not wanting to be split up for weeks on end while the child was away for "therapy", another case where the family learnt together and the whole family had a conductive upbringing.

In the early years we met regularly, working together for one week each month. As school started this began to change and we had to make good use of all the school holidays.

We learnt to walk, eventually to stand up from the floor, we learnt to play, we practised skiing in the garden (she later went on a special course in Switzerland and now joins the family on skiing trips).

We learnt to swim in the pool, we learnt to ride a bike and a scooter, we learnt to cook and sew and of course to paint. At the end of each week we would put on a play to show all the family what was new, always written and produced by my client and including a whole range of fluffy toys as extras!

We had a lot of fun, we worked very hard.

By 2005 Gymnasium (high school) was demanding more and more time. After a couple of visits for post-operative work , during which time I was lucky enough also to be able to observe her bio-feedback sessions, our work together slowly came to a natural conclusion for the time being.

Follow up work 2008

My client still does her regular 30-minute exercise programme, up to 3 times a day, and she visits the Ukraine for manual therapy at least once a year. She attends theatre groups, the love of her life, she goes on ski holidays and she is doing very well at school, soon coming up to her Abitur.

How do I know all of this?

Through follow-up work.

Unusually I do not do this directly with the child but with her mother. We keep in regular contact and I am always available to offer any help or guidance I can whenever she needs it.

Discussing problems coming up at school, finding books written specially for adolescent girls with handicaps, talking over the pros and cons of boarding schools. Anything and everything and sometimes just the weather!

I always eagerly await news of exams passed and of new interests and achievements. I share any experiences I have gathered through my work with teenagers, that may smooth the way through the current stage she is going through!

This week I received the lastest news from this family, about my client and her siblings, their studies, work and future plans. Almost as an after-thought, at the bottom of the letter I found the most amazing news of all.

The little diplegic girl I met at 4 is now a young lady of 18 and is moving on to yet another stage towards her independence.

I emphasize 'diplegic' here as, with many diplegic children, there were/are many hidden problems, which can (and did) lead to problems with learning mathematics, physics and chemistry at later stages in school.

We had struggled with distinguishing between right and left , in and out, over and under, on top of , inside, straight ahead and round the corner. We practised and practised and practised, everywhere possible, on the bike, indoors , in the street, while skipping, running, hopping, jumping, playing, eating or being creative.

It has obviously paid off as this young lady has just passed the theory part of her driving test. Well done! Now she begins on the practical lessons. It may take longer than with her siblings, she may need more lessons but as ever she is following in their footsteps, refusing to be told "no that is not something for you". She always knew at what age her brothers and sister started different activities and demanded to do the same, whether it was tumble tots, theatre group, recorder or piano lessons.

Early on in my work with this family we often discussed the need for the parents of a handicapped child to keep their expectations as high for this child as for their other children. It didn’t take long before this, and all other aspects of Conductive Upbringing, entered into and slowly became the life of the whole family.

My client now has higher expectations of herself than anyone else has!

I congratulate her on this new achievement and wish her as much patience and determination in the second stage towards a full driving license as she has shown in all aspects of her life until now.


Biofeedback Therapy nach Dr Brucker
Dr. med. Peter Bernius