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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