My visitors today

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

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