Sunday, 25 January 2009

Wii Research, the next episode

Yes I admit it, it was fun!

Of course I wasn't just having fun!

I have been sitting around in trains, boats and planes, in meetings, at lunches and in libraries for too long over the past few weeks. Now don't misunderstand me, I love travelling, I love meeting people and I love looking at books, but I do not enjoy the lack of physical exercise. The cold, damp weather has still not managed to entice me out on my bike, so when I received an invitation to visit friends on Sunday, who had got a Wii and accessories from Santa, I jumped at the chance. I was more than ready for some exercise.

This was, of course, all in the cause of research, not for fun at all, but from the shrieks of laughter that came from behind me as I practised, it was apparently a lot of fun for the audience.

This was only the second time that I had seen a Wii, and this one had even more controls and games, but I was less bewildered by the technical side and got on with the "research", much to everyone's amusement.

My friends have got the Wii Fit, the one thatI had suspected from my internet research would be the most suitable for my clients and exactly the programme that I am after.

Amusement for all

I warmed up with Jogging, setting the speed of my pace-maker myself and speeding up as I got going. I surprised myself by even managing a sprint finish and a rerun! Then it was on to the Hula Hooping, which I think was one of the hardest of the many pogrammes, with the cordination of hip movement and balance taking a lot of concentration. As well as being one of the most difficult activityies I think that it was during the hula-hooping that I received the most laughs, but of course I was still only doing research!

While Hula Hooping and for rest of the programmes that I tried, I no longer had to hold the control panels in my hands as I had done while jogging. I now stood on the Wii Balance Board that comes with the Wii Fit programme. This is a slim white board that picks up signals indicating the weight-bearing and body positions of the player for whom it is programmed. Weight and height of each individual have to be entered into the computer.

I continued my Sunday morning research with Slalom Skiing and Ski Jumping, he two sports in which, I think, I found myself in most control of the machine through my body movements. The slalom was very sensitive to my body movement, and the transfer of weight and the jumping called for intense concentration on balance and on tensing and flexing many muscles.

All the time that I was "playing" I was visualising my individual clients and I was already working out how they might benefit from these programmes. I was wondering whether they would be able to sit in a chair, on a stool or in a wheelchair and still be able to participate, and I began to consider how I could facilitate so the majority could stand.

The Heading Footballs game frustrated me no end as I was distracted by being bombarded by flying football boots and panda's heads! All part of the game and it needed some getting used to. I am sure that the children will love it. The ability to keep one's balance while bending to the sides was really tested in this game.

Laughing out loud

The game that made me laugh the most was the Sliding Penguin that was supposed to catch flying fish. I laughed so much that my penguin spent most of his time in the water and probably went home very hungry, but it will prove a great success with my clients, I am sure.

Another of my favourites was the Balancing Snooker Tables, that leads through various levels of difficulty and calls for much concentration.

I finished off my Sunday sport research session by sitting crossed-legged on the Wii Balance Board concentrating on keeping my body calm, still and balanced. To help this concentration I watched a candle on the TV screen that took three minutes to burn out. The perfect ending to an hour of strenuous, fun research.

What had I learnt?

I tried each of the games/sports several times and even in this short time I realised that this Wii Fit is good not only for physical fitness and training but very good also for mental training, eye-hand coordination, concentration, cognitive skills and much, much more. I improved on all the programmes very quickly, partly as I got to know the "rules" but also as I started to feel what my body was doing. Particularly in the Ski Jumping, I was aware of every muscle in my body, in the Hula Hooping I found that my co-ordination skills are somewhat wanting and in the Snooker Table Game I realised that my eye coordination in relation to my body movements is probably quite good.

I tested some of the "sports" in sitting positions. I now need to do actual practical trials with my clients and I am now even more excited than I was before at getting on with the project, knowing there is probably something here for everyone to use in some way. Although Wii states that most of the programmes are for improving balance and coordination skills I think this would be just is the tip of an iceberg. The whole body is involved along with the mind, and from the laughter from the audience today I think there is already an indication that the conductive collective soul will also be participating.

Wii conductively

During the past twenty years in which I have been involved in conductive upbringing, I have seen how conductors can be tempted into using all sorts of bits and pieces and ideas, as time-fillers.

When introducing Wii (and beyond) it will be extremely important to think about it distinctly as a leisure activity, which is my initial project, or as an integral part of a conductive programme, in which case it should serve as a conductive tool , and simply as an amusement or a time-filler. This is why I have found it so important to begin to get to know the different programmes that Wii offers, so that when I am with my clients I can observe and talk with them about their needs and quickly find, and possibly adapt, the programme to suit each individual.

"wii fit" AND "therapy" from Google

Earlier today I googled "wii fit" AND "therapy" and came up with many sites in which therapists and clients describe the results of their own projects. A few of these links I will list below, leave you to form your own opinions and maybe check some more.

I was surprised at the number of different uses that Wii Fit and Wii Sport has already been put to, including rehabilitation programmes for positional vertigo, stroke, cerebral palsy, prosthetic limbs and post-achilles-tendon operations.

Reading some of the clients' reports, I was reminded of what one of my teenage clients with cerebral palsy said to me when she first started to take part in biofeedback therapy. She was so pleased to see what she was trying to do with her body illustrated on the computer screen n which she was receiving feedback on whether she was using the correct muscles and movements. Wii cmight offer some of my clients similar feedback, and give them useful information about their bodies.

We shall see.

Links and reference




Deutsch, J. E., Borbely, M., Filler, J., Huhn, K., and Guarrera-Bowlby, P. Use of commercial gaming console (Wii) for rehabilitation of an adolescent with cerebral palsy. Physical Therapy Journal, in press

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Pictures galore!

Tina T Konzert by SB (my client and fellow concert goer), May 2007


I have had the time and the "tech" to fill the empty picture frames, and an angel friend of mine has sent the following link which has some nice bits to read about Tina T.



Friday, 23 January 2009

Questions on conductive upbringing


Karen and Holive (my sister and I), 1959


Part II. Upbringing by conductors.Text Colour


What did I experience in the four years at the Petö Institute?


In a nutshell – for the most part it was conductive upbringing of children, by conductors, twenty-four hours a day, often seven days a week with very little imput from parents.

For Hungarian children: 24/7

This is where and how I learnt about the value and fun of the “bits in between”, as there were always far more bits in between in the Petö Institute groups than there was of anything else. Of course we all did the lying programme, walking programmes and sitting programmes but more often than not these were “bits in between” too, blending into the general routine of a day.

By “bits in between” I do not mean the bits which join all the different formal programmes together, for example how the individuals in a group move from one room to the other to eat lunch, or move to the bathroom to get ready for bed. I am talking about the whole day being “bits in between” because it was “life”, everyday conductive living.

For example in a kindergarten group once a week the plants would be collected to be watered. The more independent walkers would bring them to a table where other children needing parallel bars or a plinth to hold on to would care for them, take off the dead leaves and water them. They would then be returned to the appropriate places in the room by the independent walkers.

Maybe in the summer the walking and individual programmes would be a walk down the stairs or a ride in the lift, walking out into the garden, to learn how to use a swing or slide. The sitting programme would be a puppet show or a theatre performance, or role-playing of some kind, perhaps doctors or teachers. A hand programme could be preparing food to be eaten by the group, or creating decorations for a particular celebration.

This is what I experienced every day and this is how I learnt to work in a group of 20-24 children. As a first-year student I was given a group of three or four children during the individual walking programme and asked to devise games for them specifically to learn certain movements and abilities, all within the framework of the given theme for the day.

In school groups it was slightly different as the playing was replaced by lessons.

The day began with a lying programme which incorporated an introduction to the day's school work, and this was followed by individual walking programmes to the school desks.

Throughout the lessons the children were encouraged to make all the movements that would have been practised in activities in their kindergarten groups. With the younger children, the transition for learning movements through play to their automatic use in school was done slowly and precisely.

The school bags would always be placed either on the floor beside the children to encourage bending to the side or they would be hung on the back of the chair to encourage turning to the right or the left. The whole class would be asked to look in their bags for a specific book and they would be facilitated by conductors in whatever way necessary to do this task.

The class would be asked to point to pictures in their books with the left hand or the right hand, with the index finger or the little finger. Just as in the kindergarten, where they may have practised ironing and folding clothes, the same movements were used in the school lessons when, in unison, the children were asked to turn the page a book. Again facilitation being given by conductors.

Letters were learnt by using huge arm movements, scribing with a hand in the air or on the desk, later just using a finger in a tray of sand and finally with a pen on paper, the size of both depending on the stage that the child had reached.

In the school groups the days were again filled up with bits-in-between, the bits-in-between now had changed from play to school life. In between the lessons were times when formal tasks could be set for individual children when walking to the bathroom, preparing the tables for lunch and tea, doing homework and leisure activities, preparing for bed.

Both at kindergarten and school age the whole day was planned for each child both individually and as a group. There was not one minute in the day when the children did not know what their tasks were. Whether watering plants, reading to a friend, chatting around the tea table, solving a mathematical problem or making their bed, the whole group always knew where they were and what they should be doing.

During all of the activities of the day the group would be lead by a team of two or three conductors in one of three shifts, along with the hierarchy of students from first to fourth years, maybe as many as ten at one time. Conductors and students were allocated their tasks for the week and as a team they planned their activities within the framework of the group.

On week days the upbringing of the children aged between three and thirteen was carried out entirely by conductors. At weekends activities were planned by conductors for children who remained in the groups. Some children would be collected by their parents to spend a day or two with their families. I am not sure how “conductive” the upbringing of these children was within their families as I was never involved in or witnessed meetings between parents and conductors.

For foreign children: a very different experience

I spent one year of my conductor training at the Petö Institute in the International Kindergarten Group which had a entirely different daily routine to that of the Hungarian groups. The children did not board in the International Group as they did in the other kindergarten groups, but were brought by their parents to the Institute each morning at nine and collected again each afternoon at four. It was not possible to incorporate dressing and washing, cleaning teeth, bed-making and day-to-day living skills as intensively in the international groups as is was in the groups where the children boarded. The hours before or after school or kindergarten were missing from the routine of the “international” children as they went home in the afternoon, and so it was impossible to know how “conductive “ this time was for them in their own family environments.

The foreign parents had little involvement in the daily routine in the groups, usually a few hours of observation during each visit of 4-6 weeks, and one consultation with a conductor during this time. It could be fair to say that many parents had not yet learnt how to bring up their children conductively at home. It is easy to wonder how any of them actually did manage to learn this from the Institute, with so little hands-on experience with conductors at their sides to advise them.

Amazingly, some of these parents, exceptional people, did learn, despite the fact that their children's “conductive upbringing” within the hours of this group was done primarily by conductors (and us students!).

There was a very different atmosphere in the International Group to that in the Hungarian groups. The Hungarian groups were vey much like a big family unit that had learnt to run like clockwork. Of course there were lots of changes everyday, new experiences to adapt to, new games to play, new children occasionally joining the groups and new school activities, but the structure was known to the children and to the conductors, and this created a calm, and at the same time very active environment.

The International group was always in a state of change, with most children coming and going every three weeks, but some staying for longer periods and others shorter. Sometimes on a Monday morning half of the group of 25 would be new faces and many of these faces sad, confused and often tearful. It would always take a few days to bring a calm atmosphere to the group.

During the time in which I was studying at the Petö Institute I met many foreign families and I witnessed how many, filled with renewed hope for the continued development of their child, began the process of taking conductive education out of Hungary back to their own country. Some of them did this on a larger scale than others, reaching out and offering conductive upbringing to many more families back home. What happened then will be continued in “Conductive upbringing Part III".

Previous posting in this series


Aches and pains

Swirls by Susie Mallett, May 1993


While travelling home from the Tina Turner concert I had difficulties pulling my suitcase. I had so many aches and pains in my arms, and my shoulders where really stiffening up.

I got to wondering whatever had I doing while rocking and rolling in Köln, had I really been dancing so wildly? Surely facilitating a young lad to rock at a concert is no more strenuous than doing the same while painting or cooking, Surely could not be the cause of the problem!


Nevertheless my arms were aching really badly especially the right upper arm.
Yes, my client had been sitting at my right-hand side, so I had used this arm to assist clapping and waving, and to prevent him from tumbling down over the crowds, but I could not believe this had caused such aching muscles. I ruled out the flu as I did not feel ill. So what could be the cause?


Why? Oh, wii!

I suddenly remembered what my client and I, along with his three siblings and two cousins, had been doing together on Sunday morning. They had all been trying to teach me how to use Wii. My aching muscles were the result of just thirty minutes' testing out Wii.

Most of the stiffness was in my right arm, which meant that I had been most active when playing tennis and bowling, and that my left hook at boxing was probably not one of the strongest.

What have I learnt from becoming as stiff as a board?

First, that I have forgotten all my muscles over the cold spell that we have been having in Germany. I have been hibernating. With temperatures as low as minus 20 for two weeks and ice and snow on the roads for weeks the few times that I have ventured past the front door I have been taking buses and trams everywhere. I have not been keeping myself fit by using my bike to get around town as it is far too dangerous.

Secondly, I learnt that these games, available on Nintendo Wii, the sports and fitness programmes, certainly do bring muscles into action that have been sleeping for quite a while.

Thirdly, I learnt that yes it is very important to assess clients and choose very carefully the appropriate Wii activity, so to avoid unnecessary discomfort after playing.

My wii project

Now I have to find the sponsorship for the equipment. Watch this space.

Notes

http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2009/01/yet-another-string-to-my-conductive-bow.html

Nintendo Wii -

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

“Simply the best!”











Now with pictures by Susie Mallett, 18th January 2009

THIRD PICTURELESS PICTURE

Susie Mallett, 21st January 2008

I had thought that writing this posting was going to be easy, with just a little bit of history and then a report about a good night had by all. Things turned out a bit differently.

My night out has turned out to be yet another wonderful conductive upbringing story that could take a bit longer than I expected and will unfortunately begin its life without pictures. I have several pictures that will fit the bill so perhaps interested readers will return when the technical features are fixed!

Where to start? Let us begin with…

“Something Special”

I have built up a rather special relationship with my 18-year-old painter (and now Wii) client and his family over the past eleven years. When we met he was a very hard-working seven-year-old boy who was full of fun and often up to mischief. He had also recently learnt to walk independently for a short distance.

This young lad had attended many different therapy centres in his short life, sometimes having to take long car journeys with his Mum and Dad. It was on these journeys that he learnt to love rock music. Not just any old rock. Both he and his father were and are passionate about Tina Turner.

This lovely little boy was delighted when he met me, having persuaded his parents to let me work with him at home (he had refused to travel to any more other “therapies”, as he wanted to remain home with his siblings). Why this delight? He discovered very quickly that I too am as passionate a Tina Turner fan as he is. What is more I had seen her in concert twice and had a collection of CDs and DVDs that he could borrow.

For the next eleven years we rocked to Tina T in the walking, standing, lying, sitting, tramping-the-hills and conductive-cooking programmes! You name it we have sung it: Nutbush, River Deep Mountain High, Something Special , Simply the Best! We know all the words in English, which, my client being an athetoid with a tongue thrust that impairs his speech, is quite an achievement.

In more recent years we have also painted and rocked to Tina, and my client has even created pictures of her in concert, perched either on a stool or on her very high red-soled stilettos!

“In your Wildest Dreams”

As young as seven years of age he shared a dream with his Dad of just once seeing his favourite rocker live in concert. I also had a dream of actually being there with him, to see the delight on his face.

You can imagine his sorrow when several years ago Tina Turner announced her final tour, with no gigs nearby and therefore no live performance. I was so disappointed, not for me as I had seen the lovely lady twice, but for this young teenager whose dream was shattered.

We carried on nevertheless, rocking and working and marching to our CDs, making paintings from our DVDs, and enjoying what we had.

“On Silent Wings”

In summer 2008 I should have been working with my client when he celebrated his 18th birthday and leaving school. Instead I was in England with my terminally ill Mum. Several days after my Mum died I got a phone call from this very special family. Not only were they thinking of me at this very sad time but they also dared to phone. By doing so offering me a very special helping hand back to my life in Germany.

On this sad day in June they told me that Tina Turner was doing a tour of Germany, with two concerts in Cologne. Would I like to accompany Steffen and his dad, who were both receiving tickets for their birthdays, which actually sandwiched mine in the same week?

“Why must we wait until tonight”

I had no need to stop to think. I accepted the offer without delay and I have been looking forward to the concert for exactly seven months to the day.

I was in the north of Germany this weekend playing on a Wii with my client and his brothers and sisters (see my previous posting) but that wasn’t the main reason for my visit. Tonight was the night, the night, my client had told his Auntie, that he had been waiting for since he was about so big, indicating with his hand the size of a seven year old!

As our excitement mounted we sat at the computer, after a lovely relaxed family breakfast and a practice on Wii, searching for information on the concert, a glimpse of the Cologne Arena and any recent pictures of Tina Turner that we could find. We wanted to know whether she still looked so wonderful: did "something beautiful remain" after being in “retirement” for so long?
We could hardly wait, but wait we must, for the minibus to fill up with family and friends and then make the three-hour journey, with a few of our CDs playing old favourites to get us in the mood.

“Tonight”

This "history" took a long time. Now we are in the present. Here we were, three passionate Tina Turner fans, just about to step inside the Köln Arena and make a dream come true for this lovely young man. His first-ever rock concert too. He was wide-eyed and surprisingly very quiet, lost for words for a change.

We found our seats and soaked up the atmosphere, we watched the seats filling up and ordered a beer, and then the screaming began and with it my double pleasure. I was thrilled to be seeing Tina again but I was spending just as much time watching my young client as he rocked beside me. It was very much like when people take their first steps with bare feet on sand,or see snow for the first time as an adult. All very special experiences to witness.

“Whatever you need”

Tears came to my eyes as my client looked around and saw that the whole audience was getting to their feet as the atmosphere rose to a climax during “Nutbush". He grabbed my hand and stood up too. How could I resist? How many 51-year-old conductors can say they that have facilitated an 18-year-old client rocking to Tina Turner? Clapping, using both our sets of hands to keep the rhythm, my finger on his elbow so that he could wave his stretched arms in the air for longer, and the really conductive facilitation of holding tight on the back of his jeans so that he could rock as wildly as he liked without fear of toppling down the several rows of seats falling steeply in front of us.

We shouted the words of each song as loudly as we could and smiled for three hours. A sixty-nine-year-old womanly woman (see side panel of my blog) dancing for a rocking crowd for 150 minutes. She actually took a well-earned a thirty-minute break, during which I went off in search of a glossy programme for my client to peruse at his leisure at home tomorrow.

Tina Turner wore at least five outfits. How could I have lost count? She had the most amazing shoes, the ones with the red soles as always, and many more in every shade of glitter possible. She could still perform her characteristic strutting dance, which when we tried to imitate it while walking to the car park looked more like a line of waddling ducks! To top it all, Tina T, in her amazing stilettos, took a ride to the top of a tower and did an encore riding high above the audience, then running, yes running, up and down a very narrow runway. All this time she was singing too. Absolutely and quite simply “The Best”.

“Two People”

Both Tina Turner and my client are examples to us all on how to get the best out of life.

Thank you, conductive family in Northern Germany. I have had the time of my life, a special night that I will always remember, mainly because of a seven-year-old's dream coming true, but I can’t deny that seeing Tina T and her amazing shoes was also a treat!

Notes

My subtitles in this posting are songs sung by Tina Turner on her All the Best album -

“Simply the best!”
“Something Special”
“In your Wildest Dreams”
“On Silent Wings”
“Why must we wait until tonight”
“Tonight”
“Whatever you need”
“Two People”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_the_Best_(Tina_Turner_album)

Red soled shoes - by Christian Louboutin,
http://www.christianlouboutin.fr/

Tina Turner at Cologne arena -

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/live_reviews/article5531820.ece


Sunday, 18 January 2009

Yet another string to my conductive bow

Movement by Susie Mallett, May 2002


Second no picture picture
by Susie Mallett, 19th January 2009

My Nintendo Wii project gets slowly under way

I have been trying to get this going now for several months. In September I recommended Wii to a family with whom I have been working for eleven years, as an ideal Christmas present for their four teenagers, one of whom is disabled.

On Friday I had a meeting with staff at the centre where I work in Nürnberg, where I presented my ideas for asking a local firm to sponser a Wii that we could use in evening activities with the young and not-so-young, disabled adults. The meeting went well, someone with a bit more technical know-how that myself will lend a hand and hopefully by the spring we will all be boxing, playing tennis, bowling and more besides.

Today I am visiting the family with the four teenagers who, surprise, surprise, did get a Wii for Christmas! I am not here specifically to play with the Wii, we have other much more exciting plans for this evening that will be the subject of another blog posting, but I have had a go on Wii and tried out the boxing, driving, bowling and playing tennis.

I think that I will need to practise quite a lot myself to work out precisely which sports and activities will suit which clients. This "participative research" will be important so that the clients can feel a degree of success even if they loose a match, and so that they do not feel frustrated at not being able to carry out required movements.

I am looking forward to adding yet another string to my conductive bow. Watch this spot, hopefully with pictures next time that I report on this project.

Note

http://us.wii.com/

Saturday, 17 January 2009

First-ever no-pictures posting

A NO-PICTURES PICTURE Align Centre


by Susie Mallett, 17th January 2009

Due to technical reasons my postings will be appearing pictureless for a few days unless I can get access to another machine. Once I'm fully back on line then I shall probably fill in the blanks!

Please be patient and try to visualise an art-work at the top of each posting.

Commisson your own

This gives me an idea.

Why not tell me about the images that you have visualised and I will see whether I can produce something to fit the description, then post it later. All inspirations will be gratefully acknowledged.

We could start now!

Requests please, either posted as a comment here on this blog or by email to

small66711@apl.com

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Questioning angels

Dan's Marching Dinos by Dan aged 8, December 2008

This afternoon I was talking to a friend, who also happens to be one of my NICE angels, about my wonderful time in Norway. She had been reading my December postings and had really got the right idea. She realised that I had been having a whale of a time (more precisely a “dino” of a time).

Nice work if you can get it

She asked me to explain to her why it had been so good, what had made Norway so exciting for me. I described my fascination for the darkness and the amazing lights, the lovely, singing language and the fact that I could speak English to most people! Then I went on to the real reason that I had had a “Dino of a time"… the work was so good! Why, she eagerly wanted to know? In the end I told her: “Because it was just like working with you!”

My Norwegian NICE angels, Lill and Marthe, are just as much fun to work with as is Raphaela. It isn’t just the fun though, it is how they work and think that all makes for a wonderful working atmosphere, with lots of stimulating experiences for the children.

I must add that it is not only stimulating for the children when I work with these NICE-trained conductors, it is stimulating for us all, especially me. They all ask so many questions and I try to answer these to the best of my ability.
When Raphaela was still a student she came to work with me twice, and then later for a few more years as a newly qualified conductor. The flow of questions was never-ending, starting on the way to work and finishing on the way home. Even now we use up at least half of our very long phone calls on conductive questioning and problem-solving. In Norway my experience was just the same, often the Norwegians and I would sit together for a couple of hours after work deep in discussion about all things conductive. It was very beneficial for us all, not least for the children.

"You are not ready for that yet!"

Why am I writing this, why my excitement about the questioning attitude of these young NICE- trained conductors? Because while I was talking to friend Raphaela on the phone this afternoon I was reminded of just one of my own experiences as a second-year student at the Petö Institute, which encouraged exactly the opposite attitude.

I and fellow British students had been observing a group as part of our conductive pedagogy lectures and had gathered together with two senior conductor/lecturers for a short round of questions and answers about what we had seen. I and other students were asking questions relating to the theme of how we could begin to plan individual programmes for some of these children.

We all were given the same answer: “You are not yet ready to understand the answer to that question, you will learn about that next year! "

In those days I was too timid to reply with the response that was bursting to get out of my mouth: “Surely, if I know the question I am more than ready to hear and understand the answer”. This would more likely have been lost on the lecturers and we did not pursue it, we simply took our questions to our group leaders who were always more than willing to provide answers.

I sincerely do hope that students there are taught a bit differently now.

Note

NICE - National Institute for Conductive Education
http://www.conductive-education.org.uk/

Those "in between” hair days!

"My in-between hair", January 7th 2009

Hair

I am growing my hair and it has just got past the "in-between" stage.

I managed the "in-between” hair stage quite well.
Firstly for the first time in my life, because I went regularly to the hair-dressers, which is a bit of a contradiction but it worked!

And secondly because over the past six months I have not had much work where I have to crawl on the floor after small children. Working on the floor is not easy with in-between hair as it hangs in the face and simply gets in the way.

Conductors and hair

In my experience most conductors either have very long hair that they can tie back or arrange in interesting styles, or it is short, often very short, just as mine has been for most of the time that I have been a conductor. Up until now I have spent most of my time in the conductor brigade with short hair. I rarely went to the hairdresser, there was usually an arty friend or a fellow conductor who was willing to have a chop at it and save me time and money.

I expect that many conductors would say that they keep their hair short because it is so much easier that way, it takes less time to wash and dry and care for it. I would have said the same six months ago but now I really enjoy the extra minutes relaxing in front of the mirror while I dry my hair. I am lucky that my hair is very thick, so it gives me quite a few extra minutes of relaxation.

Hair influences

I love my longer thick hair especially in the minus temperatures which are still hanging on here in Germany. When I am on my bike (which has not been as often as it should be during this very cold spell) my new hair has the feel of an extra scarf around my neck.

I am also enjoying my new hair because it frames my skinny face, making it look more rounded, and that in turn makes me look more like the yellow “smiley face", all of which I am sure has a positive influence on my work!

Notes

Hair - Aquarius
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k820TcYkrNo

Catching up with the times

"Joyland", Gt Yarmouth by Susie Mallett, May 1976

As I don’t have a television and rarely read the papers, and as I have consciously been avoiding the gloom and doom of the media for weeks I thought it was time to catch up with The Times Online. I do this every now and again, usually late at night. This time I was prompted to do so as I had nearly missed the gushings of Kate and Co. at the Golden Globe awards. I thought that I should perhaps keep a bit more up to date so not to miss more such important news items as this!

One of the few interesting things that I found last night, while still avoiding the gloom and doom of the UK and foreign news pages and instead combing the women's pages, was an article by Tim Rushby-Smith. I thought that this was worth sharing.

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article5503516.ece

There are so many things to think about when working with children and adults with disability as I reported yesterday in my flat-hunting experience. The paragraph below, taken from Tim Rushby-Smith’s article, illustrates yet another situation that I can certainly learn from.

“But again we are learning together, with Rosalie's risk assessment based on what she knows I am capable of. There is often another parent in the playground happy to help, but I usually decline unless it is absolutely necessary as it is important that Rosalie learns to stay within my capabilities in case we are alone.”

I particularly liked the list of dos and don’ts at the end of the article.

Tim Rushby-Smith’s book will probably be added to my library of volumes by authors who themselves are disabled. As I have said before, it is from these that I learn more than from any text book.

Notes
Times Online

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Yet another role for a conductor.

A House, by Susie Mallett, 1962

Flat hunting

I have had a very interesting day. It felt a little bit like I had a new job, although I am unsure of what my new job was. It could have been estate agent, interior designer, advisor, or perhaps it was just another ordinary day for a conductor. Whatever it was I enjoyed it.

I was viewing a flat but all the time with the image of a completely different flat in my mind’s eye, creating and constantly changing the picture in my head as I thought of all the different aspects of life in a wheelchair.

The charity that I often work for have steadily been buying up flats in the city centre, most of them actually in the property where they have their head office. The flats are gradually converted so to be suitable for wheelchair-users, and are offered to people who wish to remain as independent as they can be for as long as they can, but with the option of being able to pick up the phone to ask for help whenever they may need it. Whether the help is needed to carry in a crate of beer, shop for a new wardrobe, or assist in getting to an appointment with a doctor, there is always someone there to lend a hand.

Today I was looking at a flat on behalf of one of my MS clients who lives alone and wishes to move into this more secure, less isolating community.

Visualisation


I was actually surprised at how while walking from room to room I immediately began to imagine myself in my client's wheelchair. I began to consider now it would be trying to negotiate all the narrow doorways and in between spaces and I started redesigning it, open plan!
My client is over two metres tall so his wheelchair is slightly bigger and longer than most! He needs more space than he can actually afford, so we need to use every centimetre available to us.

I can visualise the converted flat and I assume that the architect can too, but I am not going to rely on this assumption. In the morning I will pick up the phone and suggest that the architect sits himself in the wheelchair made for the two-metre-tall man, and take a drives around the flat. By doing so he may also be able to visualise better where a centimetre here and there can be gained, hopefully without taking too many chunks out of the skirting board.

As usual I am begeistert by my work

Notes

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

My very own Golden Globe


Today I received my very own “Golden Globe” award and I too made a gushing acceptance speech, but I actually managed to string my words together a bit better than Kate did and I also remembered the names of my friends!

These friends are two conductive souls whom I have known since 1992. They are not only conductive souls, these are your everyday real-life souls, people who care and understand.

My own Golden Globe is three inches tall. It is getting more and more golden as it sits in my hand and develops its own patina from my touch. Most importantly, it is formed in the shape of an angel!

Yes I am the one who calls my conductor colleagues my angels, writes about Dr András Petö and his angels and has a few other friends whom I consider to be my angels, and I have actually received my own angel! I was thrilled and what luck that I didn’t have to trip up the stairs in a long dress and embarrass myself with a daft speech to receive it. I accepted it graciously with a huge smile and a warm soul.

My Golden Angel came in a lovely silky black bag with the word "pilgrim" printed all around the top. This is quite apt as one definition of the word pilgrim is “one who journeys in foreign lands", something that I have the tendency to do!

This small bronze angel was created by the sculptor Christoph Fischbach and produced in the workshops of the Benedictine Abbey of Maria Laach. It came with a small booklet telling me that angels were in themselves never something to believe in but messengers, the bringers of tidings from somewhere/someone else., implying to me that this angels is sent to rest a hand on my shoulder and watch out that I do not stumble on my foreign journeys.

The friends who presented me with my mini-award I have known since 1992. I first met them in Budapest when they were living there while their daughter attended the Petö Institute. The support that they gave me in my final weeks while I was taking exams was invaluable. It really did feel as if I had my own personal angels bringing me messages from a higher level, encouraging me and showing me that I could do it! Which of course I could and I did.

András Petö I think was right when he said that in each of us is an angel (see blog references below) and I believe that we find many ways to dispatch these angels as our own messengers. I am very happy, as over the moon as Kate was with her two Golden Globes, to have my very own angel in my pocket, not dispatched to me surrounded by the glitter of hollywood stars, but in my own cosy kitchen and by two valued friends.

Notes

Golden Globes
"If an illness comes into the realms of God’s influence, the Ens Dei of Paracelus, we enter the area of mercy, grace and favour and of healing through belief and prayer. The saints of the holy sites of pilgrimage, such as Lourdes, belong to this category as do theologists who believe in and speak about the work of the angels, together with that of the saints, in their sermons. Many people pray for the healing properties of these angels and saints."
Karl Otto Bärnklau, Unfug der Krankheit – Triumph der Heilkunst Verlag, Karl Schustek, Hanau/Main, 1965

"There is always a voice saying to do this and to do that and you must not close your mind to the idea that an angel is speaking from within you”.
Reportedly said in a conversation between Peter Popper and András Petö

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Sex and the city

"Partners" by Susie Mallett July 2005

Sex on the menu


Don’t be shocked or disappointed at the title of this posting. It is only the name given to one of the many breakfasts on offer on the menu at what is becoming my “local”, the Café Fatal.

I was recently asked why I always go to this particular café when I now live in the city and the world could be my oyster. My answer is that it is almost like an extension to my living room, at just 188 paces away (see my blog 26th December 2008) on the corner of the next street. I counted the paces again tonight as I was quite sure that there would be more. The temperature is down to as much as twenty below zero at night and the few hours of sunshine during the day are not enough for the weak rays to have any affect on the compacted snow and ice. My footsteps were therefore somewhat tentative and, I assumed, shorter than usual as I avoided slipping over. I was sure that I would take more steps but I was wrong, 188 it remains.

Another advantage of this extension to my flat is that the nearness makes it unnecessary to don the many layers of clothes that I would need to venture further afield, to another very nice café at least ten minutes’ walk away. The route to the Café Fatal is not long enough to get cold but just far enough to feel the tingliness of the bitter night air on my face. It is near enough that at nine in the evening I can decide to grab just my long winter coat and scarf and go for a drink or even a meal and see a bit of the world.

New bits in between

It is a entirely new experience for me to go out alone to a café or a restaurant to eat a meal. During my days in Budapest I got quite used to café life, to sitting on the street with a newspaper or a sketch-book, with a coffee or a hot chocolate, but to go to a restaurant to eat, even with company, has never been one of my favourite “bits in between”. Since living in the city this has changed and I gave it a go for the third time this evening.

There is always a real mixture of characters in the restaurant, which I really enjoy as it means that I have some interesting faces to draw. There are young, old and middle-aged, and I suppose that last one is the group to which I now belong! There are groups of friends, there are couples and there are several people like me, alone with a glass of wine and a book. This evening I had actually got Barnklau’s Unfug on the table beside my notes and sketch-book and I was about to search for some more interesting snippets for “Conductive Upbringing Part Two” but, as often happens, my attention was caught by something else, this time the menu.

There is more to life than marmite on toast!

“Sex and the City” caught my eye about half way down the list of breakfasts, which also included, Tatort (scene of the crime), Golden Girls, Our Little Farmyard, Verliebt in Berlin (In love in Berlin) and Lindenstrasse (the German equivalent of the English soap Coronation Street).

All of these breakfasts combined meats, cheeses, eggs, juices, fresh fruits and bread rolls, teas and coffees, to suit the given name.

The cheapest, at 3.50 euros and by far the least healthy was “Scene of the Crime”, offering an expresso, with a dash of schnapps, and a cigarette that one now has to go outside to smoke!

For such a small café the menu has a wide choice of dishes and I ordered Winterlichen Blattsalate mit geb. Camenbert und Preiselbieren (winter leaf salad with baked Camenbert and cranberries) from the Wochenkarte (menu for the week).

One of my favourites, Käsespätzle, a Bavarian dish of a special egg noodles baked with a covering of two different sorts of strong mountain cheese, was also on the menu, plus more comfort food of pancakes with fromage frais, sultanas and ice cream.

Searching the menu again for the coffees, I found some much more interesting drinks on offer, such as hot white chocolate with slices of orange and a nip of espresso, Assam special with rum, and again for comfort, hot milk with honey.

I just about managed a cheese cake and coffee for “afters” while enjoying the music and general atmosphere. Sometimes the music can be loud and slightly overpowering, more often it is discrete. It is nearly always unusual and this evening it was French and jazzy.

As well as packing in all the activity described above I also read a couple of chapters of Unfug, sketched several faces from the crowd room and wrote this. Not bad for two hours of bits in between, more than I had managed all day!

Sex and Conductive Education

Now this title may surprise or shock the reader as it isn’t something from the menu at the Cafè Fatal, it is a bit more serious than that. Writing about the café and its menu did set my mind off and I got to thinking about something which has been a recurring theme over the years. This is a subject that is rarely broached, although it comes up regularly in my work: sexuality and disability, sexuality and conductive pedagogy/upbringing.

It is there and I deal with it.

It starts with the giggling girls in my teenage group who get their ten minutes to discuss boys before the programme begins. It continues in the holiday groups where we make time for lunchtime discussions. Themes chosen have included “My mum and dad fight and fall out because of me”, “Why can’t I find a non-disabled boy/girlfriend?” and “What will a partner think of my dis-formed figure?”

We discuss sexuality as openly as we can and we actually encourage the discussions, we try to plan time for them in our programmes.

In my evening group for young adults such themes are also discussed although young adults with cerebral palsy are not prepared to discuss sexuality quite as openly as the teenagers. They do, though, mention their concerns about their relationships with the opposite sex and talk about their wishes of finding a partner at some time in their lives.

I also have adult groups for people with multiple sclerosis and stroke, who certainly have concerns about their sexuality too. Who do they speak to, it very rarely comes up in our groups. It seems to have become a taboo subject.

I have been working as a conductor for over fifteen years now and with disabled people for twenty-five. I have clients who I have known since their childhood and it is with these, now young adults, that the most open discussion takes place. Sometimes I am bombarded with questions about their bodies and body-image, relating to their sexuality, and I sometimes do art projects drawing around their bodies and painting and decorating them, making them beautiful.

They ask me how can they be attractive despite their deformities or strange movements, there are even questions about communicating with the opposite sex when they have a disability which also affects their ability to speak clearly. Often I have parents contacting me for literature to help them deal with problems arising with their adolescent children and their new found sexuality.

All of this is important and must be dealt with within my work but this touches just the tip of the problem as many people do not have anyone to talk to.

Most of them, I have known for many years and it still isn’t easy for these young adults to broach the subject of their sexuality with me, although I suspect it is easier than speaking openly with their parents or peers. Fortunately, when they do pluck up the courage or are encouraged to join in discussion I am prepared to listen, we can be open with each other and do a bit of problem-solving together.

Sex and training

I am however prepared for this only because of my twenty-five years of experience and not because of my training as a conductor at the Petö Institute.

Does any other conductor who trained at the Petö Institute remember sexuality and disability being covered in their lectures? It certainly didn’t get mentioned in my own training days. We were taught that we were working in “a holistic manner”, “treating the person as a whole”, but this part of the whole person, developing sexuality, never once got mentioned in my training. I have learnt to deal with these situations as they arise, sometimes adequately, sometimes I fear not offering enough. I work together with parents when necessary, finding other professionals to step in when we feel that we need more help and advice.

What about you conductors who trained at NICE, or the conductor/teachers who trained in the USA? Was this a subject covered in your training?

If it was it would be interesting to know to what depth and who taught it.

In my own twenty-five years working with disabled teenagers and adults it was only last year that for the first time I heard someone at a Conductive Education conference openly discussing the issues of sexuality and people with physical disabilities. This was at the congress in Munich and it was the only presentation that I heard there that I often call to mind to help me in my work.

After this congress I asked a director of a fairly big German organisation working with people with disabilities what kind of provision there is for the adults living in its sheltered housing and care centres for discussing their sexuality and/or receive advice and counselling. She was unsure of the answer but she was pretty certain there is none.

Who then do people turn to?

And who or where can we as conductors turn to in order to educate ourselves to deal with the problems that are bound to arise, more adequately and with more confidence?

Sex and Petö

I don’t think that there is anything on sexuality in the Unfug but when I was in the Mária Hári Memorial Library last year I read a play that he had written in German, set in a suburban brothel. I do not think that András Petö was coy about sex!

Also last year in Budapest I met a lovely old Hungarian lady, now more than 80 years, who has cerebral palsy and was treated by András Petö when she was young. She told me the following little story.

She told me about asking Petö how she could enjoy love-making with her new boyfriend. András Petö went to the conductor leading the "workers’ evening group" and told her to insert certain tasks for relaxing the hips into the lying programme for the next three months. This was done and Bob’s your uncle, the nene (auntie) said, she was soon having as much fun as I do!

I don’t think that anything of András Petö’s was ever thrown away and so this programme is probably still there in the Library collection. András Petö is not the only one who can write a programme and since I was told this story I have discretely put a few tasks into my evening group's programme what I hope may be of help to at least some of them.

Have any of you other conductors working with adults got anything to share on this often taboo subject?

Notes

Bärnklau’s Unfug – Unfug der Krankheit – Triumph der Heilkunst Dr. med. Karl Otto Bärnklau, Verlag- Karl Schustek, Hanau/Main, 1965

Petö Institute - http://www.peto.hu/

NICE – National Institute for Conductive Education

Congress - Konduktivee Förderung baut Brücken, Okt.24-25, 2008, Jugenliche mit ZP und ihr Umgang mit Sexualität, M Sanna, Munchen.

Learning during the bits in between

Is spring in the air? by Susie Mallett, 2003

At the beginning of the week I was discussing the affects that the festive break has on the mobility of the clients in my Tuesday evening adult cerebral palsy group. We did our utmost in this cold spell to keep mobile and motivated by fitting in four two hour sessions in the two weeks.

Taking a constructive break

Yesterday I visited one of my stroke clients in her home. It was our first session since before I went to Norway at the beginning of December, her first session of any kind for at least three weeks.

This was her own decision. The physio- and occupational therapist had taken only two weeks holiday and I had taken none, she could have carried on with as many sessions with me as she wished all through the Christmas period.

She didn’t wish, she made a conscious decision to have a well=earned break from formal sessions, but not a break from living, which for my client means practising.

Understanding

This is one to ask if you what to know about conductive upbringing/pedagogy, the one I always suggest could give an interview if the local paper turns up. She understands and has made whatever it is she does, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and every-day life, “conductive”. My client has always tried to incorporate, quite automatically, all that she learns into her daily life. From the start, from when I first met her over ten years ago, she has always seen her work with me as a way to improve her activity in her life and never as a series of exercises.

Pros and cons

I sometimes visit her at home and she also comes to my groups, enjoying both types of sessions, using one to complement the other. During home sessions she can ask more personal questions and work on problems more specific to her needs within her home. In the group she enjoys the motivating colleagues and the exchange of news and ideas. The pace of the group's work is slower than she experiences working alone at home, but because of the space and my colleagues I can offer a slightly different and more varied programme. In each situation, she says, she has time to think and correct her movements, but in different ways.

So what happened today to prompt this posting?

Feeling the movement and improvement

My stroke client and I spent most of our two hour session wondering in amazement at all the improvements that had taken place during her “holiday”. She had consciously chosen not to have any visits from "therapists" of any kind to her house for three weeks, she did this to give a bit of normality to the lives of both her and her family. This is not the first time that she has done this, she feels that she needs the time in order to use what she has learnt and get to know her body, its feeling and movements, more intensely. The interesting phenomena is that this client isn’t actually aware of the huge progress until we start work again after a break. During the more formal task series she tells me she is able to control her movements and she can feel what she can feel and do. Through this she begins to realise why she is finding certain situations in her life easier.

My stroke client is active. She spends every waking moment trying to be as active as possible in her family life, as independent as possible and enjoying as much of the world as she possibly can through whatever means suit her at the moment.

After we had marvelled at even the sometimes invisible improvements my client has made she began telling me of her plans for a holiday in two years time, on a cruise ship to the Norwegian Fjords. On this future occasion the break from all sessions will be filled with some extremely exciting “bits in between”.

Striving for greater independence

There is a difference between my stroke client, who took a break, and the adult cerebral palsy group, which was determined not to, but I am struggling to put into words what this difference is.

Just one of the adults with cerebral palsy lives with her family and is motivated similarly to my stroke client, by her family life and practising what she learns through living. The others live in a home and many of their daily needs are provided for them, they don’t need to cook and clean and do their washing, they are certainly less independent than they could be. For them the source of motivation to be active comes possibly more from the other members in the group than it does from their own need to be active in their daily lives.

It really is time to take a look into how the lives of such young people with cerebral palsy can become more autonomous, how they can increase their independence and become more active in running their own lives.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Questions of Conductive Upbringing

A green, but not yet green, "Green Man" by Susie Mallett, 7th January 2009

Part I. Problems with words

I been mulling over this subject for a long time now and the simple posting that I had wanted to write just isn’t getting finished, but getting longer and longer and beginning to cover a wider area than I had first visualised. So I have decided to do it Hollywoodsty-le, which seems to be quite the trend these days, and do a bit of sequelling.

One of the things I had been wondering about while working in Norway, and since, is how the term “Conductive Education” ever got established in the first place.

English and Hungarian


At the time in the 1980s when the world was getting to know about the Petö Institute and its work, the term "Conductive Education" was already well established but only used outside of Hungary. This is true to this day.

You will find the term Conductive Education used in English translations, English presentations and in the English version of the Petö Institute’s own Website, but in Hungarian practice and theory as far as I know it is always referred to as konduktiv nevelés (“conductive upbringing”).

The expression "conductive pedagogy" is the term used in Hungarian, and occasionally in English, to describe the actual pedagogy used within the practice of conductive upbringing. When I discuss conductive work with Hungarian colleagues in Hungarian, wherever I am in the world, we use the term conductive upbringing and not the various foreign adaptations.

Mid-1960s

I was sure that the term Conductive Education had been coined by Ester Cotton after her early visits to the Petö Institute in 1965, but Gill Maguire at the Conductive Education Library posted a blog on Tuesday 6th January saying that Ester Cotton had made no mention of Conductive Education in her 1965 report.

I had asked Gill Maguire whether she has any more information on this and, as you can read on her blog, she immediately came up with some interesting facts one of which is that Ester Cotton did use the term but not until 1967.

So from this I can probably assume that my belief that “Conductive Education “ was being used in England at the end of the 1960s by Ester Cotton and her small band of associates is correct.

But who actually coined it and why?

Is it an accurate description of what they were actually trying to describe? But then there is the question of how did the people who might have coined the phrase actually understand and interpret what they were seeing. Their interpretation of what they saw would certainly have influenced the terminology that they used, especially if they didn’t speak or understand Hungarian.

I do have one more bit of information on the early usage of the English term “Conductive Education” Certainly when Dr. Mária Hári first went to England in 1968 she and her translator both adopted the expression.

Dr Hári read two papers at a study day at Castle Priory College in England in 1968 and in both of these there is absolutely no reference to conductive upbringing but constant use of the terms Conductive Education and conductive pedagogy.

It is stated in the introductory pages of the book that contains these papers, “Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy”, that the interpreter who accompanied Dr Hári chose to use Conductive Education to translate konduktív nevelés. Or did he/she choose? Did the translator just adopt a term already in use (Cotton, 1967), or was it a term suggested by Dr Hári herself?

Different times, different places, different words

Lots of questions and musings, all of which arose while I was working in Norway. Why is it important to state that it was in Norway that many of my questions where formed? It is because there the term Conductive Education isn’t used, they say “conductive pedagogy”.

I begin to think about the many different forms that Conductive Education has taken on as it is practised around the world. I wonder about the similarities and the differences between what Ester Cotton saw and described in the mid-1960’s, what many Western parents first saw and decided to bring out of Hungary in the mid-1980’s and what I experienced and learnt between 1989 and 1993.

I also got to thinking about the words that all these people used to describe what is being practised, and how these words might influence the acceptance or rejection of this “new” method.

The conductors I worked with in Norway were very much interested in the actual words used in the conductive programmes, which is understandable as they have three languages to deal with while working. I on the other hand was much more interested in what terms were chosen in translation to present the work to the public. This has had a huge influence on my work here in Germany, especially on its financing. We should not underestimate the importance of the choices that we make about this, as the terms could be around for forty years, and other people may have to live with the consequences.

Back to Gill (another angel), hopefully not for the last word

Perhaps Gill will come up with more answers. Maybe we shall never get to the bottom of it.

As she says on her blog it would be an interesting research project for someone with lots of time!

Notes

Gill Maguire, Conductive Education Library When did konductiv pedagogia become Conductive Education?
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/2009/01/when-did-konduktiv-pedaggia-become.html

Conductive Education material
– Profile No. 2
http://ce-library.blogspot.com/2009/01/conductive-education-material-profile.html

Mária Hári on Conductive Pedagogy – Edited by Gill Maguire and Andrew Sutton, ISBN 1897588 22 4, available from Conductive Education Library, http://ce-library.blogspot.com/

Gill (another angel) - refers to several of my blog postings in December 2008, for example http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2008/12/susie-and-lill-in-hamar.html

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Comfort food



A spontaneous visit to Café Fatal, 6th January 2009

Getting warmed up

I had not been able to get warm all day so at nine o’clock this evening I decided enough is enough, I picked up my notebook and pencil and I went round the corner to the café with the hope that perhaps their heating was a bit more efficient than mine.

Whether it was the activity, the heating or the comfort food I cannot say, but I returned after Milchreis mit Zimt, Zuker und Apfel, a much warmer person!

The glass of merlot could have helped!

Notes

Milchreis mit Zimt, Zucker und Apfel – rice pudding with cinnamon, sugar and apple.

I wanted to say a little bit more about painting

January 5th 2009

Organised spontaneity

In the Tuesday evening workers group I rarely plan any "extra activity". Most often it occurs spontaneously, depending on time and inclination. This is the advantage of working in a very well equipped and organised environment: everything is at hand, which makes organised spontaneity always a possibility.

Just a minute, was that a hint of hesitation?

The reactions that I received yesterday to my suggestion that we painted the beautiful snowy landscape were very interesting. One woman was immediately engaged but the gentleman seen in a picture on my previous posting and at the top of this one, was very hesitant. This man with athetoid cerebral palsy had surprised himself with his dexterity last week when we were sweet- making and he was about to do the same with painting. His arms, which tend to flail around when he attempts to grasp something, suddenly calmed when he quite spontaneously extended two fingers of one hand on to the forearm of the other hand, which held the paint brush. In this manner he painted to his heart's content! There was not one drop of paint or water flying across the room as he feared might be the case and had prompted his initial hesitation

What did I do?

I certainly didn’t teach him to paint. I certainly didn’t teach him how to hold a paint brush. The time was much too short. What I did do was to give him was the opportunity to be active.

In the group I give him the opportunity to use his arms and hands in many situations and, as most athetoid clients do, he finds his own solutions, usually by combining the many suggestions that I make to suit his needs.

When I suggested painting he was afraid, as this is a relatively new activity for him and he had yet to discover that some of the solutions he uses in other activities in his life could be just as well implemented here, or very easily adapted. I reacted to this fear by not reacting at all and by assuming that all would be fine (and being, as always, prepared to clear up lots of mess if necessary).

Deviation

I had actually planned on sitting down and painting with them but I was so engrossed in observing how this young man controlled his movements so spontaneously that I got stuck with the camera in my hand instead of a paintbrush.

Repetition

Again, I ask myself, what did I do? Initially I had ranted on about the lovely light and colours and dancing snow but my client just wanted to give it a go and overcome his fear, especially as the other lady was almost finished with her snow-covered trees. So all I did was to stick the chosen paper on the table, squirt the delicious paint on a plate, arrange three different-sized paint-brushes beside it and say “Off you go”! And off he went, very successfully at that, in the manner described above, calmly creating a picture that he was very proud of.

Notes

Just a Minute

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_a_Minute

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00gbc96

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Snow in the City




January 5th, 2009, Nürnberg, Germany

...and even more “am Land” (in the country)

When going out of the city this morning everything got whiter and whiter until it was impossible to distinguish between land and sky. A fine snow had been falling all night and it was still coming down, touching my cheeks and making them tingle.

It was the type of snow that is not at all good for snowballing or snowman-building but because of its dryness, and therefore its lightness, it is very easy to clear away. This was a good thing as the snow had yet to be cleared around the centre where I work and, before I removed any layers of clothing, I set to pushing away snow, clearing a path for the wheelchair-users. This activity is always a really good way to get warmed up, which I needed after the tramp across the fields from the bus stop.

Yes I had actually left the bike at home today!

Snow chains for wheel chairs?

Has anyone who doesn’t normally use a wheelchair tried moving around in one in the snow?

Apart from the hands becoming instantly numb from the cold metal, and compacted snow and ice, it is very difficult to move forwards. Even in an electric wheelchair there is always the danger of wheels spinning and digging oneself deeper and deeper into the snow. This is especially so when negotiating a cleared pavement where snow is always piled up on the sides, making the paths very narrow and hardly ever wide enough, even for a baby’s pram to pass by.

I have yet to see snow chains on wheelchairs but I expect that they exist somewhere. I certainly would have been happy to have had them on a couple occasions with a wheelchair-using friend when we dared to be like all the other folks one Christmas and venture out to “walk” in the forests. I had to dig the chair out with my bare hands, pack branches under the wheels and push!

Epiphany

Work in Germany has not actually got back to normal yet after the festive season as tomorrow, 6th January, is a holiday. Most people have tacked an extra day on to their break and “real” work will start in earnest on Wednesday.

My “workers group” and I have been meeting regularly over Christmas in an attempt to combat the stiffness which usually accompanies the long break. This is a time when most physiotherapists and occupational therapists, masseurs and other professionals who have anything to do with manipulating and moving bodies, seem to shut up shop for weeks on end.

We have actually managed about eight hours of Conductive Education over the past ten days, which isn’t bad but still not enough when all the other activities which keep my clients active have been cancelled. There has been no swimming, no physio and very little fresh air.

I realised that I too was moving cautiously as I tramped through the snow, and while working in the group I took care to make sure that my back behaved itself in the cold. I have been wrapped up in alpaca, angora and oiled Guernsey wool all day, with the hope of keeping my muscles warm.

Winterschlaf (hibernating)

There are about fifty people living in the centre where we have our Conductive Education rooms, there is also a workshop and some private housing for people with disabilities.

Four people come regularly to my "workers group" on a Tuesday evening. Today however only two turned up, the others not finding the motivation to come out in the snow or to interrupt the last days of their holiday with some activity.

It had actually been the same two clients attending the group most of the Christmas holidays. It isn’t only the motivation that is lacking with the others. It is getting increasingly difficult for these people to find the money to pay for Conductive Education and it is understandable that after the expenses of Christmas they decide to take a break.

Ready for a bit of action

The three of us, however, were there and raring to go! I had cleared a path, the wheelchair-users had found someone to accompany them the few hundred metres on foot, just in case of a spot of trouble on the ice, and we were ready for a bit of action.

After the regulation eins, zwei ,drei, vier, fünf (one, two, three, four, five) accompanied by some lovely music I would have loved to have taken my clients out into the snow for the " walking programme", but being alone I found it was a bit too risky, I didn’t want anymore accidents!

From drab to sparkly and tingly overnight, just like Cinderella going to the ball!

We walked and did other things indoors, like observing the snow from the window.

I am still so inspired by the snow and the light effects from Norway, with its pink skies at night and never-quite-light days, with the blues and purples reflected in the snow, that I had been talking to my clients about it. It is really quite a change for our senses when suddenly overnight our surroundings change from the winter drabness of the grey and brown earth colours, with a hint of dull green and black branches of trees, to a delight of dancing lightness when it all becomes covered in deep snow. The white reflects the light and a weak sun changes the colours constantly, shadows on the ground are no longer black they take on colours, either warm or cold.
I talked to my clients about all of this, about the brown-to-white overnight, about the colours and the whiteness, the shadows and the shapes. I did this with the hope of inspiring them in some painting. It is difficult to guide people to see what is there and to help them transfer it to paper, rather than for them to put on the paper what they think they see, without actually looking. It is just as much about changing how we think and see and move as all other aspects of my work.

We attempted some paintings of our German snowy landscape which, although very different to what I experienced in Norway, was still very beautiful. I put a selection of papers and colours on the table and we had thirty minutes' relaxation with music and painting and enthusiasm.

Art in action

The session was a good end to the holiday season and an inspiring introduction to getting back into the swing of work. We have orders for paintings from another department in the centre, to be hung in an intergrated kindergarten, so we discussed organising another weekend of “art in action” to produce them. They have particularly requested pictures with lots of bright colours so next weekend we may be recording our experiences of the New Year fireworks or the hope that we have of spring appearing soon from beneath the snow.

Hopefully on Tuesday evening we will be back to normal with all the members of the “workers group” back in full swing and motivated once more. I will be there, hopefully riding my bike again, it will be wondering where I had got to!