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Friday, December 31, 2010

Neues Spiel, Neues Glueck, Neues Jahr. (New Game, New Luck, New Year)

On the eve of a new year it’s usually time to look back on the experience of the past year and looking forward to new endeavors in the next.

New years resolutions have become a tradition in my life, mostly the usual suspects (better diet, better exercise regime, better me). This year on the eve of the beginning of a new year with my new business, it’s more then appropriate to look at where I want to go next with my business. I had the last couple of days of holidays with my friends and family in Winnipeg, time to think where I want to go next. Those are the things my brain has come up with:

• Get website more easier found on google and increase website traffic.
• Make contac with child development centers and rehabilitation places in the greater Vancouver area (Hajni is right you cannot work hiding away, at the same time I’m not expecting too much of it. But you never know, you might find some think- alike people)
• Look into starting a preschool group (definitely a dream of mine)
• Work further on collaborative projects. You know we just have to do it.
• Set up different children and adults groups.
• Increase my knowledge and practice.

There are some things to look forward to, and others not so much. One of those will be Andrew Suttons retirement form the blogsphere. There are a few people who don’t believe it will actually happen. I fear it will. I do wonder if there will be someone else to step up their game? Anyway, good luck Andrew.

And a happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A place for transformation

No, I have not forgot about blogging. In fact, I have started to write three different blogs and hope to finish them eventually. All as I think from great importance but it will have to wait.

Today, I received a late Christmas gift. A book I really wanted and my yoga teacher recommended to me. I already read another book by the same author and absolutely loved it. This book is called: ”Yoga and the quest for the true self” by Stephen Cope, a yogi and psychologist. I know the title sounds kinda esoteric and out there but just like yoga it really isn’t. It makes – at least to me- a lot of sense.

As so often passages in this book sound so conductive. But so far have not necessary been documented (lets hope that changes eventually).

Anyway, in the first book Stephen Cope writes about his experience of being introduced to his deep experience with yoga and how he has been told that transformation can and possible will happen through the yoga practice.

Transformation – a word that lets me recognize ideologies that are on the same wave length with Conductive Education. Andrew Sutton taught us about transformative pedagogies including CE, mediated learning, Makarenko, Montessori, etc. I guess that’s where I have it from.

Furthermore, the next lines I read just smelled of CE in the sweetest way.

There he talks about transformative spaces – places that can provide transformation.

“Effective transformational spaces create the conditions for our growth and make growth all but inevitable. Once we find them and commit to them, transformation is pretty much a “done deal”. But here is the rub. Many environments proclaim themselves to be transformative spaces. But many of these fail to provide the real conditions needed for maturation.” (Cope ,1999 p27)

He goes on and gives nine conditions to aid identification of truly transformative places. Conductive Education looks different in different countries and centers, institutions and homes, however I think fulfilling the following categories is the ultimate test of figuring out if a CE place is really conductive or just appears to be.

1. They create quality of refuge.
He means places where oneself is been put in charge of ones learning. Without that person taking actively part in learning it’s useless. It’s a place where you are safe to be yourself and safe to be able to transform. With young children the process in CE is a bit different as we still teach them certain standards (impose standards of our society) but only so they are able and open to learning and one day can be in charge of their learning.

2.They create safety through constancy in relationship.
This refers to the relationship with one steady mentor/teacher/conductor. The teacher provides emotional support so the student feels save to share their deepest experience and learn. We have been taught that without the client feeling safe (may that be emotional or physical), no learning can take place.

3. They encourage creativity and experimentation. In other words provide conditions so the client can achieve an orthofunctional personality. In most cases a lot of different skills have to be learned before the individual is ready to do this. But in all cases opportunities for being creative and experiment with ones abilities need to be created.

4. They are organized around “transitional objects” that are constant and reliable.

I think in CE this can be a lot of things. Especially CE specific teaching tools like the tasks series, daily routine, rhythmical intention and facilitation (equipment includes) are objects that provide consistency and are reliable. It is meant for being a bridge/tool to bring the individual to the next level of learning, but abolish itself as soon as this next level has been achieved. The consistency of it will give comfort and encouragement to move to the unknown.

5. They do not deify these transitional objects, or themselves. As conductors, we are human and that’s what we should be when we are with our clients. A true transformative space aims to make objects/conductive tools as well as the help of the conductor themselves, one day unnecessary.

6. They provide us with a way of finding out who we are.
Giving support to the individuals lifestyle choices, even if we would not choose this or it’s non-conductive. Again, I think with children this is a different story as we are trying to give them all the skills so they have the tools as adults to be as independent as possible.

7. They do not have to be perfect.
Life is not perfect neither should be every program. We have been told during our training, that we should check if things are running too smoothly if we really create learning opportunities (and opportunities for errors) or if we are just floating by on auto-pilot.

8.They are open to, and support, other path to development.
We as conductors, should be open to learn new ideas, principles and seek understanding to where other professionals come from, as we want others to be open minded enough to do the same.

In my opinion we have a lot to learn a lot from yoga. This text has giving me for sure a great inside into may own practice of trying to create a transformative environment for my clients.

Further, the way the ancient yoga texts developed was through collecting experiences. It still develops and adjusts to live, especially in the Western Civilizations, but its there and starts to be more general accepted without seeking to be.

Btw, Viktoria I think this might be the eight steps to distinguish between snake-oil therapies/treatments and real learning opportunities.


Cope, Stephen (1999) Yoga and the quest of the true self. New York Bantan Books

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Education for all

I work on weekly basis with one of my children clients at home. We work on all kinds of aims to holistically improve her level of skills and strengthen her personality. We also work on the family and how their behavior and expectation influences her learning. So far I think we have made some good progress with that and she just flourishes in her development and we all noticed that already she is like a different child, more active and in control of her life.

Her sister is a music teacher and started lately to give singing lessons to a girl that attends their church. Her family is good friends with my client’s family and lately the mother, sister and father have decided to stick around and observe us working.

In all honesty, at the beginning this was not an ideally work situation as my MsLiz(for the purpose of writing this blog , I will call her that) got easier distracted didn’t get motivated by their presence and worse shut down completely. We, as conductors, have been taught to use spontaneous situations to our advantage and what kind of a conductor would I be trying to let this opportunity pass without teaching someone something???

We have been working on increasing her motivation to move//walk and with and without equipment. We choose purposefully activities and toys, we knew would motivate her to move. Especially in the beginning we could observe an obvious desire to play with those toys, however there was no active participation to get to those toys. She was very much used to the fact, that if she didn’t do something for long enough, someone else will. We have been working on changing her attitude for a while and even let her miss out on activities, while reinforcing that she needs to TRY moving before she could receive some help. This expectation was build onto the observation, that she can walk, initiate to roll, crawl, etc. when highly motivated. We achieved pretty quickly her initiation to roll or crawl but not necessary to walk.

When the other family turned up the first time we were pretty much working on getting her to initiate stepping. Needless to say she didn’t do anything, except of saying no. The other family looked like they didn’t believe that MsLiz could do the things we expected her to do. In fact, she was all slumped together and refused to do anything and with that confirming what the other family thought already. We finished up the activity which took a lot of time and with only little initiation. I explained that this is quite common for children to not do what other people want from that. The other family agreed (as they have the same problem with their girls)but obviously did not believe that this really applied to MsLiz. After a while the little girl of the visiting family showed MsLiz her bracelets and her mom suggested that my girlie can showed hers. It was like a switch was flicked and my MsLiz loudly agreed that she wants to show her. Her mother went upstairs to crab it and I tried to explain to the other family that we try to increase the motivation of MsLiz to move and that past negative experience of trying to move but failing, stops her from trying.

When MsLizs mother returned I caught her eye and indicated to put jewelry box on the table a couple of meters away. All I was asking her if she wanted to show her the jewelry and of my little MsLiz run. This was priceless and the expression on the other family’s faces confirmed that.

Last week the other family returned and it was interesting to see them changed already; waiting for my MsLiz for doing some movements and pointing to each other out what she can do. That day my MsLiz was running all over the house to chase the little girl and even up and down the stairs. We were planning on practicing open and closing her hands and doing some preparation tasks for that. But I decided to change the plan and just play a game with the little girl, which also worked on that. And MsLiz did awesome. And more the little girl learned to give my MsLiz a bit more time. The other family was watching carefully and now started to see the girl my MsLiz can be, funny, active, joyful, loud and excited. Everyone still has to learn a lot from each other but I think at least they started to think that there was something to learn about.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lost and found!!

I don’t know how I missed those, but I found a couple of comments on my blog that I haven’t read before.

One is from a conductor who worked here in BC a couple of years ago. But as it is a small conductive world, I have heard about her before (and don’t worry they were only good things;-)) Now it looks like she is trying to build up a CE business (?) by herself in Ireland and I wish her good luck with that. Let me (and possible some more blog readers) know how that goes.

In fact, this is yet another conductor who tries to work independently. I am, as Gill is, interested in how many more of us independent working conductors are out there? I know from a few in North America and a couple in Europe. More by hearsay (small conductive world) then actually knowing those personally. I think we should maybe join forces and get a website (facebook group??), so interested families might be able find us more easily. Just an idea, if there is enough interest it might be worth looking into. Plus, it would be great way to share experiences and see what actually works in means by getter the word about CE out there and what doesn’t. I would love to hear from anyone who would like to share his or her story.

The second post I found was from Viktoria:

“I've had a blog post explaining exactly this for several months; sadly, it's still in my head/hiding as keywords in a note document in one of my electronic devices, patiently waiting for its turn to be written :-) The answer has something to do with the total and tragic great western misrepresentation of CE as a medical intervention/therapy by virtually everyone involved (exceptions apply) and put under scrutiny as such, instead of evaluating it with and comparing it to the given country's regular special education "package" I did vent about this on Andrew's blog a few months ago”

It’s a great comment and it is so true. I think there are a lot of false or untrue statements about Conductive Education out there and crazily come from conductors or Conductive education organizations. The language barrier for sure is a problem (and I know too well how it is, not always being able to precisely express what I mean). Another one is, that CE means different things for different people. I have seen how , even with trying to educate and explain where we come from, CE for some people is an exercise program that increased their range of movements or that does some PT as well as OT in one session. And to be honest it’s not necessary important for them to know any different for where they are in their stage of learning. Sometimes their understanding changes (for the better) the longer they do it like it has for me.

However, in the meantime more confusing statements about CE are published pretty much on a weekly basis (you know if you have those Google alerts knocking on your inbox, too).

Now the question is, how do we change that. This year when ACENA called for a North American Awareness day they also included a media package. Definitely a great idea and I hope there will be more ideas coming out of a CE North American organization like ACENA’s. What else – I am not sure. Someone else? Wonder if this will be discussed at the world congress?

I, for my part, will be waiting for Viktoria to write her blog about it and see where the discussion leads (Sorry, Viktoria, no pressure ;-))

Please do keep those comments and posts coming, I do appreciate it.


The funny thing about body awareness

I am a big yoga fan, and I am happy to have found yet another great yoga studio. I have been doing yoga for a couple of years, and it seems I learn something new about myself every session.

I have some pretty funky and instable shoulders. They have the tendency to ‘pop’ out of place (or at least it feels like this) without me really doing something outside the normal. Needless to say, it can be quite painful. I try to prevent this from happening; plus, injuring them consistently playing rugby didn’t help.

The last couple of sessions, I concentrated on trying to open the tight places in my shoulders without causing pain. The instructions we received, over and over again, were to squeeze the shoulder blades together in a “downwards dog” (for non yogis, it’s kind of an upside-down position creating an inverted V). I was trying to follow the instructions carefully, without irritating my shoulders; and I knew that I somehow wasn’t doing it. Intellectually, I know what squeezing shoulder blades together means; but somehow I just couldn’t do it.

A couple of sessions ago, I noticed that I am holding fear in my shoulders. Fear, of the sole pain, also this is a factor, but more of seriously harming my body.

Regardless, yesterday despite or with this fear, I worked on those shoulders and moved them around as instructed and then it just happened. I squeezed my shoulder blades together. I knew I made it and tried to concentrate on what it feels like so I could redo it. Thinking about it felt like a brainteaser (I think because your upside-down portion of the pose confuses the senses) but I managed to do it again and again. I knew that I had learned a new skill and gained a new level of awareness about myself. That feeling: Priceless. I still have to work on this skill and keep my awareness on it until someday it becomes automatic.

Why mention this in a blog about CE? Because the way this learning occurs has CE written all over it. It’s not only motor learning itself, but it is the self-questioning, the willingness and awareness to change what you’re doing right now to learn something new. This is what makes it so like CE. It’s also that the chance to learn a certain skill has been always there; but at this point all the essential, different factors like the teacher, the situation, one’s own emotions, and previous experience have joined together to make it possible to learn a particular skill at that very moment.

For years, I have used what I learned about myself in yoga to help me teach new skills in the CE classroom: about body awareness, posture, balance and more. Yoga has shown me many ways to build up or break down tasks we use in a task series to achieve the important element of differentiation.

I have also observed the same concentration, as in my attempts to avoid pain, in my participants. Sometimes, this concentration alone worked. At other times, it was more of a learning process: getting to know the body and its reactions in different situations. My favorite part is when I can observe when someone’s mastery of the balance between avoiding pain and learning new skills.

During my recent presentations introducing CE and talking about how we help trying to increase body-awareness, I usually see a weak smile; showing me that the person doubts that they need to work on this. Body-awareness is something that one cannot have in surplus. Yes, you might know where your toes are at all times, and you might even know where you body is in space; but I promise you there is always something more, with or without a movement disorder. An increased awareness might help to alleviate aches that most people carry with them, particularly those common back and neck aches.

I have taught parents and caregivers a great deal of body awareness, in order to help them avoid injuries and understand better how to help (and when it’s better to not help) their loved-one with a movement disorder. I guess this is how I started to learn about it during my conductor training. I remember how we used to practice the task series on each other, to learn to give corrections as we also learned to feel and understand body mechanics and what hinders them from happening. I also used this to teach my program assistants, and it showed positively in their ability to facilitate.

Body awareness is a funny thing. With many things in CE and life, I see more and more that body awareness is not an isolated, physical skill; but also a cognitive, personal, and emotional skill at the same time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What difference a day can make

Today started with some great news from overseas; Mauritius in particular. My friend, conductor and computer genius Ben emailed me to say he was done putting up the website. It was very exciting seeing it all come together. It’s been a process that started about two month ago with Ben offering to set up a website. I had a lot of help making my Ginglish make sense. Thanks to James for his hard work and suggestions and my partner for the patience.

So, do check it out for yourself.

The day did get better… I was able to run a small but growing group with three girls and their moms. I meet the latest addition to our group yesterday evening. The family has had a lot of different conductive exposure. The family with Hungarian roots did go to the Peto institute, went to two Canadian CE camps and had hired a conductor before. Selling CE was not necessary, the family knows how good CE is for their child; they have seen the improvements. They have been working with her at home every day trying to teach her new skills, realizing a long time ago that they are responsible for their child. Today, I have made suggestions on what to work on next and I know that the family will try to implement it to their best abilities. And I know it will make a difference and help the family and their daughter grow.
My other more regular clients are showing great improvements, too. In fact they are so unbelievable that we have started to video tape them to have proof we are not crazy

Now, I am doing the paperwork and preparation I need to do for tomorrow’s session, while enjoying the blueberry scones I just made.

It all happened in less then 24 hours and what great one those have been.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Apple for the teacher

My latest purchase is the new Apple iPhone 4. Im usually not the type who buys the latest technology, but I have been told as s new business owner it's a must. As an apple fan it didn't take too much persuading to actually buy it. I tried to get one for a couple of weeks but no matter where I went it was all sold out. Last week my phone bill came in and due to more business phone calls it was quite breath taking. So I called my phone provider to add more daytime minutes and I was told I could get a cheaper plan with a new phone. I told them my trouble retrieving a iPhone do they advised me to try a apple store. So on Monday the opportunity arose to get one at the apple store, downside was a 7 hour wait. My partner and me went for some sightseeing and 8 hours later I had my iPhone. I had to learn quite quickly my way around newer technology like what a data plan or wifi is and how to work this phone. So two days later I am able to write this blog on my phone riding the skytrain. Gotta love technology.

It does quite a bit more then this and I even downloaded some applications that I'll be able to use for motivational purposes for my program.

Love it!

Recovering help addict

I’ve been busy moving the last couple of weeks but now its official: I live in BC in my own apartments with my belongings. However, this is what I wrote a couple of weeks ago before leaving for Winnipeg, to pick up my life to start a new one out here:

This week I run a very small conductive group for two children who are on holiday due to attending a private school in the Vancouver area. Small definitely in numbers of clients, available space and limited hours but I guess we achieved quite big learning milestones.

The important learning goals we achieved, was learning how to identify key steps that limit the children learning and how to overcome them.

Parental instincts and habits

It has been a learning process for all the three days (9 hours in total) we have been working together. I will talk about one in particular, a habit that I first observed during the assessment, the habit of being too helpful. There is nothing wrong with being helpful because most of the times this habit stems of the parents desire to help their children because they love them. At the same time the mom in questions wants her daughter to be more independent. Achieving this, requires her to channeling her love into teaching her daughter to be more independent, which means to help only when required and try to help less from day to day.

At day two of our little learning camp, after the program, the parents were taking and her daughter suddenly says: “table”. Without thinking the mom get up and starts getting her daughter a table, which she likes to play on. In the meantime I am asking the child what she means by saying table. The child is surprised by this and obviously thinks about it but cannot come to a response, so I keep prompting a little bit like: What do you want to do with a table?- no response- Do you want to sit on top of it? Do you want to play on it? Do you want to hide under it? The child thinks about it and says it wants to sit on top of it. We are just starting to explore this unusual choice when the mom returns with the table and puts it in front of the child.

I asked the mother how she knew what the child wanted as I only heard the word “table”. She looked at me for a while unsure of what I am trying to say. So, I keep explaining that yes it was obvious the child needed the table to play on, but that she didn’t express this. I kept explaining that if she wants her child to be able to verbally express herself better(which I know she does), she needs to give her time as well as the right guidance to do so. We explored, how she could have made this situation into a useful teaching situation. We also discussed that over-helping her child comes from a good place, a place of love and the intention of trying to make her child’s life as easy as possible. Over-helping however usually has the reverse affect and teaches more dependency and limits learning. She understood and was grateful for the suggestion.

Embrace the pause

The next day we were doing a sitting program and I ask the child to step her foot back. Her mother instinctively reached for her foot and I put instinctively my hand on the mother’s hand to stop her reaching. This gave her child the chance to step her foot back (which I knew she could) and it took her child less then five seconds to achieve this. The mother looked at me and said: “I know, I am a re-covering help addict”.

We had a good giggle about it but it was an important lesson learned. She is now more aware when she over-helps, which is the first step to “recovery”. We discussed how important it is that she needs to learn to pause before she helps her daughter, to see if she is able to do it independently or to see how her daughter approaches challenging situations. We discussed that we do want her child to try to do things more independently but that we do not want her child to fail as this comes with a lot of negative emotions like frustration, decreased self-esteem and lack of motivation to try. So, we decided she will help her finishing movements when she sees her child trying hard but not succeeding.

We only had 9 hours that week together and the next opportunity to work together won’t arise until January. That is why this was an important skill to learn, to pause and enable independence without assuming to know what he child needs. Moreover she now has the chance now to work on this without me (!) and to make this skill work in her daily family life.

A great recovery indeed

Friday, October 8, 2010

In unexpected places

The last two days have been very eventful in my conductor life. I had two meetings:one with a Mediated Learning school (set up by a parent with a kid with CP attending this private school and who had made great improvements in the past with CE) and one with a Stroke support group in Vancouver.

To be honest, I was very excited about the first meeting; because I knew from my student times that there is an important link between CE and mediated learning. I knew that both, as Andrew Sutton named them, played in the same ball league called "transformative pedagogies." I also know that there is some written material,from the big players of CE and mediated learning, describing that there are indeed similarities just waiting to be explored. Maybe to create something new- something big – something exciting. For my part, I was excited to see the similarities live at the place where transformation is supposed to happen; to learn from others who know what it means to create potential instead of achieving it; those who aim for more rather than accepting the traditional professional perception as the ultimate truth.

I guess for those reasons, it was more shocking to encounter only doubt, competition, aversion, we-want-to-see-proof-it-is-good-first; a slam-the-door-in-your-face kind of attitude.

I lived the last couple of years of my conductive career in a very protective environment. I worked in centers and an institution for Conductive Education, where it was established that CE was the one thing the clients chose to do and kept on choosing to do. There were warnings that other professionals might not like what we do or even verbalize that, due to the great effect it had on clients' lives.

So, what if those professionals did not like it? In CE eyes we were not doing anything wrong: we worked holistically with the clients, giving them learning opportunities and teaching our hearts out.

Now, I find myself in a very different position. I do not have the support or protective environment such organizations can give. Nor do I have the client base to not care; plus it kinda felt personal. No, I do not have a PhD. I possess a simple undergraduate degree. But does that really matter, when I can offer people and their families ways of approaching their needs from a point of teaching and learning. In my few conductive years, I have witnessed and contributed to improvements; some that had been declared impossible.

So what does a degree and apparent knowledge of what happens in the brain (questionable of how much truth is in that?) matter when you know you can help the learning process and help people???

I do understand as a professional you have to have some skepticism about new or innovative technologies and innovations. There are a lot of quacks out there, as one conductor states on her blog. I love reading her blog and have referred some of my parents to her as a great source of knowledge for their natural need to seek the holy grail ( I do hope there will be more...) At the same time I always wondered why other professionals wouldn’t see CE as being one of those quacks??

In her blog she wrote:

Therefore, quack therapies of all sorts thrive. They promise the impossible, which is either a cure or at least some level of improved abilities or functions. Miracle cures[replace with improvement of ability and function] and stories of miracle cures are everywhere; they are circulated on the internet and in every possible media and by hearsay. These stories are often very catching and emotional, describing parents’ journeys on their way to finding the therapy, often in a faraway country that made the very much sought after positive changes in their child’s condition.

If you look at the history of CE and even at what the story is right now you read you will get

• maybe not a cure but “some level of improved abilities”. CHECK
• “stories of miracle [level of improved abilities]”CHECK
• “catching and emotional, describing parents journey on their way to finding the therapy, often in a faraway country that made the very much sought after positive changes in their child’s condition CHECK and DOUBLE CHECK

Why, as an educated professional wouldn’t you doubt every single word of it? Yes, there is research out there, but that hardly helps the situation. In the best cases it shows that CE is no better or worse than other approaches, and most cases state a lack of scientific relevance. So, if in their eyes, CE does not DO more, why bother.

The last statement is something I have heard from professionals before. I have also heard many other professionals say, `Well, we do that too.`

But do they? And if they don’t, how shall we be able to show them??? Because, and correct me if I`m wrong, the thing we do different is most of the time invisible. Creation of attention? motivation? learning opportunities? increasing problem-solving? improving self-confidence? etc. Those are hardly things you can touch, let alone see. So why wouldn’t you think, CE might be hocus –pocus?? Because we have touched peoples lives and brought improvement that mattered??? This dearth of scientific relevance matters little to me. CE remains important to me and to the individual families to whom it has happened.
And that’s why I became a conductor and that is why I hope to remain one as long as possible.

Meanwhile, what can we in the field of CE do??? I am not a hundred percent sure, but I think Susie planted a good seed to stop the crazy talk in CE; in particular - blobology. In the last two days, I have heard people trying to explain that what they are doing is better because they know what is going on in the brain and they use this to have the “right” reasons to do something, unlike someone like me who didn’t have a degree in esoterica. I just clammed-up and smiled, as it wouldn’t have helped to argue. Because that was fact, wasn’t it?? I mean a Master`s must prove this.

The other time I heard it was when I gave a presentation to a stroke support group today. It was right after my presentation, someone asked if CE could be explained by neuroplasticity. I replied that yes, that neuroplasticiy exists; and yes it’s proven that neurons can make new connections; and yes, that learning is possible no matter what age you are or what your circumstances (yes there are exceptions but I haven’t come across them yet)but that this is about all we know. We do not know how each thing that is taught in a certain way affects each individuals brain structure. And in the end this doesn’t matter, we know we can learn. Let`s find a way how. And those great and funny individuals at this particular stroke association understood me; and were still excited about to hear more.

For my part, I have learned you don’t necessarily find friends in the places you expect; but you do find them where they are because they want to learn about you and about what you do and what you have to offer.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Common sense? or is it????

On my first day of my conductive training at NICE, Andrew Sutton said to us something like that: “The most important thing you are going to learn is common sense.”
I was wondering, if it is so common, why would we have to learn it?? But did not question it further.

Since that day the question of what is common-sense and what is not has come up a lot. And I am sometimes surprised what apparently is not and even more what is.

My Oxford dictionary defines common-sense as: “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters”. So, in other words you do something because it makes sense. This requires that it has been thought through and with your current knowledge it’s the best you came up with. I remember that we decided within our group of students as long as you have a good reason why you do a certain activity, it couldn’t be wrong. However, you have to be able to let go of your initial idea and modify or change it if it does not bring the anticipated results. And yes, I do have to change from my initial idea quite often and I do not always have the right answer straight away and that is okay, as long as you recognize as this needing improvements.

Sometimes observing how other (semi)- professionals work with children with movement disorders leaves me puzzled on what exactly their thought process was.
E.g. last week I observed that a teacher assistant helped a child with a motor disorder to complete a school assignment. The assignment was to create a poster introducing the child and illustrate its interest.

When I got there, the assistant was putting glue on the paper (which judging by the straight line she cut out by herself) with the child sitting next to her. In an attempt to make the child have an active role she stacked the piece of paper on the child’s finger and ask the child where she should stick it. The child at this point staring at the ceiling and obviously having no interest whatsoever in the current activity. The assistant realizing this just took the kids hand and made the hand stick the piece of paper somewhere on the paper, without any verbal acknowledgment of the passive role of the child.

This made me wonder what she thought she assisted to teach?
I was at the school incognito, which means I was not there as a professional, but believe me I would have loved to be. I wanted to teach the assistant ways how she could have given the child more of an active role, how she has to expect the child to answer if she asked the child a question, how holding a glue stick would have been more feasible and active than sticking a piece of paper on the kids finger, how a great looking poster means nothing unless the child made it, etc. I wanted to teach how to teach the child, so that the work she does makes sense.

Unfortunately I couldn’t, but hopefully will be able to one day.

And, yes what I discovered after my first day at NICE and rediscover daily is that you are not born with common-sense. It rather is something that needs to be built or learned from experience so it makes sense to do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oh what small (conductive) world…

So this week has been rather interesting. I am steadily making small but important and good connections. This weekend alone I met two conductors living in close proximity from me. One lives in Seattle and one lives in Kelowna, BC. It is always fascinating for me to meet new conductors – in isolated Manitoba I meet only one (my friend and colleague) within four years. Most amazingly you know straight away that you are at the same wavelength and you have a common goal, which is just being able to keep working as a conductor. One of the conductors has not really worked as one in Seattle and the other one is forced to travel around North America to make a living. It is very interesting to know that none of us wants to get rich on it but just be able to do what we love and we are good at while living of it.

General speaking, we conductors are quite spoilt when it comes to the conditions we work in. We usually fly in whatever country gives us a decent salary and other quite handy bonuses and stay as long as we want to or as long as there are is money to pay for us. Usually when you are willing to travel it is not hard to find a job that suits your conditions. Mostly parents of children with a movement disorder did all the lobbying required to promote and set up a conductive education program, usually in form of a charity.

Now being self-employed is a total different story. You find yourself rather isolated and the lack of professional support or understanding outside the conductive education walls is more apparent then it ever has been. It is hard to let parents and also adults who have a movement disorder that conductive education services are available in their area. In Manitoba about 80%, if not more, new clients enrolled because they have heard from other parents and clients how it has helped them. Starting from scratch is different because you do not have those clients who can refer you easily. It was interesting to hear from the other two conductors that they have tried to approach child development centers in their area and have been rejected to even display some brochures. It is strange but not entirely news to me as I have meet plenty parents who would love to know about this as an option, earlier in their child’s live.

But do not worry I will try anyway to get the word out. I have already successfully made contacts with some great Stroke support groups in this area, who are willing to let me a give a small presentation. I am excited to see what those will bring, especially as I have not given any presentations since I was at University and even then was not necessary a natural at it. When you self employed you do what you have to, to get the word out and I know that this will be an interesting learning curve for me.

One of the parents I met this week is very interested in coming to Vancouver for an intensive week program for her 18 month old son. This would only makes sense if there is a small learning group, so I will need more interested families to make this happen. If you do know someone at this age (up to three years might be okay too) who could benefit from Conductive Education and either lives or is willing to come to Vancouver for a week, please contact me.

Talking about being on the same wavelength, last week I found a great new yoga studio for myself. Since I started yoga I met a lot of nice people on my way with whom I found it easy to relate to and made some good friendships this way. Today, I found myself having a great conversation about Conductive Education and how it encourages activity and problem solving. The yoga teacher had no problem relating to it through her experiences even though she never worked with anyone with a movement disorder. It is funny as I must have had the same or similar conversation with other professionals before, who had little clue what I was talking about. I don’t know if it’s the yoga, the teacher in her or her own upbringing made it so easy to relate to me but it made me feel great.

With meeting her and those two conductors this weekend, I am very thankful to be sharing the same wavelength with strangers and for the support of the parents out here. It’s a start and it’s a good one.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It’s an educational thing!

Friday, we (James Forliti and I) went to the Cerebral Palsy Association AGM to make some contacts. This went relatively well, even though I have rediscovered that I am not the mingling kind, but I am working on it.

Few numbers

There were about 30 people in the beginning and approximately 4 new faces (a professional who gave a speech, family of the grant recipient from last year and me). To be honest, I was rather surprised to see mainly adults with CP or parents who now cared for adults with CP; and except for James, no parents of young children with CP.

After listening to what was going on throughout the year and how the money of the charity was spent, I was no longer surprised. There was hardly any real support that charity was able to fund. Except for socializing during the board meeting, awareness sessions in isolated groups, providing information to some interested parties and an annual post-secondary grant to high-school students with CP, there was not much more they could offer.

The number of the membership intake indicated that there only 25 active members; 25 people in the whole province of British Columbia, crazy. The conversation about how to raise public awareness and getting heard by the wider public sounded all too familiar to me. And strangely the vicious circle was obvious to spot from the outside. To get more members you need a wider range of services, which costs money; to get a wider range of services you need members who bring money and contacts in.


Another thing that fascinated me was the presentation of a doctor who introduced her new Spasticity clinic. Fascinating not because I learned something particularly new about spasticity, but moreso I learned why CE would not work in a clinic like this. There are all sorts of professionals at the clinic who all look at the client at the same time and have a meeting about their collaborative treatment plan. This clinic claims to have a holistic service. Yes, holistic it is, but only when looking at spasticity and neglecting the rest of the person.

I always knew that Conductive Education doesn’t look at the person from a medical point of view like most professionals do (even schools with all those policies do this !) but from an educational perspective. I never realized until today what it means for the parents and caregivers. Yes, I am generalizing and I might get slaughtered for it but I also might just have a point.

So if you have a child with CP and you are new to this, you turn to professionals who know better. Those professionals can help you quite accurately about all kinds of medical issues. Now your child sits probably, receives the right kind of stretches, gets the equipment which gets both of you by, you get told how many calories your child should have and how to get this in the fastest way and more, but something seems to be missing. I observed the aftermath and what I saw is a child who is well cared-for and loved to pieces, but does not know how to have an active part in his life; how to have fun. The parents can see that, but do not know how to help their kid to be active, to be interested in things, how to strengthen his self-esteem so he’s more willing to try, to maintain attention in a toy for while, to share emotions, to interact to have fun; to play. All those areas are usually not covered by other professionals or brought in connection with the physical disability. And that’s where Conductive Upbringing comes in:

Today the same child was taken to the local computer store to check out if the Ipad might help to play and eventually learn to communicate. After an initial blink of interest, the child turned passive as soon as he was asked to take part in touching it. Looking at the situation the child did receive the right kind of physical help, the set-up enabled him to reach, there was even a spark of interest, but nothing more. It is important to know that the same behavior was observed when the child was asked to play a game. The child chose the game, was excited to play it, but as soon as the child had it, he would refuse total interest and cooperation.

The Ipad is still a great idea to eventually buy and play with, but right now that seems to be a step to far. The child is motivated to play, so now he needs to learn how to actively take part in a game. The game had to be simple and the child needed to be set up for success, in order to encourage the will to try as well as strengthen his self-esteem and motivation. So the child was set up with a ball and stacked up tins (the tins would create an immediate effect) that he was supposed to push over. It was explained to the child what to do and after he had some interest, he was left one his own (this was necessary to avoid someone else helping him and taking the success away from the child). It took the child an hour with encouraging shouts from far away. Remarkably, the child showed excitement for a long time, as the child would hysterically laugh every time the shouts of encouragement reached him. About an hour later a crash was heard and the parents ran to the child to share his success and award him with attention and cuddles. Needless to say the next round was much faster and the child showed a great deal pf perseverance to get that done. I think it was a great lesson learned by the child and parents and now leaves room for more things to do and work on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

You've got post!

Here is the new logo. I am a little bit biased - but I really love it!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Business ABC

Yesterday I had a very interesting meeting with an accountant. She taught me how to record my expenses and intake. She totally made sense and I felt I learned a lot. And now I know its all not as complicated as I thought it would be. Great.

Further, I started to get my liability insurance set up. Nowadays, you can and should not do business without it. The thought of being sued one day is mortifying. And I cross my fingers it will never happen. However, in CE is there is sometimes a calculated risk you have to take in order to let learning and spontaneity take place. This is what sometimes makes all the difference and sets us apart from other professionals. Safety of the client is always the priority but sometimes you just have to let go. What I want to teach is that living life is about taking risks and not let anxiety hold you back from living. It is important to teach awareness of safety and when its okay to take risks as well as having a backup plan just in case it does not work out.

Setting up this business, I also have a back-up plan in case things go belly-up. But with a bit of luck and help from my friends I might not need it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sister, sister – the international connection!!

I always have been proud of my big sister but now I’m just awfully glad I have her. She has always been the creative/arty person in the family and just finished her degree in creative editing, so she knows how to put designs on paper and then on the computer. And luckily for me she volunteered her skills to help me out to create a business logo and design my business paper head as well as business cards. (The results are soon to come!) Plus she is doing it all from Germany via email and hopefully soon via Skype.

Coincidentally, most comments and well wishes also have been international by the usual suspects. I am thankful for those and of course for the few local ones. I know it is in the early days but it is interesting to see how big geographically and how small density wise the Conductive Education family is. But I guess it shows me that I have to now start focusing more on local networking. First thing on my list is the BC Cerebral Palsy Associations’ annual meeting. I guess those business cards will come in handy…

Thursday, September 9, 2010



Hmmm how did I (a German conductor trained in the UK) get here starting my own CE business in British Columbia? I am not quite sure but I think it had something to do with me not wanting to leave Canada, the pure beauty of the landscape in BC and of course some great parents out here wanting to make CE part of their lives.

I am Anne, mostly known in the English-speaking world as Anna (Aenna). I am professionally in the conductive education business for around 7 years (if you include the three years of training at NICE). Personally, I came into touch with CE 14 years ago through my younger brother who has Cerebral Palsy. Since the first time I stepped my foot into his CE classroom - at that time - in Budapest, I was fascinated with it. I have observed for so many years what a difference CE can make and feel lucky to be part of it. I have met so many great people along the way who have helped to keep this passion alive if not making it strengthening it.

This blog is intended to document my journey setting up an independent Conductive Education business as well as my experiences gained being a conductor.


Despite my great contacts out here in BC I have little illusion that this will be a slow process and has to be started small in order to build up something solid, something good. Therefore, I will start with individual session mainly in the clients’ home to bring it to the place where it should be happening. Primarily guiding how to implement a conductive upbringing at home.
The initial consultation will be free of charge in order to access if CE is appropriate and useful for the child or adult with a Movement Disorder and their family. With increasing client base, it is aimed to establish conductive groups that will suit the current demand while making sense for each individual’s growth.

That’s the plan and I will keep you posted on how this goes!