Sunday, 5 December 2010

This morning's offering

All this in ten minutes!



A. Sutton


The social-historical origin of iconic institutional Conductive Education was Central-Eastern European, and Socialist. The structure of that conductive practice has not transferred successfully to the rest of Europe or other European-style societies where, with very rare exception, essential adaptation has been ad hoc and non-programmatic. Conductive Education depends upon human technology, requirements being the time, concern, skills, motivation and orientation, therefore holding potential promise for disabled children and adults, and their families within developing economies.


 There could never be 'enough conductors' to implement the institutional model, except in atypical circumstances. Add-on training for existing professionals faces the same problem of numbers. The problem is not unique. Nursing, for example, is evolving both 'upwards' and 'downwards', to create new professional strata to meet problems of shortage within a wider, evolving professional context [1]. In medicine the question of feldsherism is long-standing, and has recently been raised as a possibility for Conductive Education [2]. Feldshers are not 'assistants', but bear de facto professional autonomy within a defined range. In Conduction Education, arithmetic and geography conspire against continuous supervision of their practice by conductors.

Proposed Development

Sizanani Home in South Africa provides the only formally described programme to create a new stratum of conductive practitioner [3], though not at the feldsher level. Those seeking to establish conductive programs in new contexts might also look to radical approaches that respect local human resources, though aiming to create practitioners a higher level, and then evaluating and communicating formally for wider benefit. Vital would be not to offer a 'watered down', mis-theorised knowledge base. Shift of focus towards long-term, informed family upbringing [4] bears examination.


Mention of barefoot conductors in the context of development disorders and their habilitation evokes the episode of deaf-mutism and acupuncture during the Cultural Revolution [6]. This was widely misunderstood at the time but proves an important pointer to the possibly vital role of changes in mood, goals and philosophy when seeking effective low-tech, semi-skilled intervention for the disabled in their families [7].


Developed societies will never have 'enough conductors' to provide adequate practices that are other than socially discriminatory, and would benefit themselves from taking part in the root-and-branch questioning demanded by such development projects.

The presentation will raise questions for the knowledge base and training of such practitioners.


[1] Wakefield,A., Spilsbury, K., Atkin, K., McKenna, H. (2010) What work do assistant practitioners do and where do they fit in the nursing workforce? Nursing Times, Vol. 106, no 12, pp.14-17

[2] Sutton, A. (2010) Feldshers, barefoot conductors, super-conductors... or what? Conductive World, 28 March

[3] Vermeer, A., Wijnroks, l., Zsóka Magyárszéky, Zs., Mbethi, N. (2006) Effects of Conductive Education in a home for children with developmental disorders, Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 4 no 2, pp. 9-20

[4] Ákos, K., Ákos, M. Dina: a mother practises Conductive Education (Pető System), Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, and Ulm, Alabanda Verlag

[5] Akos, K. and Akos, M. (1991). Wo nu ding na 我女丁娜, Hong Kong: Working Group on Conductive Education, Hong Kong Joint Council for the Physically and Mentally Disabled.

[6] – (1972) Exploring the secrets of treating deaf-mutes, Peking, Foreign Languages Press

[7] Sutton, A. (1977) Acupuncture and Deaf-Mutism―an essay in cross-cultural defectology, Educational Studies



Blogger Viktoria said...

I find this interesting:
"By the start of the twentieth century, acupuncture was extinct in the West and dormant in the East. It might have fallen out of favor permanently, but it suddenly experienced a revival in 1949 as a direct result of the communist revolution and the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Chairman Mao Tse-tung engineered a resurgence in traditional Chinese medicine, which included not just acupuncture, but also Chinese herbal medicine and other therapies. His motivation was partly ideological, inasmuch as he wanted to reinforce a sense of national pride in Chinese medicine. However, he was also driven by necessity. He had promised to deliver affordable healthcare in both urban and rural regions, which was only achievable via the network of traditional healers, the so-called 'barefoot doctors'. Mao did not care whether traditional Chinese medicine worked, as long as he could keep the masses contented. In fact, his personal physician, Zhisui Li, wrote a memoir entitled 'The Private Life of Chairman Mao', in which he quoted Mao as saying, 'Even though I believe we should promote Chinese medicine, I personally do not believe in it. I don't take Chinese medicine'"
(Edzard Ernst: Trick ot Treatment, London, Bantam Press, 2008)

Monday, 6 December 2010 at 03:59:00 GMT  
Blogger Andrew DSutton said...

Interesting, but perhaps not so surprising.

Acupuncture seems generally unquestioned here now, and is advocated as an example of TCM (Chinese Traditional Medicine) to be combined with CE, (along with herbal medicine and some things that I have not heard of and cannot recall).

By the way: 'Mao did not care whether traditional Chinese medicine worked, as long as he could keep the masses contented'. Prof Ernst puts it neatly here about Mao and TCM, but it is such a widespread political calculation about so many things...


Monday, 6 December 2010 at 10:32:00 GMT  

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