A place to show my love for my granddaughter who lives with Cerebral Palsy and my passion for painting. In an effort of raising awareness for C.P. every painting brush stroke I make on raw canvas is a stroke of love, as I discretely paint a green C.P. awareness ribbon in every piece. Can you find them?Do you know someone who would like to have a painting done? email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
A Conductors Point of View on Conductive Upbringing
My next guest blogger is Viktoria, she is a Conductor and now a step mom to beautiful India who has C.P. India is very fortunate to have someone with such expertise love and care for her, but if you ask Viktoria I am sure that she will tell you that she is the lucky one.
Thanks to Janet for this great opportunity to share. My name is Viktoria and I trained as a conductor-teacher 12 years ago. Since then, I traveled to and worked in several countries and worked with hundreds of disabled children and their families. I feel that each time at each place I’ve leant more than I’ve ever dreamed to be able to teach—not just about my profession, or disability, but about people. After ten years of traveling I settled in the USA with my fiancée, who—as life has it—has a daughter who has cerebral palsy. So it happened that I got to practice what I preach!
My fiancée’s daughter is 12, and she’s beautiful. Her name is India. She started going to conductive education camps when she was little, having to travel states and countries; now she goes to a regular school and is raised at home the conductive way. This is called conductive upbringing—something that I can’t describe without first explaining what it is NOT.
I apologize that I do have to complain here. It’s almost impossible to find useful information about conductive education on the internet (“conductive upbringing” is the correct translation of the original Hungarian term; “conductive pedagogy” is the pedagogy behind what is a way of parenting and a way of life). Almost everything that one finds after a Google search of “conductive education” is laden with capital errors and very confusing misinformation. Please don’t believe for a second, regardless of how many websites, parent or professional blogs, discussion forums etc. are trying to explain you that conductive education is a “therapy”, “alternative therapy”, “holistic method” or anything anywhere near these: conductive education has NOTHING to do with medicine, (neither “conventional” nor “alternative”), it has no place in medical journals, and no self-respecting medical professional should ever try to analyze pedagogy as if it was some kind of cure for an illness!
Doctors are incredibly useful. They might have saved your child’s life. Their opinion is relevant when it comes to their area of expertise: diagnosing and treating medical conditions. A lot of children with brain injuries have one or more of those underlying medical issues that do need medical attention and various interventions. However, their opinion about your parenting skills and pedagogy in general is not more relevant than anybody else’s as these are usually not their area of expertise. Pedagogy is a social science.
The confusion about conductive education has several reasons and it has been around since the beginning (conductive pedagogy has been around for several decades, but was hiding in Hungary behind the iron curtain until the 1980s). One of the reasons may be that the brain or spinal cord injury that causes the disability is usually acquired in circumstances that include accidents, hospitals, doctors; so one is likely to search for the solution there, and assume that if the injury is in the central nervous system, then the central nervous system has to be “doctored” in some way to eliminate the disability. The problem with this is that it is unfortunately not possible to do this. The injury to the brain or spinal cord is final and irreversible—any doctor knows this, even first-year medical students, and they are likely to tell you about this—hence the impression that “there’s nothing that can be done”. The doctor may even warn you of “certain elements” that may play on your despair, use your misfortune to sell you products and interventions that promise to reverse these injuries and that your longing for hope may dupe you into going for these (these are called “quack therapies”, and include stem cell therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, magnetic therapy and many more). The doctor is right; regardless of what any of these charlatans claim, irreversible injuries remain irreversible.
The good news is that this doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. The way the disabled child is brought up will make all the difference between an inactive, helpless, dependent child and the active, motivated, independent one: that’s your power as a parent. The upbringing you provide, the opportunities you give your child to learn, to participate, to help themselves are all going to make the exact same impact as they would if your child didn’t have a disability. You wouldn’t question your impact in case of your typical child, why would you do that in case of your disabled child?
Conductive education schools, camps, or conductors who work directly with your family all serve the purpose of teaching you, the parent how to teach your child just about anything: how to motivate, encourage and help them to move, reach for toys, learn ways to change their place, to play, to communicate, to eat, to wash, etc.; how to organize your day so that you can fit everything in that you need to fit in; how to deal with funky behaviors and so on. It is a complete lifestyle “package” that is based entirely on common sense (which makes it incredibly difficult to describe!) Parents who are lead to believe by someone for some reason that conductive education is some sort of alternative movement therapy based on repetitive exercises superior/inferior to physical therapy loose out because even if they participate, they will not be able to raise their child in a conductive way therefore benefits, if any, will be marginal.
Pedagogy is a science but you don’t get the same quantitative proofs you get with Math. While studying to be a conductor, one learns a lot about the history of pedagogy, theories that came and went over the centuries and decades, theories that might have affected the birth of this very complex education system. However, conductive education is not based on any set scientific theories, it is just based on the aforementioned common sense and easily observable everyday facts: teaching might cause learning; more/better teaching might cause more/better learning; what you don’t even try, you may never learn; if you really want to learn something and you try, you may eventually learn it even if it seems against the odds at first; solving an impossible-to-solve complex task may become possible if it’s broken down to simple tasks and solved one after each; I could go on and on. There is almost nothing in conductive education that wouldn’t be observable in the way an average good family raises their kids or an average good teacher manages their classroom, but what is unusual about conductive education for the newcomer is that these everyday routines, parenting and teaching methods and techniques are applied to a broader population: disabled kids involved. This extreme simplicity of conductive education is what makes it so very difficult to understand for most. The results seem unbelievable because the disabled children do eventually end up learning and doing things they couldn’t do before, so everyone thinks there are some great and advanced scientific discoveries or “brain tissue recovery” and “brain rewiring” involved, while there is nothing like that. It’s the nature of people that they’re looking for explanations and it’s hard to accept that a major achievement of a disabled child is just a result of simple teaching and learning and not “healing”. That’s why we see a lot of descriptions of conductive education that try to make sense of it by providing these medical-style explanations of healing brains, but I can assure everyone that none of those are correct and every time you see one of those just click and go to the next page, because you’re wasting your precious time.
You should also quickly dismiss your source of information if you hear that you have to go to Hungary to get “real” conductive education, or that your child has to be in a group, or that you have to purchase the “original” wooden furniture that has been in use in conductive classrooms in Hungary. The truth is that you can learn to become a conductive parent in a very wide range of circumstances: if there’s a conductive education school near you where your child can attend full time that is really a lucky situation, but if there isn’t you can still try to attend one of the summer camps or you can try and get a conductor to come to your house a few times a year to teach your family. When this conductor got to know your family and your situation, you can even cut back on the costs of travel and whatnot and ask for their help using Skype and a webcam, at least some of the time.
If you become a conductive parent you can raise your child the conductive way and provide conductive upbringing at home. That’s the whole point. Being a conductive parent means that you are a conductive parent at all times, morning, noon and night, in the sitting room, kitchen, bathroom, car, park and at the grocery store, not only at specially allocated times and places. It means that you’re aware that your child’s disability is not an illness that’s awaiting the cure so that he can become a whole person, but that he’s already a whole person, and he’s a lifetime learner like everyone else. You as a conductive parent are also a lifetime learner like everyone else and you’re constantly learning and discovering ways to help your child’s learning.
There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll leave it here for now. I would like everyone to know that it’s worth to be a conductive parent. It initially seems more work and may be emotionally hard—there are times when you don’t help your child, you let them struggle and that may make you feel bad at first—but you can expect a payoff soon. Children can be very well aware of their achievements and that can make them feel really happy. That’s how India’s father hooked on: after he got a glimpse of what his supposedly helpless little girl could do and the huge smiles that even struggles and tears eventually ended up in, he never looked back. Not many people do.
Thank you to Viktoria for sharing with us a Conductors Perspective on C.E. you can read more about her and India at Conductive Upbringing