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Friday 21 August 2009

Petö Methode - das Wunder für Spastisch Gelähmte

"The shepherd's delight" by Susie Mallett, 2008

I planned the day so that lunch would be early and I could settle in front of the television in time for the "Midday" magazine at 13.00.

I asked one of the youngsters to sort out the technical stuff for me, like switching on a television and finding the right channel, and we settled down to our fish dinner.

It is Friday.

I made it in time

The presenter said early on in the show that they would be discussing this that and the other, the "other" being a report about a “therapy for people who had problems with their muscles”. At this point I was less optimistic then I had been earlier.

At 13.20 a storm that seemed to be brewing up caused the television to show nothing but snow. We quickly fiddled with knobs but in the end had to move to another TV, in the hope that the report had not been shown in the minutes that we took to reorganise.

Another twenty minutes then came the cue

This is roughly what they said in the introduction -

People who have a spastische Lähmung (spastic disability) were often tied to a wheelchair but then a Hungarian doctor came along, Dr Petö, and they stood up and walked. A miracle was taking place.

Yes this is how the introduction went, well, something along these lines. You can check it out on the link below, unfortunately I still can’t get the sound to work so I can not translate word for word.

The insurance just won't pay

The film went on to show Mario Schumacher and his mother in their home. Mario was showing us how far he had learnt to walk and his mother was explaining how the Petö-Methode had helped them gain some independence in their lives.

The aim behind making this programme was to bring to national attention the problem that the health insurance companies do not pay the cost of Conductive Education.

This family has debts of thousands of euros, the price paid privately for Mario’s increased independence, because the health insurance companies refuse to pay for it, because it isn’t in their “Book of approved provision”.

These companies are still looking for the written proof that it works. They do not believe their eyes, or the words of the people who experience it personally. The word Studium appeared again, as is usual in such reports.

The health insurance company in question (DAK) did not want to talk about individual cases, which suggests that perhaps the Schumachers are not the only family putting on the pressure.

It was a surprise when I saw this family. I had actually known that this film was being made. I had been invited a few months ago to help with its production. The charity that I work with in Nürnberg had offered help too, by covering my costs, both travel and time, and by providing any information needed for the programme. I hadn't heard any more, though, until today.

The report moved from the Schumachers very briefly to Würzburg, with some shots of children “walking” in a kindergarten session, and Wolfgang with a very short spot.

On the whole it didn’t say an awful lot about the "miracle" Petö Methode, certainly not enough to cause damage. The film had been made primarily to bring into the spotlight the position of many families in Germany, highlighting their struggle with health insurance companies. The families want financial support to pay for the method the they choose for their children with cerebral palsy.

The “Petö-Methode

This could turn out to be a change for the better.

A change to a title that is far better than Konduktive Förderung, something that has been around since CE came to Germany.

Using this name could perhaps stop the immediate bundling of anything "conductive" into a specific drawer. The initial mention of the Petö-Methode would make no association to either education or health (though of course it would be best if pedagogy and upbringing were the words that we used here in Germany and that the whole thing was in the hands of the Education Department).

But for Frau Schumacher and the others who are fighting the health insurance companies for payment of Conductive Education perhaps the name Petö Methode might prove to be to their advantage.



Andrew said...



Thank you very much indeed for this report and for the link to the archived programme (I wonder how long we will be able still to see it up there).

I will want to remark on this report when I have had another chance to watch it again, and will do so on my own ‘channel’!

Meanwhile I do have to correct you on one thing, I think, but I am speaking from distant memory and have no immediate way of checking what I recall.

You wrote:

‘Konduktive Förderung… has been around since CE came to Germany’.

Not so. Have you seen the little booklet ‘Was ist konduktive Pädagogik?’ by the wonderful Gabi Haug, published privately in Ulm in 1988? She was the first person to try to get things moving in Germany. She was a special educator and adopted a very educational/developmental/social position.

This certainly antedated the terrible confusions that the Förderung people brought upon Germany (and Austria) from the early nineties.

She also worked closely with the Akoses. Go too to the original (German) edition of ‘Dina’ that she edited. If my memory serves me, you will certainly find Pädagogik there, lots of it, and the Petö-Methode too (which he certainly spoke and wrote of elsewhere). Not the issue here, Iknow, but it is such a shame that the Akoses were somehow squeezed out of the CE mainstream. A shame? A disaster.

I so not think that introducing the name Petö-Methode would in any way crack the health insurance/Förderung problem.

A method? OK, a method of what? A therapy method would be the reply (not perhaps from the conductors, but who listens to them?). This path takes you not an inch (c.2.5cm) forward. You are still with the suits of the health insurance and the answer will still be a resounding NEIN. And in a way (one that I don’t wholly agree with, but that is the world that we live in) this answer is quite right and proper. The watchword in contemporary health systems is ’evidence’, and by that is meant evidence collected in a certain way. There isn’t any evidence of that sort, nor will there be, for CE, KF or PM, and fiddling with the name won’t make it so…

But you go for the guts of the problem at the end of your posting, when you write:

‘…though of course it would be best if pedagogy and upbringing were the words that we used here in Germany and that the whole thing was in the hands of the Education Department.’

The Förderung folk have hogged the CE limelight in Germany (and Austria) far too long. I am second to none in my admiration of things German and I do so envyingly enjoy your accounts of wonderful railways and food and so much else, in comparison to which the UK is a second-rate shambles. CE is a shambles in the UK too but, except for a few sad diversions it has not been tempted down the slippery road to Förderung. Like contemporary British understandings of disability as a whole remains so far, however inadequately at times, primarily a social and educational endeavour. No professors here taking themselves seriously in white lab coats! (Is it even possible to translate the expression ‘barmy boffins’ in the land of Kraft durch Technik?).


PS Are you really so olde-worldy that you need the kids to show you how to turn on a TV?

Andrew said...

PART II (an extemporisation)

My (unsolicited) advice to Germany is to lose the docs and the profs, certainly lose konduktive Pädagogik and everything that goes with it. Go back to where Gabi (and the Akoses and the German pioneer families were, before they were elbowed aside. Only then can you and restart on the long road of ‘selling’ the notion of conductive upbringing and conductive pedagogy to the pedagogues Heil- und Sonder-), the social pedagogues and social workers, the psychologists (especially the Entwicklung ones, the disability rights and family rights folks etc.

I amnot suggesting that this is an easy path but at leas CE would not find itself dragged of its most central principles the special interests of the medical and paramedical folk, already ensconced and retrenched within the existing systems. Think politically and ask yourself why they are so desperately ensconced and why so determined to appropriate what they understand to be the trappings of CE.

Might it be that they are entrenched because they know that in the great historical and international scheme of things (and this is nothing to do with CE) they are losers, an endangered species that increasingly soon the Great God Evidence will be chasing from their comfortable strongholds in public heath systems? This is not the time for CE to be associating itself with a bunch of losers!

Might it also be that they clutch at CE to hide their nakedness, as they will clutch as anything, not because they understand and respect what CE represents but because again and again it is being realised and, worse, spoken that in the field of chronic disability they have no clothes. Some important minor roles to play, certainly, but in terms of the tasks that chronic disability engenders, which are fare wider and more fundamentally ‘human’ than can be exhausted by medicine and its understanding of evidence. CE should be showing the world the real things that it can contribute to real problems of human wellbeing, not colluding with these who would pretend that they can do the same, but can’t.


Andrew said...

PART III (What’s this?)

Looking to see whether I have anything by Gabi Haug at home (I don’t) and turning to the Internet I realised that she was out of Conductive Education before the real dawn of he Internet age. Her shade lingers but, like so many others, in this respect she is a non-person.

But I did find this 99-page Examensarbeit from 2002, from the Carl von Ossietzky Universität, Oldenburg, by Kathleen Milde,

‘Möglichkeiten der Integration therapeutischer Elemente der konduktiven Förderung in den Unterricht an der Schule für Körperbehinderte


It is up there is Cyberspace because there is a smart, efficient and effective system to do this What did I write earlier? What a country! KRAFT durch Technik everywhere. So why is the Petö-Methode transformed there into such a travesty of what its founder intended.. Why can’t his method be as efficiently and effectively adapted and adopted, like everything else?

A thought occurs to me. I think of Germany (and Austria) and I think of KF. Why? Because it stamps around and makes a lot of noise in places that I go. But I never heard of Ms Milde. Who is she, where is she now, how did what she described come about, who was she supervised by…etc, etc? It matters less that what she understood of CE in its specifics has been thoroughly ‘got at‘ by KF, than that she was studying at university level and her focus was a project in school. Furthermore, though he references of course represent the KF literature, she does key in to the educational literature and, even in 2002 she was able to refer to school-based projects in Nbg. and Wbg.

That was seven years ago. Why is this not part of the KF discourse? Central to it even? What else is there out there in Germany that is being ‘lost’?

I am reminded, though I cannot remember the name of the bloke who wrote it, a clinical psychologist he was, whom I stumbled upon about a year or so ago, of a rather nice account of the ideas of A. Petö on the Internet as were recorded in those two jolly books from the sixties that you have often referred to on your blog. As far as I know the little world of KF has only rarely entertained the knowable ideas of Petö.

How many other such people are there out there. Is there a vestigial network? I think we should be told.


Susie Mallett said...

Yes, I am so olde-worldy, I have never owned a television in my life and do not know my way around a remote control especially if I am in a hurry like today. Of course I could switch on a television and twiddle with knobs positioned below the screen but they rarely have any of these nowadays.

This oldie-worldiness has never been a problem wherever I have been where there has been the need for a television to be switched on there was usually a very capable chid nearby to do it.

Thank you for your informative comment part-one
I look forward to reading part-two and of course your own posting.

susie mallett said...

Andrew, I was thinking about those "Knowledgeable ideas of Petö" that you refer to,
could it have been Diplom-Psychologe Dr. Hans Ulrich Gresch you were reading?

He lives in Nürnberg. I have read quite a lot of the articles on his enormous internet magazine
including the one on Konduktive Förderung - "Gelähmt im Flow - Konduktive Förderung nach Petö"

Wandering around Dr Gresch's website is very similar in feel to dipping into that jolly book of the nineteen-sixties.

I phoned Dr gresch to ask him about his interest in Conductive Pedagogy and he told me that he had worked with a friend of mine, Pia Schwarz, for the Deutsche Orden and this was a document he had written as a result of their work together.

I think Dr. Gresch's interest in CE finished there.
Pia Schwarz was employed by the Deutsche Orden at Fortschritt Starnberg. She was the person who raised 1000's of euros to allow me to spend many weeks with her in Starnberg setting up an adults department, running groups and training young conductors to continue the work when I left.

I think Dr Gresch also owns this health food store in Zabo, it is just around the corner from our head office.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was quite interesting what Thomas Ballast president of the “Verband der Ersatzkassen” had to say. He was first introduced with the words that the “Verband der Ersatzkassen” asked for consideration. Then he said that you have to separate what you can subjectively perceive in an individual case and in what you can REALLY prove in studies, which [therapy] can show better treatment successes.
In my opinion there is a lot of things wrong with this statement. Firstly, what studies is he talking about. As far as I can remember the last study of the “Bundesausschuss der Krankenkassen” failed to prove that Conductive Education can achieve more then already existing therapies/methods. But this did not show scientifically that it is any worse then acknowledged therapies/methods in Germany.
Secondly, there is nothing subjective about achieving goals through conductive education. He learnt to stand up by himself is not a subjective statement.
Thirdly, I do not think that it is ever possible to prove that would have learnt to stand up by himself if he would have not attended CE or only would attended different therapies. No one can turn back the time and see what would have happened.

So I do agree with Andrew with that the white coats in Germany have made up their minds and are not going to change it and I also agree that a change of name will not help their case either (Still no one will know what you mean if you say Konduktive Foerderung oder Konduktive Methode). However, I do think Germany should loose what they have with the Konduktive Foerderung, because they have a good thing going. Unfortunately, the general public, other professionals and especially white coats might not ever acknowledge this.