My visitors today

Monday 27 April 2009

Timing, time and Begeisterung

Dr Franz Schaffhauser, Dr Zita Makói, Dr Andrew Sutton,
Novmember 2008, Budapest, Moira conference


A very young athetoid girl was thrilled this week when we discovered together that she needed hardly any help getting from her place at the dinner table to her walking frame in which she can then go under her own steam to the bathroom. With just a few words of direction she did it and she thought it was magic.

The ladies working in the integrated Kindergarten were “begeistert”(enthralled), astonished and delighted as they watched this. It really was like magic and all our faces were alive with wonder and joy. It sounds soppy but it really was like this.

The following day this girl and I were disappointed and far from delighted when one of the very same enthralled and astonished ladies picked her up from her chair and plonked her in her walker. I could have cried but I didn’t, but I was surprised that the girl didn’t put her parts on, shout and scream “I can do that on my own and you know it”. Then again even if she had done so, this busy lady probably wouldn’t have had time to notice because this girl has a quiet and unclear voice.

Instead of crying in dismay I remained clam and quietly reminded the lady of what she had seen to inspire her wonder the day before. I had hope that on other days it would now be different.

I have been guilty. I know I have done similar things, but I would like to think that when I have then I have done them with more thought and consideration. I hope that I always include my clients, my children, in decisions of how we get from A to B, I hope that I can judge whether children are tired and then use an alternative method. I hope that I will look at the situation and offer them means for success that suit the situation. If I offer walking then it is because we have time for walking and because they have the energy to walk the distance required. I hope all of this is true but I am sure that I too am guilty of offending!.

There is always time, however, to stand up from the table or sit down at the table, we all have time to do this. And here was the ideal situation for the lady from the kindergarten to try out the “new” method, time for us all to have joyful faces again. The moment was lost in the rush, in the notion that there was no time.

It was at this point that I realised why the magic sometimes works, why the tricks come to fruition and why some “clowns” perform magic and why others do not.

Take all the time that you need…

It is to do with having and making time but it is also to do with timing. It is a complicated combination of all sorts of aspects to do with time. It has to do with taking time to observe, time to make changes and time to change ourselves. It is about taking the time to notice that a hand can grasp a walking frame placed a centimetre further away and that it is then not necessary to touch the hand doing the grasping, and about making the time to do this each day.

It all takes time, but the time taken now saves time later, a time when we don’t need to be there at all, when not even a verbal instruction is needed to go to the toilet. There comes a time when it all happens spontaneously, when it works like magic.
First and foremost I believe the most important factor is time. Time to feel the magic working, for it is only then that the motivation is created in the soul of a child or the carer for things to be done independently.

It comes down not only to getting the timing right, the positioning right, but taking time, giving time, timing the moves and the words, and keeping time, keeping a rhythm.

It is about always having time for the people we are working with, having time for ourselves to look at what we are doing, having time for the tasks we set, having time to do everything well.
There is one sentence that is the essence of whether there is magic or not. It was there to be heard again this week when we were asking the children what they still need to learn so they can dress themselves independently. This sentence is:

“It takes too long, Mummy doesn’t have the time!”

But where’s the time coming from?

We live in a world where no one seems to have time for other people, where everyone is rushing around. How sad it is not to have time for one’s own children but, as I witnessed in the Kindergarten, it isn’t only the Mummy with no time.

Yes there is often a shortage of staff but I think it is always better to achieve less in a day with success than to do more in a slapdash, rushed, unconsidered way, with no success.
When we asked the children about dressing and undressing they knew what they were capable of:
“I can do everything alone except put on my shoes” said one.
Another replied “I can undress but not dress myself alone”
Then another “I can get myself ready for bed”

Then came back the million dollar question from my colleague:
“How long does it take you in the mornings to do this?”

Nine times out of ten the answer is “ I don’t know, because I don’t do it, I would take too long”.
Too long for what? I asked myself. Out loud my colleague did dare ask:
“Wouldn’t it be better to get up half an hour earlier?”

These children cannot of course decide this. We need to discuss it with their families. At the moment all children in the group attended conductive mother-and-child groups and kindergarten groups for at least four years. This is why they are so active and can do so much of the dressing and undressing themselves. They all have families who know about and are involved in Conductive Education, but on hearing the children’s answers somehow I doubt that their families are really interested in a “conductive upbringing” in my sense of the word. For most of them their lives just don’t have time for such a thing.

No time for magic moments.

Call in the clowns

While I have been writing these postings on “magic” in Conductive Education, and reading with interest all that Andrew Sutton has recently added to the discussion, I have been constantly reminded of Hunter Campbell “Patch” Adams, the man whose life was depicted in the film Patch Adams, starring Robin Williams.

Dr Adams believes in the necessity of developing compassionate relationships with patients and that this kind of care relies on humour and play, which are essential to physical as well as emotional health. His vision is to open a hospital offering free ”holistic” care.

While doing a spot of Google research I found a website advertising courses in magic for occupational therapists, with the idea of using magic tricks to improve hand and finger movement. I am, however, more interested in the other kind of magic that I saw in the film Patch Adams.

I live near a hospital in Nürnberg and have often seen a “Clowns for Hospitals” van driving past my house. Perhaps I have this magic taking place right on my door step.
Back on Google I have not found anything specific about Nürnberg and clowning in its hospitals but I discovered a lot more about the Red Nose Clownsdoctors Foundation set up in Austria in 1994.

Several European countries are members of the International Clowndoctors Foundation including both Germany (Rote Nasen Clowndoctors) and Hungary (Piros Orr).

Clown doctors are specially trained artistes who visit patients in hospital with the aim of bringing humour and laughter into their lives and through this to bring them seelische Untertutzung, (uplifting the soul). The patients are visited regularly by the clowns and cared for with both medicine and humour with the hope that they improve not just for the moment but permanently.

The “magic” that I am talking about is more to do with the magic of "Clown doctors" than it is with learning of magic tricks to develop hand movement as the advertisement for occupational therapists advocates. Although of course it is possible that one can influence the other even if the initial aims are different.

What is the magic in Conductive Education?

Is it the "tricks" used to achieve something that I describe as magic?

Or is the magic really that feeling of success that reaches the soul when the tricks bring results?

I believe it is both, but certainly the one which " does the trick" is the magic that reaches the soul.

While I was searching the net for more information I found Dr Zita Makói, a Hungarian pediatrition who brought the clown doctors to Hungary. She was coincidently also Director of the Petö Institute for a short time before the present Director, Dr Franz Schaffhauser, took over the post in October 2007.

In an article “A portrait of a clown” Zita Makói gives an insight into the work of Piros Orr, which she describes in this way:

“The clowns know about a level in children that not even parents and pediatricians know. They step over limits because they don't follow a nurse, doctor, or parent model. It's outside of the real world, like magic. “

She goes on to say:

" But there's a long list of requirements to be truly successful: an artistic background, sensitivity, tolerance, capacity for team work, ability to communicate, not just with words, and not just with children but with parents, doctors and nurses too. “The clowns are not performing so much as building relationships—one-to-one. They must be in tune with the parents' wavelength, and cope with the specific atmosphere of the hospital, of the nurses, and of the doctors. It is often very tense, and always changing,”

This description of the qualities that a clown doctor needs is so reminiscent of what Dr Hári told us, as students are the requirements needed to be a successful conductor. The final words referring to constant change are particularly important in my work as a conductor.

Most importantly, though, whether you are a clown doctor or a conductor we need to find time, use time, make time and teach our clients and their carers to do the same. If we can achieve that then we may have time to look for the magic.


Magic Moments by Perry Como and Burt Bacharach

Andrew Sutton -

Hunter Cambell “Patch” Adams

RehabEdge magic course

Red Nose Clowndoctors , Austria -

Red Nose Clowndoctors International-

Red Nose Clowndoctors in Hungary – Piros Orr

A portrait of a clown, featuring Zita Makói and János Greifenstein (Greifi) –

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