My visitors today

Monday 31 October 2011

PS to "Stars in your eyes"

"Our Pirate Princess" by Susie Mallett, 2011

I have had a few positive responses to the video-film link that I posted on here yesterday. Some people said that they wished that they could speak German, others said that the film needs no translation, it speaks for itself.

As I had already done a rough translation in long hand before the letters came in, I have typed it up and here it is just in case anyone wants to know exactly what is being said.

You know, it may be very important for someone to know that this child wants to be a vet, and has done since as long as I can remember. I have been working with her and her parents since she was two-and-a-half. Perhaps she did not know then but she certainly had veterinary surgeon as her dream profession when she was five when she got a chance to saw the legs off my dinosaur!

Franken Fernseher, Susanne Ratke (FF):

Felicia is a ray of sunshine, after just one look at her you can recognize that. You can also see that she is a bit different. She suffers from a disturbance of the muscle and nervous system and has difficulty speaking, the results of oxygen deficiency at birth. Despite this it has always been clear to Felicia’s parents that she will attend a mainstream school.

Mum:  “After we realized that she is an absolutely normal little girl as far as her intelligence is concerned we did all that we could do that she could attend mainstream school. So that she would get the chance for a normal life, that is to say, to be in a normal educational field with the possibility to learn a profession. She has contact with healthy children and will not become isolated.”

FF: “Are you a good student, Felicia?”

Felicia: “Yes”

Mum: “Felicia is very excited.”

FF: That is no wonder, today is no ordinary day. Firstly is the TV there and secondly now it is time to go off to school.

Every morning at seven-thirty Felicia is collected by a driver to be taken to her school.
There she is in the third year. She is eagerly awaited in front of the school. Not only by her classmates.

Esther Busch: “Good Morning Felicia”

FF: Esther Busch is Felicia’s school assistant and since her first day at school these two have been a team.

They spend each school day together because totally without help this little girl would not be able to attend the school.

Esther Busch: "Felicia is a very happy person. She gets a lot of enjoyment out of life. She smiles a lot, that is one thing and she has a very strong will. She wants to do as much as she can herself. When I want to help her too much she looks at me out of the corner of her eye as if to say no, or she says “me, I want to do it myself.”

FF: It is this, through giving her the possibility to work alone, that Esther Busch gives this eight-year-old the strength to be as independent as possible. This is also made possible through the help of her classmates.

The teacher, Bianca Löwe knows that also the other children benefit from Felicia’s presence.

Teacher: “When I spoke to the class about the Franken Fernseher team coming to us I discussed together with the children, the possible reasons for them coming. Oh what a lot of things they listed!

I kept digging deeper until eventually a pupil said: “Well perhaps it is because of Felicia”. They got to this conclusion only because I gave them lots of clues. Felicia is a child just like all the others too. She is a prize for us, right along the line!”

FF: Felicia’s neighbour at her desk also explains how well Felicia is integrated:

Pupil: I like to help her, yes and I fetch things for her. Yes I enjoy sitting next to her.

FF: And she likes to go with her during the break out to play.

Pupil: “Felicia on three we run away, Ok? One, two three go!”

Esther Busch: “Playing catch from post to post, and as she can now run really fast with the rolator, she can keep up with the other children.”

FF: This example with Felicia shows that inclusion can work when everyone who is involved is willing.

Through attending the Hegel School Felicia achieving success in her dream profession is also one step nearer.

Felicia and Mum: “Veterinary surgeon”. “OK, we will have to see if something like this is possible in the future.”

FF: The wish to attend a mainstream school has been fulfilled for Felicia and her family, and who knows what more Felicia can achieve she is certainly not lacking in motivation.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Stars in your eyes

Sis and I, off to Sunday School, 1962

Always stars

I was at school with Little Princess last week when the teacher asked the class if they could guess why the television crew had asked whether they could come to film in the classroom.

There were so many different answers but not one child guessed, until the teacher fed the answer into their mouths.  The teacher explained that it was exactly for this reason that it is just taken for granted by them that they have a child with disability in the class, that the television wanted to make a film about them.

The film would be shown with the hope that it would educate others the teacher explained. The teacher said that how the children accept each other in their classroom is ideally how it should always be and not an exceptional situation and that this is what the television wanted to present.

Witnessing this dialogue between the teacher and the class brought tears to my eyes. Having found this class for our Little Princess three years ago really was a splendid thing.

I had tears not only in my eyes but rolling down my cheeks this evening when I watched the results of this filming project.

Fame for a day

Little Princess went home on Friday evening in a hurry. She wanted to be home to watch herself on the television.

Her last words to me as she left were to ask if I would be home to see it too.

“I have no television”, I answered.

“And the neighbours?” she asked.

She was really pleased with her performance at school that morning and wanted me to see the film about her and her school-day when it was aired that same evening.

I did not tell her that I would probably not be home until after nine o’clock and would probably miss the repeat showing too, but I promised that I would see the programme somehow, even if it was later, in a recording.

I was out all day yesterday and have just had a look in the archives of Franken television to find the super-star and there she is, smiling so early in the morning and still smiling after a hard day at school and even harder day under the spotlights. The classroom assistant, teacher and all the children were excellent in their supporting roles too.

Take a look here:

I have translated the text from the website and posted it here, below. I will post a PS later with a rough translation of the film script.

Behinderte und Nichtbehinderte Kinder lernen gemeinsam

Behinderte und nichtbehinderte Kinder können nicht gemeinsam lernen, so ein lang gehegter Irrglaube in deutschen Klassenzimmern. Vor etwa zehn Jahren starteten die ersten Modellprojekte um das Gegenteil zu beweisen.

Seit diesem Schuljahr gibt es in Bayern 41 Schulen, die sowohl von nichtbehinderten als auch von behinderten Kindern besucht werden. Es handelt sich um sogenannte Inklusions-Schulen. Dass das bestens funktionieren kann, zeigt das Beispiel der kleinen Felicia.

Disabled and non- disabled learn together

Disabled and non-disabled children cannot learn together, or so goes the long fostered misconception in German classrooms. Ten years ago we saw the beginning of the first pilot scheme to prove the opposite.

From the beginning of this school year there are now forty-one Bavarian schools that are attended by both disabled and non-disabled children. These are the so-called Inclusion-schools. An example of how well this system can work is shown here by Felicia.

Monday 24 October 2011

A conductive sleep-over

 "Dancing beech trees" by Susie Mallett, 1980

How can one sleep conductively?

That is what someone asked me yesterday evening. It was a conductor, we were just wondering about things. I said conductive sleeping probably means reading with a torch under the bed covers, midnight feasts and snoring.

That just about sums it up doesn’t it?

We will see, after this weekend is over when our children have, on their own request, conductively slept-over for the first time.

There is a lot of excitement, suitcases are being packed, meals have been discussed and we are really looking forward to the great event.

I hope there will be at least a couple of hours of conductive-sleeping going on too.

Sunday 23 October 2011

An open letter to Dr Oliver Sacks

 "The Blue Dog Who Mistook Himself for a Gentleman"
by Susie Mallett, 1998

Dear Dr Sacks,

I have read many books of your books, I think probably bought everything that you have written, since I first discovered The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, in 1986.

I had been an art student, but by the time that I read this book of yours I was already working as an art therapist. Still, I think that I bought that book for its wonderful cover, an illustration by Paul Slater after a favourite Magritte painting of mine, The Treachery of Images, rather than for its contents. At that time I knew absolutely nothing about you and your work, or your delightful way of describing it all.

Since that first reading of that “Magritte book” I was hooked and I have been buying your books regularly ever since. Now I buy for the content not because of my attraction for the covers! I must admit, though, that sometimes it is the mind-catching titles that first attract me. An Anthropologist on Mars could not be left un-purchased, and My Mind’s Eye caught my eye immediately last weekend, at the railway station. Even without opening it I just knew that I had to read it.

Each time that I have seen a new publication with your name on it I have bought it, even if you are mentioned only because you have written the Foreward.

I am at this moment in time enthralled by your descriptions of stereoscopy and prosopagnosia in my latest discovery. I am amazed, although I am not really sure why I should be, at how much insight your words are giving me into the problems of the nine-year old spastic-diplegic children and the sixty-year old stroke victims who are among my present clients and the problems that they have with their own visional interpretations of their worlds.

I am not sure whether they have exactly the problems that you are describing, but even so my eyes are opening even wider to all the possibilities that I must take into account when I work with them.

As I wended my way to work this morning, reading your book as I walked and writing notes in my head at the same time, I was thinking about you and how you bring your own personal experiences into your writing to help describe your client’s problems and their roads to recovery.

It was while walking to work and having so many parallel thoughts that I decided to write this sort of imaginary letter to you. I got out a pencil and paper and began straight away, with the autumn sun on my head and the crunching leaves below my feet.

I was thinking about how you probably would have been lost by now if you had walked from the bus-stop to work with your nose in a book, so appalling is your sense of direction. More important were my thoughts about how inspiring your writing is for me. I expect that it inspires many others too.

I walked into the room where I was going to work this morning and immediately announced to my colleagues that they really would have to find your book in whatever language was easiest for them, (I am English, my colleagues are German and Hungarian and we work in Germany). I believe that even if they only read the middle part of The Mind’s Eye they would learn a lot more about and reach clearer understandings of their clients.

I realised a long time ago that I benefit not only from the information that is in your books but also that the style in which you express it has influenced, motivated and inspired me most of all for so many years.

I wrote my first case-study when I was a newly fledged teacher in Basingstoke in 1988. The report was later praised for its precise detail by my head-teacher, who had needed it for a local-authority decision on a child’s placement.

That report was written three years after I had read The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. It was a few years later, when I was writing about my observations in conductive settings, that I realised that I actually enjoyed writing these down and that really what I was doing was painting pictures with words, in a way similar to you do in your wonderful case studies.

Now, twenty-five years after reading that book and more than twenty since I wrote that first case-study, I am enjoying writing my blog and still being inspired by your books.

Thank you Dr Sacks, I hope there will be many more case-studies and books to come.

Susie Mallett



René MagritteThe Treachery (Betrayal) of Images:

Dr Oliver Sacks -

His books in my library

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat
A Leg to Stand On
An Anthropologist on Mars
Seeing Voices
Island of the Colorblind
Uncle Tungsten
Oaxaca Journal
The Mind’s Eye
With a Foreward by Dr. Oliver Sacks - Phantoms in the Brain by Dr. V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

Thursday 20 October 2011

Future Footsteps, Adelaide, are travelling north in the Australian summer!

"A red-boot birthday present"

A few weeks ago I wrote about a new Facebook site that I had discovered. it had announced that CE was going to Darwin.

I asked on my blog if anyone knew anything about it:

Esther Agocs did, and now you can read about it too, on the same Facebook page:

You cana find Eszter Agocs at:

Quite a lot has been happening for Future Footsteps since it opened last February. Well done, Eszter. I hope all goes well for you in the Crocodile Dundee country too.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Early to bed

"My paint box after a hard day's work"

This evening I met my group leader from my third year of conductor-training at the Petö Institute. That was in 1991/2, twenty years ago!

Tomorrow I hope that she and a group of her colleagues, some of them also people who taught me, and some other people I have worked with, plus others who I have come to know through my work in Germany, will come to watch me, my colleagues and our clients at work.

What a turn up for the books! 

There we were hoping for a nice quiet week after three weeks of little ones with their dinosaurs, lots of illness amongst the staff and a very busy time all round. Now we have a group of twelve visitors in the group!

I do so hope that my five clients in the group tomorrow forgive me for not giving them any notice.

Some of these people, who will visit, I have known since 1989, others since 1993 when I first came to Germany. It is strange that it is only now that we begin to get to know each other.

Watch this spot: there may quite possibly be more to this story.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Is Christmas nearly upon us too?

"My favourite bubble-wrapped building!" 
18th October, 2011

While we in Germany have been excitedly decorating pumpkins for Halloween take a look at this photograph to see what they are up to in England!

The Brits are leap-frogging All Soul’s Eve with its ghosts and ghoulies, do not even know about celebrating Saint Martin’s evening with a festival of lanterns and songs, or Saint Niklaus with freshly polished boots filled with sweeties. Instead they are wishing it could be Christmas everyday! Or at least for a quarter of the year.

My sister and I spotted the first Christmas Selection Boxes in the supermarket in August and now  it is not only chocolate in the shops, it is Christmas lights on the bubble-wrapped buildings  too, as you can see in the picture above.

I can wait for Advent, just as most of Germany does. We still have our Pumpkins to make and bake, lanterns to create and parade, and shoes to polish in readiness for Niklaus to turn up with his sack of chocolates, oranges and nuts.

We will wait until the first advent weekend, the last weekend in November, before the Christmas songs get learnt and the candles come out on the tables. We have enough to keep us celebrating and busy until then.

Monday 17 October 2011

Halloween is almost upon us

Halloween in Altendorf, Germany

All Hallow’s een (eve)  and All Soul’s Day

In Norfolk

I hardly knew about this festival when I was a child, and if we had we would not have been allowed out on the streets trick-or-treating.

In Surrey

I think that the first time that I really encountered it in the south of the United Kingdom was as a young adult, when cycling down the garden path between the fence and the garage as I did each evening, late, after work I received a bit of a shock. I was tricked for not being at home with a treat!

The young neighbour’s must have known that this was my regular path, because on 31st October, 1981 I cycled through a mist of toilet-paper streamers towards the back gate. There was a criss-cross of softness that I could feel but could not see, in the shadow of the buildings and the darkness of that drizzly night.

In Mexico

Seeing all the decorations and the skeletal toys on sale for the festival of All Souls in Mexico, was the first time that I really saw a relationship between All Hallow’s  and the Halloween that  most of the world now celebrates.

In Roman times in Britain

In Roman times there were festivals at this time of the year to celebrate the goddess of fruit and seeds, and the festival of the dead.

In Germany today

In Germany and in Hungary  Halloween has become a popular fest for children only in the last few years, but I have always enjoyed seeing the graveyards on November 1st when they are full of flickering candles and the graves laden with offerings of bowls of autumn fruits and flowers. It is a holiday in Germany so the graveyards are always full of families too, remembering loved ones who have died.

In Scotland and Ireland

In Scotland as far back as the sixteenth century there are records of festivals on the Eve of All Hallows and the Scottish poets John Mayne and Robert Burns both wrote about the pranks that were played at Halloween In the 18th Century.

In the middle ages it was customary to go souling on the eve of All Soul’s Day and in return for prayers to the dead rewards of food were given.

In both Scotland and Ireland people went guising way back in 1895 dressing up in costumes to visit houses where they were rewarded with fruit and cakes.

In the Americas

It was not until the 1920s that records show that the custom has spread over the Atlantic where now Halloween is celebrated with more pomp and circumstance than probably anywhere else in the world except perhaps for Mexico.

Where is this all leading to?

While we are busy collecting pumpkins and all kinds of materials to decorate them with the parents and their children are busy designing or buying costumes.  

I was Internet searching last week for a few new arty crafty ideas for the pumpkin designs when quite by accident I discovered something that I wanted to share with all you conductors and parents who are now frantically searching for new ideas for costumes.

If you scroll through the images on the following link you will find some jolly good costumes for the clients we have who use a wheelchair to go trick-or-treating:


Costumes for wheelchair users -

Halloween -

Mexico’s Day of the Dead -