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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

You are not alone

As conductor working on your own, it can get quite lonely. Not because I don't have good friends around, a busy work schedule, a great little family of my own, family on skype- because I do. But it gets lonely sometimes as there is not another conductor close by to discuss what happens during the day or ideas for the future or just share this passion for CE. Really those conversations made me learn and rethink my thoughts. I truly miss them.
Lately it doesn't feel quite as lonely as I am able to discuss things with my participants and parents. But even more excitingly conductors and friends of CE started to talk again. I mean I see it everywhere on blogger, facebook publicly and privately, on conference calls and more. Its not only the select few that have been trying to keep up conversation for a while. There are new names popping up. Its really exciting. And everybody please don't stop. There seemed to be a refreshed wind blowing after the conference. So please keep it up. I know it doesn't only help me it helps us all in CE.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My first CE world congress

Since being a CE student flicking through the abstract books, I was hoping to attend one day a world CE conference.  Last week, seven years after I graduated I was finally able to. As it was practical on my home turf – in Germany- I was ready to sit back, get inspired, learn new things or rediscover the old. The following is my experience of the three days of the congress/conference.


I arrived (how untypical German of me) late.  However, I arrived in time for the last well-wishing speeches and the announcement of the changes at the Peto-Institute.

As so many others I then got hit with the first keynote speeches, it was definitely quite hard to swallow before lunch. I felt that other keynote presentations, which were held later at the conference, would have been more appropriate to start of a CE world congress.

After those, I started to spot some familiar faces and I was starting to get into this whole congress thing. Then lunchtime rolled around and I was rather hungry. After spending three Euros on a small bottle of water I decided to get some supplies from the town of Fuerstenfeldbrueck to survive the rest of the afternoon.

Unfortunately, I did miss a couple of interesting sounding presentations that day, while I tried to figure out to which one of the s-rooms (Seminarraum, Saeulenraum, Stadtsaal – really could noone come up with better names???) I had to go to. Then later in one of the s-rooms I finally attended my favorite presentation of that day. It was so full of passion and educated enthusiasm for CE. It made me instantly relax, appreciate being there and relate to what I do. Thanks Itzel Bazua. Spending some time with colleagues and friends I haven’t seen in long time or meeting people I only know from email or phone made the day feel very worth while but unfortunately too short. I couldn’t stay for the meet and greet, as I had to get back to my baby.


This day was starting off a bit better, as I saw some of my friends straight away. The presentations seemed to be getting better and apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. The German lady sitting next to me uttered after a sigh of relieve: “Jawohl, es geht doch”. She took the words right out of my mouth.

I felt like I was finally learning something. It was great. What surprised me was that when I congratulated one of the conductors on her presentation, she said she was worried about it as it wasn’t very scientific but merely her experience.  I thought that was kind of worrisome, considering that the CE profession is foremost a profession, that shines through its practice and its pedagogy, and I am sorry to say, not through its scientific proof or research. But I didn’t question it and forgot about this for a little while. Just being swept away by the busy-ness of the congress. The rest of the day and presentations were really great and I enjoyed being there thoroughly. At lunch we even took some time to take a look at the impressive church that was in the heart of the old monastery where the congress took place.

During a couple of the presentation I only once or twice raised my eyebrows, as the presenters would talk about how this or that was with the principles of CE in mind. I wondered if all of us in the room had a universal understanding of those principles. If we all shared the same and if we all could name those when asked? I worked for so long by myself that this was thoroughly possible. That I just didn’t get the memo. But again those critical thoughts were rather rare and I kept forgetting about it. Well until Andrew Suttons presentation. He kind of rattled us all up from our congress fairy tale slumber. Reminding us that they a whole bunch of controversies in CE that have not been publicly discussed and especially not at this congress.

Andrew’s presentation did what I assume the purpose was. It was to make us think and to make us question. I left soon after this and spent the train ride back to Munich re-thinking my questions that came up at the conference. The one no one talks about and the burning question to why. I understand that some of this “elephants in the room” are a very sensitive subject for some. I understand a lot of work has been put into negotiating some off those elephants and stuff them into boxes that aren’t adequate for there size.  Some have been discussed to death with no major results. And not all need to be taken out and talked about again. But in saying nothing (at least to a wider audience), we are saying we are agreeing. But do we know what we are agreeing with? It’s a catch 22, if we don’t ask, we won’t find out. I think its been rather sad the lack of discussion of any kind. I think a prime example was at the end of one of the presentation when one conductor got up and asked quite critical questions (I applaud to that). She expressed her concerns based on her experience (I personally would have liked to hear more) but then in the same breath she said that this presentation didn’t belong into a CE world congress. Well, if it didn’t, where did it belong? How would have the rest of us known there might be bigger problems? Either way, that’s when I started to type some notes into my phone for my first blog back, to stop the silence.


I felt pretty confident that I figured out the way to the congress by then. But no such luck. What we didn’t know that there was major construction going on at the main line of the public transport system. We weren’t the only ones confused as everyone around us was too. Thanks to the announcements and general knowledge of the German way of thinking, I figured it out. We had to change trains one more time then before. At that train station my partner pointed out two people with yellow bags (the ones we got at the conference), who looked utterly confused. He suggested I help. So I turned around and was promptly approached by them for help. They turned out to be the students from NICE, (Susie blogged about). We had a nice chat on the last train ride to the conference. I promised to be there for the presentation they were to give later that day.

Because of this we were later arriving to the conference and I missed the first presentation I was really looking forward to hear by Ralph Strzalkowski. I was just in time to see him leave the room and hear Melanie Browns voice from inside. I am very grateful I didn’t miss her presentation. I have to say I missed hearing her talk. Her presentations or lectures I attended as a student at NICE, made you think (as many other lecturers did). You can say she is very conductive in her speeches. She leads you along a certain topic, gives suggestions without giving the answers, but encourages you to keep searching. I left that presentation with renewed sense of purpose and confidence in my chosen profession.

Rony Schneiders presentation took a new spin how hope not only needs to be in the participants and caregivers consciousness but also in the staff ones in order to provide it. Very interesting.

Afterwards I gave my partner a break from taking care of the baby and took her to the coffee break and poster presentations. The baby was very well behaved and time flew by while I was chatting with a lot of interesting people.

 I managed to go to three presentations by three former and current NICE students. We used to get told as students (I think by Andrew Sutton), that the reason we had to give so many presentations was to be able when we graduate as conductors to communicate what we were doing. Listening to the presentations made me realized it worked and proud to be part of the different generations of NICE students. They did all an amazing job.

The congress then ended on a bitter-sweat note for me. Not only because it was time to say goodbye again and I only managed to do that to a handful of people. But also because the last presentations I attended, made me rather angry. I tried to figure out why those made me angry and still trying. Maybe I went in with too high expectations as two very respected conductors gave them, maybe I was upset by the little content in those presentations and what representation they gave of the profession of conductors. But who knows, it might have been just another case of language barrier.

Unfortunately, I had to miss the closing ceremony as it was running late and my little family was running out of patients waiting for me.

Nevertheless, my ‘Fazit’ (conclusion) is that it was a conference well worth going to, with its ups and downs. You could feel that a lot of work was put into setting up this congress and into its presentations, but I was surprised that it didn’t have the ueber-organized touch, we Germans are known for.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Finding my own balance

Tempus fugit. This year it seemed to be running especially fast. It feels like it was yesterday that I was counting the first weeks of my pregnancy and now I already have a 4  1/2 month old baby. A little human that above all I love and who loves me back unconditionally. She makes me more aware of each moment and with whom I celebrate firsts on a daily basis. Believe me she has made me more aware of human development and learning, and the preciousness of life then any book or lecture ever could. 

I worked as conductor till the day I gave birth. In fact I had to cancel classes because I was in labor.
I resumed work with my clients fairly quick and returned to run summer camps 2 month later. Additional I have been active with ACENA, where I am serving as a board member since last year.  To say the least I have been busy. 

I was lucky to be attending my first world congress of Conductive Education (more to my experience there hopefully later in a different blog). I considered myself lucky, as it was in my native country Germany and I was able to combine business with pleasure. I  introduced my baby to her grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles. I was also lucky as my partner was able to visit a different part of Germany. 

Not before long my “luck” was leaving me exhausted and my partner not as happy as I hoped he would be.
The title of conference was “rhythm and balance”. I think those days at the conference made me more aware of my struggle with balancing different areas of my life then I have been able to admit to myself before. I was trying, as so many parents do on a regular basis, to have it all. To see all my family and friends, while taking care of my baby, going to the conference and make sure my partner was having a good time too. It was only working to a certain extend.

One presenter at the conference was talking about how parents nowadays have changed and that part of this has to do with the wealth of information that is available through the Internet. This sounded so familiar to me, that it made me realize I am one of those parents now, part of this generation of parents. I, too, spent quite some time on the net, trying to find information that ultimately will help me to take better care of my baby. What I have learned so far is that with all the information that is out there, I pick and chose what I do, depending if it fits with my own believes, is doable with the time I have and is relevant to my family situation. Right there is a lesson learned for me delivering CE and the application of it at home. But really, what I learned for myself during the conference is that I think I feel quite familiar with my new role and that I will spend less time searching. Making use of what I know now and start more acting on it.

So part of this new acting is to try writing things down on this blog. With a bit of luck it will start to be part of my new balance.  But who knows. Being back for a week now things are still pretty crazy and I am still searching for this perfect balance.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Momma said...

I was talking to my mom the other day. As always, she helped me to understand something: something about CE, something about the learning process being a parent of a child with Cerebral Palsy, and something about perspective change.

My baby brother turned 18 a few weeks ago. He is an adult now by German law. I’ve know him all his life. I met him on his first day of his life, when he was battling hard to hang on there. He was so tiny and there were a lot of glass windows between us watching him, loving him. Now he is tall and lanky like my other brothers. He outgrew my mom over a year ago, who now wears high heels to support him during walking. Now, there is an ocean and nearly a whole continent between us; but I am still watching him, still loving him.

My mom has been learning how to conductively bring up my brother for over 16 years now. They live around 400k away from the German CE centre my brother has attended since he was 5 years old. He usually goes there for intensive blocks, but in between blocks it can be up to 6 months that he doesn’t get to see a conductor. However, his conductive learning never stopped: as he is encouraged to work on those skills at home.

When we talked I brought up how she mentioned before that the changes she saw in my brother from CE camps weren’t really physical changes, but more cognitive. She replied that this is true, but that she can now see how CE made a difference physically over the years. The week before she went to an orthopedic doctor because my brother complained over occasional back pain. He assured her that his spine was in great condition and that he could tell she has been working hard with him.  He also said he sees young, adults, with similar severity of CP, whose bodies are so contracted that, even with help, they have difficulties using their bodies purposefully and without pain.  Those are the times my mom gets reminded how CE has helped her to learn to not only support my brother to improve but also maintain the skills he has gained over the years at home. When he was younger it was solely about improving his skills and getting better at things. But growth, and hormonal changes really make it important to work hard mainly to maintain those. Yes, where there is CE, there is (or should be) always learning and improving, but that sometimes loses its importance when it comes to growing teenagers.

My mom talks about that conductor a lot who told her nearly ten years ago, that it is important to stick with the hard work they put in; especially when he becomes a teenager. As this is the time most families give up. It is that time that priorities change mainly because their children’s body change into an adult body, but also because the focus is more on academic achievements and what to do once they are out of school. The daily fight with different authorities and professionals simply becomes too much to handle and gets understandably avoided.   And of course other teenage troubles like hating your parents, dating, being self-conscious etc can make life even more challenging.
But it’s that time where the physical upkeep wins importance as it sets the tune for adulthood. You lose your range of movement and ability to control your limbs sufficiently when you are a teenager; it becomes a even harder battle to fight when you are an adult.
Those teenagers need activity not because they have CP but because they are human. The ”use it or loose it” rule of thumb for physical activity applies as much to them as to the rest of the teenage/young adult/human population. Exercise is supposed to be part of a healthy life-style. But what happens in reality that at this time physical activity slows way down because they become harder to handle. However, my mom also insists that she used to have more back pain when my brother was little because of the awkward bending over. Because they learned together how to support his movements, it has become easier – in a way they grew together.

They’ve had sixteen years of conductively growing together. And I think they are happily looking back on how much they learned and are happy to be able to keep going with this.

I am still watching and also learning from them.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Just now I read a new blog entry by Susie on her blog “Conductor”, which reminded of the blog that’s been in writing in my head for a couple of weeks. (Thanks, Susie:-))

Before I really get going, I would like to apologize in advanced about bringing more and more yoga into my blog writing. My partner and me are a bit over 2 weeks away from starting the first part of our yoga teacher training. We had to do some reading to prepare us for the tasks at hand. Naturally, it’s been part of our conversations lately and part of where my mind nowadays takes me. CE has for years been a steady occupier of my mind, which means the produce of my thinking has become quite interesting. BTW once I am done preparing for yoga, the books Peto wrote in German are next. I am curious to see, if I can find any overlap (the more I read the yoga books, the more I suspect to find that overlap).

During the last couple of weekends I have challenged myself physically more extreme then I have before. I run a ten kilometer run and hiked up and down a mountain for 12k (which took us 5h!!). I am not just telling you that to show off (and yes, a bit of ego is always in it as I am very proud of what I have done) but also to highlight the light-bulb moments that came with it. I pushed myself hard and I suspected I would spend the rest of the day resting on the couch or napping. But no, quite contrary, both those days I ended up cleaning everything on my list (my usual Sundays chores), going for more walks and more. Yes, I felt the physical tiredness of pushing myself but I also felt the mental power I gained through it. I suddenly had more energy then before and happy to be tired but still enjoying life.

I think, I gained what the yogis call “Prana”, which means in rough translation “life-force”. The yogis believe that some things steal our life-force and some give it to us. Yoga itself is considered to give us life-force, exercise is, spending happy moments doing whatever we like to do. In general, it doesn’t have to do with things that cost us energy like moving and exercising but more what brings us joy; It’s quite a bit of bliss those moments when you are exhausted e.g. playing a 24h Volleyball tournament or whatever you fancy and feeling every muscle in your body, but when you are glad you did it and be proud of your achievements.

I have seen that little twinkle of refreshed life, flashing up in my client’s eyes – and I think that’s the moment I enjoy most as a conductor. Yes, it could have been just a booth of endorphins but I choose to think there is more. There is perspective for the future and there is appreciation for the now. Without trying to sound all mushy but there is some sort of peace.

One of my biggest pet-peeve with people working/caring for children with disabilities (usually the non-verbal once) is the overused phrase: "He/she is just tired". And yes, sometimes that’s what they are and yes sometimes medication does not help, but I dare to say that quite often they are just bored. Something that would steal anyone’s “life-force” and maybe it is a reminder for us to work a bit harder on avoiding that and strengthen the things that bring life-force activity, sense of achievement, sharing enjoyment and feel connected with friends and family, feeling good about oneself and lots more. Interesting how much it sounds like CE or the things I think about planning a session.

I always remember a mother complaining to me how more alive their son was, when he got home after a six hour intensive session. That he would move around more trying to do stuff (yes, quite often it was “naughty stuff” but quite often that’s not a bad thing either).  I remember that I didn’t quite know what to say, as I was mentally and physical exhausted of trying to keep that child active throughout whole day and didn’t understand why he wasn’t feeling like I was. My instincts told me that this kind of non-tiredness is not a bad thing. And now I know that this is stuff that's most important. 

Developing as conductor means to be able to express ones ideas, thoughts and explain reasons, even instincts, better. I’m getting there slowly and I am pretty sure that I would have something important to say to this mom and expanding my teaching on a greater level.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

About inspiring and being inspired

This was the second year in a row that I went to Easter Camp for stroke survivors in beautiful Squamish, BC. Last year, I was captured the friendly and vibrating atmosphere, the amazing people and conversations. This year it wasn’t any different.  We were greeted back like old friends and it didn’t feel like a whole year had passed. I remember last year, on my way back home, feeling a bit guilty about having had such a great time (again, this year wasn’t any difference). I felt this guilt as this camp really wasn’t about me. I was just there to volunteer some time, help out with a few things and introduce CE a bit. This was more about the Stroke survivors and their caregivers having a good time. I think they did.

Being inspired

This camp gave me plenty of opportunities to catch up with campers from last year and get to know new people and their unique stories. It gave me the chance to see how people have improved over the year and get to know a bit why. It also gave the chance to listen to what most people’s hopes for recovery were. I think the general consensus was that they are open for anything that might help them to make their lives easier or regain some function.

Other professionals also volunteered their time and it was great to observe them and listen to what they have to they about stroke and recovery. I think there were two major presenters I found very inspiring for different reasons.  Working independently gives me little opportunity for professional development; so I cherish every opportunity to be in the learner’s seat.

I enjoyed observing about Steady Feet, a program aiming to prevent falling, which is recognized and funded by the Ministry. For me, it was interesting to see how to approach it from a solely exercise view. The exercises she did and why she did them made sense. And I think most people enjoyed them, which I think is the most important part. It made me also appreciate the differences and why CE is more than an exercise program.

I enjoyed the talk of Dr. Yao about brain plasticity and rehabilitation options in a Question- and- Answer style. The content itself was not new to me, except how acute care for Stroke works in BC. I have heard a few things from my client, but Dr. Yao gave a wider overview. In all honesty, it was rather shocking.
I liked the way she explained everything, took her time to answer questions and had a genuine interest in what becomes of stroke survivors once they left the acute rehabilitation program.

The inspiring part of the talks and demonstrations for me was that CE is actually situated in the Zeitgeist of current neuro-rehabilitation understanding more than people might think. Our unique training and understanding does let us go the extra mile and address psycho-social concepts like motivation, cognition, attention, emotion etc. that become vital for further learning and rehabilitation. Plus, the awareness of those skills lets us adapt our teaching to teach the HOW more than the WHAT to do.

Being inspiring.

I also was scheduled to give a presentation on CE. I have had for a while now an outline on what I like people to know about CE. It’s usually pretty general and I like to put in different examples to give it some life. However, observing the other presentations; I told one of the organizers that I would teach standing up from a chair differently to people who had Strokes due to various reasons. She made me show her and then told everyone to attend my session to learn a different way. She called it a teaser to my presentation. And what a teaser it was, I had twice the people attending this time

So, after doing a general introduction about CE, I invited everyone who was interested to join me in learning to stand up (with my support if needed). I am usually really nervous about giving presentations; but once I started to teach standing up, I was on a roll. I was doing what I do best. I explained why we do things and some of the fundamental thinking about it. I kept emphasizing the teaching part and that the teaching depends on the individual learners and their current abilities. I showed examples of how we break down getting off the floor (very popular topic in that particular group). It was not the usual presentation I give, more a workshop; but people enjoyed it a lot and I had a lot of positive response to it. Being more at ease doing my thing, it sparked a bit of a “conductive glow.” With one or another that I said, I began to see that certain sparkle in their eyes- the one of hope.

However, I am very grateful that I had someone give me the right nudge in this direction and I am sure, I will use this in further upcoming presentations.

This was a great weekend. And I am looking forward to next year.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Smells like CE spirit

I do love when I come across articles that spell out what I was thinking for a long time and have either never seen it in written words or in written words outside some Hari books.

So one of this documents crept up on me this morning on my facebook news feed.

Self-esteem breeds Self-Determination?
Guide towards problem-solving?
Giving meaningful choices?
Create opportunities for communication?
Balance between protective and risk-taking?
High expectation?
Safe opportunities to practice?
Learning skills not linear?
Development of self-help and independent living skill?
Understand students starting point?
Activities in communities?
Genuine involvement with peers?
Support? Encouragement?

This all sounds so familiar. Not sure when I seen those words the last time all in one Reminds me of a project my conductor friend and me once worked on. Time to take it back up, I think.


Relish for more then just Hotdogs:

Here are the scripts for the audiotape (only scanned through it).