One of my littlies whose Mum did us proud with her presentation at our Congress on Saturday, arrived this afternoon full of beans, her athetoid movements even more squiggly than ever due to her excitement.
She and her school, and Mum, had hit the headlines!
That is a bit of an exaggeration, not the headlines exactly but we are all very happy with the couple of columns in the local daily paper.
The report from our Congress did exactly what we wanted! It put the emphasis on our success with the integrated kindergarten and, since September, with three of four integrative children in normal school.
The article tells us:
"Conductive Education wants to help children and adults with disability to be able to take a more active role in our society.
Many professionals from the field, from Germany and abroad met this weekend in Nürnberg’s Grand Hotel, to learn more and to exchange experiences.
The little F... (that’s one of my littlies) is happy: the six year old who is disabled from birth but is mentally very intelligent, is since the beginning of the school year attending the “Hegelschule” She is dependent on a wheelchair [since last week she is walking with her rolator in school and pushing a chair, and she can now take four steps on her own] but the school director, the teacher and nineteen other pupils in the class have welcomed her with open arms. An integration assistant is there at the little girl’s side.
“Something like this should be the rule not the exception” said her mother.
Prof. Reinhard Lelgemann from the Department for Special Pedagogy in Würzbürg University reported on a school project in Rohrdorf near Würzburg. The project with two conductive classes for disabled children in a local junior school, has proved what pedagogues have believed for a long time: that both sides benefit from the teaching of children with and without physical disabilities in integrated schools and classes.
The parents who were at first sceptical have changed their opinions after seeing the social development of their children.
The success of F… and of the school project in Würzburg is due to a special education that was developed over sixty years ago by the Hungarian Dr András Petö. Conductive Education has its emphasis on the development of independence in everyday life.
Things like dressing and cleaning teeth are learnt. Working with simple materials tasks involving movement skills, speech, cognitive development, are holistically “trained”.
In Nürnberg this is carried out in two children's groups at the Verein für Menschen mit Körperbehinderungen. F... has been attending one of these for the past four years, the Komet Kindergarten in Boxdorf.
Three conductors are employed by the Verein . As well as the five children in each of the two groups there are 30 adults who take part in the education, for example those with multiple sclerosis and stroke-sufferers.
But although there is recognisable success the health insurance companies and the rehabilitation providers still do not pay for the cost.
There are three other people, therapists and teachers with experience in this method working at the Nürnberg centre for physically disabled children."
Littlie was so thrilled this afternoon, and Granddad too when they arrived for "Petö", waving the newspaper at us.
Granddad had already read the article to his granddaughter three times and he then gave me the page to copy and hang up on our notice board. We had to read it aloud of course once more for the rest of the group to hear.
Granddad was grinning from ear to ear. He was so excited and as proud as Punch of his family, the school, and us.
The school was also over the moon with the report, the Director had brought the paper to the teacher early this morning to read out to the class.
Of course the Kindergarten and the conductive staff are smiling from ear to ear too. So much so that we all look like we have slices of watermelon stuck between our lips!
Littlie’s Mum really did do a good job reporting on their joint success story at the congress, as did the Kindergarten’s Montessori teacher and conductor.
The story of this Littlie is one of those hidden away in my notebook that should have been in the posting TWTWTW (that was the week that was) but got buried through lack of time and energy to type.
Here is that story now.
I just had one of the best days of my life as a conductor
On October 23rd I was invited by a physiotherapist to accompany her on a visit the Hegelschule, that is the school that Littlie attends.
I jumped at the chance and I was there bright and early to be welcomed at the school gate by a row of eight-year-olds with banners saying “Good Morning”. Not made especially for us, these children are there every day to welcome the whole school and any visitors. To give them all a smiley start to the day.
Littlie's teacher and the integration assistant have oftenvisited us in the conductive group that Littlie attends. It was high time that I visited them and began the conductive work in the classroom.
This little girl is in a class of only twenty children and I was to realise as the day went on how much these children all care for each other, look out for each other and respect each other, and this includes Littlie. She is one of them, no need to mention integration or inclusion, she is an equal, there from the start.
The ideal would have been for her to attend a school that her Kindergarten companions attended but they now all attend different schools spread all over the city. Because it was an integrated kindergarten the children did not come from a specific catchment area. So socially, in the playground, Littlie was having to start all over again, just like a lot of the first-year pupils.
In the classroom it was easier. After only half a term she was well and truly part of the group. I am told that due to the excellant work done by the classroom teacher this has been so from day one.
It had been a struggle to find a school that would take Littlie. The school her brother attends eventually turned her down just a couple months before term started. With everyone pulling out the stops to help the family a school was found and now every one is extremely happy with the choice. On this and subsequent visits I was to discover exactly why.
The physiotherapist and I were greeted enthusiastically, we took our places and I began my work of observing where, if anywhere, I could give tips to make life in school easier for all concerned.
After a while we took a break. We left the room with the classroom assistant and tried to answer all of her questions. She is a teacher but she is new to the job of assiting a littlie with physical disabilities.
Tips were passed on, learnt from years of experience and trial and error. Things like not to make her work sheets too much bigger than the norm. A child with athetoid movements can’t control the movement anywhere near as well when the arm or hand needs to move away from the body. This littlie rests the pencil against her cheek as she writes to prevent the jerking that would make her writing illegible.
Tips on how to sit for various activities. A trip-trap chair was considered the best plan and one was promptly delivered by the physiotherapist on the next Friday, when we followed up our first visit.
I don’t know why these trip-trap chairs are not used more widely in Conductive Education. Perhaps they are in other centres. The height of all parts of the chair are adjustable, the seat the foot rest and the back rest. The depth of the seat and foot rest can also be adjusted.
The box that Littlie was using for her feet before the arrival of the chair is now being used to sit on in the morning circle and the chair that she used to sit on is used to hold on to to walk around the classroom, as it takes up less space than a ladder-chair or a rolator.
There is now a frizbie on the table, to stop the pens and pencils rolling away. The wire draw under the table is now a holding place when stability is needed when standing and sitting.
Out in the playground the rolator is used instead of the wheelchair, to encourage activity and discourage passivity. To encourage the making of friends and to keep warm!
When Littlie was in her wheelchair her peers walked behind her but now with a rolator they run around together and everyone keeps warm.
There were more tips for what could be done in sport with the other children, tips for how to eat and drink and tips for lots, lots more.
But what is more important is what I learnt.
On the last day before half term, the children in this class looked on with wonder as Littlie showed them how she has just learnt to walk four steps. I looked on in wonder as I see what she learns from her classmates and what they learn from her. The class were so quiet, the children nearest holding out their hands in case she fell.
The children are encouraged to raise their hands and tell everyone if they have understood what Littlie says. Therefore she speaks clearer and clearer everyday. This week she has been calling my name for the first time. Especially loud and clear when I am distracted and she wants me to help her with her food.
In the classroom the looks on the children’s faces when Littlie succeeds have been a joy to see. She is a part of this community. The teacher tells us they have been given a gift. She doesn’t mean the child or her assistant, but she means the whole experience, the whole package. That package includes me and the physiotherapist, Grandma and Grandad too.
It includes the adaption of everyday objects as a walking aid or aids to working, and the patience of the children as they listen out for Littlie’s softly spoken answers. The teacher says that all their lives are richer because of taking a risk, because of saying Yes when others said No.
Today they got the praise they deserve in this newspaper article
Well done Littlie and co, pioneers for CE in schools.
I am so happy to be part of it, to observe it and, most of all, to not hear one word about integration or inclusion.
As always I am begeistert by my work.
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