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 -


Judit Szathmáry said...

How does “Threesome at the Rosary Graveyard” fit into discussing a research paper published on the Internet?

“With ataxic clients there is always the need to slow the movements down, in order to find balance and to distribute the weight to where it is needed.”
Slowing movements down with individuals whose life is affected by ataxia increases tremor.

I am not sure what are you trying to say with the title and I don’t know what you mean when saying slowing movements down “with ataxic clients”. Susie please explain…
Thank you Judit

Andrew said...

Pictures and practices

1. Pictures

I think that the very first CE blog was Leticia’s Con Amor. I have always been cheered and attracted by the photographs that have opened her every posting (though I have never had the nerve to ask her whether she takes them herself!).

I wish that I had the know-how and the energy to put pictures on Conductive World. I really envy those who can brighten up grey acres of the written world. I would particularly like to include cartoons, like ‘real’ newspapers and magazines do. If I did I would soon run into copyright problems. I would also doubtless cause frissons amongst those whose taste and sense of humour are other than my own, less ’British’ perhaps.

I doubt that I would favour either froggy threesomes or winsome babies wearing large glasses. I would care about being chased over copyright but as for the other, Frankly my dear…’

2. Practices

When I began by own activities in the blogosphere, I wrote:

‘This blog is private property, the facility for comments grants open house and I shall treat visitors here as my guests, with respect. If the analogy helps, think of this blog as my front garden on the Internet. If I see litter, offensive material or other rubbish left there I shall just clear it up.’

People should be free, nay encouraged, to criticise whatever they see on the Internet, be that images or text. On my own site I have never yet felt the need to clear anything like that away. Where they have jarred I have welcomed them as objets trouves and integrated them into the design, and advanced my own understanding by doing so.

Here we have something of absolutely fundamental importance for Conductive Education as a whole. We have a genuine disagreement of opinion over conductive pedagogic practice, publicly expressed. Is this a first for Conductive Education. It certainly will be if others join in the discussion, corroborating on opinion or another, or introducing others. The joints of conductive pedagogic practice have grown arthritic over the years for lack of intellectual argument of this sort. Keep at it ladies (and gents).

For me the fundamental question here is not a question of ataxic movements, or speed of movement, or tremors, important though these be for children/adults with ataxia and their parents/cares, and for the conductors who work with them. There is a huge problem in CE, unspoken, but I can hardly believe unrecognised. 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? This is not a matter of ataxia or any other such specific. It runs through the system like the lettering through a stick of rock.

How do we get somewhere more technically better founded that then present system seems to offered? One can thing of expensive ways to doing this (some open-minded and basic critical evaluation of a range of present practices, leading to some basic R&D )research and development), more frequent written reports of actual conductive practice (by conductors and their clients, as well as by outsiders), discussion groups, debates, working parties around particular issues, just good old fashioned argument.

Judit asks Susie: ‘I don’t know what you mean when saying slowing movements down “with ataxic clients”. Susie please explain… ‘ Quite right, Judit. We should all be asking such questions all the time. Could you also please explain your own position on this.

That these things even need saying is a mark of something deeply worrying the state of Conductive Education.

At the moment, twenty-odd years since CE first went West (topographically, anyway) is am faced with the spectacle of two experienced conductors, trained in the same place (both under then steely gaze of Mária Hári), with apparently diametrically opposed approached to a particular problems. What questions should I and others ask in such a situation?

- are they talking about the same conditions?

- the same age-stages?

- the same tasks?

- or (as I naggingly suspect) something more fundamental?

- where in the ‘conductive literature' can I look any of this up?

Waste not want not: this response turned out rather longer than I intended (sorry!), so I’m using it, with acknowledgement on Conductive World too.