My visitors today

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Raising smiles

The 26th East Coast Truckers Convoy
Each of the eighty-three trucks that travelled through the county in convoy had a banner in the front of the cab. The long blue banner stated that this was the twenty-sixth time that these enormous, shiny trucks had honked their horns as they drove past my parents' front door at the start of this annual adventure for children with special needs.
This is always a journey with a difference, a journey that makes a difference to the lives of many special children from the area. Most of the route that these travellers take is lined with hand-waving spectators, who are only waiting for a honk, a flash of  the many lights or a few waves in return. We “East Coasters” know that this is a really special day for each of the children with special-needs and many local residents line the route to wish them well on their way to the seaside and to see them safely home again in the evening.
The twenty-sixth convoy was the very first that I have witnessed. I just happened to be there with my Dad so we waited together on his doorstep for these amazing vehicles to pass by. I actually felt like I had been there so many times before, as my Mum had always described it in such detail to me on the phone. She had always waved for me too. This time I waved for her!
Every year in each of the trucks beside the driver sits a child with special-needs, accompanied by a carer. In the first few years that this event took place one of these children was one of my first “Petö” clients, a child who I used to work with whenever I was visiting my parents. He knew my Mum really well as he often visited her when I was back in Germany, so he would always be looking out for her standing at the door on that very first leg of the journey, and she never missed giving him a wave.
This time I was waving
I could not believe my eyes when I saw the trucks appearing. They are huge creatures, yes they do look like animals of some kind. They were gleaming, having just been polished, and all of them had more lights on them than a Christmas tree. Each truck in its own livery has a personality of its own and even the horns have different honks!
I was so impressed by the whole event, by the work that the organisation puts in for it to be such a success, by the children’s happy faces and by the trucks themselves, so that not only did I wave them out in the morning but I grabbed my sister and my camera and watched and waved at the entrance of the parking lot as they all returned at twilight after an exhausting day out. The trucks looked even better then in the evening light, all with their lights on. And the biggest surprise of all: everyone was still waving!
Most of the folks of the East were talking about it yesterday, not only about this wonderful event but because there is doubt that it will be able to continue. The Convoy needs police escorts, roads need to be closed and road safety needs to be looked after. The police announced that they will not be able to provide this in the future. Most people who I spoke to feel sure that other people can be found who will provide this cover to ensure that the East-Coast-Children will be able to join the East Coast Truckers Convoy for many years to come.
Raising smiles not money
This is not a money-raising event. It is a smile-raising event, and not only for the children who are given a day out and their families. From Norwich to Lowestoft, then on to Great Yarmouth and back to Norwich, the streets are lined with well-wishers. Travellers, day-trippers and shoppers, park their cars in lay-bys to let the Convoy pass and the drivers and passengers lean out of the windows to hear a honk and to give a wave. It is a bit of fun, a soul-warming day for everyone who participates, in whatever way. Long may it continue to be so.
Thanks go to the East Coast Truckers for all the joy that they bring to the people of the region.
Read more about the East Coast Truckers -

Tuesday 30 August 2011

The Berlin Wall, a PS

"Ceramic tile" by Susie Mallett, 1985

A friend of mine, Emma McDowell, wrote to me after reading my posting about 13th August, 1961 when the building of the Berlin Wall, the Mauer began.

Over the past few years, since I have my blog, Emma often writes to me after she has read something that she likes or if something prompted one of her own particular conductive memories or experiences from her life. I have her permission to post her comments on my blog if I feel that they would be of interest to my readers.

It seems so long now since that anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, a day that was given just the right amount of respectful media attention in Germany. I fear that this comment will get lost if I post it on my own commemorative posting, so I will put it up here as a posting in its own right.

This is what Emma wrote to me about her life in August 1961:

As for the Mauer: well, I could wear my son’s Tshirt that says:
 “How you can tell that you are getting over the hill…
                                         …you don’t read about history, you remember it”.

Yes, I remember exactly that August (fifty years ago), when the Berlin wall was built. An East German pen-friend from Leipzig, Gaby, was staying with us in Szeged (Hungary). We were “Tauschkinder” (exchange-students), Gaby and I, our families planned it all out.

After a brief correspondence Gaby came to us first, for six weeks that summer. It was a big sensation for me and my young sister to have somebody staying with us who could only speak German! And at fourteen she was (or so it seemed to us) quite a sophisticated young lady, too, with beautiful Hochdeutsch. (She spoke Sächsisch at home, of course.)

After their less sunny climate, she really enjoyed the Szegediner Hitze, the heat of Szeged, and all the teenage fun at the riverside, while my spoken German came on quite well (I had already known some German, and was certainly well versed in the grammar.)

Later I spent four complete summers in East Germany which I got to know very well.

 That first summer, so, it must have been 1961, Gaby’s parents wrote to her about the events in Berlin – the Mauer – cautiously, in a letter. She was upset.

I knew very little about politics in those days, except what we all experienced in my own country. By that time it was somewhat easier for Hungarians to travel abroad, but the East Germans really felt imprisoned, with most of them having relatives, or close friends “drüben”, (in the west).

Thank you Emma, sorry it took me so long to post this.

There is aother interesting comment on the original posting about experiences on both sides of the wall.thank you to my readers for telling me their stories. Please keep them coming.

Friday 26 August 2011

Painting by feelings and emotions versus painting by numbers

"Pure emotion - no numbers to follow here" 
by Susie Mallett, July 2011

Painting should be made from the soul not by numbers 

That is what one of my artistic clients told me last week.

He went on to explain to me that he had registered himself for, and attended, a painting course that took place after work one evening and he was and still is very disappointed.

He had thought that he was going to be able to express himself on canvas, to paint with feeling and emotions as he is used to doing. And, he added, he thought that he was going to learn something.

This young man loves to paint. He has learnt about mixing colours, about using different techniques and types of brushes and tools to achieve various effects to produce the images he is after. He has also learnt how to take a step backwards and view is pictures from afar to consider if they are complete or not.

This young artist has had three exhibitions of his own work and is working on a collection for the  fourth one.  He had hoped when he signed up for the “around the world” evening class, with a visiting artist, that he would receive some more usefultips to use in his own work.

It is part of the ongoing development of this client, and a huge step forward, that he is now able to decide for himself whether he wishes to enroll for something to do in his spare time and to decide alone what it could be. It is an even bigger step forward in his development that  having chosen the painting class that he was then able to be critical about what was on offer. 

And critical he was 

In fact he was very critical:

“I thought I was going to be taught something and all I was asked to do was to colour in a pre-drawn picture.”

He had been given a picture of the world, drawn on a canvas, and each person participating had been asked to colour in the same picture. I am not sure  if it was exactly painting by numbers or whether exactly the same colours had to be used, but even the fact that the picture was pre-drawn, and everyone did the same, was enough to deter my client from signing up again in the future.

He said that to make matters worse the canvases were tiny and the brushes too big for his personal needs to fulfill the task. He was also unhappy with the medium that they were given to paint with. 
Teaching and learning 

The outcome of this unsatisfactory experience, and our subsequent discussion, is that my client plans to offer our, (his and my), services to the group the next time they plan a painting class. He  has decided this because he wants to learn something the next time, and he wants his fellow class members to learn too. 

He wants them to learn about colour, about mixing paint and how to use brushes, palette-knives, sponges and stamps to apply paint, just as he has done from me in the past. Not only does he wish that these practical things are taught but also how to form shapes and make marks that when put together will allow them to express whatever ideas they wish to in the images that they produce. 

My client does not wish to join a group of twenty people again who all have to colour in the same image with the colours stated on the canvas. That is not his idea of painting at all.

We will see if we get invited. I am glad that I am included in his team.

Summertime success

Take a few minutes please to read this wonderful report of a successful and happy time:

Here are some brilliant descriptions of the activities experienced at a summer school where a family spent time with their child with spina bifida.

I really enjoyed reading it and I also enjoyed seeing my conductor friend at work in the pictures.

Thank's to the family for sharing it with everyone, it is a very valuable parental report on CE.


Wednesday 24 August 2011

Oscar Pistorius is victorious!

 "The curtain drawing back" by Susie Mallett, August 2011

In the Guardian Weekly, 19.08.11 I read that Oscar Pistorius has been selected to run for South Africa in the four by four-hundred metre relay team in the World Championships in South Korea.

He will be the first amputee to run at an able-bodied competition and is now a step closer to running at the Olympics in London.

More on my blog about victorious Oscar Pistorius:

Monday 22 August 2011


 "Another blue day" by Susie Mallett, August 2011
Not only are the parents rallying round

Here is the story of one of the children who attends Heel and Toe doing his own bit to raise some money for the centre:

Sunday 21 August 2011

Are parents saving the day?

Yet again we hear about parents pulling together in an attempt to save the day 

Must it always be the parents who have to fight to keep their children’s groups alive? I know that the centres do their best but it is so often the case that it is only when the parents get up on the soap-box too that any notice is taken by the world outside Conductive Education, and perhaps some  alternative resources can be found.

Thank goodness for centres who involve families in the work so well that in an emergency they can be relied on to rally round to help in raising awareness and hopefully some money.

As it very often is in the conductive world it is the parents who stepped in at Heel and Toe to try to save the dyspraxia services from closing down. I really do hope that they succeed although in the present financial climate it will be very hard.

Surely we can hope that there are enough local businesses, or other groups of willing donators, who can raise the initial three thousand pounds needed to keep the group open. Once a service closes it is difficult to get it going again, preventing closure could give Heel and Toe a big enough buffer zone to get more fund-raising events organised. Good luck to you all. I hope that the dyspraxia service that you offer continues for a long time ahead.

I have provided regular conductive sessions for children with dyspraxia and have seen great developments taking place. Children have often developed enough to allow them to leave special education and attend mainstream school, some with and some without assistants. Some children have developed quickly, and soon enough not to attend special schools at all.

Some of these children continue to attend our afternoon conductive group. This group is especially for children who attend mainstream schools, and for their families and assistants, who all still need our conductive help to learn to solve the problems that their lives present them with.

Providing conductive services for children with diagnosis other than cerebral palsy is very important for the development of conductive services all over the world. I am always shocked to read or hear conductors, providers of CE and parents saying: “I know that Conductive Education is only for children with cerebral palsy but….”

 I always wonder, and if possible ask, where they received this information from. Conductive work of any kind is not, and I think was never intended to be by András Petö, and I for one was never taught that it is, only for children with cerebral palsy.

Conductive pedagogy can be applied to any situation where the client is not able to develop well using other methods of education and upbringing. Of course providing this service to all comers depends on the facilities and conductors available and what is realistically possible.

Having an established group at Heel and Toe that provides conductive services to children who have been diagnosed with dyspraxia is quite an achievement. I hope that the parents can convince enough people to help them to keep the service in exisitance. Yes, as I said above, I think it will be the local business men and woman, the local communities and generous individuals like the car-sharing Grandmother, who will save the day and not the local authorities. I would love to be proven wrong.

I hope that Heel and Toe suceed and I also hope that more providers of conduction take this as an example and open doors to people other than children with cerebral palsy

Where to ask for conductive tips?

 "A welcome three-inches-long visitor to the group last week" 
by Susie Mallett, August 2011

How does one prevent sites from being taken over by uninvited guests?

Or are such forums a thing of the past?

Yesterday I got an alert for a refrigeration company in New York that was advertising here:

This site was not used very much but it was used - I found it quite difficult to navigate but I tried my best to keep an eye on what was being asked and offer a few answers and to post  a question now and again myself. Several other people did the same. There was for a short time a regular readership.

Such a shame

When junk comments started to appear I informed the site manager and they were then removed, but gradually the junk mail has swamped the site until it is now virtually impossible to see the wood from the trees or to distinguish the conductive input through a forest of advertising. Not only is the junk appearing as comments it is appearing also as postings. 

It is a while back since I notified Conduction of the increasing junk content on the forum and the team decided to remove the link to the Conductive Community Forum from its website. It is sad to see that this discussion forum has gone the way of others in the conductive world. 

I stopped using the site when the junk mail started to appear, as did most other people which I can understand. I did not like being bombarded by unwanted advertising in this way while I was reading threads, and for me there was always the fear of accidently clicking on something that would bring a virus into the computer.

I expect this problem is not only one experienced in the conductive world and with the use of Facebook as a communicating board it is really no wonder that such forums go out of use. 

A nice way to do it

I have often received messages through Facebook have sent to a group of “friends” who could possibly come up with an answer or information to help solve a current problem that someone has. These are problems that usually come from practice, use of aids, finding the right shoes or bikes, etc., Similar to those that were posted earlier on the Conductive Community Forum.

Quite long exchanges of information have developed in this way. Sometimes it is a shame that such exchanges remain private, seen only by the small group involved in them, but sometimes I think it is better this way and it is also nice to have been asked personally for advice. At least using Facebook the questions get answered quickly because they are directed more specifically to people who could have answers.  

An additional plus to the Facebook “friends” messaging idea is that these threads do not get invaded by those annoying, unwanted visitors advertising their wares.

If there is anything that comes up in the discussion that the questioner feels should be shared more widely, then it can be published on a Facebook page later. 

How do other people prefer to search for knowledge? 

I am thinking here specifically of fellow conductors who know that there must be hundreds of conductors out there with an answer to a current problem. If we all worked in a big team like at the Petö Institute there would probably be someone just at our elbow as we worked to offer advice, but there are more and more of us who work alone or in very small groups, how do we get those tips? Several people write to me for snippets of information, ideas, or more expansive advice on practice. I imagine that there are other people doing the same all over the world and that there is probably quite an intricate spider’s web connecting people needing conductive tips. It is nice to imagine that this is how it is and that it probably works better  on Facebook than on the forums that get invaded so quickly by unwanted advertising and then not visited by the people with the answers anymore.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Read all about it!

I am sure there will be plenty more publicity for Anne Wittig and James Forlitti in the coming months and years as they work together with the Purpose Society on this wonderful school project.

I hope you get plenty in the next few weeks too so the you fill the school so it can start this September.

Congratulations and I wish you continued success.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Let's keep on learning for our life

"On the balcony enjoying the flowers"
by Susie Mallett, 14th august 2011

Please take a few minutes on this summery-Sunday afternoon to take a look at an article by Andrew Sutton that Judit Szathmary has just posted: