My visitors today

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Have a break, have a piece of poetry and a cup of tea

The road less travelled, 2004 by Suise Mallett

The nice bits in between

I am getting diverted from the job in hand which is preparing for Budapest next week. Of course with the carnival music from Munich still buzzing in my ears it is understandable that it is difficult to concentrate on one thing especially as there are blogs on the congress to be written.
So to get myself back on the right course I decided to have a break and I grabbed one of my many poetry books to look at as I had a cup of tea.

First you should know that the last thing I was thinking about when preparing for Budapest and before getting distracted with a blog was how interesting it is that my path has brought me full circle, but always spiralling upwards, back to Budapest almost exactly 15 years since I first arrived there.

I pulled the first poetry book from the shelf that my fingers touched and randomly opened my much-used copy of “ The Nation's Favourite Poems”. And now I am still sitting here still distracted from my work, the music from the Oktoberfest gone for a moment and replaced by the last lines of Robert Frost’s poem "The road not taken":

I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Yes, I did take an unusual path. It has led me to such interesting work, people and places and I hope I am able to show my Begeisterung (boundless enthusiasm) which has developed on this path less travelled, to my audience next week, but that will only be possible if I put the book back on the shelf, shut out the Oktoberfest music and get typing!

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverging in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The title of this blog refers to the saying "Have a break, have a Kit Kat"
Since 1957, the slogan for Kit Kat in the UK and elsewhere has been "Have a break... have a Kit Kat".

Robert Frost

The Nation's Favourite Poems
BBC Books 1996, ISBN 0-563-38782-3

Begeisterung: German – boundless enthusiasm

The carnival may be over but I am still hearing the music.

The round table: more pages from my congress note book, by Susie Mallett

As I said in my last posting I believe that a great time was had by all at the Conductive Education bridge-building congress in Munich last weekend, it certainly was by me. There really was a buzz in the air in many of the presentations and also in the in-between times, which as all good conductors know are the best bits!

I do not have the list of congress participants because the chair of the conductor’s association has yet to receive it from the organisers of the congress, so I cannot say how many of what kind of people were present, but I would say that the dominant group were conductors. I do not think thatI have actually seen so many conductors at a congress in Germany before! They were followed by others who work in centres offering "elements of Conductive Education", for example physiotherapists, special school teachers, multidisciplinary therapist-conductors and pedagogic-therapeutic-conductors. The next largest group of people were the people providing Conductive Education, i.e. the head teachers from special schools, the parents/directors from the various parent initiatives and chair persons from associations working with disabled people.
There were at least two orthopaedic surgeons, one or two psychologists and neurologists, a couple of paediatric doctors who operate on many of the children with cerebral paresis in Bavaria, and the professors from various universities where studies on Conductive Education have, or are presently, taking place. There was also a smattering of politicians and, I am delighted to say, more people taking part who are actually the users of Conductive Education than I have seen before at one of the conductor association’s congresses.

The presentations, of which there were forty, were given by nine conductors, seven pedagogic-therapeutic-conductors or multidisciplinary therapist-conductors, one physiotherapist, at least five professors reporting on research, two family therapists, two neurologists, two orthopaedic surgeons, several children’s doctors, three teachers and social workers, one orthopaedic shoe specialist, two or three parents and three users, a handful of politicians and Franz Schaffhauser.

The full programme can be found on the website for conductors working in Germany
Bundesverband Verband der in Deutschland tätigen KonduktorInnen e.V:

There were few alterations to the programme but one presentation which unfortunately was cancelled was on the subject of conductive rehabilitation for adults with damage to the central nervous system, by Dr Ch. Garner. Raphaela and I had been asked by Peter van Quadt (who was involved with the project referred to later in this report) to join him in presenting the paper as Dr. Garner was ill and then to form a round table to answer questions and to promote discussion. Unfortunately this was not possible, as the slot had been removed from the programme.

I found the cancellation of this presentation most disappointing as it was one of only four specialising in Conductive Education for adults on the programme. Apart from Dr Garner's there were three reports from adult users, two of whom had infantile cerebral palsy and one with multiple sclerosis. The rest of the congress concentrated on Conductive Education for children and teenagers, research into Conductive Education, medical reports, recognition of Conductive Education by health insurance companies or social services with regard to financing it and the development of training for conductors in Germany and in Europe.

The majority of the people present at the congress were German or Hungarian. I do not know whether the congress was advertised in conductive centres around the world but probably the only person present who is internationally known in the conductive world was the German, physiotherapist and honorary conductor, Anita Tatlow, who has spent many years in Hong Kong and who is now based in Ireland.

There was no word of where the next congress will be but there were positive remarks made at the summing up and farewell by Beate Höß-Zenker and Krisztina Desits, and it is quite possible that that the building of bridges, the forging of links, will continue and we can look forward to another congress of this scale in a couple of years. It will probably be another joint venture between the conductor association and one of the larger centres offering Conductive Education in some form or other in Germany. Let's hope it doesn’t clash with Hong Kong 2010!


Peter van Quadt, Dr Ch. Garner: Fortschritt Starnberg

Anita Tatlow

Beate Höß-Zenker: buisness manager and Pedagogic-Theraputic-Conductor, Pfennigparade, Munich

Krisztina Desits: Dipl. Conductor and chairperson of the conductors' association in Germany,

The next world congress for Conductive Education will take place in Hong Kong in 2010

Monday 27 October 2008

The carnival is over

Franz: doodle from my congress note book, by Susie Mallett, October 2008

I arrived home in Nürnberg exhausted on Sunday afternoon from the congress in Munich, (see last posting).

It was the most interesting congress that I have attended in Germany since the one in 1997 in Hamburg and it was the biggest event that the German association for conductors has co-organised since it was founded in 1998. I think everyone would say that socially and organisationally it was a great success.

There were at least 180 people present from all over Europe, from Germany, Austria, Ireland, Sweden, and of course many from Hungary and there were at least 40 presentations and speeches from politicians, conductors, users of Conductive Education and parents of users, pedagogues, therapists, doctors and professors.

The congress took place at the Holiday Inn Hotel in the centre of Munich but we could have been anywhere in the world. At a gathering of conductors and interested parties the dominate language is always Hungarian ,with a scattering of English and of course in this case a lot of German.

At the hotel there were three rooms available for the various presentations and these were connected by meeting spots where there was a continuous supply of drinks and delicious food.
It was probably at these high bistro tables that the most work was done, where ideas were exchanged and plans for the future hatched, often inspired by the interesting presentations.

After arriving on Friday lunchtime and eating our fill it was straight into the opening speeches and presentations.

We were greeted by the co-organisers and Mr. B. Silbers, the Bavarian State Minister for Education and Arts, who was surprisingly the only person I heard all weekend apart from Dr Franz Schaffhauser, the director of the Petö Institute, who even mentioned a conductive upbringing.

The introductions were followed by two of several research projects that we heard over the weekend. Personally I think it would have been more appropriate to have been introduced to Dr Schaffhauser at this point in the proceedings, at the opening of the congress, instead of in a parallel session on Saturday afternoon.

To close the day was a podium discussion moderated by the gorgeous Dr A. Kuhnemann, a doctor and a moderator on Bavarian Television, dressed in purple! (see posting March 9th 2008). She tried to keep in order a very lively audience and a less volatile group on the podium that included representatives of the Bavarian government, a health insurance company, the Petö Institute, and the joint organisers of the congress Pfennigparade school and the association of conductors. It was from the mouth of the elegant Fr. Dr. Kuhnemann that I heard the nearest reference to the conductive Seele, she actually called it the conductive heart.

Coincidently it was during this discussion that one of the Hungarians present mentioned the Sechenyi chain bridge in relation to the forming of links and working together at this “Conductive Education builds bridges” congress. It is one of the bridges over the Danube which I mentioned in my previous posting when I talked about my idea that just perhaps this congress might succeed in spanning divides in the Conductive Education world in Germany.

Brezen, beer and umpah band

On Friday evening we were again presented with an array of delicious food and entertained by a very Bavarian music group that got our feet tapping and our hands clapping, and even had a few people fox-trotting on the dance floor. The majority of us of course could hardly understand a word they sang about, Bayrisch being a language all of its own, but nevertheless the rhythm was infectious and got us swinging the mugs of beer!

In a break in the entertainment, which later included impro-theatre and more music, the 16 newly qualified pedagogic-therapeutic-conductors (PTKs) received their certificates in an emotional ceremony. It was mentioned by one of the conductors who teaches on this course that another 16 links have been added to the chain which is uniting Conductive Education throughout Germany. This is almost as many PTK’s finishing the course this year as there are conductors in what is probably the biggest centre offering Conductive Education in Germany, Fortschritt Verein, Starnberg.

On Saturday there were even more people present at the congress and I met up with many old friends and acquaintances, I was able to put faces to many names I have heard regularly in connection with Conductive Education over the years and introduce myself to some of these.

One of my greatest pleasures was meeting Simon von Quadt, he had been one of the German children attending the Petö Institute when I was training there and here he was at twenty-three presenting us with a picture of his own conductive upbringing at the congress, alongside his dad, Peter, who founded the first and biggest parent-initiated centre in Germany, in 1994. This absolutely charming, trilingual young man was an inspiration to us all, he showed us what a true conductive upbringing could do and not only had he attended conductive groups at the Institute in Budapest he had learnt fluent English and Hungarian. We got together after his presentation and hatched some plans for the future.

I met many people from other centres where I have worked in Germany and parents of children I knew in Hungary. One conductor suddenly appeared beside me who had been a student with me in the spina bifida group at the Petö Institute in 1989 and we hadn’t seen each other since. We recognised each other instantly.

I was introduced to Professor Karin Weber who in my opinion is the most elegant and most sophisticated person involved in Conductive Education in Germany. I also reintroduced myself to Helga Keil, having last seen her at her institute in Vienna in 1992, which is too long ago for either of us to remember each other, and I was really pleased to meet her colleague Bettina Tauscher.
I met Anita Tatlow from Ireland/Hong Kong and discussed ideas with her for the next World Congress in 2010 and I met for the second time Dr Franz Schaffhauser and got to know his charming wife with whom I practised my Hungarian in readiness for next week’s visit to Hungary!

I enjoyed having time to chat socially with my colleagues from Würzburg, where I have been working regularly this year with the aim to set up regular adults, groups.

On Saturday evening those of us who were staying until Sunday to take part in the various meetings all met for a social evening in a restaurant in the city where, in a smaller group, we had the chance to get to know each other a bit better and relax after the hectic programme of the past two days. We ate and drank and made merry but unfortunately there was no Unicum on offer.

The highlight of the weekend, well actually the icing on the cake, was spending three whole days with my friend and colleague Raphaela Roß, we chatted and giggled like teenagers in our free moments, discussed our work and our plans for the future and during the breaks we critically discussed the presentations that we had just heard. Raphaela was the first German to train to be a conductor at the National Institute for Conductive Education in Birmingham and is the only German conductor working in Germany at the moment. At the meeting of the association for conductors Raphaela was voted on to the committee of the the European Conductors Assocation which has representatives from Germany, Austria, and Sweden and England.

I will write more about the conference in future postings, this is just a starter for ten to give the general background to what happened at the conductive, bridge-bulding Oktoberfest.

The carnival is over

Doodles from Congress note book
I did a quick doodle in my note book of each of the speakers I heard, of the people taking part in the podium discussion and members of the audience. I often do this as it is a good way to relax in the hectic comings and goings and it helps me to concentrate when the air is getting low in oxygen.

Stiftung Pfenningparade

Bundesverband Verband der in Deutschland tätigen KonduktorInnen e.V

Starter for ten

Friday 24 October 2008

An Oktoberfest to build Conductive bridges in Germany

Erzsebet Híd, Budapest, Susie Mallett 2003

It is October and it is a Fest, but there's no meadow, tent or beer to be seen.

The real Oktoberfest is long over but here we all are at another Fest in Munich. ‘We’ are lots of Petö Institute-trained conductors, mostly from Hungary but also just one British one, that’s me, and a NICE-trained conductor who is German. Then in addition there are a few Keil Institute “conductive multi-disciplinary therapists” from Austria, and quite a few more “ pedagogic-therapeutic conductors” (PTKs) trained in Munich, all German.

We are all at the Jubiläumskongress, Konductive Förderung, called “Conductive Education builds bridges”, a celebration of 10 years of the conductors’ association in Germany, organised by the association in conjunction with Pfennigparade, a very big cerebral palsy charity based in Munich. In addition to the conductors and the other professionals mentioned above there are guest speakers, including doctors who treat the children, and people reporting on their experiences as a parent, a client and the founder of a centre. Dr Schaffhauser the Rektor of the Petö Institute will talk about the Petö Institute’s role in Europe and others will talk about their hands-on experiences in conductive and non-conductive work with children and adults with cerebral palsy.

I don’t think that any of us is actually quite sure what it is we are celebrating, apart from the fact that we are still here, the association is still up and running, and has managed to organise a congress every two years. Perhaps the petö-pur conductors are celebrating that there are still a few corners of the country where conductive pedagogy with conductors still takes place, and maybe others are celebrating the fact that so many different professions are joining forces to see the spread of centres offering “elements” of Conductive Education to an ever-increasing number of clients.

Whatever it is that we have to celebrate, we are here and I am looking forward to meeting lots of my colleagues and to hearing some of the speakers, to joining in on some interesting discussions and of course, at the Bavarian Evening Party, to drinking a Stein and watching the next twenty PTK’s (“pedagogic-therapeutic conductors”) receive their certificates. All in all there are now approximately 60 PTK’s in Germany, probably already more than the number of conductors in Germany.

I expect that over the course of the weekend I will begin to see what types of bridges are being built within the Conductive Education movement in Germany and start to get a feel of how stable these bridges are: whether they are bridges that will brings hoards of people rushing across the boarders, whether the bridges will carry well-wishers or critics, whether the bridges will be wobbly from the start, collapse under the heavy weight or stay suspended for years like the Erzsebet Híd, which is my favourite of all the bridges crossing the Danube in Budapest. We will have to see how things develop in Munich, and I will also be telling more about my view of the Danube river and its bridges over the course of the next few days.



Bundesverband der in Deutschland tätigen KonduktorInnen e.V.
The Association of Conductors Active in Germany

Petö pur – A German term to describe conductive pedagogy in groups, working with conductors, as carried out in the Petö Instutute, as opposed to anything else that may be sold as CE.

Stein – a one-litre German beer mug


Pfennigparade – training
PTKs –“pedagogic therapeutic conductors”: therapists, teachers etc. who have spent 20 weekends studying Conductive Education at Pfennigparade in Munich

Institut Keil

Institut Keil – training
With Vienna University. "Acadademic Complex Therapy Conductors": therapists, teachers etc. who have done the same sort of course at the Institut Keil in Vienna

Wonderful bridges

Erzebet Híd – Elizabeth Bridge
It lies gracefully in its simple, elegant and white colouring, protected to the north by the sturdy stone-coloured Chain Bridge and to the south by an over-the-top, decorative, green wrought-metal

Lanz (Szechenyi) Híd – Chain Bridgeánchíd

Szabadság Híd – Freedom Bridge

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Why didn’t you tell me that before?

Seeing the wood from the trees, 1979 by Susie Mallett

How many conductors have been asked that question? For me this was the first time.
It was the marching, painting, beckoning young man who asked me, last week, and of course I felt a bit sheepish because he was right. I should have said something earlier but I didn’t know what!

This young man was down on all fours trying to lift one arm and the opposite leg (see photo where he is looking at his cakes in the oven, ) and he continuously fell flat on his nose! Time and time again he determinedly got up while I made several suggestions as to how he could solve the problem: by distributing his weight differently, by moving a hand or a knee forwards or backwards until he found his balance, or maybe lifting or dropping his head. Nothing worked.

Then came the eureka moment. I was looking at the wrong places. I should have taken a step backwards a bit earlier so that I could see his whole body. As he lifted his arm, instead of moving it upwards, he was stretching so far forward that the other arm could not bear all his weight, so he tipped forwards. I told my client what I had observed and he corrected the movement, immediately achieving his aim, and then very seriously he asked me “Why didn’t you tell me that before?”

Well, the simple answer was thatI hadn’t managed to find the solution myself . I told him that he was right, I should have seen it before, but I was standing too close to him to observe properly.
I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

This is often the danger when working with individuals, working too closely. You do not have to step away to work with someone else and so observe other clients from a distance as you do when working with a group.

My client and I have a ways to compensate for this and in some parts of the programme when he needs no manual facilitation I do the tasks too, on other occasions he will tell me to stay away and he will do the tasks alone, and I will retreat to the furthest corner of the room to observe.

Sunday 19 October 2008

Beckoning and holding hands, ipods and mobile phones

" Nürnberg Burg, 2006" by Susie Mallett

Here I am sitting on my balcony, listening to the city noises that include the twittering of birds, enjoying the last of the day’s autumn sunshine and reflecting on various aspects of my work, especially that with adults. I am preparing for the presentation in November in Budapest and searching my memories and my computer for images that relate to the various themes.

This is the image which just leapt into my mind from the week that I just spent with my tramping-the-hills and painting client. Lots happened during that week, lots of developments and problem-solving, so much in fact that this small step and lovely image nearly got lost in my memories.

Quite soon after I had arrived my client beckoned me from the kitchen door (quite an achievement for an athetoid, beckoning), then he walked towards me, gently slipped his hand in mine and took me off to see his new Tina Turner video.

Gently slipping a hand in mine, now that is an even greater achievement for this young man than beckoning to me to go with him. It has taken a long time for him to gain so much control over his limbs to enable him to make both these movements. He has learnt how to stand still, to stretch his arm, to prevent the jerks and to move his fingers… quite a lot of learning.

I didn’t give a thought to where he wanted to take me, all I could think was "Wow, now he will be able to slip his hand into his first girlfriend’s hand without giving her a black eye!"

We got to talking about the first girlfriend a few days later, and I got to thinking about a new set of motivating tactics for my young adult clients.

Now I need to be including ipods and CD-players, mobile phones and computer game to my box of fine-finger “toys”, and I will certainly be introducing walking hand in hand to the walking programme of the teenagers' group! This of course will mean lots of loud music and lots of giggling but at the same time an awful lot of fun.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Di and I

Di and I, 23th March 1992
See Notes below for dramatis personae

On Friday 10th October Andrew Sutton in his posting “Lady Dee visits Petö Institute” refers to a video film that can be seen on Jerzy Maslanka’s Vlog,

This film was made on 23rd March 1992 when I was in my third year of studies at the Petö Institute.

I was working with adults at the time, so I didn’t get to witness her crawling on the floor with the children, which every one talked about afterwards, but nevertheless it was a day to be remembered for the rest of our lives. I had been chosen to be presented to Princess Diana, as the representative of the students from the Foundation for Conductive Education, along with a student conductor from the then Spastic Society (now Scope). This presentation can be seen in the first photograph, with me on the left and a worried-looking Dr Mária Hári scuttling past on the right.

Looking gorgeous in blue Chanel

So, although I didn’t witness Princess Diana on the floor playing with the children, whom she later told us she would have loved to take home with her, I did get to shake her amazingly soft hand, see her gorgeous Chanel suit close to, really see her sparkling eyes and smile, and at the same time have a short chat with her. I loved it. I remember Andrew Sutton asking at the time “Why is Susie meeting Diana? She is the least patriotic of us all”. I had done the not-always pleasant job of student-representative for two or three years running and it was as a bit of a reward for this that I was chosen for the meeting. It was well worth all the aggravation of being student rep..

Princess Diana was Patron of the Foundation for Conductive Education from December 1990 to December 1993, making two visits to the Petö Institute during this time and also attending fundraising functions for the Foundation in the UK. At one of these functions in London, on 27th February 1992, she had spoken with Andrew Sutton and heard about the lives and studies of the student conductors in Budapest and, it appeared to me, when we met she remembered it all!

She asked me about where I lived, about my work, about learning the language and even about the social and cultural life in Budapest. She was to attend a performance of Swansong by the National English Ballet that same evening, so it probably interested her to hear that I had seen my first ballet there in Budapest, and got hooked. I had actually seen Rudolph Nureyev’s last performance just a few weeks previously, though I didn’t remember to tell her that at the time, I was too nervous.

The whole of my peer-group and many of the British parents gathered outside the Petö Institute to see Diana leaving, not expecting that she would spend further time with us. She just went on chatting while her body guards tried to usher her into the waiting limousine. One of the things that I remember her saying is "The kids are georgeous I want to take the whole lot home with me!" She was fun and she looked lovely, and you can tell by all of our faces that we were entranced, like in a fairy tale!

A morale boost

Princess Diana was attended on this visit, I believe, by her sister or sister-in-law. It was a very difficult time to be away from home, as her father was very ill. He died on 29th March, only days after she was at the Petö Institute. I wondered whether, while she was making our day so special and boosting the morals of both the British families and of everyone she met, that perhaps she was wishing she was at home with her own family.

This mades me now appreciate her presence even more. It really was amazing what this presence achieved, everybody was smiling for days at the Petö Institute as they talked about the Princess and her visit. The children wanted to dress like princesses, the theme was used in many groups as motivation in the programmes, and the bufe was a buzz of stories about her.

Something of her presence did remain to encourage us students in our studies, the children in their tasks and the parents in the hardships of daily life in what at that time was still a very foreign country.

It was sometimes very difficult for us all there, miles away from home and our families. Diana understood this and said so! She talked to the parents about it, she encouraged the children by her closeness in the groups and me… well, I got hooked, I became a fan.

She certainly did have that something special that I had read so much about in the newspapers.

Friday 10th October “Lady Dee visits Petö Institute”

Jerzy Maslanka

Bufe; the place in the centre of the Petö Institute where everyone, conductors, parents, children and adults, gathered to drink a very strong coffee, eat a wonderful fried, scrambled egg roll, to chat and relax, meet people or to start or end a shift. Sadly, the cafe is no longer there and the seats are mostly empty.


1. From the left, myself, Kerstin (a student from the Spastic Society), Princess Diana and Dr Mária Hári, in the foyer of Petö Institute, Budapest 23 Spetember 1992

2. and 3. My peer-group talking to Diana outside the Petö Institute while the bodyguards were trying to hurry her away (as you can see in the film posted by Jerry Maslanka). Diana appeared quite reluctant to leave. That’s me peering out at the left hand end of the white T-shirted row of British students.

Just a coincidence
In the video film just mentioned, which shows Daina visiting the children in the group, I am sure that the conductor talking with them is the same conductor introducing the children from the Petö Institute using the Wii, in a much more recent video report:
Thursday 9th October “Wii: a fun pedagogic tool”

Anniversary Congress in Munich, 24th-25th October 2008

Next weekend is the Jubiliumskongress Konduktive Förderung, it is probably still not too late to register at

There will be presentations by conductors, therapists involved in Conductive Education, parents and users of Conductive Education, doctors and, maybe the most interesting, Dr. F. Schaffhauser, the Director of the Petö Institute, Budapest will be talking about the Petö Institute’s present role in Europe.

More detailed information can be found on the website of the association for conductors working in Germany:

I have a special, personal interest at the congress. I am not making a presentation myself but one of my adult clients is. He is a school teacher, he has multiple sclerosis and it is a long time since he stood up in front of a group of people to speak.

Is very important that at last we have adult Conductive Education represented at a conductors' congress in Germany (the last time I think was in 2000, when I did it myself) but even more important is the “conductive” route that my client has taken, that led him to where he is today and definitely contributed in giving him the ability to do this presentation.

This will be his next step, a huge step in his conductive rehabilitation (upbringing). It will be not only what he says or how long he speaks that will be important, it will be the fact that he is there at all. I have already witnessed the positive developments in my client during the preparations for this day, especially the improvements in the clarity of his thoughts and the fluency of his speech, and I look forward to seeing him developing further over the weekend when he gets to interact with a large group of people.

I am keeping a low profile, answering a few questions now and then and prepared to help how and when I can. He knows that I will be there listening, probably on the front row, supporting and wishing him well, but for me he already has great success, his success lies in his accepting the invitation in the first place and in his actually being there. I am already looking forward to the next stages of conductive rehabilitation, his future presentations, his steps back into the world of teaching and learning.


This Jubiläumskongress has been organised by the Verband der in Deutschland tätigen Konduktor/Innen e.V. to mark the tenth year since the founding of the association.

It is hoped that this congress will awake renewed interest in Conductve Education in Germany, at a time when many of the small centres offering conductive "sessions" are finding it very difficult to find clients for their groups

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Working Together

October 2008

Making the best of the last day

I "employed" my eighteen year old client today! We did our first, but certainly not our last, joint presentation on conductive upbringing.

We had four guests, parents with their not quite three-year-old twins, neither of whom had seen Conductive Education in action before. They had heard about it for the first time only a couple of weeks ago. They had very little concrete information but were a very enthusiastic family and willing to learn.

The evening before, my co-presenter and I had been out on a marathon two-and-a- half-hour walk together, discussing our plans for the next day. I was worried and making many plans, and my client was sensible and practical, saying that he was keen to help me. Our dilemma was how to show the parents of three- year-olds what to expect in a mother-and- child group when all we had to show was one eighteen-year-old and one conductor to do the demonstrating.

We assumed that the two young children would not take part themselves (we guessed correctly), so my client decided that it would be best if we showed them some of the tasks that he does now and then explain how his solutions have changed over the last ten years.

This worked wonderfully. My co-presenter was in his element (and so, I suppose, was I). He is a born actor with his first real live stage performance coming up at the end of this month at his new college.

The visiting parents commented on how much energy was needed to execute the tasks and that it was possible to see each muscle in the body contracting and relaxing as my client worked.They were amazed to see what he can do and very interested to hear how he has progressed to the stage where he is at now, step for step over many years. My client was especially eager to inform the visitors that he has never given up (see my blog, Nicht auf zugebeben, 14th April 2008). He knows that he can always improve and he explained how important it has been for him that his mother listened when he said that he did not want to be taken from pillar to post, from one form of therapy to another. At the considerably young age of 10, he very clearly said to his mother that he only wanted to do Petö at home. He didn't want to be taken off, away from his family anywhere else.

My client was really working hard with his audience as he described situations in our work together and demonstrated some tasks, and I supported him by enthusiastically giving tips and advise to the parents.

The four will be off to Budapest soon to get a "starter pack"! They will go there to gather as much information as possible in a short time and then they will make decisions on how to progress further. I am, however certain, that the first stages in the twin's conductive upbringing will start today when they arrive home, as the parents put into action some of what they learnt in the ninety minutes that we spent together.

My client, what about him? Well he is already talking about our next Auftritt together, hopefully, he says, in front of a bigger audience.


A previous chapter

Auftritt - performance

Friday 10 October 2008

“Na ja, du warst kalt”

Young man at work, October 2008.

I asked my client how I could begin to write a posting to describe yet another chapter in our work together and he solved the problem immediately with the sentence “Na ja, du warst kalt”. ("Well, you were cold").

Yes, he was right. We had been out marching through the hills and maize fields when suddenly the skies became grey and dreary, a heavy mist fell over us, an icy wind whistled around our ears and, to add to it all, it started drizzling. I got very cold despite my winter jacket and because of this my client was able to show off his skills once again as he came up with a quick solution. He turned to me and said “Komm” ("Come on") and off he went jogging up hill. He set off at such a speed that I could hardly keep up. That was a shock, not that I was unfit (I’m not), but that he could run so fast. I didn’t know it and neither did he, he was as surprised as I was. The village were probably surprised to see us too as we must have presented a very odd picture, my client setting the pace with his gangly athetoid gait, knees knocking and arms flying, and me one step to the side praying that he wouldn’t fall flat on his face. What could I do to save him if he did, except throw myself in front of him to cushion the fall?

Luckily these were unfounded concerns and we made it, jogging the half a mile home where I was promptly asked Na und?” ("And?"). Yes, he knew that he had yet again found the right solution, the jogging had worked wonders, we were both very warm!

After we had written the above anecdote together my client talked to me about the experience this morning of learning to use the vacuum cleaner. He explained how easy it was after he had worked out that he could stand in one spot and work by stretching his arm backwards and forwards, moving it in a semi-circle around himself, and then he could take a step forward and clean the next semi-circle. He used some very logical thinking and yet another problem was solved.

While I was watching “the cleaner” my thoughts kept wandering back to the film that I had watched last night (a link to it is in Gill Maguire’s latest posting) showing teenagers at the Petö Institute using the Nintendo Wii). I was impressed by this film and knew immediately which of my clients, both children and adults, to whom I would recommend it, my present client being amongst them. But on the other hand, while we were learning vacuum cleaning and singing along to Tina T as loud as we could, I also thought “Who needs Nintendo? We have got all we need here!”

Our morning was really full of independence, new experiences, solved problems and real-life conductive upbringing. My client had cleared the breakfast table alone, he had learnt how to wield a“Nintendo” vacuum cleaner, he had contributed to writing this posting, and used the computer and the printer to write a letter to his godmother. No sooner had we put away the cleaner and got started on a bit of "conventional" Conductive Education (lying comfortably on our mats on the floor, moving arms and legs and doing a few sit-ups) than we got suddenly brought back to “reality”. We narrowly missed injury when a heavy glass lampshade fell from the ceiling crashed onto the tiled floor and “exploded” around us. Luckily we had already practised the vacuuming, now was the chance to get into real-live action and it was cleared up in a flash.

We got quickly back to the conventional stuff as we had a date later in the kitchen to bake a birthday cake. As you see in the photograph, what we learnt in the lying programme we were able to apply to the cake-baking!


Gill Maguire, Conductive Education Library

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Why am I different? What happened?

Helen T, 2004 by Susie Mallett

Ringing the changes

I am back at work with my painter and marching friend ( see postings of 11th April 2008, "Plinths and parties, wall bars or hills and dales?", and 14th April , "Nicht auf zugeben").

We haven’t seen each other for quite a while and I am so pleased to be here, it is like stepping inside in a cocoon of love and well being. In German this is well described by a word which I like very much, Geborgenheit, which translates into English as "security", but for me the German version has a much more soulful meaning than the English translation and the environment that I find myself in at the moment is definitely a healthy one for anyone’s soul.

It is hardly surprising that in this environment the cheeky, healthily naughty, seven-year-old who I met in 1997 has grown into a very sensitive young man. He has turned eighteen since I was here in April and he has changed. He said to me today “Ich bin anders. Warum?”: I am different. Why?

He is right he is different. He is no longer the struggling, confused adolescent whom I have been working with recently, guiding and supporting through the last few difficult years. He has blossomed, he has matured, he has become an adult, and he knows and feels that there is a change, lots of changes. He knows he works differently, both with me and at college, and he knows that he talks differently. He knows that he is treated differently and he says that he is happier. Now he wants to know why? What happened? So we begin our search for answers.
We have been trying to discover answers for him through our work together. We are trying to pinpoint the changes and we discuss the ways in which we have been working towards them during eleven years of conductive upbringing.

What has actually been happening?

I missed all the big occasions in my client's life over the last few months, and there have been quite a few of them. I couldn’t make it to the Abifeier (school leaving celebrations) as I had planned to, as I was in England most of the summer. I also missed the big 18th birthday party. Missing the end of school "do", though, was the most disappointing for us all as I have been a part in my client's life since his first year at school and we had wanted to share the last day too. I had visited the school many times over the years, I had attended parents' evenings and special events and we had invited many teachers and therapists to join us and observe our Conductive Education sessions, which they watched with awe, even incorporating some of the activities in their school programme.

Going it alone!

I missed those two big occasions, but everyone missed out on the third, my client's first day at further education college. This is because he did it alone! He went off on the school bus, he walked through the new school entrance, he got in the lift to the first floor and walked into his new classroom all on his own. He told me the story in great detail and described how his new teacher and fellow pupils welcomed him. All the time he spoke with great pride, at the same time astonished by his own courage.

How did he get there?

My client decided about six months before school ended that he wasn’t yet ready to go to work, he wanted to go on to further education just as his siblings had done. He could feel something which I and his parents also knew, this was that after years of struggling to improve his physical abilities and indeed succeeding in this, he was now ready to develop academically, ready to improve his skills of daily life and maybe improve in the 3 R’s too. He set his mind to it, he went for interviews, he got his parents to phone and ask questions for him, until he eventually made it. He is so happy about this achievement. He feels like he has climbed a huge mountain. In fact he is so pleased with himself and happy at his college that last week out in the courtyard he says he embarrassed himself by punching the air and yelling “I love my college”. He was really surprised that no one else joined in!

What pleases him so much about college life?

First, that he knows that he made the best decision that he has ever made. Secondly he loves how he is treated there, as an adult and with respect. He is pleased to be away from the more child-orientated atmosphere of his old school. Each day I hear more about college life, how the expectations of him are as high there as they have always have been at home and in Conductive Education, but never were in school. He says he actually learns and remembers and wants to learn more. He takes part in courses on German, politics, mathematics, woodwork and domestic science, he learns about using banks, going shopping and other everyday needs. He is learning to solve problems in his lessons which he enjoys.

Conductive upbringing

My client's upbringing has been "conductive" since before I met him, and possibly even before his first visit to the Petö Institute in 1996, his parents having already intuitively started him along this path. We have all been working together, developing together and problem-solving together for a long time.

Recently he has developed his skill at finding his own solutions to control the over-movements which often prevent him from being successful in some activities. It is a joy to see the look of surprised delight on his face when he discovers he can actually do something when using the appropriate solution and it is in these moments of discovery that he begins to ask me about how and why he is now different. He realises that he is now finding his own solutions, that he can concentrate and apply himself better, that he is combining lots of the things that he has learnt over the years, not just at home but in his new life at college. He needs putting into words what he really already knows when he looks at me and says "Ah!". It is as if he is saying to me that the penny has at last dropped, he understands how to use his own body, how to organise his own thoughts and how to use his own personality to achieve something.

He realises how good he is at adapting to new situations, as he saw when he went off to college alone. He now knows he is good at recognising his own needs, at solving a problem and also at asking for help at appropriate times. Having realised at last that he is successful at many things including maths, (he hasn’t stopped talking about the C he got in his first-ever maths test), I now see in my client the motivation returning which was missing during those difficult adolescent years. He now has a revived will to learn and to achieve the best that he possibly can, he has the sparkle in his eye again which I first saw in the cheeky seven-year-old all those years ago.

Explaining the changes

My client is still asking why. I sought to find explanations for the changes and the "differentness" that he feels, through examples from our work together.

I point out to him how he is now in a learning situation at college where he is encouraged to enquire and to express himself, asked to solve problems and to become more independent. These are all abilities that he has developed during at least twelve years of conductive upbringing and he can now apply them to another part of his life. Of course the changes haven’t happened overnight and we discuss how we have been working towards them and changing all the time for many years, looking at all the tiny steps forwards, and sometimes a step backwards or to the side, that we have made in order to get this far. We agree about how nice it is that sometimes, just sometimes, it all fits together so that it looks like a huge change has taken place, an enormous step forwards has been made, just like the one he sees now.

Harmonious living

I think the change my client senses is the harmony that he now feels between the education/upbringing received at home, within his secure and nurturing family, and his education at college. He feels this harmony within himself and tells me frequently that he feels happy, which the frustrated and sometimes aggressive teenager from the past was not able to say for a long time. With this new-found harmony between home and college life, with his new- found motivation and lust for living, his life has become just a little bit easier.

This evening at the tea table he declared “My path till now has been hard“. His Dad’s spontaneous reply was “But it has all been worthwhile hasn’t it?”

It certainly has, everyone is so pleased with this success and especially happy to see how proud he is that he has made such a positive first step into adulthood.


Ringing the changes

"The popularity of "The Exercise" (as it is sometimes known) reflects its opportunities for physical recreation, intellectual stimulation, aesthetic enjoyment, and social camaraderie."

Ring the changes
Meaning-To employ alternative methods.

The 3 R’s

Reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic.

Prevous chapters in our story

Friday 3 October 2008

Dr Karel and Mrs Berta Bobath

" Bracondale" by Susie Mallett, 1976

Recently it seems that blogs just drop into my hands, like the leaves that yesterday suddenly started falling from the trees.

Two blogs in two days handed to me on a plate. There are a hundred-and-one blogs floating around in my head waiting to be grabbed hold of and written down. Sometimes it only takes a magazine article to be lying around in the office or for a sentence to be uttered by a client and Bob’s your uncle there it is, a blog posting actualised sitting in the palm of my hand.

After work this evening I was searching my files for something for my adult clients and came across something which I would have liked to have had in my hand a week or two back when I wrote a comment on Andrew Sutton’s posting “ Fantasy and reality”, September 20th 2008.

This is what I did write:

"I looked at Barry Hynes webpage and opened a few of the articles, one of which was "Diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy", and I wondered if Bobath trained therapist would be just as dissatisfied with what they read there about their profession as those involved in CE are when they read the definition of CE."

I continued in my comment by quoting the description that Barry Hynes had given of Bobath therapy and implied that it didn’t give us much of insight into the treatment that Dr and Mrs Bobath developed over a 40-year period.

Today I found the article that I hadn’t found on September 20th, a paper written by Kate Hedges, a certified Bobath teacher from New Zealand, THAT gives a much more informed view of both Conductive Education and the Bobath concept than Barry Hynes does . On Bobath she writes:

“Bobath suggests that intervention initiated prior to the full development of the motor handicap could have a preventative effect on the development of secondary retardation caused from the lack of sensory-motor experiences”

I read further and what did I find? That Kate Hedges is writing about handling babies! So I quote this paragraph both to give further information on the work of the Bobaths and to suggest to the Mr Parnells of the world that it is possible to recognise motor disorder in babies and it isn’t only conductors who are working with these babies (See my posting "From the very start of life: pessimism or optimism?", 26th September 2008).

“Neuro- developmental treatment is directed towards the developing nervous system. On the basis of this many and varied handling techniques have been developed which elicit and stimulate controlled automatic responses from the baby. Treatment by handling guides the motor output and results in more normal movement patterns. As the baby learns to be more active in relation to his environment and in daily functional activities, the guidance given by the therapist or parent is withdrawn.

"Techniques, which are only tools, are selected to suit the needs of an individual child.”


Andrew Sutton -

Kate Hedges (April,1988) The Bobath and Conductive Education approaches to cerebral palsy. Treatment - management and education models, NZ Journal of Physiotherapy.

Bobath Centre -

Susie Mallett-