My visitors today

Sunday 29 March 2009

Exercising the tongue

"Bringing spring into the home", by Susie Mallett, left -handed, 1997


It was one of the best days that I have had for a long time. My stroke group went home exhausted and happy, and so did I.

Here are a few snippets that made us all smile.

The group was small today, which probably has something to do with why what happened actually happened. We could be spontaneous more easily and still gets lots done. All the members in this group had suffered strokes between 5 and 12 years ago.

There were just three in the group, two men and one woman, and me. One man and the woman are both recovering well from symptoms of aphasia but still struggling sometimes to find words, especially those words they would like to use to describe emotions and more abstract concepts. The older man, aged 48, is Russian. The other young man is very shy and very quietly spoken.

I had been in the office when they all arrived. I remained there for a few minutes longer and I listened to them greeting each other. The Russian man with aphasia asked with genuine concern in his voice (a new-found ability) how the lady was. She was delighted to be asked, I could hear this in the tone of her voice, I could hear her smile.
She answered ”Good, I am always good”.
She then went on to find enough words to tell us this story, which I have never heard before in the ten or more years that I have known her:

“I have been 'good' every day since the day four months after the stroke when I stopped crying. My husband came to visit me and I decided I wouldn’t cry any more. At first I didn’t know I had been crying so much. My husband had told me. He came to visit me one day and I decided on that day I would start living my new life and the crying stopped. Since then I can honestly say that I feel good every day.”

This was not said as fluently as I write it but those were her words. With some prompting and a bit of help from everyone in the room she found the words that she was searching for. As she explained to us, it is all there in her head but sometimes it just won’t come out.

The Russian man asked:

“Why exactly four months,why not three or five?”

There followed a discussion on how individuals need different amounts of time to recover, to adjust to new situations, to mourn an old life and learn to live a new one. They decided it can sometimes take a lot longer than four months and perhaps sometimes less, it depends on the individual. The lady explained in her case it had depended a lot on the wonderful support her husband has always given her and her wish to communicate with him once more. She went on to tell us about other ways in which her husband has played a big role in her recovery, for example by insisting that she speaks up for herself, that she tries to speak herself to officials at the health insurance, or makes appointments at the doctors surgery for herself, and by playing Scrabble with her every evening.


I was wide-eyed and open-mouthed while listening to them, there was my stroke group discussing all of this, all quite abstract concepts, and they were doing it extremely well.

But wait, as the session went on it got better and better.

The Russian man began asking me many questions about a trip to Berlin that the two men are going on. It is organised by the association that I often work for and is to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the country-wide association for the disabled.

I didn’t have the answers to these questions so I suggested that he should phone our main office. He was very surprised by my reaction, he had thought that I would do the phoning. The others all encouraged him to practise and then to make the call himself. We found one of the toy telephones from the children’s group, I hid around a corner and with help of his colleagues he began to sort out what it was that he needed to know. After this telephone practice we began with what my clients always call their “Petö”, some one, two, three, four, five on the plinth, at the wall bars and while walking the stairs, interspersed with comments on the phone call and suggestions for questions to ask.

When we took a break I fetched the real phone. The “questioner” has double vision so his friend, who is also going to Berlin, offered to dial the number for him and the lady in the group gave some good tips. She suggested that he did not to try to give too much unnecessary information about himself, but just enough to make it clear to the listener that there was not just a foreigner on the end of the phone but someone who had speech difficulties resulting from a stroke.

My colleague in the office was brilliant. She realised immediately what was happening although I kept silent. She was extremely patient and helpful, she was clear and precise with her answers. My client stayed calm. He was as pleased as punch and by the end had all the information that he needed.

By this point in the proceedings the group were all expressing how tired they were. The tiredness, they said, came from the talking and not from the physical movements. There was a general consensus that it was a huge step forward for them all to be able to talk so much that they became tired by it.

They decided that a sitting programme to finish the session was about all that they could manage, but first came the discussion about the need to talk and to discuss every subject under the sun, amongst themselves and within the group where they feel secure. They know each other well, every member of the group has time, understanding and patience, it is the prefect place to practise.

Not much sitting getting done

Now on to the sitting programme and although we remained sitting we didn’t get very far away from the talking.

What about this Dr Petö!

Our Russian group member told us he is going to Hungary for a holiday with his family and wanted to know about “this Dr András Petö”. Is he still alive? Could he visit his Institute? Would he be able to visit the stroke group to see what it was like there? I offered to write a letter of introduction for him as soon as the dates of his holiday were finalised.

We at last got started on some tasks at the table This is how far we got:

Someone complained that the stick was too heavy to lift. They asked why it felt heavier while sitting than it did lying down. I answered that it isn’t the stick that is heavy it’s more likely to be the effect of gravity working, and as always I forgot the German word for gravity (Schwerkraft).

I had to describe what I wanted to say by using other words, just as I teach the group to do. I came up some rigmarole which included references to Isaac Newton and apples. They got the gist but no one else amongst us was able to offer more information on Isaac and the eureka (I have found it!) moment that he had when formulating his theory of gravitation.

From this point the conversation moved on naturally from Newton to Archimedes who ran dripping from his bath so we are told, into the streets yelling eureka!

The Russian man in the group impressively provided us with half the information we needed to calculate the density of an object. Please remember this this client is recovering from symptoms of aphasia. From here there was no chance to return to hand tasks as we only had five minutes left, and we still had get on to Pythagoras, Icarus and then more Greek mythology.

We discovered that between us we know lots about many different things but there are a few pieces missing This was an opportunity not to miss and alongside the “homework” of incorporating some of the tasks into their everyday lives at the weekend, each member of the group choose one of our philosophers to look up on Google.

With the Google homework set each of the three group members set off, exhausted but happy, to discover all they could about Newton, Archimedes and Pythagoras.

We will Google the Greek myths next week!


Bundesverband für körper-und mehrfachbehinderte Menschen e.V. -,2009-02-06,index.html

Arcimedes -

Pythagoras -

Isaac Newton -

Icarus -

Greek mythology -

Friday 27 March 2009


Lake Louise, 1997

It really is hard to find time and energy to sit down at the computer to do anything on my blog these last two weeks. I have scraps of paper in every pocket of my cycling gear and more lying on every surface in the flat.. These scraps are covered with notes about this, that and the other, jotted down while making tea or waiting at traffic lights, or when I jumped on a tram with the bike to avoid a snow storm (yes it is still winter here). I hope that I will get round to posting some of them before the week is out.

The problem is that the pile of paper scraps just keeps on increasing. I will just about havestopped thinking about one theme when another one pops into my head or something crops up in a newspaper, at work or on someone else’s blog.

I remember last Wednesday when I was catching up on the blogosphere that I read on Andrew Sutton’s blog and knol about making assessments and taking care over the use of the word “assessment”. I immediately wrote down my initial reaction on one of those scraps:

I am sometimes really very glad to work in German, in Germany. In our conductive centre we don’t have initial assessments, which I hear talked about by English-speaking conductors. If in fact we have anything we have voruntersuchungen - preliminary investigations. I like to think of this as both parties getting together to investigate each other to see what is on offer.

Andrew tells us in his posting that the term “assessment” is taken from taxation, meaning ‘How much have you got so I can find out how much I can get out of you?’

I like this definition, and if I change “how much” to “what”, it describes quite well what I try to offer my future clients before they decide to take the plunge into a conductive lifestyle. First they receive a house visit so we can get to know each other and I can provide a bit more information than the flyers give. Then there comes an invitation to visit the group, to watch or to participate, to ask questions and to chat with the other group members. Then they can decide what it is we have on offer and whether they would like any of it. If the response is postive than I just have to decide how and when I can offer what they need.

Initially no “assessment” takes place, if then if anything it is of the Conductive Education and the conductors, certainly not of the clients. I have no need to know what the client can do, the only question that I need to ask is what is the best programme that I have to offer this client, so we can get to know each other and start problem-solving.

Assessments? No thanks.

Sometimes it is nice working in another language.


Andrew Sutton -

Taking a walk in the slow lane

A happy pond-loving family, July 3rd 2005 (my Mum’s 80th birthday)
(Sis, me, brother-in-law, Dad, Birthday Girl)

I have a really busy time at work so blogging is taking a back seat. It has been relegated to the slow lane for a week or so. I am learning how to take things a step at a time and how to use my time efficiently.

Unclear thoughts

In my posting on March 23rd, “A new train of thoughts” I wrote:

“With ataxic clients there is always the need to slow the movements down, in order to find their balance and to distribute their weight to where it is needed. Counting helps, especially when walking.”

Two people raised points in comments to this posting:

Judit wrote:

“Slowing movements down with individuals whose life is affected by ataxia increases tremor.”

” ….. I don’t know what you mean when saying slowing movements down “with ataxic clients”. Susie please explain… “

Andrew Sutton asked in his comment (and in a posting on his own blog):

“How to adjudicate between two different practices/understandings? How to resolve conflicts of opinion? Should one even try to do so?”

“Where is the authority’? How is it decided? Where is the evidence for this or for that way of doing things?”

Thank you for these comments, my work has been extra specially good the past few days because of them. I have been giving much thought to what I meant and how I can best express myself.

I will try to express some of my thoughts from the past few days. Maybe these thoughts offer answers we will see if not then maybe I can open up some discussion on the matter and we can discover some together.

My practice

Whatever I do at work, whether with children or adults, whatever their diagnosis, is fine-tuned to the individuals involved, to their symptoms, to their needs, to their lives. It is difficult to say that I work like this with clients with ataxic symptoms or like that with athetoid, Parkinson’s, stroke or brain injury. I can’t say that I work “like this” with this group or that group because I work with individuals or groups of individuals with tasks to attain each individual’s aims. These tasks are not specific to a diagnosis or a symptom, they can be interchangeable, often used in one individual’s programme for very different reasons to using them in another’s.

Something almost universal, in groups or in individual sessions is the initial need to slow down, to take stock, to understand. Just like I have been doing this week.

There is a need to slow down movement, to slow down the tempo of movement and, most important this, to slow down the thought process. All this needs to take place before the speeding-up process can begin again.

My own thoughts are always several steps ahead of my actions. Perhaps you all have experienced this? I am sitting here on the bus scribbling down my thoughts as fast as I can. I quite often write words that I am thinking before I have finished writing the sentence before.

While I sit here on the bus, thinking faster than I can write, trying to catch the important bits as they whiz past as pictures in my head, I am also thinking about getting off the bus at the next stop. I do not, however get up straight away, I carry on writing, I finish the sentence, pack my notebook in my bag and then leave the bus at the right stop.

Many of the children and adults I work with react differently. Often the moment the thought of their next action comes into their head the present action is forgotten, (overpowered even) by the new one and a different movement is started.

How many conductors have experienced the following?

I pour a drink into a glass that a child is already holding. At the moment the liquid starts to flow into the glass the child begins to think about drinking and, although the child knows that the liquid will spill if the glass is moved and knows about the need to press the glass on the table, he/she will nevertheless begin to lift it from the table towards the mouth.

What is needed here? I think what is needed is to slow down the thought process and the movements to a point that they come together, where they can be synchronised. Counting and using words can help this.

Back to ataxia , perhaps

Ataxia is usually accompanied by a fast sequence of movements, by uncontrolled movement, inability to place a foot accurately where it is wanted, irregular tempo to movement. While concentrating on one limb often the control of others is lost, there is always a lot to do, lots of corrections to make at once, an almost overwhelming task.

My starting point is always learning how to slow down. Learning to separate a thought from an action, to give points or objects to aim for and learning tricks to overcome or prevent ataxic tremor. Included in this will be the use of counting and words.

What is needed is time to bring everything together. Time is something we have lots of. It is there to be used efficiently.

If children or adults learn to walk quickly, it is not because I have taught them to walk quickly. They walk how they can at a given time. As a conductor I then have to work out with them how to control all body movements. We have to work out together the best way for them to make slow movements in order to walk slowly, to reduce or overcome tremor, allowing them to learn to walk slower and slower, and eventually learning to stop, to stand still and to start walking again.

Yes, sometimes when someone with ataxic symptoms stands still for a while the body may begin to sway, which can then become incontrollable movements. The duration of standing must therefore suit the client at a specific point of development and this duration will therefore change. More tasks and “tricks” can be developed to lengthen the time of standing still without the onset of the swaying. Then tasks will be found to facilitate an increase in the tempo of walking and the size of controlled steps, till learners can walk quickly and stop without seeking a wall or furniture, and without falling on their faces.

To begin to walk quickly with controlled movement, it is first necessary to slow down.

Frenkel’s walking-sideways exercises that I picked out in my “A new train of thought”, the exercises set to a rhythmic counting, are activities that I favour for teaching any clients to “slow down”, to bring movement and thought processes into synch. To find a basis from which to build up a rhythmic and controlled, slow or fast pace of walking, and to learn to stop and to stand still. Walking sideways does not allow for forward propulsion , it does not allow for moving faster and faster, possibly leading to more and more “out-of-control” movements and tremor which can occur with all clients when walking forwards. Because of this we have more time to think, to move, to use words and counting, and to move into the slow lane. When being in the slow lane begins to bring the results that we are looking for, to solve the problems, to bring solutions that control or prevent tremor, bring about aimed movement and stability then we can think about pulling out into the fast lane again and speed up both thought and action.

Some clients with ataxic symptoms have a tremor when they walk and they discover that by walking quickly they can remain on their feet. As a conductor I see it as my task to assist them to find ways to walk slowly and also remain on their feet. This will then eventually bring about more controlled and faster walking and stopping. This is not only the case with client with ataxic symptoms, it applies to many others.

Dr Mária Hári gets a word in

I was talking about practice with a colleague this afternoon and she reminded me of what Dr Hári often said to us:
“If you have an idea and have a child in front of you, then try it out.”

There are no rules of how to find a solution, there are no set solutions. Together with a conductor all individuals find their own answers.

Andrew Sutton asked: “How to adjudicate between two different practices/understandings? How to resolve conflicts of opinion? Should one even try to do so?” “Where is the authority?”

Could it be with the client, in the practice?

He also asked: “How is it decided? “

Maybe it is decided by asking these questions: Does it work? Does it make life more liveable? Does it help to find solutions?

Does not the evidence for this or that way of doing things lie in the doing and in the developing of independent thinking and problem-solving?


“A new train of thoughts”

Wednesday 25 March 2009

The Secret Pond, by Susie Mallett

Awesome foursome, March 14th 2009

My special memories and food for my soul

I do not usually feel the need to explain why I have used particular pictures on my blog. They are rarely directly to the subject matter related unless I have drawn something or taken a photo especially for a posting. They are, however, always related to something in my life and they have lots of memories attached to them. I remember exactly the moment when I painted or took all of them, even those drawings in my first school books.

In March I made yet another unexpected trip home to my amazing Dad, to attend my Auntie’s funeral with him and to be with my family.

A favourite place

I took the froggy picture that headed my last posting in a very old graveyard that is, second to home itself, my favourite place in Norwich. In the corner of this graveyard, which is very old and very grey on winter days, is a "secret" pond, hidden behind old trees and bushes, which my Dad once, several years ago now, showed to me and my sister.

On March 14th, almost two weeks ago now, I spent a few special moments with my sister enjoying our "secret" spot. The water was crawling with activity, creatures of all sorts going about what seemed to me their very busy and jolly life. It made us smile and brought us hope on yet another sad family occasion.

I took many photos at the pond that day and my sister and I thought that they turned out really well. We took them to show my Dad later. They brought a smile to his face too. Ponds, and in particular frogs, are enjoyed by our whole family. The three ponds in my Mum's own rather special garden, and the creatures living in them, were a constant joy to her and of course,still are to my Dad, my sister and me.

Three or four...

As for the title that I gave to my froggy picture, there is nothing more to understand except that there were three frogs, although I now suspect there are four of them. On the photo above, taken from a different angle from the one on my previous posting, I think that I can detect a seventh eye and perhaps another leg.

Monday 23 March 2009

A new train of thought

Threesome at the Rosary Graveyard, Norwich, March 14th 2009

Working in mysterious ways

Andrew Sutton has mentioned something on Conductive World that has set me off on a train of thought. You will have to read Andrew’s blog first to understand fully what I have written here:

It appears that Dr Heinrich Frenkel developed a set of exercises for ataxic children. These exercises I believe are just as anyone would use who has knowledge of symptoms of ataxia and can observes the individual needs of clients. Whether a neurologist, a physiotherapist or a conductor, I believe, they all would develop similar exercises or tasks for people with ataxia.

Practice with ataxia

The tasks that we do in a conductive programme with ataxic children are also very similar, although conductors and their clients would be involved in an activity that requires such a movement, and not doing a series of "exercises".

In the series of exercises found at

counting is referred to only when stepping sideways: “Perform this exercise to a counted cadence”.

I find this very interesting. It is when doing such a task with my stroke group that I am most aware of the need for counting, or at least for the pauses between each movement that counting always enforces. It is while carrying out this task that my clients are most able to understand the need for shifting their weight from one leg to the other and they can facilitate this much better by counting.

With ataxic clients there is always the need to slow the movements down, in order to find their balance and to distribute their weight to where it is needed. Counting helps, especially when walking. I like to introduce a few words between the numbers, which helps to maintain full concentration and to increase awareness of the body. I use words like "feet", "hips", "head" and also "Stop". My child clients invent their own, it is more fun.

I have been trying to find the source of Andrew’s report. It comes from the March edition of the Chinese Journal of Contemporaray Pediatrics

and was written by YANG Li, WU De, TANG Jiu-Lai, JIN Lan, LI Xiao-Yan. from the Pediatric Neurology Rehabilitation Center, First Hospital Affiliated to Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230022, China. I think that I have discovered the whole report in Chinese:

It is not in English so I have sent a mail to the above-mentioned authors asking for their assistance.

Seeking Frenkel

I have also been trying to find some original material by Dr Frenkel but have had no luck so far.

The reason for my search is to find out whether these listed exercises are Dr Frenkel’s original
work or whether people have taken just the "principles" (i.e. outward appearance!) and developed something of their own.

How can we know whether these are original Frenkel ideas?

Or has someone done what has been done with Conductive Education over the years and most probably in Bobath, Vojta and many other established therapies, and taken "elements" or "principles" to produce something far removed from what the person who developed the method originally intended.

Perhaps I shall see inly if and when any of my searches come up trumps.


While I have been thinking about Dr Frenkel today I have kept coming back to the same question “Did Dr András Petö know of Dr Heinrich Frenkel?”

I do not know. Petö quotes from and mentions so many people in his book Unfug der Krankheit - Triumph der Heilkunst, there are so many references to doctors who were working in various fields of medicine.

While drinking a cup of tea when I got home this evening I got out the Unfüg, motivated to begin the task of marking each page indicating where Petö mentions a new name. There is now a marker on almost every page so far and I am only a quarter of the way through...

So far, no Frenkel. It will take a while yet to go through the whole book and, even if I don’t find Frenkel there it won’t prove whether Petö knew of him or not!

I am finding it a great nuisance that Petö’s book has no index!

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

Pediatric Neurology Rehabilitation Center, First Hospital Affiliated to Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230022, China.

Chinese Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics -

Sunday 22 March 2009

What happened?

Images of Grandmother, by Susie Mallett, 1975

Who now has heard of Conductive Education?

I have been to the trade fair again this afternoon with a friend of mine. She had been so impressed yesterday when I told her about it that she asked whether I would go again today, with her .

We were just about ready to leave, having spent nearly three hours looking at gorgeous things and wishing that we were richer than we are but, before we went, I wanted to show my friend the wonderful chairs that are to be seen in the photos on the last posting. We were admiring them and at the same I was listening to the people running the stand, talking about how they were made. I suddenly realised than my friend was looking puzzled as she didn’t understand a word that they were saying!

Yes, they were speaking Hungarian, and I hadn't realised. The company was from Komoly near Pécs, a business outlet for the products made at a workshop in Germany. We were interested in the prices of the chairs so I asked for a price list in German. Of course after a few words in German I lapsed, as I do, quite easily into Hungarian much to the man’s amazement. Of course he then asked me what I did, wondering how I spoke Hungarian.

I told him that I had studied at the Petö Institute, and what an amazing reaction that brought! He shook me by my hand and congratulated me for being a conductor, he told me his daughter is a conductor too. I was able to share with this man information on conductive practice in Pécs, his daughter is looking for work and I just happen to know that there are conductors working in Pécs.

This was the very first time since I have lived in Germany that a stranger has asked me what I do and then known what a conductor is. I know this is cheating a bit, as this man was Hungarian and we were at a trade fair for disabled workshops, but even in that situation there would have only been at most a handful of people who knew about Conductive Education. We were both really pleased to have met each other.

A coincidence?

I had started to write a different posting but the story above seems to me to be is a very good introduction to thwhat I had been intending to say.

I have been back in England. Whilst there with my Dad I discovered many treasures that my Mum had put in my room in the last weeks of her life, for me to find. Amongst them are my first books from infant school, my white summer gloves and school hat from grammar school. There is my very first grammar-school tunic (which still fits forty years on, not a lot of women of my age can honestly say that!) and parts of my girl-guide and brownie uniforms, complete with notebook, pencil, folded hankie, sixpence for the telephone, a compass and a piece of string, all still in the pockets.

The most precious find though were the travel journals that I had sent to my Mum, one a month, during my “round the world” trip many years ago. Six books, full to overflowing with drawings and paintings, and full of stories of people met and places seen. Of course I sat down to read, long forgotten memories returning as if it had all happened yesterday. Here is one of them…..

….Sunday 22 November 1987. Bus to Changi airport, last views of Singapore – pot plants down centre of motorway! Parks pools and trees – and high rise flats. Perhaps trying to reduce high suicide rate by making everywhere pretty.

Very early at airport we seem to have been travelling for hours. The flight was delayed till 2.30 so watched West Ham v. Everton, news about conductive ed. in Brum and the awful King’s Cross fire…….

That’s just a snippet from the very first pages. There I was in Singapore waiting for a delayed plane and passing time by watching TV, with news about Conductive Education from the then new institute in Birmingham, and do you know, I was not surprised. At that time almost every newspaper you picked up, whether national or local had an article about Conductive Education. in it, either about a family off to Hungary with a child, a report from Birmingham or something political. Conductive Education was always in the news and almost everywhere that I went on my travels people had heard of it.

Whatever happened?

Centres popped up all over the world, they are still popping up, but the publicity got less and less. Somehow it wasn’t news anymore.

When I read these notes from my 1987 diary I remembered sitting there listening, all ears. I knew about Conductive Education even then, I had applied to study in Budapest with Birmingham’s first intake of students, I hadn’t had the required qualifications at the time so I had gone travelling instead. Many people knew about Conductive Education in those days, I didn’t have to explain what I did to people when I began my training in 1989, I was congratulated and was shaken by the hand as I was by that Hungarian father today.

What has changed? Could we do anything now to make CE world news in Singapore airport again , over twenty years on?

Messing about at the Messe

Trade Fair, Nürnberg, 21st March 2009 (the official beginning of spring)

Looking to the future

Just like all of us my clients get older and older, decisions have to be made for their futures and often I am asked to help at this time. I talk to the clients about moving away from home to study at university, I visit workshops and living accomodation for the disabled with the whole family, I search for information on further-education establishments and I chat with the whole family discussing the options available. Our task at this time is to find out what would be best for the adult-child’s next stage of development.

Looking as far as next Christmas!

To gather information for this aspect of my work was just one reason why I took myself off in the cold to Nürnberg’s exhibition centre where the workshop-for-disabled trade fair is taking place. There were stands representing centres from all over Germany, some of them selling their wares and others displaying the activities that they are involved in.

Another reason that I enjoy this trade fair so much is because there are are many products on display with real works of art amongst them, wonderfully creative and artistic items all produced to a very high standard. It is a perfect place to buy Christmas presents!

Putting the fun into spring cleaning

This year I even found something for myself. I really do not like cleaning but I think that may change in the future since I purchased products from a workshop employing blind people. They produce the most beautiful brushes that you could imagine, with the bristles formed in the shapes of flowers or smiling faces!

Among the many stands I even found a new spinning top for my collection and, this afternoon on my second visit,I am sure to find some more treasures.

Cycling, baking and furnishing the flat

One of the more interesting items on display was a bicycle with a sidecar (see photograph) . In Germany most bicycles with seats for children have a trailer on the back. Having a sidecar instead of a following trailer is more suitable, as rides can communicate during the journey with their passenger. The whole thing weighs about 45 kilos and the sidecar can take a weight of up to 100 kilos.

One of my favourite ideas comes from the bakery in Mannheim which makes personalised biscuits. You can order them with anything from your email address, your signature to a birthday greeting stamped on them. They come in vanilla or chocolate flavours.

The furniture was amazing too, modern and innovative, most of it too big for my small flat or balcony, but I am going to order two sets of the drawers in one of the photos above to put a few of my arty-crafty thing in!


Messing about on the river
Werkstätten Messe 2010, 11-14.03.2010


Brushes and brooms-



Set of drawers

Bike, The Side-by-Side

Garden furniture
Lebenshilfe Zollenhalb

Happy Mother's day

Me, Mum and Sis, 1957; Me and Mum, 1960; Mum and my Godmum, two WAAF girls, 2002 mothers everywhere, especially in England where it is Mothering Sunday


Mothering Sunday -

Saturday 21 March 2009

“Good Morning Readers”



Snow clouds hanging in the air

You may have guessed that I have been away again. The bonus from another sad trip to my homeland was the English Spring that really did seem to spring in East Anglia during the seven days of my visit.

Crowds of golden daffodils

The bright yellow daffodils opened up to line the Norfolk lanes as well as the central reservations in Norwich. The swathes of weeping willow branches were sweeping down to the River Yare, and changed from brown to yellow and then to green seemingly before my eyes!

The hibernating grass began to spring up, standing up tall to be cut by the first, much-too-early lawn-mowers. Lawn-mowers are another sign that I am in England, the country of the perfect lawn, and not in Germanywhere lawnmowers get their first airing in May.

Living in the centre of Europe I miss the slow change from winter to summer. In Germany as in Hungary winter is here one day, with snow covering any signs of spring, and the next day summer explodes into our lives. The fast appearing, delicate spring flowers stay with us for only a few weeks before the sun gets too warm for them and they quickly fade.

Spring cheer

Tulips, primroses, daffodils and hyacinths are sold here in pots from as early as February. We bring them into the house, to brighten the kitchen table or we display them bravely on the balcony. They give us a false sense of spring, they give a bit of cheer to the dreary last days of the winter, which this year has been very long and extremely cold.

It is too cold for these bulbs to be growing naturally outside, the earth is still frozen solid, but we bring the spring into our homes to try to chase away the winter as in the Busójárás in Mohács, Hungary (see photo above and notes), a wonderful festival which I am lucky to have seen in 1992, eating lángos and drinking mulled wine to keep out the bitter winter cold.

As I write this the snow flakes have been falling yet again, so we could be in for a white Easter, after which hopefully the summer will leap out at us!

A warmer wind blowing, spring springing

Since I left England in 1989 I have always tried to return home for Easter. I love to feel the first warmth of the sun on my back in the garden and to pick daffodils and catkins for the Easter table. I like to take a walk on the beach and feel a now slightly warmer wind on my face. This year my trip was a few weeks earlier than I usually plan but spring surprised me anyway. It was springing. The sun was already warming the soil and I could do all of my favourite spring activities.

Casting clothes

In Nürnberg I must wait a while to feel that warming sun. It is still not time to “cast a clout” although it is now warm enough to get the bike out of the cellar and leave the snow boots in the hall, but only until the next deep snow appears!


“Good Morning Campers” - The blog title refers to both Butlin’s holiday camps and Hi-di-hi a TV programme from the 1980s

Daffodils - William Wordsworth
Daffodils (1804)

I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

Busójárás in Mohács -

“Don’t cast a clout”
F. K. Robertson's Whitby Gazette, 1855:

The wind at North and East
Was never good for man nor beast
So never think to cast a clout
Until the month of May be out

Thursday 12 March 2009

You’re the tops!

My top collection, 2nd March 2009

Grandparents, they are so valuable to so many families.

This is a short posting just to show how the whole family learn from each other. To show how Grandparents can practise their own fine motor skills and at the same time become motivators, facilitators even become “conductors”.

We had my whole collection of spinning tops on the living room table as a special request from Granddad, who had so enjoyed playing with the few I had taken with me the week before. Motivated by his grandparents' enthusiasm my young client learnt how to spin many of the smaller tops that he, just last week, had refused to even take in his hand.

The grandparents were so excited by the “newly” discovered activity that they took the whole collection home (upstairs) on two evenings in order to “spin” some more on their own.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Grandma came with great pleasure and pride to tell us that she had learnt some new spinning top tricks, which of course in turn motivated my client to have another go at spinning the more difficult ones.

Sometimes, no, I should say very often, my work is delightful, I teach not only the child but the whole family so they in turn teach each other and the child. I find it particularly rewarding when it is the grandparents who are learning new tricks and I love to take a step back to watch the knock on effect in action.


You’re the top -

Monday 9 March 2009

Beth Brydon

"Arbuthnot" , by Susie Mallett 1981

Another NICE angel

I had just finishing writing the last blog, telling about the "feel good times" for my client, his family and myself and this article below cropped up. I was going to give you the link but I decided to save you the time of clicking and waiting for yet another window to open and to share the wonderful story in its entirety on my blog. It was nice to visualise both Beth and I with our "boys" and their families, having fun and making strides into new territory.

Here it is, enjoy it...

...especially the sentence that I have highlighted, nearly at the end!

Conductive Education® has been offered in Halifax since 2006, allowing Halifax children and adults with disabilities to improve their mobility and self-confidence. Shannon Bower, whose seven-year-old son Justin is a participant in the program sent an e-mail to Conductor Beth Brydon, expressing her joy over the remarkable strides her son has made since beginning the program.

In her own words…

Hi Beth,

There is probably no one on Earth that is receiving more praise than you are right now. You are AMAZING!

I've just been sitting here trying to put into words how to thank you and I just can't come up with anything that is even close to being appropriate.

What you have done for our son in just two short weeks is nothing short of miraculous. I'm still in shock that you have been able to transform him this much! You are what we have been looking for since Justin was diagnosed almost seven years ago. I'm not very religious, but I thank God for you!

This picture literally brings tears to my eyes. Justin was so proud to be CARRYING something by HIMSELF while WALKING for the first time. In just two weeks he has gone from not wanting to use his crutches at all to using just ONE!!! We are so proud of him and so excited at his potential! Conductive Education therapy has definitely been worth it!! You have definitely proved that Conductive Ed is worth the investment!

We just can't believe the difference with this past session. I well up just thinking about how my SEVEN year old son hasn't crawled in days. I can't begin to describe what a big deal that is in our house! We just wish we had heard about you years ago!!

EVERYONE should know about this opportunity and the program you have running in Nova Scotia. You are what we have been looking for these past 7 years. I can't believe that we happened upon you by chance! You are so wonderful. You are professional, friendly and perfect at balancing praise and direction with Justin. I could literally spend all day saying wonderful things about you. I have heard that everyone has an angel... guess you are ours for Justin.

I was very impressed with your professionalism and have confidence in your work.

Thank you again for the difference your program has made in our lives ALREADY! We are excited at the possibilities for ongoing sessions!!


Shannon Bower


Link to story -

Sunday 8 March 2009

"Feel-good-about-myself time"

The sky's the limit - Norfolk, by Susie Mallett 2009

Home or away?

I was with my “Walk in the woods” boy for two weeks, working in his home. Last year he came to the conductive centre, travelling two hours every day with his Grandma. It was a long day for both of them.

After discussions with his Mum we decided to try two weeks of conductive upbringing in the family home. There are many “pros”: actually nearly everything about this work is positive. There are, however, a few “cons” and there are also many “pros” for working with children in a conductive group.

The parents who ask me to work with their child at home always seem to know that this will fit well into the family routine and that the child will be motivated to work, rest and play with me around all the time.

I have never worked in a home where I have felt uncomfortable. I have always had 100% support from the parents and extended families. Maybe I have had a lot of luck, maybe I have been able to make wise decisions as to where I choose to work. I don’t know but, whatever the reason, the work has always been enjoyable and successful. The past two weeks have been no exception.

Lots of successes this week. I even got a pat on the back!

Going it alone: a good feeling for a lad

“My boy” as I shall call him here, walked down two flights of winding stairs alone. I don’t mean without my hands or my voice assisting him. I mean without my presence. This was a tremendous achievement for him, having overcome many problems during the past two weeks, including working out where to place his hands and his feet. There is only one hand-rail in his home and the stairs go round two tight curves, making this quite a complicated action.

We worked for two weeks on this goal. We did lots of creative stuff each day in a room on the top floor of the house.

His learning to do this was doubly important, as the family is about to move to a new house with the bedrooms all upstairs. My boy can now come and go as he pleases, without having to wait for assistance, moral support or reassurance. He knows that he can “go it alone”.

Made to feel good about myself

Just as "my Boy" got to the bottom of the stairs on his own, motivated by a waiting school friend, Dad happened to be passing, he realised immediately what had just been achieved and was all smiles. He said a general well-done, then again, this time directly to me, accompanied by a pat on my back. That was a very much appreciated acknowledgement.

This pat on the back was a rare and valued present for me as a conductor. Yes, I receive many letters of thanks and hugs and emails, but this was so spontaneous and straight from the heart, it was somehow different. I could see in that moment what a difference this achievement was going to make to the life of this family in the new home.

“Feel-good-about-myself” experiences

For everyone this had been a successful “home” work, but I have learnt something very important while doing it that will help me decide on other occasions whetherI work at home or in the conductive group.

I will try whenever possible to work with zickig (irritable) teenagers in need of some “feel-good-about-myself time” in our conductive groups. On the other hand this was definitely time for the complete family to have some seelische Unterstutzung (moral support, soul healing).

The whole family had been feeling responsible in some way for this young teenager's difficulties. He wasn’t walking alone any more, he was afraid to. It has been a long, cold, snowy winter, so not easy to walk outside. The family was busy building a house, there had been little time to walk far or even to practise at home. This teenager was also growing long and lanky and getting more uncoordinated, just like so many young lads of his age.

This conductive upbringing did everyone good, parents, siblings, grandparents and child. They all saw there had been no permanent "damage" done, new goals have been achieved and others re-learnt. The confidence of everyone received a boost during thss two weeks of “feel-good- about-myself” experiences.


Next time it is back in the conductive group for this young lad, for a bit of peer-group pressure and support.


“Pros and cons” – fors and againsts

Saturday 7 March 2009

How to transform an empty page in an action-packed year!

"Rescuing the moon", by Susie Mallett, 2002

Cheerio! Egészsegedré! Prost!

What happened to my blog? Did it become all the things that I predicted it could be when I began writing on March 7th 2008, just one year ago today?

Then I asked myself “Will it become an art gallery, a poetry book, a bike maintenance workshop, a conductive education forum or even my autobiography?”

It certainly became an art gallery. As I reported in February I have even had an order from a reader for a painting.

The piano has been drinking not me

That was the title of the picture that headed my first-ever posting. It is also one of the two paintings that I have sold in my thirty year career as a would-be artist. The other was a print of my grandmother as a child that I made while I was at art school.

“The piano has been drinking not me” was inspired by a favourite song with the same title, sung by Tom Waits.

In this picture I tried to create the seedy atmosphere of an American bar. With a piano player in the darkest corner disappearing into his own world, hardly visible so virtually ignored by the customers in this smoke-filled cavern.

I remember painting it as if it was yesterday. I had listened to the music over and over again, and “watched” intensely the video playing at the same time inside my head. I remember how when I at last began to put paint to canvas I had the image that I wanted finished in twenty minutes. Often I can take days to complete a painting that size (60cms x 40cms), but that day I didn’t even wait for the oil paint to dry to alter anything. I just painted on top, layer and layer of lovely rich colours, which helped to create the murky interior of the bar.

I enjoyed listening to the song, I enjoyed the process of painting and I loved the result. I was extremely sad to see this picture go, but parting with it was made easier by the fact that I liked its new owner. He has a lovely soul. He is the man who makes the shoes and splints for children and adults in my groups. He makes inner soles for the shoes of all the conductors and he makes his own shoes for running marathons.


This has featured occasionally too. I love reading poetry and knowing this my young niece used to send me samples of her own poems when I went off to live abroad for the first time. Here is one from around 1990 when she was just seven years old. She and her twin brother always called me “my Susie” especially when they told their teacher something about me and my travels.

“My Susie” lives in Hungary that’s why she’s very hungry.
She saw a hippopotamus and then she ate her sandwiches.

One of my other all time favourite poems is the Lady of Shalott, which is much too long to reproduce here but you can read it in full at

When I was studying art therapy at Birmingham Polytechnic I spent many tea breaks in the Birmingham Art Museum behind the Margaret Street Faculty of Art. It was here, while walking to the Victorian-style tearooms, that I preferred to the dingy underground café of the art school, that I would scrutinise the pre-Raphaelite paintings that were often on display. One of these was of the Lady of Shalott and it is from getting to know this painting that I developed my love of long, very wavy hair and of Tennyson’s poem.

Bike maintenance?

I really did think that I might get a posting or two in about cycling, but I seem to have neglected my lovely mountain bike since I started my life in the city. I haven’t ridden it for three months. Not because I am lazy but because since the end of December snow started to fall in Nürnberg, the temperature dropped below zero and it hasn’t been much different ever since. There were a few weeks when I was travelling to Norway and England when the grass appeared in its greenery for a short time but we still have snow in Bavaria and although on some days it feels like spring is in the air it will suddenly freeze again, becoming once more much too dangerous for me and the bike.

Perhaps I am getting soft in my old age but I prefer to put the blame for my bike’s lack of appearance from the cellar on an exceptionally cold, snowy winter.

So no bike blog yet, but perhaps when the weather improves, when the snow stops falling and the bike comes up out of the cellar to be cleaned, a bit of “Zen and the art of soul healing bike cleaning” will feature here.

Conductive Ed forum or autobiography?

Well yes, I suppose there has been quite a lot of conductive postings and of late a bit of dialogue taking place too. Not quite a forum yet but getting that way occasionally.

Slowly, slowly I am getting a following and slowly, slowly we begin to communicate.

Personally the conductive part of my blog is the most important. I am beginning to realise through the comments I receive what kind of an audience I now have. I hope to continue with postings that appeal to a readership of conductors, parents and carers, and users of conductive services.

I will however continue to include the “bits-in-between-for-conductors” but I promise I will try not to let these postings take over too often in the way they have sometimes had a tendency to do. On the other hand this tendency only goes to show that conductive upbringing/pedagogy and the likes are not all the do-all-and-end-all to a conductor’s life.

I will write the rest of my autobiography somewhere else, but of course I will be sure to advertise it on the blog when it is published!

Back to the beginning

Another song that I love is one I call “I have everything I need, I’m an artist I don’t look back”, although I have recently discovered this is not its real title. It is the line that begins “You take the dark out of the night time” that seems so appropriate and is a good description of how my blog has changed many things in my life. It really did take the dark out of the night time, it made my life brighter and put me in touch with the wider conductive world again after a long absence. Through my blog I discovered my love of writing and I began to draw and paint again.

The hibernation was over.

Things that a woman should have

My list of things that a woman needs started growing when I received the present of my blog. As I said above, it immediately began to shed the light into the darkness and expand many parts of my life. The list started expanding too!

In March 2008 I had on my list, and still have:

1 .a cordless drill
2. a black dress,
3. a nice job
4. a notebook
5. a camera
6. a claw hammer
7. a mountain bike
8. a full box of watercolour paints
9. a wonderful library of books
10. a few good friends

The bare necessities of life

By adding my blog to my list I now had eleven things that a woman should have, instead of ten. This made the list look like an unfinished list of twenty. Over the past year I have added more and more to the list, so now I have a finished list of twenty.

Receiving a blog seemed to make other things become necessities of life so the list got longer and longer.

The first-anniversary additions to the list are

11. a blog
12. my own flat
13. at least one pair of high heel shoes
14. a wonder bra.
15. a local cafe
16. long hair
17. a collection of “angels”
18. a voice
19. more confidence
20. some purple clothes, but no red hat!

I hope that by my blog’s second anniversary the list will be called “Thirty things a woman needs”

So to end, in the style of Mr Bean talking to his teddy Happy Birthday Blog”.

In my own still developing style “ Thank you very much for reading and making your voice heard too".

Please, please continue doing both.


When I started to write this post a couple of weeks ago I was going to dedicate it to Gill for always being there since my blog's early days with answers to my questions, with helpful suggestions and lots of encouragement. I do so even more gratefully now.

I am sorry that my blog's birthday has been saddened by recent events but Conductive Education has to survive through these hard times as it has others, and keep a cheery face despite everything. Don't forget the very important discussion going on under two of my previous blogs. Some very interesting positions are being openly stated there and your views on this will be very, very welcome. Please keep the conversations going.