My visitors today

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Putting in the hours

I have no idea how many hours went into producung this wedding present. Not only in the doing but also in the learning how to do!

Encouragement and a little bit of pedagogy too! Me and my niece in the summer of 1992

It is not magic

How many times have I, and many other conductors, explained to our clients that what we do is not magic but hours and hours of hard work?

This is one of the things that I discuss with my stroke group almost every time that we meet for a block of sessions. When we talk about home-work it is the continuous hard work that is involved that always becomes an important point of discussion and it is emphasized by everyone, conductors and clients alike.

Long-term clients are really good at encouraging any beginners in the group; they have a lot of experience to share and knowledge too. They explain how and why they continue the hard work at home. They tell us that they do not expect miracles when working within the group but that their own hard work, in the many hours of practical living, will bring them positive results.

They all tell each other when they leave, at the end of three weeks of sessions, to just keep doing things as well as each of them can, enjoying their lives. They encourage each other to keep positive and, most of all, active. They tell each other to keep at it!

Hard work together with a conductor, in a group or individually and lots more hard work alone, with partners, family, teachers, or carers, that’s what it is all about.

It is not only the adults who discuss this. My group of nine-to-thirteen-year-olds with my encouragement are beginning to talk about putting in the hours too.

Learning that the hard-work is in their own hands

One of the older girls told me on Friday that she is sure that when she is eighteen she will not need to come to a conductive group anymore. I was thrilled that she was even contemplating coming for the next five years and I assured her that when she is eighteen, and still needs our help, she will be able to join an adult’s groups, of which we now have three in the evenings, offering cooking, crafty activities and games as part of the session. 

I also discussed with this young girl the possibility that if she is successful doing something somewhere else when she is an adult then we can help her there too if she so wishes.

Another child who is ten, but going on forty, said that he knows that he still learns a lot from conductive groups especially in the after school group. He likes being able to discuss his daily life with us and learning things that help him when he is at school or at play. He is especially happy that we practice skill with him that really help him to find his feet, and keep on them, in the football club that he has recently joined.

I have realised again just this week the importance of continuing with our 'Everything that Mum and Dad should know' letters. The teenagers and older children need this just as much as their parents. The children add things to the lists that I may never have included and are also beginning to draw on the lists too, producing some amazing 'Petö in action' pictures!

Lots of useful information

I have often referred here to a blog that I follow, it is written by a stroke victim. It is called — deans’ stroke musings.

This site is full of information about and around stroke. There are articles about research, therapies, diets, experiences and much more. It is one of the best source of information that I have found on the subject. The man who writes it must spend hours compiling it and I am very grateful to him for doing this.

Learning and practising skills

In his latest posting Dean refers to something that he says was meant as tongue-in-cheek but he picked it up as being relevant to after stroke rehabilitation. I agree with him.
The posting is called – ‘Master any Skill in 10,000 Hours?’

Dean, of deans’ stroke musings says about what people have written about talent–

They essentially say that innate talent doesn't exist, it is all just focused practice, just like our massed practice therapy’

He adds—

‘Just think of how many different tasks we need to practise. And we get maybe 3 months of therapy.’

This is the video-link that he is referring to –

deans’ stroke musings –

Monday 23 July 2012

'Orthofunctional spontaneity', as product and process

"No, it is not the Tour de France, that is me having fun in my last race in the Buda Hills,1992"

Yesterday Évi and I were discussing a lovely experience that we had a while ago on a jolly afternoon in the group. 

We all love it when work works out like it did on the day in question but the children love it more than we do because they believe that they have distracted Évi from her planned afternoon programme!

They did not notice that, while they filled her shoes with nuts and tied her shoelaces in knots, that she had slipped away to find the next ‘naughty game’ for them to play.

These children have lived and learnt in conductive environments most of their lives, they have learnt how to play but what is most important is that they want to play.

They know how to be creative with their time. They have learnt the skill that most children do without prompting. They have learnt how to show others, the conductors, their parents or friends, what it is that they wish to be doing. They have learnt how to guide others to help them in their learning processes just like other children do, spontaneously.

However tired they are, these children always want to be doing something. Whether it is being really active, rushing around doing things, or taking part in activities at a slightly slower pace, like working at a table painting, sewing or papier-maché-ing, they know that they have only to ask and then any of the conductors will facilitate their creativity as well as we can.

Yes, that afternoon what Évi and I were discussing was indeed successful spontaneous orthofunction at its very best and it happened because these children know how to make the most of an unexpected afternoon when the rest of the group, for a variety of reasons, just happened to not turn up! 

They know us well enough to know that if they use their time well we will allow them to take the lead and we are all bound to have lots of fun.


This story appeared as comments, in a dialogue with Andrew Sutton on a recent posting on my Conductor blog. I thought it was worth bringing it up for an airing here.

Lessons learnt in perhaps the least expected places

Vienna, June 2012  by Susie Mallett

Each Monday for the past three weeks I have cycled home thinking about how much I had learnt during the morning from a new adult client.

Today as we said goodbye and he thanked me I think I surprised him when I also thanked him for all that I have learnt.

I hope so much that he will return for more sessions in September.

I have just read something on one of my favourite blogs. It is also describing lessons learnt —

Saturday 21 July 2012

Tour de France

‘How I remember Normandy, 1968’  by Susie Mallett, July 2012

It is not often that I wish that I had a television

In fact I am usually very pleased that I do not have one and never have owned one of my own.

But, today I would have liked to be near one just to have been able to watch the closing stages of this year’s Tour de France. I would like to see it tomorrow too as the riders pedal along the Champs-Élysées, but today’s 19th stage time-trials will decide whether Bradley Wiggins, who has been wearing the yellow jersey since stage seven, steps up on the podium tomorrow in first place, probably with his team colleague beside him.

I have no television and I am, as always, content with just listening, or reading about it all in the papers, later on. As I write I have heard that Team Sky have taken first and second places in today’s time trial so there will be a lot of Union Flags flying high in Paris tomorrow. I wonder if my Canadian cousin, who lives just around the corner from the finishing line, will be there to witness it and cheer for me too.

It looks pretty good for Team GB’s cycling squad for the following weeks in the Olympic races.

A trip down memory lane

When I was ten-years-old, on an exchange trip with the school in France, my host family took me on a car journey to the Normandy countryside, not far from Rouen one of Norwich's  twinned cities. I had no idea at the time why I was sitting there in a Van Gogh landscape, in burning sunshine, beside a picnic-table in a field, with other families spread along the country road doing just the same.

I remember so clearly how intrigued I had been and how I had wondered what this strange custom could possibly be. I was none the wiser when what seemed to me like thousands of cyclists whizzed past us in a blink of an eye!

It was not until years later, when cycling became a bit of a passion for me too, that I realised that we had been there to watch the Tour de France and that I had actually seen the riders pass by in the 4th, or perhaps 5th, stage of the 1968 Tour de France. My pen friend’s father was a sports teacher, so of course he would have been very interested, just as I am now.

Some British events become a part of family life

London, 2012

Sometimes I am very glad to be in Britain when certain televised events take place. Strangely enough they are mostly sporting events and royal occasions that catch my attention enough to sit in front of the television.

This year I was glad to be with my Dad to see the middle bit of Wimbledon. This was extra special because of the success of Scotland’s Andy Murray.

On another visit I saw snippets of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend and although I was only at home for part of it, that was enough. I was also able to watch the Epsom Derby, another family viewing highlight, taking place on the same weekend.

I seem to have caught quite a few recent highlights on my now more regular trips to England.

I realise that I even saw the Royal Wedding in 2011, and this year I caught both Ladies’ Day at Ascot Races and the chaos at the Boat Race.

I remember that on Boat-Race Day I received a text from a friend in Surrey that said something like — ‘What chaos!’

I replied – ‘How did you know that I would be watching the Boat Race?’

To which the friend replied – ‘What else would you be doing?’

How right he was. What else indeed?

Last year I was with the same friend in the middle of Norwich waving my flag while watching the Last Night of the Proms on a big screen in the rain with several other mad dogs and Englishmen!

I do not wish to own a television but it is still nice to occasionally catch the occasions that have become a part of our family life. The Tour de France has not been one of the family occassions, but, this year, with the Brits in such good form it would have been a pleasure to have watched some of its stages with my Dad. Maybe later this summer I will get the chance to watch some of the Paralympics, but that of course depends how much airtime it is given.


Mad dogs and Englishmen – 

Not at all like the double-decker buses of London Transport


Spotted this week on my cycle-ride to work

‘Riding along in a big yellow bus’  by Susie Mallett

The route between the outskirts of Nürnberg to Erlangen is always busy, especially early and late in the day. The crowds ease off in the summer as the number of students travelling daily to the university decreases, but I feel like I am travelling to work in a tin of sardines whenever I leave the bike at home and use public transport.

Last year several non-stop bendy-buses were brought into service with the hope that they would ease the congestion on the stopping buses. It seemed to do the job but also presented the problem of having to be extra careful not to get on the wrong sort of bus. I only ended up at the University campus once and my colleagues were extremely tolerant having all done the same thing. They entertained the members of my group until I, and at least four other passengers, got back to our right bus-stops.

On Tuesday I noticed a double-decker bus on the same route. It was yellow, and seemed to be both wider and higher than those I recognise as regular public transport buses at home. It was not until I spotted the number on the front that I realised that it was not a private coach but public transport. As I cycled along the same route on Wednesday and Thursday I saw it again and then again and realised that it must be used as a trial. 

On Friday I just happened to be photographing the beautiful fields of lettuce as the same yellow bus passed me by. 

'Salad Days' by Susie Mallett

That is how I happen to have a picture of the yellow double-decker. I do not always cycle with my camera in my hand, just sometimes!

Being as British as they come, it was not difficult to find something in my home with a big red route-master on it to photograph to head this posting.  


I am hoping for rain on at least one day next week so, without any feelings of guilt, I can leave the bike at home and take a trip on the big yellow bus. I shall check the internet to find out exactly the time that it will be running.

I wonder whether bikes are allowed? 

Now that would be an even better way of testing it out.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Oh what fun it is to paint!

End of day one!

What a find!

A long time ago I was in the German equivalent of a pound-shop. I went there with the hope that I would find some canvases going cheap. I was lucky and I soon had my bike laden with a score of them in all shapes and sizes. Oh, how I wished I had had my trailer with me, I could have bought even more.

While I was walking down the aisles in the shop I suddenly realised what an amazing selection of brushes and mops there was available, in all shapes and sizes to and all for just a few cents each. Most of them were meant to be used for cleaning, washing and cooking, none of them for painting, but nevertheless I soon had a collection on my bike too. I had also found a roller that I think was originally meant for collecting fluff from dark-coloured clothing. You can see from our photographs that it is now used for orange paint!

Summer’s coming

It is almost the summer holidays and our after school group will only be with us for another two weeks before the children all venture off on their various holidays and we, the conductors, will be enjoying all sorts of different work.

We had two hot muggy afternoons this week and we knew that the children would arrive exhausted, especially those who had sport’s day at school on one morning.

It was time to get out the paints

We have a wonderful cleaning lady and another wonderful lady working in the office, who had both given me stacks of old white tablecloths. One of the mums had recently arrived with arms full of pots of coloured emulsion and, put together with my array of weird and wonderful brushes, we had the beginnings of an amazing work of art!

It all took just five minutes to prepare.

I was especially grateful that we had not thrown out the packaging for our second big blue mat when it arrived a few months ago. This huge piece of plastic helped to protect the floor just a little bit, but with Little Princess going at it like a maniac with a shower sponge on the end of a long plastic stick I was still at work long after the children were at home, scrubbing the floors at least five metres away from the painting!

Look out for low-flying paint!

Spontaneity all round

I love doing these huge art projects with the children who come into their element and always show us so spontaneously how much they have learnt over the past months.

One little boy was trying very hard to stay in a knee-stand just long enough to dangle the newspaper-stuffed fingers of a bath-time glove in the middle of the picture. Off course we made sure with lots of encouragement and a little help that he made it.

There was also the thirteen-year-old who said –

‘Susie, do you really think that I am going to paint with a toilet brush?’

'This is fun!'

'Boom coming over!'

'Its that toilet brush again!'

I reassured her that it was clean and that she really should give it a go as the pattern looked like summer flowers in a meadow.

'A meadow with flowers'

I heard my colleague tittering to herself in the background as she worked with some other children, when she heard the same teenager say, just minutes later –

‘Susie, you do have some brilliant ideas.’

Even if I say so myself, yes, this really was one of my better ideas and the children had a very jolly time and made some lovely meadow-flower patterns on the cloth!

'All getting stuck in to some arty-action!'

'Jolly Prof. inventing his own techniques!'

'And no one minded about who painted where'

'Look out! Low-flying paint coming over once more. This time its red!'

Today the children asked me what this huge work of art is going to be. I actually had to admit that I had not thought of it being anymore than an “arty action”, but now of course we will have great discussions about what we will produce with it.

Eventually we will decide whether our creation will be hung on our wall, donated to one of the offices that have greater expanses to cover, cut up to make cushion covers for the group, used as a tablecloth for festive occasions, or made into a big cuddly toy!

The answer, when found, will of course be published here.

Monday 16 July 2012

Conductively sleeping over


It was Mid-Summer’s Day and at the centre where I work it was also the Fiftieth Anniversary Summer Fete and, to top it all, the sun shone all day!

It was also my 55th birthday!

Sleeping over

This year I enjoyed the biggest party that I have ever had, in fact a huge summer fete with hundreds of guests. For me, Évi and our school children it was preceded by our second conductive sleepover. This meant that I had the nicest birthday breakfast that I have ever had too!

Getting ready for breakfast treats
An early riser, painting

My birthday train in the foreground

The school children have been asking since December last year, when we had our first conductive sleepover, whether they could do it again. It was not easy to find a day to suit everyone but with the Summer Fete a date in everyone’s calendar we went for it.

These children sadly do not have as many opportunities to stay over at a friend’s house as do their non-disabled peers though, since they tried and tested it with us last year, there have been quite a few other successful nights out!

Jolly Professor and Little Princess are actually getting quite adept at organizing a weekend together and then announcing it to their parents later. Just like many children do. They have realized that it is possible and they really enjoy it, especially with us when we make a real party of the whole event.

This year they made a birthday party for me out of the event and they even allowed me to sleep in another room after I had played and read and wished them all goodnight, of course! I was still to sleep on the floor on the big blue mat, still to be snuggled in my sleeping bag but I did not have to wake up in the night to accompany anyone to the bathroom or listen to anyone snoring. Instead I got up early, opened my cards and prepared the breakfast table. I made an early morning cup of cocoa for anyone who was up and I played with whoever got up early before we went to wake the late risers!

The late risers!

We had planned breakfast for 8.30am, with other colleagues’ cycling over early to join us before making their own preparations for the fete.

We had organized to stay overnight with the children to coincide with the Summer Fete so we, the conductors, only had to give up one weekend. We had to be there for the fete anyway. This also meant that the children had lots to keep them busy before their parents took them home.

A week of preparations

Our contribution to the fete was to be an exhibition of out art work and a bit of street artistry - that’s chalk drawing in frames drawn on the ground. Just like in the scenes outside the park gates in the film Mary Poppins, where Julie Andrews, Dick van Dyke and the children jump into the paintings to take their ‘happy holidays’ eating tea with the penguins and riding on fairground-racehorses!

A bit of Mary Poppins

In the days before the fete our children put finishing touches to their paintings, helped to design flyers on the computer to distribute at the fete, and they made detailed plans for the sleepover. Right down to discussing who was to sleep next to whom?

On Wednesday afternoon the children planned the meals, on Thursday they each made a shopping list that hopefully they could read when in the shop, and on Friday each child took a purse filled with coins and notes, and their own list, to the shops, accompanied by me, Évi and a couple of helpers. We walked the half-hour there and back with two children taking their walking-bikes.

Despite integration, inclusion and conductive upbringing, these children do not get to go shopping as much as they would like, so they attacked this outing with glee and it was a delight to be with them.

They had decided to take my bike trailer with them to carry their wares instead of each carrying a shopping bag.

We must have looked a sight to passers-by, just like Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven off on a great adventure. The sun was shining too just as it always seemed to do in Enid Blyton’s wonderful stories.

Seven off on an adventure!

The children were brilliant in the supermarket, calling one or the other of us whenever they needed a hand, otherwise doing quite well on their own with lists attached to shopping trolleys and walking bike, and purses hung around their necks.

Shopping for Schampingyonks, that is how he spelt it!

And he found them!

With the food stored in the fridge on our return the children went home for just one more sleep before their next adventure, sleeping-over conductively!

Another secret

Not only did I get to sleep in a room on my own on the big day, I also got a couple of hours off during the eve of my birthday. I was sent away and I had to promise not to come back until I was called. So I took my book and made myself comfortable in the office with a pot of tea and some biscuits.

The following morning, after I had prepared the breakfast table, I was sent away again for ten minutes.

I returned to find the results of the secret evening session. A wonderful flower arrangement adorned the table and on the table in front of my place there was a train, a cake train decorated with sweets and creams and chocolate! There was also a pile of presents!

Everyone had had a hand in making the train the evening before and had taken photographs to prove it!

Yes, I must admit I had smelt the baking but I had no idea that I would be receiving a model train to eat. 

My lovely birthday flowers

A train in the making

Mmmmm, it was delicious! Yes I did eat it in the end

What a wonderful secret to have kept, no one had said a word.

Taking it in their stride

After making our own toasted sandwiches for breakfast, using everything under the sun and in the fridge left over from the night before's pizzas, from bars of mint chocolate, bananas and pineapple, cheese, ham and tomato, we prepared ourselves for the fete. 


With suitcases packed, teeth cleaned and glad-rags donned, we transported our paintings and games to the fete, only a few metres away from our conductive Bed and Breakfast.

Soon everyone was beavering away and the time flew by as we prepared for our al fresco art exhibition and drew frames on the ground in the street-drawing area.

Soon, one-by-one, the parents arrived and it was so interesting to hear which stories about the conductive sleep-over got retold the most. I really enjoyed observing that this second time round the children just took everything in their stride. No one had asked what the time was or when the parents would be coming, no one even mentioned what the family would be doing at home without them, and, fortunately, no one had been so excited that they could not fall asleep.

Good night!

The children have really grown up in the last six months, they have learnt so much and have become so independent. They all enjoyed every single second of our conductive, birthday and anniversary sleep-over and fete.

But I know that I enjoyed it even more than they did. It was wonderful not to wake up on my birthday alone at home. I think I can honestly say that it was the best birthday since the days of Enid Blyton-style birthdays on the beach.

We cannot wait until the next sleepover, perhaps on Évi’s birthday!


We sold half the paintings, making 80 Euros for the painting material kitty.