Monday, 26 March 2012

Growth



Little Princess and I often talk about the old days

Those old days before more colleagues joined us

Although it was very difficult working on my own as a conductor in some ways I had a much closer relationship with the after-school children when we were alone in the group. On the other hand we talk about different things now that younger colleagues are amongst us and in this way I discover more about the personalities of the children and the children in turn learn more about us.

The children speak to my young colleague about things that they would not now mention to me, this is only natural because I am like a grandmother to them and she is like a big sister. There are also times now when I observe things that I may have missed before. I perhaps notice earlier that something is not quite right with one of them because of having the opportunity to take a step back to listen and to watch. 

I know these children inside out and often know when one of them is worried about something before they have realised themselves, and watching them all while they play together is a great opportunity for me to make my observations.

Those old days that Little Princess and I reminisce about were not necessarily good old days but sometimes quite the opposite.

They were the days when Littlie would get so frustrated because she was too small to wash her hands alone, too small to go to the toilet alone, too small to walk home alone and too small to get off her bike and sit up at the table alone. Those were the days when I would say to her, do not get upset, you will soon be bigger and then you will be able to do it. I convinced her that it was true, that it was mainly her size that was preventing her from being more independent.

She is thrilled almost every day now as she achieves more and more for herself and realizes that what I told her really was the truth. Her hands are bigger and they also open up from a fist more easily, so she can hold on to things. Her arms are longer so she can stretch out and reach things. Her legs are longer so she can stand at the sink and wash and she is stronger and bigger all round so she can get on to the toilet alone. Her legs grow these days as quickly as the spring flowers so that each day it is noticeable how much easier it is for her to dismount from her bike.

She can do all sorts of thing now that she is bigger and growing daily.

Of course, Little Princess knows that her development is not only to do with size. Of course, she knows that as her understanding develops and as she practices things life becomes more independent for her, but it is her ability to transfer the understanding to actions that is so much affected by her longer limbs and body.

A questioning mind

When I first met Littlie she was very little, just two-years-old. She could hardly lift her head but she could always lift it enough to make eye contact and talk with her eyes. Speaking with words was so difficult, in comparison lifting her head and using “eye-speak” were easy!

Littlie still speaks with her eyes a lot, they are full of sparkle and expression but she has gathered a huge vocabulary with many easy to pronounce and useful words that she can say clearly without the need to repeat them. With words like “Echt?”, Really?;  Und?, And?; Wo?, Where?; Was?, What?; Warum?, Why?; Was ist?, What’s up?; she can keep a conversation going for ages.

Speaking days

Over the years I have learnt that for Littlie some days are talking days and others are for doing.

Littlie is very skilled in avoiding “work” that she does not really want to do at that moment by encouraging interesting conversation. We are flexible and spontaneous. Within the programme for the day there is always space for change and as some days Littlie does not have the energy left to talk at all so we make the most of it when we can. On “speaking days” we play games with lots of talking and questioning, we discuss future projects, and sing. Sometimes we have English lessons.

The whole group loves it and all of the children understand Littlie now.

She is really clever with her chosen words, having the ability to get the whole life story out of someone within minutes with the use of her eyes and these few words, and she can listen for hours to stories told by all of the people who love to be in her company.

I am one of these people, and of course I encourage her to say a more and more words herself to contribute to the conversation.

Entertainer

We were out to dinner with her family this weekend. This is an annual “party” for her. She invites the team around her to join her and her family for dinner. It is a lovely celebration of all of our lives. I have been there for seven years coordinating and working with this family, the youngest member of the team just seven months. Sometimes this Fest takes place at the end of the school summer term, sometimes at Christmas. This year this Fest took place just before Easter.

I sat at the end of a long table with ten people seated. From there it was difficult to join in much of the conversation but it was a wonderful spot to observe from. We sat together for three hours and, apart from a break to eat a few morsels of delicious food, Littlie did not stop talking and laughing. It was a delight to see, and when she asked me “What’s up?” I replied that as she is the host I was waiting to be entertained some more, and off she would go encouraging stories and now even telling some of her own.

There are two young people in our Integrated Kindergarten team who Littlie loves, they will leave us this year to carry on with their studies but there is now doubt about it that they will visit us in the future and mainly because of this little Princess who so much enjoys their company.

Growing up

Growing upwards is one thing that Littlie has been longing for but it is the getting older that is bringing her so much enjoyment.

Her ability to communicate with anyone who is willing to listen is bringing a wealth to her life that she will continue to benefit from always. She has a social sense that I have rarely seen in the children whom I work with. She is observant, she learnt to lift her head at an early age just enough to spot the mimicry of others and she can spot the mood of a person and the atmosphere in an environment immediately. She has always spotted changes in her physical environment and always asked why they have taken place or wanted to know what we will be doing with new equipment or prepared materials.

Most importantly she smiles a lot, shrieks with laughter and opens up her soul, and by doing so makes the souls of those in the team around her smiley too.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A day of discovery


"Painted with a toy tractor" by Aimee aged 2

Another conductor spreading the word


I hope that this free children’s clinic is a great success.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Waiting for the slow boat from China!






Waiting for the slow boat from China!

In December 2011 I received the news that I had been patiently waiting for since negotiations to translate my first publication were completed in December 2010. I was informed almost a year to the day after that first meeting in Hong Kong, that the Chinese version of my first book had been published by SAHK (formerly the Spastic Association of Hong Kong).

The book was fresh off the press just in time for a two-day conference in Guangzhou, organised by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, where it was to be distributed free of charge, to all of the delegates from Mainland China. What an honour it is for me to have my translated words read by so many people, many more than will have read them in their original English.

There were no photographs for me to see of the books’ distribution but I did receive an English translation of the forward that I published here on my Blog in December:


I then waited patiently for the slow boat from China to arrive, bringing in its hold ten Chinese copies, all for me!

At the conference in Rosenheim last weekend I met Rony Schenker. How excited I was to discover that she had seen a Chinese copy, having been at that conference in China. She had actually held one in her hands!

My wait was filled anew with excitement.

As she pointed out, had she had known that the slow-boat was going to be so slow she would have brought a copy to Germany with her, via Israel!

Little did I know that the wait was nearly over

At the Rosenheim conference I had no need for a Chinese version of my first book, other than to show off a bit. I had with me instead one-hundred and fifty copies of my second book, in German and English, and it was these I wanted to sell.

When I returned to Nürnberg from the conference, I found a letter in my letter-box from the customs office that is situated far out of town, down by the harbour on the Main-Danube Canal.

The letter informed me that my books had been impounded by customs! If I took an invoice with me I could have them. I had just two weeks to recover them before they would be put on the next slow boat back again!

I was straight on the phone to explain that I had not bought these books, that they were a present and that therefore I had no invoice. I was informed by a very friendly man that all I needed was an email to confirm this and the books would be mine if I made the long trek out to the customs office at the harbour.

On the following day a parcel was waiting for me on the stairs, in was the package from the slow boat from China. Ten books in Chinese and how splendid they looked, real works of art.

So what was impounded at the harbour?

The customs office was holding three extra books that had been posted from Hong Kong by Swiftpost only a few days previously. Ivan in Hong Kong had decided that I had waited just too long for that boat and he had kindly send me an extra three copies to reach me at lightning speed!

It was these three copies that I had to set about retrieving today.

What an adventure I had

I armed myself with the requested email and a copy of the English version of the book, just in case I needed more proof. I set off by two underground lines and two buses to my destination, the port of Nürnberg on the Main-Danube Canal.

The street can only be called Hamburgerstrasse for one reason. I felt just like I was in Hamburg because of the mountains of containers stored beside the canal.

The bus driver had no idea where he should stop to let me out but luckily a young man kindly showed me the way from his bus stop. Only forty-five minutes after leaving the house I took my ticket to join the queue of four other people also hoping to retrieve their goods.

I waited patiently reading an old Christmas copy of the Oldie until I was summoned. A young man gave me a knife to open my parcel with and read through the email that I gave him. He flicked through the book in Chinese and also though the English version that I had shown him in order to prove my point. He asked whether I had written it.

“Is this you?” he said pointing to my name on the custom’s letter and the name on the book. “Yes”, I proudly answered, “that’s me!”

I forgot that there is a picture of me on the back cover but he believed me anyway.

As I was signing forms at another office, still wondering how much I was going to have to pay to get my books the young customs officer asked me what it was that I had written about. I explained as well as I could in the space of thirty seconds and told him too what an honour it was for me to have the Chinese version distributed amongst so many people who were now setting out on their conductive upbringings in Mainland China.

I also enthused about how much prettier the Chinese version looked in comparison to the English version. The customs officer agreed with me, he took the signed forms, handed over the books and packaging, wished me well and sent me on my way.

This had been, despite the long cold trek, with me coughing as if on my last legs, quite a soul- healing journey. There was no grumpy customs officer, just a friendly young man who was interested in meeting an author and even had time to spare to enquire about what it is that I write about.

I did actually offer him the English version but he politely declined, saying that it was enough if I just explained it to him a little bit, as I had written it. The Chinese version really looks so gorgeous, a work of art, that I am not surprised that this man took such an interest in it.

So that was the story of the last leg of the Swiftpost from China, not very swift but very soul-healing.
It was nice to be a “famous” translated author, just for a few minutes!

Notes

Let me tell you a story, Book One - published by Conductor, Nürnberg
Chinese translation – published by SAHK, ISBN 978-962-8890-32-3

The Main-Danube Canal, Nürnberg -






The parents’ conference in Rosenheim

"And"
"Advertising at the conference centre"


"Advertising at the railway station"

The parents’ conference in Rosenheim

I was ill when I arrived in Rosenheim for the conference, I drank tea for colds, took medicine and coughed nearly all weekend, losing my voice completely at one point, and I have been at home in bed almost ever since. 

It is now time to report on the weekend, however late I am doing so.

I cannot honestly say that I got the most possible out of the conference, but I did my best to take part as much as I could and I soaked up the happy atmosphere.

An international flair!

On my way south-eastwards I collected a group of foreign delegates from the airport at Freising before boarding the double-decker train with them all en route to Rosenheim. That put a bit of an international flare on the whole affair for me. It was a delight for me to rekindle friendships made in Hong Kong and meet some people I had known of for years but had never actually met before. Best of all it was a real treat to have an “English” weekend, something I had not thought about before I set off! 

At Rosenheim railway station we were met by my bestest friend and colleague who escorted us to our hotel. Between the two of us we liaised with the organisers for our “English” visitors, made sure that they were comfortable and did our best to translate for them at the presentations during the following two days.

Translating

I found myself at one point translating from Hungarian to English for an Israeli on one side of me, and, while the Hungarian was being translated publicly into German on the stage, I translated from German into English on the other side of me.

Unfortunately there were not enough people at the conference willing to do this kind of translating and some of the delegates from abroad did not always have someone telling them what was going on, leading to them feeling slightly excluded from the proceedings and not in the picture as far as inclusion in Germany was concerned.

The most difficult task for me was as up on the stage translating questions and answers after Dr Andrew Sutton’s presentation about András Petö.

My bestest friend was also put into a very difficult situation about ten minutes before a podium discussion, when she was asked by the pre-arranged translator to step in instead and do German-English-German translating. Of course she said Yes, but it was not easy.

We decided afterwards that this is not a job for us. It is incredibly difficult first to understand what it is that speakers are saying and what it is that they wish to convey with their words, and then to put it into another language at speed. I could manage it from German and Hungarian into English but not the other way round.

I wait with interest to see how translations will be organised at Munich’s WCCE 2013. I expect that presentations will be in English, as always at a WCCE, so a professional translator will be needed for German speaking delegates. We will see how it goes.

Selling books

When I was not sitting in presentations, listening and translating, I was at the book-stall drinking herbal teas, doing my best not to cough and trying my hardest to sell books. I had copies of my first publication with me, but it being a mainly German-speaking audience I did not expect to sell many of them. Mainly I was there to sell copies of my second book, for my client, Waltraud. It was because of this conference that we had set the March deadline. With more than two hundred delegates present, I was sadly disappointed to sell only fifteen copies. 

Unheilbare Krankheiten and Unfug

I also had with me half a dozen copies of each of András Petö’s books, of which I sold three or four. These books were referred to in two of the main presentations, by Dr Franz Schaffhauser and Dr Andrew Sutton, which drew a little interest. But I still ask myself why it is that so many conductors do not read.
One of the more senior conductors present heard my comment and shook her head, she has never found out why either.

A family affair

Yes, this conference had a bit of an international flair about it but more importantly this conference was first and foremost a family affair.

It was during the bits-in-between that the families-at-work were most apparent. There were children giving the guests “Welcome Brezen” in the form of an ‘&’ to symbolize the und in Petö and Inklusion. At coffee time the tables filled with beautiful homemade cakes made by parents, and parents and children were ever present to ensure that the delegates were content all weekend.

Parental involvement was not so obviously apparent in the conference rooms but it was there nonetheless. From the moderation, through the photography to the sound-control desk, everything was in the hands of the families.  

The content

As for the content of the conference, opinions were divided as to how much we learnt and what there was that was new.

It was very interesting development that the whole of a conference on conductive education covered one specific subject, but this still left room for a diversity of speakers and some lively discussion.
The programme can be found here:


And in English here:


On the same site documentation of the presentations will be available to be read very soon.

Summing up

As I said I was feeling poorly at the conference, but I was still able to come away feeling that at least in Rosenheim and the surrounding area, big steps are being taken towards inclusion’s becoming the norm and it will not remain for too long a ‘right’ that always needs to be fought for. There was evidence that there are pedagogues and politicians who are fighting for the cause and may even be supporting the conductors in their arguments that they could be the ideal practitioners to be involved in this process, and could quite possibly fill a huge deficit in pedagogues qualified to work in inclusive schools.

I wonder how the implementation of inclusion will develop across the rest of Germany, a country that as far as the inclusion in mainstream schooling of children with special educational needs is concerned, is far behind many other countries. It was very interesting to hear the speakers from England describing their longstanding practice in a country where inclusion and conductive education were both hot topics when I was training to be a teacher back in the early eighties!

All in all I think that for delegates, presenters and organisers it was a very successful meeting, media coverage since has been good, as was the advertising campaign in the town prior to the conference.

Pre- and post-conference work

The German annual conference is always a good opportunity, when many conductors, teachers, centre-managers etc. are gathered together, for the various associations to convene for annual meetings.

On the morning before the conference the Scientific Board for the 2013 WCCE, Munich, gathered to discuss the next steps in planning. 

Post-conference meetings took place for the German Conductor Association, the European Conductor Association, and the National Association for Conductive Education. The website for the German Conductor Association is the place to look out for any notice of information that is made public from these meetings:


PS

I still have several copies of both the books by András Petö, if anyone is interested in reading them, in German of course, send me an email.

I also have many copies of the book that I edited that was written by my client Waltraud about her life since surviving a stroke. The same applies drop me a line if you would like to order copies.