My visitors today

Saturday 21 February 2009

A change in practice

Looking forward to spring by Susie Mallett

There is quite a long correspondence going on in the comments section of one of my previous blogs: .

I thought that I would continue the discussion here in a separate posting, and maybe a few more people will notice and take part in the discussion.

The correspondence is about camps and how parents learn about conductive pedagogy and conductive upbringing if they are experiencing a conductive camp for the very first time (or second or even a third time come to that).

Who needs a plinth?

It is essential that parents, partners, carers and the clients all understand what conductive upbringing is all about, that it isn’t about lying on a plinth and counting 1-2-3-4-5 while a leg or an arm is being bent, that it is about something much more than this.

We need ballet, driving, singing and snow!

It is about learning to live, learning how to attend ballet class, even learning how to get there alone. Learning how to stand up and sing at choir practice and even once more becoming the conductor! It is about learning how to get in and out of a car and maybe one day driving it yourself, or about dressing yourself to go out in the snow then learning how to build a snowman.

It is about motivating oneself to be active in the life that one has at this given moment, and it is about continually striving for change.

It is about spiralling upwards and onwards, with everything that we have already learnt influencing every other thing that we have learnt, and influencing absolutely everything else that we do. It is about living with a soul that is healthy.

Relating and giving conductive tips

A child or adult client, parents and carers need to be shown how to relate the tasks given in group to real life situations. Yes, it may be easier at first to hold a solid stick in both hands and bring it behind one,s neck but wouldn’t it be a good idea actually to make clear that in doing this movement we are learning to put a scarf around our neck, or lift our arm to comb our hair, and then actually try it out with the real thing, try it out in the bathroom at home with a conductor giving tips!

I am not saying that these things don’t take place at camp. Of course the children get dressed and go outside, fetch themselves a drink from the fridge etc, but if there is something missing then it is the link between the tasks in a programme and real life.

And who do we need to provide this link?

The parents and the carers, and the conductors.

I have heard it said so many times that clients have suddenly realised why they practise specific tasks, the penny drops and they realise that a certain movement facilitates a certain activity at home. nd I sometimes hear from parents (or carers) that they didn’t know how their child/ partner had learnt to do something independently in a group.

Both tell me that there is a failure somewhere in communications, something is missing. That same link is not there to real life.

What can be done to change all this? How can this link be forged?

I have recently had the experience of working at a centre where the children attend groups regularly throughout the year but, because of the great distance travelled, the families stay at the centre, just as they do in many camps. I have seen the many hours of living done as a family outside group, hours that could be utilised. The question is how could this be done to give the whole family the best during their precious few weeks at camp, how can they gather as much information as possible to take home with them?

I suggested, in a comments on my previous post, that perhaps providing another shift of conductors who would work outside the group hours might give the answer. Conductors to work alongside the family, there to advise when out on shopping trips, when getting in and out of the car, getting on and off a bike, when playing cards or board games, preparing breakfast, dinner and tea together. The conductors there to give tips on how the child might be as active as possible in the daily life of the family.

Another suggestion, more on the theoretical side, would be to provide seminars in the afternoons or perhaps in the evenings for parents and carers. Perhaps something about Dr András Petö and his life, the development of the Petö Institute under Dr Mária Hári, the bringing of Conductive Pedagogy out of Hungary, how the many different countries then developed and changed it to suit their personal situations.

Most importantly there could be lots of practical examples to show what conductive upbringing is about and lots of question-and-answer sessions.

I have the feeling that something needs to change. These camps are so important to these families, they save up their time and money to attend. It is the responsibility of the service- providers to see to it that after a five-week camp that parents and children alike go home with a very good understanding of what it is all about.

In Germany

My work in Germany is very different. We have regular contact with parents, carers, adults and children. They live locally so we can phone and make house visits. We can be called to meet teachers and physiotherapist. We can be there when a new wheelchair is fitted out or when new moulds for shoes and splints are made.

When I have new adult clients coming to my groups I usually make a home visit before we begin working together. We can spend an hour or two talking about conductive upbringing, the groups, our aims and their personal needs. As work in the group proceeds it is essential that in every block we spend some time discussing conductive rehabilitation and how the clients use at home what they learn in the group. We discuss their everyday lives, other family members come in to join us, to observe or ask questions, and everyone gives everyone else “conductive” tips.

Children usually come into the centre for an initial assessment and this is also gives the conductor the opportunity to explain about conductive upbringing and to give printed information and answer questions. In subsequent parent’s meetings, with and without the child present, we can discuss the child’s progress and what is happening at home and at school on a regular basis. We can talk more about conductive upbringing.

We work with the children and adults five times a year in our groups, bt they live locally and we have contact them all the time. I visit other families up to three times a year in their homes and we have regular telephone contact with each other in between times.

We have a different system here to that of the “camps” We do offer a “conductive holiday camp” to our “regular” children in the summer, although these are usually just for the children, parents don’t stay on site. In our system ,with regular contact between families and conductors, we do not have convey so much information in such a short time.

There are twenty-four hours in a day

So back to the question how do parents at camp learn about conductive upbringing. They are there on site twenty-four hours a day for several weeks. Their children disappear into group for maybe six hours a day, where they are working with the conductors on the programmes developed for them. Maybe it really is time to use those hours outside the group time to help the process along.

What do you all think?

Do you already do this/experience this?

Is it already happening?


Gemma said...

Hi Susie, I have enjoyed reading your blog for sometime now and you have certainly hit the nail on the head with this posting.

At our centre we realise that we are not doing enough to teach the parents/adult clients how to follow through with their learning outside the program. We see the majority of our clients once weekly then for an intensive 'camp' during the summer. Our main problem is that with the time spent in programs through the week, we have not had much formal time to provide the necessary training to the families we work with. One could argue that we are spreading ourselves too thinly, but our past goal has been to enable access to a good quality program to meet the need and demand and successfully establish a permanent program. This means that 'spare hours' though the day have steadily been replaced by new programs and new groupings of clients. We desperately need more conductors, more space and more funding to enable the conductors/space to be reality!

Currently during informal discussions at the beginning/end of the programs we do offer advice and suggestions for each child on how to develop their skills and apply what thy have learnt at home and at school and often follow this with reports and written documentation, but I am sure that without the background understanding of conductive pedagogy and upbringing, this 'advice' does not translate to the home environment well. Similarly, we have often had classroom assistants from schools attending with a specific child with the purpose of teaching them the skills to follow through with the child's achievements at school and this has been successful.

We even have an observation room that enables parents/carers to watch. The problem with this is that their observations are not directed and the activities their child takes part in are often misinterpreted. We also have other professionals observing occasionally who similarly do not interpret accurately what and why the clients are doing the tasks and activities. Another 'training' issue to be addressed in the very near future.

We have some handout type information, but with the large range of clients we now see -this has to be revised and revamped to cover relevant topics for different client groups (another issue of finding the time).

Our vision is to be able to provide training sessions/meetings in the evenings for parents/carers/clients to attend to enhance their knowledge of what our program is all about and to help them gain maximum benefit. I guess we need to set ourselves a schedule to get this training in place. Time and energy are really the only factors holding us back and on reading your posting you have certainly inspired me to find the time and get our new and improved conductive program up and running by the summer time.

Our progress reports, written 3x year for children and 2x year for adults contain a section on recommendations in which we ususally give or reiterate ideas to follow through with at home and at school. Again I feel like with out the prior in depth understanding of conductive learning and upbringing it is difficult for the families to translate to their everyday routines. Also, it requires us to give step by step advice to follow through with at home instead of teaching the families to develop their own expectations and opportunities for their child themselves.

I recently attended the chiropractor for the first time, who before even meeting with me to discus my needs, provided a information session that was compulsory to attend before beginning treatment. This gave me huge insight and understanding into his practices and theories and enhanced the treatment I received. This is the type of provision I hope to be able to introduce along with regular 'refreshers' with opportunities to deal with questions and give specific advice. I would be interested to hear if anyone already runs this type of programming for parents/carers and to get advice on getting this process started.

I feel like despite being a small centre (2 conductors) we have the same demands in terms of training, recording progress, developing an understanding of the CE program as the larger institutions, but with way less man power, time and resources.

Susie, you have picked up on the main factor holding the development of our clients and program back and I take full responsibility to remedy this situation. Thanks for keeping me focused on improving our conductive practices.


Kate's Blog said...

How the exercises apply to everyday life? I can tell you extensively which things my little eight year old has trouble with. I can't tell you which of the exercises here at Ability camp will help improve some important functions she needs to accomplish tasks. Here is one example, all weekend Cassie had trouble getting in and out of a chevrolet pick up truck. The step was high, the bar slick, one time she managed to climb in and was stuck amost laying on the floor yelling for help, She got her legs twisted up a few other times. These situations embarrass a high functioning girl who is extensively trying to exercise and strengthen her body. I have about 20 more tasks that frustrate my girl because she cant quite get her body to work when she needs it. But hey who bothers to ask a parent before they begin to assess and treat. Parents input is invaluable and if it is not a team effort the gains will be very slow for a young child.

Susie Mallett said...

Kate, thanks for keeping the discussion going.

It is really important that clients, whether children or adults, know why they are doing the really quite abstract movements in the conductive programme. They must talk about which part of their daily life each movement relates to. They, their carers and/or parents need to discuss with conductors what is it that is difficult for them in their daily life at the moment, identify where they wish to become more independent or efficient. Establish what it is that they want to learn.
The programme needs to be formed so it will be continuously developing these needs, and continuously relating the practised movement to the real life situation.

The ability to relate the abstract to the concrete is so important, without it how is conductive living going to take place?

It is in order to build this relationship between the two, between the abstract and the concrete that I put many “bits in between” in my work. This means a lot more preparation work is needed but it makes the “work” easier for the clients. We all know it is easier to practise a movement when the need for a movement is actually there. While being creative it is much easier to crouch down to retrieve a dropped pencil or to clean up some spilt flour from the floor. It is easier to lift a hand with a paintbrush to finish the highest corner of a painting just as it is easier to bend and stretch while unloading the dishwasher and putting things on the highest and lowest shelves. It is easier to do all of these than to stand at the wall bars and do a standing or sitting programme.

Today we were going to put so much into practise of that which we learn in a more formal setting in the group. We were going to shop and then cook the lunch but four inches of snow put a stop to that, snow and rolators are not very compatible.
We have postponed, but not cancelled, the activity due to the weather.
Mum could have gone shopping for us but then we would have missed out a lot of the “bits in between”. For example the step up into the car which replaces a wooden box, the stretching of arms to the high shelf were the cheese is that we need, the crouching down to pick up the pennies we dropped, the pinching of coins to count out the money, the reading of the list or looking at the pictures then finding in the shop what we need. We would have missed out on the necessity to walk head held high while searching for items around the shop, instead we would have practised this with a bean bag on our head in the group which is fun but very abstract.

Of course I am not saying that the formal programme is not important or is not necessary. What I am saying is that it is no use to anyone when a child who learns so much in this formal way in a four week camp has no idea what for and can not relate it to every day life. If the parents and carers have no idea either how on earth can conductive upbringing take place.

The practice carried out at the Petö Insititue for years and years and as far as I know still being practised, could possibly work in boarding schools in other countries when there are only conductors responsible for the upbringing of a child. There was little or no parental involvement because the children were rarely with their parents. The conductors did it all, the formal and the bits in between.

At a “boarding school for four weeks”, a camp, there needs to be a different kind of practice. Conductors are only responsible for the upbringing of the child for a very small part of the day, and a incredibly small part of the year. It is absolutely essential that the parents/ carers are involved otherwise we must ask ourselves what we are trying to teach the child or the adult in this short “abstract” time.

Susie Mallett said...

Gemma, thank you for taking so much time to write this long and interesting comment. I was absolutely thrilled to read it.
I would like to pick up on some of the points you made.

I have experience of working in a centre with an observation room. The door was always open so both the parents, carers, teachers and therapists spent a great deal of time watching the group. It became very apparent as the course developed that the parents were not understanding or were actually misunderstanding most of what they saw, or thought they saw.
I am always happier when visitors sit in the room we all are working in so they can be involved in the work more directly. I think that an observation room can only really be of practical use when a conductor can sit there along side the visitors and talk about what they are watching, answer any questions and clear up or avoid any misunderstandings. This could perhaps be developed so that visitors are given some observation points written on paper which can be discussed afterwards with the conductors.
As you point out in a small centre with a staff of two it is impossible for a conductor to be sitting in the observation room and to be leading the programme at the same time.

There are many differences between centres which offer services to clients on a weekly basis and those who offer a four week block once a year. Of course there is a need to educate all those involved in each of these situations, but when clients attend on a regular basis there is always the chance to catch up with questions that have cropped up during the past week. When a client lives miles away and will perhaps only meet the conductor again in six months or even in a year, this regular exchange of information and ideas is much more difficult. Although technology could rectify this.

I too have learnt a great deal from personal treatment from different kinds of therapist which I have found very useful and been able to apply in my work. Not only as you describe from the information sessions they provide, but also from experiencing the physical closeness of a stranger touching my body. Our clients are in constant physical contact with strangers, doctors, nurses, physios, orthopedic shoe makers, conductors, etc.. I wonder if they ever get used to it. They appear tolerate it very well, but I am not sure that they actually get used to it.

Thank you again Gemma for getting involved in our discussions. Please keep the comments coming and if you don’t have time for your own blog feel free to let us know more about your work by using the comments facilities on the blogs of others.