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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.



  1. Early Saturday morning; waiting for my 28-year old daughter Sarah's carers to arrive to help her begin her day. They are kind people but I wish they understood conductive approaches to her daily morning routine.

    So I was reading your post Anne. In fact I read it three times, each time catching something new.

    Thank you for posting. I liked the way you put this, the "doubt, competition, aversion, we-want-to-see-prove-it-is-good-first, slam-the-door-in-your-face kind of attitude".

    I was shocked too years ago. I still am from time to time. There's an academic-intellectual (mostly medical, I would say) version of this, the demand for research evidence, which ends up being no such thing, because, as you say "the thing we do different is most of the time invisible". Medicine mostly aims to fix things; education mostly aims to prepare for things. Not only "invisible" then, but the outcomes "unknown"and "unknowable" at any given time.

    Can't stop to write more. Breakfast time. I will come back to read again. A friend advised me the other day that this was a time for "spiritual patience". Though not a believer, I knew what she meant. Similarly, but more lightly, I also heard of the recipe for "happiness" written on the label of a bottle of domestic bleach: "Stand upright and in a cool place". Made me smile anyway.

  2. Hi Norman,

    thanks for your reply, it gave me a bit of a light bulb moment. You are right, its also invisible because its "unknown" and "unknowable" outcome.
    It surprises me every day how so many things about CE are so obvious when you take the time to really think about it.

    Will need to get a bottle (maybe a whole case) of that bleach, too.

  3. Aenna,
    "At the same time I always wondered why other professionals wouldn’t see CE as being one of those quacks??"
    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 didn't please everyone:-))