Saturday, 7 February 2009

More on summer camps

Tapestry design, from a 1977 sketchbook by Susie Mallett

A new discovery

I discovered the following report on an interesting blog, one that surprisingly doesn’t appear to have the following as most other American blogs, written by parents of disabled children, have, at least the number of people commenting is lower than seen on other such blogs It is called Accessibility Answers:

http://accessibilityanswers.blogspot.com/

The blog, describes itself as a “blog about children and adults with disabilities, that provides access to information and resources to help them lead productive, happy and independent lives.”

I like the form that the blog takes mainly because while reading it links are highlighted to things that I may want to learn more about, just like in Wikipedia. This makes gathering information easy and less time consuming. I shall have to find out whether I too can do this on Blogger. While reading and linking I came across the following paragraph (Andrew is the son of Kris Burbank who writes the blog):

"--Next we tried what Andrew calls "Cerebral Palsy Camp." It was a local conductive education camp that employed two Hungarian therapists for an all-day, intensive therapy program that lasted six weeks. Six hours of rigorous treatment, followed by two hours of computers and swimming at a nearby CP Center. One of the therapists actually lived with our family for two weeks and my parents visited her in Hungary. (Are you seeing a trend here??!) She was lovely, but Andrew hated it! He cried everyday and just seemed overwhelmed by all the physical demands. They tried to make it social and fun, but it was just really hard for him. We continued some of the conductive ed treatment over the next two years after school; however, we decided Andrew needed more fun and less work during our relatively short summer (10 weeks)."

As regular readers may know I have a bit of a problem with some of these summer camps. Sometimes summer camps are the only possibility for children to take part in conductive groups, so the children and adult users and their carers are expecting the best service possible, and so they should.

It is because I have discovered that often there is a lack of follow up and support for families after such camps that I have offered my services over the Internet to anyone interested, (see “Doing a Dina” in the right-hand side-bar).

Deconstructing Andrew's camp

The sentence “my parents visited her in Hungary” could indicate that this conductor was not from the USA and therefore possibly not able to offer follow-up and house visits necessary after Andrew's camp.

I have picked out a few other words and phrases from the above paragraph that sparked a reaction in me. Maybe some of you reading this will record your own reactions to Kris's remarks and to my own.

Six hours of rigorous treatment, followed by two hours of computers and swimming”. Did these two conductors do all of this? They also had to do their preparation, which means at least one extra hour each day even with a group of only six children and brings us up to 9 hours. Then there is the writing of programmes, aims and reports, which adds at least another hour. which brings us up to ten hours a day. If these two were doing all of this it is time here for a something on working hours for conductors. I will leave my comment on the word "treatment" until further on in my posting.

Why do conductors work five-hour shifts in the groups at the Petö Institute, Budapest? Conductors' working hours have to be discussed

So they can offer the same high standard of work to their clients each and every day, and not get burnt out like many conductors now do who are working in a different rhythm in other countries.

So they can do their preparaton and paperwork, and still not have a ten-hour day. Remember in the Petö institute there are a lot of conductors working in each group, so the preparation for the programme of each day is shared, and not all done by two people as in this summer camp.

Some colleagues of mine in Germany work eight hours a day "hands on" with the children and then have to find time for the paper-work, preparation and furniture moving.

In Norway I was working for ten hours on many days, sometimes more to get the work done. I was in the group for six hours with the children, I was preparing the room and the daily programme with my colleague for one to two hours every day, I was preparing material for art projects, and then writing programmes and reports for several hours after this.

I work this intensely when it is a three-week block, when I am away from home and therefore have no other commitments, and when I have a week-off afterwards to recover. I am not saying that this is OK. I couldn’t work at this pace for the whole year (with holidays), which some, many, conductors are expected to do. Maybe it is time that some centres take another look towards the Petö Institute which was their supposed inspiration to set up a centre in the first place, and ask themselves why some of their practice is how it is.
Burnt-out conductors are one reason why there is such a high rate of turnover of conductors in centres around the world. This high turnover brings with it instability and may hinder the development of the centre and its long term plans.

Back to Andrew’s experiences at his “cerebral palsy camp”

“...overwhelmed by all the physical demands” What did Dr Hári continuously drum into us? She always stressed that children are not inactive because they are tired but because they are not being motivated to be active. I remember her telling me in a private conversation that children will forget that they felt tired as soon as their interest is fired up, so much so that they cannot resist taking part. I know from my experience that this is true.

In Norway the children were sometimes tired. We, the conductors, could see it. The programme would be adjusted accordingly and because of this the children were always queuing at the door for the next round of fun.

In my adults groups it is so important that I don’t exhaust my clients with a programme that is not balanced. Conductors need to be observing continuously, watching each individual, checking that there is no one in the group “overwhelmed” by tiredness.

In all groups it is so important to be continuously changing the type of activity, to be observing, and to have the ability to be spontaneous. To be motivating and, above all, not tryingto make it social and fun” but actually having fun, every minute of every day.

We continued some of the conductive ed treatment over the next two years after school; however, we decided Andrew needed more fun and less work during our relatively short summer (10 weeks).”

Does this not perhaps indicate that it is high time for conductive summer camps to change their format?

Camps for living

In Nürnberg we started to call our camps “überlebungs” camps. I was never sure whether this was a word that we conductors had invented or whether it actually is in the German dictionary. It is real, though, and and another way of puting it is über alle berge, which translates into English as "over all mountains".

We wanted to indicate that the camps are to do with living, stepping beyond the particular problems that confront the children in all situations, while showering, dressing, making breakfast. Yes, maybe therre's a little bit of '1, 2, 3, 4, 5...' but after this it is off to the zoo, or to the museum, out for a bike-ride, out to the disco, to the art club, etc., etc, until time to make dinner, eat, talk, undress and sleep.

These camps are about living and full of conductive upbringing Yes the children are tired at the end of the day but not "overwhelmed" by it. They are tired because of living their day to the full. They go to sleep anticipating more of the same again tomorrow, looking forward to an active life.

What is happening in summer camps?

If camps were to follow a different format, showing the families how to live conductively, then the sentence that includes the phrases “conductive ed treatment” and “more fun and less work” is no longer applicable. Families can learn how to live conductively, and not how to "treat" their child after school is out.

So, another question that springs to mind here is "How much parental involvement is there in many summer camps?"

Comments on this are very welcome, especially if there are people out there offering different forms of conductive summer camps, like for example the one run by Fortchritt Verein Starnberg that has offered camps for disabled children along with their siblings, and sometimes for the whole family. I have heard they actually do a bit of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5... ” as well, on a beach somewhere! In my opinion that can't be anything but fun!

Notes

Accessibility Answers

Fortschritt Verein Steinberg
http://www.fortschritt-starnberg,de/

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