My visitors today

Monday 5 July 2010

Hair raising expectations

"Favourite niece feeding Auntie's patient cat , alone!",
England, 1987

Sometimes I could almost pull my hair out!

I like my long hair so I resist, perhaps I could scream instead.

We conductors spend time with our clients, hours, weeks, months that add up to years, in this case already six, encouraging, motivating so that life can be lived to the full. Working together so that clients can take part in life with energy and gusto, with body and soul, as well as they possibly can.

Then what happens?

Sometimes along comes this professional and that professional who look in astonishment and disbelieve. Who with open mouths actually pronounce that they do not believe it, they can not believe their own eyes that this child is walking, that another child is in a mainstream school, that this adult is making phone calls again and that the other one driving a car. And what is more this often comes from people I thought know conductive pedagogy very well.

Yes, on the one side their surprise can be encouraging, indicating the success of our long years of intensive work together with the clients. I often think what luck that the clients and their families were working with us, all of us believing in, and working towards, a bright future, and that they were not working with those who did not.

But what does this open mouthed astonishment from professionals do for the clients?

Sometimes it can put the dampers on things

As I work with my clients we work on the assumption that the sky is our limit, we can have a go at anything and find a way to do most things the clients wish to learn.

If some other professional comes along and is astonished by the fact that the clients achieve their aims does this encourage or discourage? What influence does this have on their motivation?

In some cases it could motivate clients to achieve more, but in others it could have the opposite effect. Clients could say: “Well if this is not expected of me from everyone I will sit back and save myself the hard work, I need not expect it from myself either”.

What triggered this posting?

What has happened regularly but not too often throughout my career happened again a couple of times last week, once in a positive encouraging way and once in a discouraging way. It made me sit back and think and to decide that I must spread myself even further a field in an attempt to reach even more people who come in to contact with my clients. Raising the awareness and expectations of more people.


There have been several cases in the past twenty years, all over the world, when people, who I thought knew conductive pedagogy inside out and even one or two conductors, have verbally announced their doubts and astonishment, often in front of the clients. In such cases it is I who am open mouthed and incredulous, left there thinking. “What on earth do people think a conductive upbringing is about when not full of high expectations and achievements, and why do therapists and pedagogues not all encourage such high aims and expectations in their clients?

Leaving my hair still intact and forgetting about the screams, I will instead be giving up the odd free Friday morning that I allow myself now and then, to visit our local schools and therapy centres!


Anne said...

Susie, I share your astonishment over other professionals lack of expectation.

I have so many stories about but not the time to write them all down.

I want to share the story of one lady, who is in her early thirties and had a stroke a couple of years ago. She lives in care facility that has also the most accessed rehabilitation center in town.

However, she never was places there and is on a solely care ward. That shows you what the expectation for her recovery are in the first place.

Moreover, before she attended our program she never stood on her feet or transferred without a hoyer lift or even sat somewhere other then her wheelchair. Within a year (and most goals she reached during the first couple of weeks!), she is able to change position on the plinth by herself, sits up by herself, changes position (like transferring from chair to chair) with solid support by herself, under supervision she can do it with no support, sits safely by herself, has nearly regained full range of movements in fingers and arm and the list goes on and on.

The family has been battling to receive appropriate rehabilitation services for her but her therapists there, even with seeing what she can do, stay skeptical. In other words still do not even try to do any rehabilitation with her.

Fortunately a neurologist shares my expectation that she can regain enough skills to move back home and to live her life again (live with her two young children and husband she now barely sees). So something might be happening soon and I hope it does. There is only so much we can do in two hours a week but imagine what this lady could do if she was allowed to live conductivley? The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes it feels that those professionals wasting the clients time to fight us conductors in what we do and what we expect our clients to do instead of facilitating the clients recovery.

I know I am very general here and fortunately i have come across great professionals who share my expectation but they are rare.

Anne said...


I would also like to share a story about a young man whose high expectation on himself and the expectation of his parents seem to do him more harm then good.

I dont know when it started as I have not been involved in this clients conductive program from the start. But I see him now literally making himself physical sick working himself to hard. I tell him its okay and important to take a break and listen to his body but he doesn't want to give up because he does not want to be a "failure".

We talked about it and he does understand it but finds it hard not to overwork himself. He has some serious psychological issues that stay ignored by his family (and yes we tried to talk about it with the family but nothing changed) For a school assignment he wrote that his long term physical goal is to walk independently.

I am not someone who would ever say never but finds this goal rather unrealistic as he needs lots of help walking with equipment and some of his contractures make it hard to move on to walking with less support.

Nevertheless his parents nearly fired the tutor who also very carefully explained to this young man that this might be unrealistic. His parents think that yes one day he can walk by himself when he only tries hard enough. And let me tell you this guy works more then hard but I think there are more important aims for him to work on.

Unfortunately the family is the one that needs to change in order for my client to become happier with himself. But this family is not ready yet to do so. Even they have been the one being around conductive ed the longest, they have little to non conductive upbringing at home. And believe me we tried hard to change that.

But I think its not solely the parents fault. Conductive ed in the early stage of this clients life is a little to blame for this fiasco; as we are to quick to celebrate the gains and not always emphasize the way. E.g. At the end of summer camp it is the centres tradition to have a graduation where the children show off what they learned. This could be very positive but we have to be careful that we do not teach the clients and there families that only the end-result is celebrate. I am sure that the steps on the way are more celebrated in a conductive group but that the parents might not be able to witness that all the time.

I think what I am trying to say is that we as conductors have to be careful with expectation. And yes the bar needs to be high but there needs to be a bit realism to it by building the expectation onto what the kid can do now and therefore is expected to learn next. Moreover we need to teach to the parents and maybe even professionals that for us trying is more important than achieving.

I would love to hear what other peoples’ thoughts on this.