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Sunday 29 August 2010

All in a week's work, or two

Paintings by SB, August 2010

Laddo is not a laddo anymore, he is a young man

He is also becoming more independent when it comes to painting. When we met in August he wanted to paint scenes from his recent holiday in Sweden and every other afternoon he turned up with a new bright idea.

The colours of the paints he chose to use were much more vibrant than they have been for quite some time. He was absolutely sure about what he wanted to paint and how I should help him to mix the colours, adding a little bit of blue, white or red, until he said Stop.

At the end of ten days working together, days that included a daily two-five kilometre-long walk, cooking, cleaning, riding buses alone and other conductive activities, as well as painting, my client said:

"I did not produce many paintings these past two weeks".

When we put the pictures all together on the floor, as seen above, he realised that six paintings in ten days is really not so bad for someone who six years ago was still having difficulties holding a paint brush steady between his fingers. Afterwards, another two, smaller ones were produced as presents for his workshop friends. Eight paintings in ten days, that is something that I can only dream of managing myself!

The sailing boat in the top left is a commision for a man who owns a trip-boat on a local lake. The painting will hang on the boat, in its restaurant. The rest of the paintings, scenes from this year's holiday, will add to the collection that my client is building up for his next exhibition, the one that we hope will take place at the beiginning of next year at the sheltered workshop where he works. We hope that it will be in the exhibition space at the Café Sunshine!

Well done grown-up "Laddo" for a very productive ten days!

Trains and wheelchairs in China

"In my element, with Thomas the tank Engine and friend"

As I was looking through the site that I mentioned on my last blog posting, somehow I got on to videos about trains.

I found this:

Another alert from Google

"A cold summer's day", by Susie Mallett
20th August 2010

Sony wii and other cerebral palsy-related articles

I have no idea who writes this blog, if in fact any one person does. It could be a collection of articles from other sources compiled by Google. One of you experts out there will perhaps find out. It arrived in my in-box this morning just in-case I was interested!

It hit my Google alert box because of this article mentioning conductive education in connection with the Sony wii console. It is a bit different to some one the articles that we see, so I decided to look deeper inside the site to find out whether there is more about conductive education or more about who is writing all the articles.

I have seen some of the wii action at the Petö Institute in the You Tube video and have spoken to the conductor who initiated it and has been involved its introduction and use. I know several people who have this equipment and have tried it out with them. These include one family who watched the Petö Institute films with me and decided to buy it for their four children because they thought it would be something for their disabled son to join in with; and another family who bought it for their two young sons, one with cerebral palsy, because they are mad on sport. All of the sporty family have great fun with the wii and the disabled son is thrilled to be able to take part in so many virtual sports.

The other family, with the four children, were I believe also right in hoping that this "game" would be something to encourage development of movement and also motivation in their disabled son. But in this case I think that wii needs to be used with him under the guidance of a therapist or educationalist, just as it is in the Petö Institute.

I have observed him playing just with his siblings. He quickly becomes despondent and gives up. He has no interest in playing with it alone. He needs quidance in the movements and in the choice of activities that he plays. He also needs motivating to have fun with it, whereas the disabled sporty child will play alone or with whoever wants to join in and is motivated by all the charts that show his so-called improvements. He has a lot of fun with it.

I am certain that the despondent lad would enjoy very much the type of organised use of wii that can be seen taking place in the Petö Institute. He does not really enjoy playing with the wii in the family setting.

That was my thoughts of the day on wii.

They were inspired by seeing the Google Alert in my in-box. I then went on to open the site that Google alerted me to, only to discover that actually there was even less about the use of wii and cerebral palsy than I have written in the past on this blog. All there is about it is:

The Wii-fever (Wii - the name of the new Nintendo console sounds like 'we,' which emphasizes that it is for everyone) has spread to the distant area of conductive education. During the last two years a successful "Wii-therapy" has been launched in the Peto Institute for children whose motor impairments originate from damage to the central nervous system.

Then it goes on to describe conductive education, from a slightly different angle to some articles that we come across, but again with no reference to where the information comes from.

Somewhere else in the blog, while I was trying to find out whose blog it was, I found the sentences below, in blue. They jumped out at me because this paragraph includes something, but not quite the same something, that I advocate about conductive upbringing. My conversations would never include the word "however" as it does here. I always say to my clients and their families and carers that conductive upbringing as I do it, is teaching the whole family how to live, despite the disabilities of the child, as actively as they possibly can. It requires, as all upbringing of children does, or as the learning of new lifestyles, or learning and educating in any situation does, a lot of patience and a lot of very hard work by all involved.

These are some of the treatments that are carried out to help the people cerebral-palsy so that they can lead a better life and to reduce their dependency on other people. However, all these treatments are very time consuming, and they require a lot of patience from the patient as well as his family. These methods and techniques have so far been very successful to a great extent and for treating cerebral palsy

For me the inclusion of the word however here indicates something a little bit negative, perhaps that therapies are not hard work but "treatments", which is where conductive education usually fits in, are. I read here, between the lines: "so think twice which one you choose, the therapy or the treatment, the hard work or an easy option"! This is probably not what is meant at all, just my mistrusting self when I delve a bit into all these site and see the masses of information there.

And masses of information there certainly is, on this blog

The more I poke around it the more I find, but the less I know about who is writing it. A teacher? A parent? Perhaps a young sufferer of cerebral palsy?

Below are just a few more of the articles that I clicked on in my continued search around the blog, looking for a person or a centre behind it and possibly more on CE. I discovered neither. I found something on massage which I suspect is why it turned up in the same alert that contained my last posting. I found information on autism and different forms of cerebral palsy. I opened one that was headed "The importance of sleep in growing taller", but I did not read that one as it crashed my computer for about an hour!

Luckily my writing was saved, somehow. By technology, not by stupid me!

I am not sure what I think about the whole site, I have enjoyed reading some of it other articles are not really in enough depth to learn anything, but I am sure that there is information there that some parents, people with cerebral palsy, teachers and others, are looking for. I did not find what I have been looking for for ages, and have put out two pleas for on my blog, information about elipesy and cerebral palsy. The search goes on.


Sunflower time of the year" by Susie Mallett

...for bodies that work so hard all day

Last week I was working with a young man with athetoid cerebral palsy. As we were both trying to get our clasped hands behind our necks, then later trying to get our hands to meet in the middle of our backs, with one hand coming from above and the other from below, we were both experiencing a bit of difficulty. Stiff joints, wonky arms or lack of practice: for one or more of these reasons neither of us made it quite as we had hoped. I realised that I would have to do something about it. Without the manual therapy that I have been having recently, I would not be able to keep to my promise of not asking my clients to do something that I cannot do myself!

It seems that my client had similar thoughts!

Out of the blue he turned to me and with a glint in his eye said Ich habe eine Frage. I always know that something profound or cheeky will come after this statement so I waited to find out what it was this time.

He asked: “Do you think you could give me a massage this evening?”

What could I say? Certainly not No!

I offered him one on the spot, and suggested that as I was not actually at work in the evenings he could massage me then instead! He seemed to think I was joking but he took me up on my offer of a spur-of- the-moment massage for himself. After a bit of loosing up, his limbs and joints did as they were told slightly better than they had done before.


I do not profess to being an expert in massage. I did a lot of it over a period of twelve years for my friend who has multiple sclerosis. I learnt what muscles felt like when someone had a look of pain in the eyes and when something was doing good and reducing that pain. I have had several six- or ten-week sessions of massage and manual therapy prescribed to me by the doctor. I know when something is doing me good or not.

I think my client last week could do with a massage from an expert now and then. People who suffer pain due to tension in their muscles, for whatever reason, would benefit a lot from regular massages. My clients with MS all get massage prescribed by the doctor, my clients with cerebral palsy rarely do.

I have often thought that massage would be good for my clients and sometimes after I recommend it they go off to the doctor and get themselves a ten-session prescription. We notice a difference in their movements in conductive sessions when they do this, not only because limbs move more easily but, perhaps more importantly, because there is an overall feeling of well-being about them.

I know this from my own manual-therapy sessions. When someone has done a good job, like recently, I feel like I am walking taller as I leave the room. Most probably I am.

For littlies too

I have a seven-year-old client who has athetoid cerebral palsy just like the young man who asked me for a massage.

All day long, if this little girl wants to do anything at all, she has to tense the muscles in her whole body. She does this to prevent herself from falling in a heap, like a floppy rag doll. Of course we all have to do this, but we who have muscles that do as they are told do not really think about what we are doing until something starts to hurt or if we loose our balance for some reason. Only then do we need to work hard on our movements to correct something. Really it would be better to think about our movements all the time like this littlie does as it could prevent our aches and pains, but usually we do not!

This little girl of seven years has developed so many skills recently and she has also grown a lot, which makes life a lot easier. As I always told her, going to the toilet will be so much easier when she can do it without climbing on to a box to reach the slippery child seat. She has always been very determined but now she is becoming more independent too. She can now get her body working for her, so she can sit on a horse, walk with a rollator, wheel herself in a wheelchair, walk a few steps unaided. She can take part in races walking on her knees, stand up and, while leaning on the wall, play bowls. She can sit on the floor and paint amazing pictures. In doing all of these activities her little body gets turned into some amazing shapes, just like any child's who lies downs on the floor to draw and paint, do puzzles or read a book. Hugging a knees, twisting an arm round the back of the head, you name it she does it too, but her muscles are tense in her whole body unlike those of the other children, otherwise she would topple over.

I talked to her parents about how asymmetric this little one’s body was becoming. Together we decided to ask the physiotherapist around the corner whether he would be prepared give this littlie a massage a couple of times a week. We wanted to see whether this would help her learn to keep her body symmetric. He told us that the best thing for her is exercise. We convinced him that we do the exercise, a lot of it, but told him that sitting in school all day is hard work and no time then for much exercise.Walking in the playground is fun but it also puts a strain on the whole body. Conductive session each afternoon are also fun and also hard work, and also put a strain on the little muscles. He said that he would see what he could do.

He was surprised when he saw this skinny Littlie and even more convinced that exercise was the thing, but when he started the massage he agreed that the muscles in her shoulders and neck and upper back are a lot more tense than they should be. He felt this even when she was lying as still as she could on the bench.

After ten minutes Littlie realised too that it was actually a very pleasant experience and quite easy to lie still and be pampered! This was only the first session but even as we walked out of the building, her one hand in mine and the other on the banister, with Grandma watching and learning, I noticed that she could now stretch her arm a bit further to pull herself up the stairs.

Early days but I think we may be on to something that does our Littlie a power of good at the end of a long day, she looked really happy and cosy in the seat of the car as Grandma drove her the five minutes back home The report the next morning, after a warm bath and straight into bed was that there were no aching muscles, and Littlie was all set for the next massage sessions after a well earned holiday for five days on a local farmyard.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Das Sommerloch

Me and my Mum on her birthday, during the "Silly Season of 2005

Das Sommerloch is the German name for what the English call the Silly Season, the summer hole!

It refers to this time of the year when parliaments throughout the world are not sitting. It has been reported, during this time when there is little of much interest to report, that several MPs from different countries are apparently not taking holidays. Some will be staying in their offices instead. Others are economising and some are going green, like Angela Merkel, by talking a walking holiday in the homeland.

Even with the MPs staying put, doing things right under the noses of reporters, there still seems to be no news for the political pages, or the front cover either. There really is very little news except daft stuff about the size of the largest marrow in the vegetable show, a survey or two that reveal nothing whatsoever, or complaints yet again about the cow-bells waking the tourists on the Swiss or German Alps.

Yes, the papers are full of silliness

Full of stories dug from somewhere in the depths, from down a deep hole, to keep Joe Blogs buying the daily paper.

The Guardian Weekly tells me that in Germany there is an unofficial name for this silly season, the Sommerloch, the summer hole. This is what the media call it but others call it the time of the sour cucumber!

The cucumber features in many other languages when talking about the silly season. Dutch has komkommertijd, Polish sezon ogórkowy and Norweigian agurktid. Hungarian has uborkaszezon and Hebrew Onat ha’melafefonim.

Could there be so many references to cucumbers because in many warmer countries this is the time of the year when you see jars full of pickling cucumbers out in the sun on the front door-step?

The dictionary and Wikipedia entries that I looked up suggest other origins. More than one of these says it comes from the German tailors who were working in England during the 18th century.

Spain has no cucumbers instead it has summer snakes. In Sweden there is a news drought, with silly season stories called rotting-month-stories. In France it is the dead season and its stories are old chestnuts.

This time of the year is strange

Although I do rather enjoy it. Most especially because cycling is so nice. There are less cars and no children on the streets. Taking the trams is far nicer at this time too, especially between twelve midday and one when school would normally be out. They are so quiet and empty of buzzing school children. Not only are the politicians not sitting, but just about everyone who has anything to do with education disappears for the summer too, or so it seems.

I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned that the summer holiday is almost over and nothing planned has been finished, some things not even started, and before one knows it it will be busy time again . This friend is someone whose whole life was spent in education until quite recently. I have several such friends, either retired or who had had enough and have gone into some other line of work for the last few years before retirement.

It is interesting that, despite no longer being tied to the school year, for these friends the term-time routine still has a huge effect on their lives.

The only way that I notice this silly cucumber season’s summer hole and drought, apart from the lack of traffic, is when my colleagues from the Kindergarten take a compulsory three-week break in August and I have to email or Skype them if I desperately need some advice.

I have only experienced the long holidays that my friends in education know when I was a student.

Since becoming a conductor I have been self-employed. I work on though out the summer. It is one of my busiest times and, being so busy, it is easy to avoid reading the daft stories in the papers!

I enjoy the quieter environment when I work in our centre, or the more relaxed school holiday lifestyles of families when I work in their homes. My clients are so happy that at least one of their weekly activities does not stop for six or more weeks.

Sometimes I miss my colleagues when I have a question or would like some advice, otherwise as far as work is concerned I do not notice a lull like my friends from education describe to me.

I do not notice that there is a cucumber season going on in relation to the amount or type of work I have. In fact it is quite the opposite and I certainly I do not make plans for any new projects of my own in the summer, there just is not any time. I still get the same amount of requests for advice in my email inbox, maybe even more as people are often on their holidays and have more time to think, and I still cycle to work each morning.

Then later on I take a holiday. Just when the roads get busy again and the trams get full and the chaos of beginning of term starts I will be weeding Dad’s garden

Thursday 26 August 2010

Independence Day!

"A day full of warmth" by Susie Mallett April 2010

Princess Littlie went home on her own today!

One of the Littlies is working with me this week. As well as reading English books about aliens and dinosaurs that love and steal underpants, she is making a papier mache princess. She told me today that this is not one of the princesses in the numerous Disney films, it is a model of herself. Now she is our Princess Littlie.

After her work she walked home, all alone!

She walked home and she really did look like a smiling princess as she looked right and left and right again and got herself safely to the otherside of the street. She was as proud as punch and I cried as I waved to her Grandma through the bushes, as arranged, so we both knew that she was safe. I suspect that grandma's eyes were moist too.

A very nice way to end a school year

It was her Mum's spontaneous idea to try going it alone today. Mum had walked in with her at lunchtime and was confident that her daughter would be OK. This was the day that I had been waiting for! It is not every day that a young client comes to us who lives near enough to walk home with her rolator all alone.

When Mum suggested it today and made arrangements to have Grandma looking out for her, I told Princess Littlie that it had always been an aim of the family and also of mine that one day she would come to "Petö" and walk home from "Petö" on her own. I told Littlie how I am very surprised and so thrilled that she has achieved this so quickly. It has taken her about three months since we first walked the whole way home together for both her and her Mum to feel happy about having a go at doing it alone. Up until the time that she started school a year ago the furthest she had walked with a rolator was about twenty metres. She is getting so strong that she will soon be walking the kilometre to the baker's!

She has to cross one road!

It is not a busy road but never-the-less it is a real road with cars on it and lots of mini-buses. It is the bit that has always worried her most of all when we have been together, although I think that she does it better when she is alone, she takes more care. Getting going with the rolator again after having to stop at the kerb is difficult but with a little bit of jiggling she manages it, just as she did today.

Off she went, saying "I will go now, OK?"

Princess Littlie walked out of the door of our work room and I told her that I would watch her from there as she trotted off over the hundred metres to the kerb of the road. She looked back at me a couple of times, then gave me a wave, yes she let go with one hand, to signal the all clear. This was the sign that she had spotted Oma (Grandma) at her gate two hundred metres away on the otherside of the road that she now had to cross..

Congratulations, Princess Littlie, from us all!

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Talking to myself

"Todays art work" by F and K

I talk to myself when I am doing something fiddly, sometimes out loud and sometimes inside me somewhere. This always helps, as many of you will also have experienced, in getting a difficult job sorted.

It is also what the little boy, K, did constantly as he cut out his pieces for the horse on the right. He spoke so loudly, and so much and so fast that the little girl, F, actually asked him to be a bit quieter.

It is what most children and many adults do a lot of the time. They chattter away as they work and play. I have no idea why littlies in school must be quiet or why some people say it is the first sign of madness in adults.

For me it is the first attempt of ordering my muddled thoughts, of controlling my clumsy fingers, and learning something that I find very difficult. It is for example my way of remembering difficult words. I say them out loud so they go in from another direction, in my ears as well as though my eyes.

Does it all sound familiar?

Of course it does. We could call it common sense, we could call it life. It is what we do, and if we can not do it then we need to be shown how to.

Here is something that I read when I got in from working the late shift. I thought I would share it:

Here is something else that might be worth a read later:


While I am posting URLs, here is another that I have never noticed before either, on Facebook. There is an interesting inconsistant use of capitals for conductive education too, sometimes with one, sometimes with two, sometimes without.

Sunday 22 August 2010

How the camel got its hump

By Susie Mallett July 2010

Or as one of my clients always says: “Ich habe eine Frage”

I have a question.

I am still sitting here with a coffee trying not to do any work, but try telling that to my wandering thoughts!

I am in the shade on my lovely balcony. The summer returned, with the temperature up in the mid twenties again after two weeks of no more than 13 degrees celcius. I am listening to the birds and watching the bees in the beans and wondering about the how the C and the E got into being and where they came from.

Back to Mr Kipling

It was Mr Kipling, of the Just So Stories and not of the "exceedingly good cakes", who also told us:

"How the First Letter was Written.

He was talking about a different kind of letter, but can any one tell me how the capital letters come to be put into conductive education. Why is it CE and not ce?

Why is it Conductive Education and not Conductive Pedagogy or Conductive Upbringing?

I have been trying to find out if there are any other education systems that have taken this example other than those like Steiner or Montessori that use someone’s name in the title, and like the “Petö Therapie in the clinic in Hohenstuchen that was mentioned recently.

In Germany we have konduktiv Förderung nach Petö or konduktiv Pedagogie, and Petö, Bobath and Vojta Therapies because not only do names have capitals in the German language but nouns too.

In Hungarian nouns do not have capital letters so konduktiv nevelés has no capitals at all.

There are no capitals in cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, and none in special education, vocational education, medical education, higher education or college education.

So how then did they get into Conductive Education, but not into conductive upbringing, the translation of konduktiv nevelés, or conductive pedagogy?

Was this distinction made to indicate that this was something different to conductive upbringing, something different to what was happening in Hungary?

What do capital letters actually do to the meaning of a word or phrase in a sentence? Do they make them more important, more prominant, are they saying: look this is what it is all about?

I now see that it was not only one question that I have but a whole list of them!

When I began my conductive education at the Petö Institute in 1989 I scribbled away in my lessons and, just as I had learnt at school, I wrote conductive education without capitals. This is what I got used to during those four years and is how I wrote it whenever I had to put pen to paper during my studies.

At that time I had two books on the subject, published in 1987 and 1988. The first was written originally in English and like me did not use capitals and the other, that was translated into English used capitals. I assumed that in the latter this had been a mistake of the translator but I realise now that it was following a new trend.

Who started the trend and why?

Later in my work in Germany I rarely had to use the words in English I was using the Hungarian konduktiv nevelés with my colleagues and the various German descriptions. Usually I chose konduktive Pedagogie or konduktive Erzeihung, as used in the German translation of the name of the PAI in Petö's day. All with their capitals for the nouns.

The more I read in English about the subject the more I noticed that conductive education was changing. I do not mean the changes in how it was being practised, although I noticed these changes too, but in how it was spelt.

Why did the changes take place?

Was it "Just So"?

In the 1987 edition of Conductive Education, A System for Overcoming Motor Disorder, Andrew Sutton and Phillipa Cottam used conductive education although as early as 1984 in an article published in Educational Studies, vol 10, no 2, Andrew Sutton used a C and an E. I wonder why he changed back again to a c and an e, only to return again later.

In 1983 L. Jernqvist, J. Titchener and R Kinsman where still writing conductive education but by 1984 Jernqvist had begun to use Conductive Education.

By 1988 in the English translation of Konductiv Pedagogia - Conductive Education by Mária Hári and Károly Ákos and in 1989s TWO YEARS ON Proceedings of the Education Conference, the capitals are there. They are also there in Conductive Education? by Janet Read, published in 1990 and also in the 1991 publication of the English translation of Dina, A Mother practises Conductive Education. It seems by the 1990s they were here to stay.

Slowly but surely almost every where that I saw it written down konduktiv pedigogia in its English translation was given capitals.

But not everywhere.

In the Conductive Education, Occasional Papers that are in my pocession, published by the International Petö Institute between 1997 and 2005 it seems to depend from what country the articles come from as to which variation is used. Hungarian and German writers usually use no capitals whereas artilces from Israel, the USA, China and Britain usually have them.

Is it "Just So", or does anyone know how,or even why, the first letters were, (sometimes, but not always) written CE?


Rudyard Kipling -

I was out on the balcony thinking...

"A Snail" by Susie Mallett,
August 2010

..... and as I had my mini-netbook out there with me I decided that I should write down some of my thoughts.

At first I was thinking about something I had read on Andrew Suttons blog. More precisely in the comments from Norman Perrin:

Therapy! Therapy! Therapy!
Why, oh why, oh why are so many people convinced that "therapy" has the answers?

Could it be that they asking the wrong questions?

Rubbish in, rubbish out, as the (politer) computer geeks say.

The right questions? Start with: upbringing, parenting, education, schooling, curriculum, pedagogy, professional training ....

and from Rony Schenker:

I believe that for parents "therapy" means 'recovery", and the word in its deepest meaning meets their wish for their child healing or recovery. I also believe ,that meeting the medical professionals at the very beginning stage of their journey as parents of a child with cp, is in a way, like the "imprinting" described by Konrad Lorenz . It happens in a very critical stage and lasts for long (if not for ever). Thirdly, I believe that it is also a product of the higher status that people ascribe to the medical professions in comparison to education. Not surprisingly, many parents approach CE only after being "disappointed" from the "therapies" that did not meet their dream of "fixing" the child, or when they are at a stage that they do not perceive cp as a disease anymore , but as a condition, a state.

Then I thought this:

Babies are born in hospitals so the first people they and their parents meet are from the medical, and then later the therapeutic professions. As Rony said, the medical profession are held in very high esteem, and at this early stage they are the only people that parents and their babies, and adult who suddenly find themselves with a motor disorder have contact with. They are the first on the scene with the first expert advice.

This is why it is so important that along with our struggle to get conductive education recognised as an alternative to other types of kindergarten and schooling, and also as a part of the adult lives of our clients, that we continue working towards conductive education becoming part of the provision in the premature baby units and special care units of clinics for people with motor disorders. This has been the way in Hungary for a long time. I experienced there how the mothers of tiny premature babies work hard educating their babies along side conductors from day one, how parents return to outpatients and proudly show the conductors the progress that their growing babies are making. Unfortunately I have not been lucky enough to witness the work in the Hungarian clinics with new stroke clients, but I know that they will also be full of hope for an active future.

Having conductors right there working alongside the medical profession educating babies and parents, and adult clients right from the beginning of the life with a motor disorder will prevent the imprinting, as you describe, from occurring on the medical side. Having conductors there at this very critical stage can prevent many disappointments later and create a balance in the lives of those people with motor disorders. A balance between medical treatment and interventions, and education for living.

Conductors can prevent the loss of the hope that these people have had up until this point in their lives.

Conductors can help the clients keep their hope and ambitions for their futures alive. Conductors can show them that life is to be lived to the full and that a condcutive upbringing can steer these people, the babies, the parents, the adult clients and the carers, towards active lives. Towards a balanced life, one where body and soul are looked at and cared for together as part of their way forward, and all happening right from the onset.

We have all heard parents say when learning about conductive education for the first time that it has given back their hope.

I have heard the same from many adult clients too. Many adults with multiple sclerosis tell me that the initial advice from the medical profession was, in so many words, to become less active, rest as much as possible, one even told me they were advised to spend their days sitting in a comfortable chair reading. Stroke clients tell me regularly that they have been told that after three years there is no hope anymore of learning new skills. Even the health insurances stop paying for many therapies at this stage too. Put in a nutshell they were all told this is the end of your active life.

There are, of course, exceptions. Not all my adult clients have been told the same story but the majority say the same as the many parents, that conductive education has restored their hope that there is live despite a motor disorder and many disabilities can be prevented before they even occur.

We must work towards this not being hope restored but hope retained. No rebuilding required because it was never taken away! We have a lot of work before us.


Andrew Sutton

Saturday 21 August 2010

Sometimes I am at my wits end as to what to try next....

No idea what we were doing here!

“Hold the line please, I have a call for you from London”

Out to lunch

....sometimes it is handed to me on a plate!

Sometimes I just run out of new ideas and after thirteen years conductive upbringing my client has experienced all the old ones in a hundred-and-one variations!

Sometimes everything really does just fit into place. Sometimes things just get decided for me, especially when my clients learn to decide for themselves and come up with their own new ideas.

That is just how it happened recently.

A conductive trip to Paderborn

We have done this before. I have actually written on my blog about the excitement, thrill and the accompanying fear that my client experienced on a trip we made that included his first ever bus-journey alone. He did it all of course with flying colours, but he spent the whole of our day-out worrying about it.

This week the same client asked me if I would go with him to Paderborn. He had it all planned, he had obviously been giving it a lot of thought in the days before we met. We had done a lot of Internet searching together for the first visit six months previously and he had now decided that he would like to go to another of the museums that we had researched. The computer museum was the choice of the day and afterwards a visit to my friend, who, as he knows, lives nearby. Also included in his carefully laid out plan was taking me out to lunch.

Sometimes I wonder how this twenty-year-old has learnt to be such a gentleman. His movement disorder prevented him until his fourteenth or fifteenth year from going anywhere without his parents. It seems that his years of dreaming of being as independent as his siblings was not wasted on dreaming, he observed everything that was going on around him, including the behaviour of gentle men!

"Could we do it?" he asked, with sparkling eyes.

Of course we could and we did. On the very same day as he asked me we made all the plans. I wanted us to be able to stop thinking about it for a few days. I was determined to have less worry on his part than on the last excursion.

We looked up the museum's opening hours and the bus time-table, we phoned my friend to book afternnon-tea at her house, we decided on a convenient day and then nothing more was said.

On the evening before the museum visit my client organised himself. He needed his pass for free bus travel, his identity card, camera phone and money. He then took himself off to the bank, with his bank card safe in hand and his pin number safe in his head, he had already decided how much cash he would need. And that was that, off to bed with no more said.

What a difference to the excitement, thrill and the worries of the last time. This time he was taking it all in his stride happy about the trip he had planned, but relaxed about it knowing that he was capable not only of the journey home but also of getting himself ready.

At 8.17am we boarded our bus with the understanding that if we managed to do all that we wanted to do in the time we had, my client would travel home alone as he so wished to do. I would follow on, two hours later, with the next, and also the last, bus.

I was so pleased when everything worked out exactly as my client wished and we had a much more enjoyable day out than the last time. Even the rain held off until we stepped inside my friend’s front door.

Why was it all so different this time?

The difference was that our day had changed from being a scary adventure into almost an everyday experience. It was a normal day out, something to be looked forward to but not feared. A relaxed time, full of nice experiences. A day of getting on and off buses, of ordering meals, of learning about something new, meeting friends and riding the bus home alone.

My client did it all so serenely. With a calmness that was certainly missing from the first such excursion.

There had been no questions about times of buses or about phone calls home. No nervousness about missing stops. No questions and no watch-watching! It was old hat now. Having done it all once the fear had gone. It was a case of “been there, done that, now let’s do it again!”

I was so happy to see how my client enjoyed his time in the Museum. Six months ago on our first trip we visited the tractor museum, my client’s own choice. He had not been at all concentrated and had not enjoyed the exhibits half as much as I had.

This week he had a whale of a time, me too. We played on computers that spoke to us, repeating all that we entered on the keyboard. We printed out funny pictures of ourselves on a computer that was controlled by a blink of an eye or a Mona Lisa style smile and we played on another that recognised a hand movement or the tone of a voice.

Both of us wandered around learning about punch cards and adding machines, read about Alan Luring and Konrad Zuse, and we telephoned each other at the telephone exchange watching the connections tapping in to each other.

We learnt about the earliest Chinese abacus and stones on which the Mesopotamians had recorded how many cows cost how many sheep and who had how many of either of these! The same information was held on a skirt of strings of many different lengths and colours with three different knots to record information. We learnt about the people who could read and interpret this information. The first generations of computer programmers.

We saw the first Apple computer that had been made in a garage and a huge computer that filled a room and had been in use in Germany until the 1990s.

Most and best of all we had a lot of fun, My client completely forgot about the lone journey home. I was looking forward to our afternoon and my lone journey home as much as my client was his, but neither of us mentioned it.

Instead, after a couple of hours just wandering here and there, playing with this and that, we took ourselves off for lunch in the bistro.

With decisions made there on what to eat and drink we placed our orders. I did wonder how my client was going to manage the huge bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese that arrived. I had no need to worry here either, he pulled that off with the same panache that he had been using all day.

I do not think I could have done it so well, I am sure I would have splashed the sauce all over my white shirt, but not one string of spaghetti missed my clients mouth, not one speck of tomato was to be found anywhere but on the plate. It was a very slow process but done all alone, no help from me either practically or verbally. The slow eating prevented hiccups and mishaps. Oh, how I wish that he would take such care at home. At least he demonstrated to me that he can do it and I have no need to worry that if he finds himself somewhere alone that he will starve!

My client paid the bill, we collected our bags and our coats. August has for some strange reason decided to be autumn instead of summer and as we went trekked through the park around the Padersee, to have tea with fellow conductor and friend, a storm was brewing.

My friend and my client know and like each other too. It was she who had surprised us by turning up at the bus stop on my client’s first lone trip to wish him well and congratulate him.

She knows what our trips are all about and joins in with enthusiasm, just like many people do in my client’s conductive life.

My client paints. He had thought to bring a present with him of handmade greeting cards, and remarkably he remembered to fish them out of his bag as soon as we arrived, before sitting down for an hour to tell stories about all that has happened recently in his life. He was so relaxed. It was lovely for me to be able to sit back and observe.

He had never been to this house before but it seemed like he was at home immediately. He loved having someone listening to him. His speech is often difficult to understand and my friend concentrated hard and did really well. She needed a clue now and then as the subject jumped from one story to another about parts of my clients life, things that my friend could not possibly guess. Between them they got by, my client learnt to start stories at the beginning and not in the middle, as he tends to do to save words, and my friend asked all the right questions. She is a conductor, she knew what to do! I felt like she had given me an hour off.

Time flew by and we ran off to catch our next bus. Yes that is right, you read it correctly, my client can run too.

The bus took us to the rail and bus station where we all waved him off on the bus home. My friend was there again to celebrate the newly learnt skills.

What a difference six months makes. In the ten minutes before his bus arrived we chatted, had a last drink, talked about the new buses and the extra long concertina ones until he spotted the S80 that was homeward bound.

Six months ago he was hopping from one leg to the other as he waited for the bus, unable to concentrate on anything. Today he did not even look out of the window to wave goodbye he was too interested in the driver, the bus and the road home. We conductors just looked at each knowingly and smiled.

I followed on two hours later after more tea and cakes and the best treat of the day. My friend’s four-year-old son, the Unimog fan, asked me if I would like to play trains with him. I wonder how he knew that he was asking just the right person. We had fun with Thomas the tank-engine while his mum and I chatted and she held the baby. A conductor’s life is never dull.

When I saw my client and his family again even then the atmosphere was different to that of six months ago. Yes of course, the family were pleased that their son had arrived home in one piece but there was not the excitement there had been on that first occasion, it is now taken for granted that he can do it.

Riding the buses all alone is now part of life.

Who knows perhaps he will visit me in Nürnberg one day.


Unimog posting-

First excursion postings -

Computer museum in Paderborn -