Monday, 10 May 2010

Eins, zwei, drei

"Which path should I take?" by Susie Mallett, March 2010


Take three girls

There are as far as I know just three German conductors. I know all of them, having first met them at various times over the past ten years, while they were still students at NICE in England.

I have regular contact with them, in fact I have communicated with all three of them by some means or other over the past two or three weeks.

Soul Mates

Several years ago now the very first of these German conductors came to work with me in my adults' groups while still a student. Eventually we became colleagues, remaining so for several years. She is the conductor who I chat with most about anything and everything conductive. She has moved northwards with her family and is now self-employed like me. We hope for lots more working experiences together in the future. We meet quite regularly and I use the presence of her two young children as an opportunity to do lots of conductive observation!

Sharing knowledge

Another of the three finished her degree only in 2009. She returned to work in Germany and to my delight is in Bavaria, only an hour away by train, at a centre where I have often worked.

She seems to have settled in very quickly and when she phoned me last week she was about to give her first talk about conductive education in her mother tongue. Oh how I long to do this, it is still an unknown experience for me. We have regularly exchanged emails and phone calls since we met for the first time in England in 2008.

I was glad to pass on to her one of my teenage clients and I am thrilled when I can pass on any of my knowledge and experience.

She always has such interesting questions for me and I think that perhaps it is time to begin to share some of them on my blog, along with my answers or, to put it more correctly, our discussions.

In our latest conversation we were talking about the preparations that she is making with her colleagues for a new adults' group. She had an appointment to present conductive education to a stroke self-help group with the hope of ”recruiting” enough clients to form a new group.

Her initial question was this. If her talk inspires enough people to sign up for a group, should she then invite these potential clients to return for an “assessment”, or should she invite them directly to the first session?

She knows that I do not make formal assessments but I do need to know about new clients before we begin to work together, just as they need to know about me, conductive education and lots more.

It is a long time now since I started a group from scratch but I follow the same procedure that I advised my fellow conductor to use, whether for a whole new group or for individuals joining us along the way.

My advice was that whenever possible make a house visit before the clients start to attend a group. This is usually easier for the potential clients, and it saves them money and often awkward travel arrangements. A client who has had a stroke will be so much more relaxed at home and as a conductor I learn a lot more in this comfortable situation than if they made a long journey to a centre. The clients will be less anxious and therefore able to communicate more easily, difficulties that need to be overcome in the home can be observed and, as a bonus, family members are often present to offer more information. Knowledge can be gathered that will make the start in the group easier for all concerned.

I await with interest to hear whether the talk was successful, how many clients she now has, whether she needs an assistant, and whether the house visits will take place.

German conductor number three

Number three, actually the second to graduate, in 2006, does not live in Germany. Despite this we have had regular contact since we met and as far as I am concerned we have many things to discuss. The country we are in makes no difference to our ability to communicate and the subjects are probably more diverse because of different cultures that we have worked in.

Ever since conductive upbringing was exported from Hungary all those conductors working in around the world, sometimes in large centres but very often alone, time and again have very similar problems to solve. Discussing these problems can make it easier to come up with ideas for solutions. Sharing can sometimes prevent us duplicating the work, can prevent us taking a not-so-good path and can even speed our way in a preferred direction.

I occasionally share my thoughts with the German conductor abroad, we share ideas and ask each other questions. Whenever a subject that interests us comes up in the Blogosphere, or a question crops up in our work, we often begin a short discussion about it. We share similar experiences and learn from each other. Just as I do with the colleagues I meet every day.

It is so interesting and stimulating for me to learn from younger conductors, and from those working in different countries.

This is the question that she raised this time, how best to work with young people making the transition from school out into the wider world.

I have written recently about the need to "accompany" some young clients on their journey into adulthood, and to communicate with other adults who will be involved with the future developments in their lives. These clients cannot always be accompanied by a conductor in their new experiences of life but often the conductor can path the way, be a step ahead or, as Rony so nicely put it on my posting “On the buses”, we not only can but must be environmental architects.

Transition to adulthood

This has also been a subject that many centres in Germany have been tackling over the past few years. It is fifteen to twenty years since the majority of these centres started, and the children are now fifteen to twenty years older.

Going out into the big wide world can be very scary at the best of times, but especially so if there are few or even no opportunities for young adults with disabilities in the locality of their home. Do they need to move long distances from the families whose help they are often reliant on?

If clients are able to go to university or take up other further education studies, this is only something for a few years. When the degree or training is in the hand what next? This is the dilemma that I myself once faced, with no disability but a degree in Fine Arts. It happens to many, but how many opportunities are open to someone with disabilities? Not as many as where there for me in my narrow field!

After university there still comes the search for work and competition gets fiercer by the minute.

As university is not the goal of all school-leavers there need to be more opportunities. How do we provide opportunities so that someone who has been totally immersed in a conductive upbringing can continue to be so, but now outside the family and school life. Could the answer be a "conductive apprenticeship" course? I expect that someone is out there somewhere providing just this. Maybe Rony. Do you have something like this yet in Israel? If so please tell us about it.

There are groups established for school-leavers in sheltered workshops where they can develop social skill and specialise in practical skills for specific jobs. A young man I work with and who sparked off this conversation with my conductor friend is in such a group.

In the group he is learning how to relate to other group members, he learns the difference between a work group and a social group. At the same time he tries out different jobs and practical skills so that he can hopefully a find permanent work-placement in two years' time.

This group is, however, not "conductive" although some conductive input comes through my visits that I hope will become a regular part of our work together.

It is a new situation for my client. He is no longer at school, the new situation has more similarities to his conductive upbringing at home than with his old school life. Surely it could not be so difficult to provide something similar but in a conductive centre?

Perhaps a conductive apprenticeship would take a bit longer than the norm, but it could lead to achievable goals towards greater independence and, what is more important, the prospects at the end of working at a trade.

This could make the future look a lot rosier for many of our young adults who are stepping tentatively into new waters, making it less scary and not so strange.

We have discussed how provision and available finances vary enormously from country to country, county to county, state to state. To develop resources and to provide services for young adults in this transitionary period is so important. But what kinds of contexts and so what sorts of services? However much or however little there is available, whether a young person goes to university or to a college, to a sheltered workshop group, or even remains full-time within the family, “in the community”, the fears, the questions, the insecurity, the need to be accompanied conductively on this journey still remain.

What is provided in other countries? How do our young people bridge this gap? How do they do it if going it alone? How do conductors accompany them?

Do conductors advise the parents, with the family then doing most of the accompanying through university etc? Do conductors visit the group workshop and try to explain how the client has learnt to live conductively? Do they set up a conductive apprenticeship course?

It is nice to share such thoughts with more people out there. It would be interesting to hear how you do it, how you and your clients together bridge that gap?

What are the options after school and how do our clients get there?

1 comment:

a-c-w said...

Thanks Susie for your once again great blog. I am enjoying our professional discussions a lot and its nice to discuss CE apart from my only conductor colleague with someone with so much experience and knowledge.

After reading your blog I was wondering if what is offered to young adults in regards of jobs and job choices conductively mainly depends on the kind of CE provision they attend. Here, we are mainly offering sessional once a week services. In those few hours I feel, we are working very hard to maintain the level of skills of our young adults rather then pushing it really forward as mostly, and despite our hardest attempts, CE is not carried through at home. Going on a bus trip or even to the local grocery store usual is not feasible and following up with one individual client seems to be come impossible with 60 clients to two conductors ratio. But maybe there is a way…

I am also looking forward to hear how other conductors or provisions work with young adults and getting them ready for and into the workforce.

Aenna (3rd /2nd German Conductor I guess ;-))