Monday, 27 August 2012


As Australians will be the first to tell you
But there is another world out there...

I mention Australia particularly here only because the following report from the Philippines brings back to mind a cluster of problems manifest in the continuing development of Conductive Education around the world:

There is also of course a lot wrong with the US, the UK, NZ, Germany, France, Canada... etc., etc. Just ask the people who live there, especially those bringing up disabled children, and caring for disabled adults. Ask disabled people themselves. There is such a lot that remains to fight for. I write here of course about the rich nations.

A problem for developed societies 

So many of the problems alluded to here are not simply those arising directly from disabilities. Years of already hard-fought campaigning have brought some amazing steps forward but, along with advances our societies have  contradictorily created a whole new layer of problems to be solved.These arise out of the professions and the institutions that had once seemed to promise unmitigated,uncomplicated progress towards solutions. Not to put too fine a point upon it, there is the perhaps inevitable experience that institutions soon develop goals of their own, to further and protect their own interests and the interests of those dependent upon them for a living, their employees, the professionals. Along the way, the word 'professional' may come to connote threat and opposition rather common cause and practical help. 

Witness the resistance of existing interests to embracing aspects of the 'conductive message'. Their response  seeming to bring together two factors:

  • first, that the conductive message opposes fundamental tenets of an evolved, entrenched status quo in understanding and providing for disability
  • secondly, the leading role that parents have taken in establishing most of CE's bridgeheads around the world publicly challenging the existing power relationship between service-users and service-providers.
The problem for developing societies... that they are in no position to afford such niceties, and indeed in many cases may never be.

Reporting on a visit to Western Australia, under the heading 'A different world', Ranil Sorongon from the Philippines writes –
Last August 7 and 8, I had the opportunity to join the delegates from Samoa, Solomon Islands, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tuvalu and Bangladesh for a visit to the different centers and institutions that provide services to children with autism and other disabilities in Perth, Western Australia.
We were fetched from our hotel by Ms. Dawn, a volunteer of the Early Childhood Intervention Council of Perth and was brought to Carson Street School at East Victoria Park, a center catering to children with different disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome – some with profound disabilities.  The Principal welcomed us and Ms. Shona Ballantyne,  the Conductive Education Services Coordinator, gave us a short orientation about the school.  The team walked us through their classrooms, indoor swimming pool, therapy area, music room and play ground.
While touring around the facilities, I was very observant of the very tidy classrooms, the different equipment, toys and other materials used by the teachers and manipulated by the students.  I was struck seeing a child with profound disability lying on the floor but still part of the class.  It was a truly inclusive scenario!
I can’t help but compare the situation of the private and public schools in the Philippines. It made me feel sad and envious thinking that Filipino children with disabilities would very likely develop and learn more if we had those equipment, toys and facilities...
Their whistle stop continued will visits to Western Australian Disability Commission, Early Childhood Intervention Australia, Heathridge Primary School Accelerated Learning Center for Autism, and the Sate Child Development Center...
While I love my country very much, I am made aware that services for children with disabilities are so inadequate, sometimes non-existent, in the Philippines.  In Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tuvalu, the situation is even worse – speech therapist and occupational therapists are very difficult to find. Even with the presence of international agreements like the Education for All, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, these conditions exist and will continue to exist, if governments will not prioritize this marginalized sector. Persons with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities must demand from the duty-bearers, the government, the fulfillment of their basic rights.
Living in Western Australia would be a privilege; but there is still no place like the Philippines, my home. My experiences in Perth posed a challenge to me to further engage government and other stakeholders for a more humane world for all, especially individuals with disabilities.
If you live in a developing economy, it hardly needs labouring that your  services for the disabled will be minimal or at rock-bottom . You will face few of the secondary-order social problems that services may create for their users in the developed economies.  Mr Sorongon's  telling report is just one more tiny window on to the gross disparities involved:

What to do?

With respect to movement disabilities in adults and children, Conductive Education offers do much that seems a priori suited to the developing world. So how to realise this in terms of effective and implementable social action? A few brave souls have been trying to make their own individual contributions, and there are the possibilities still unrevealed in the major efforts to create conductive services for children in the People's Republic of China. Compare the very different experiences reported this year on The Conductive Post by Natalie Ibarguen Sanchez and by Rony Schenker:

But in between these two extremes, there is little substantive to report, perhaps hardy surprising from the West's point of view when it is so beset with its own economic problems – though I recall little of great scale from the days of plenty.

What even to say? I peeled back a small corner of this at the World CE Congress in Hong Kong nearly two years ago:

This topic has not, however, emerged as an identifiable issue within Western Conductive Education (what has, you might ask). Quo bono? Who would benefit if it did? If a conductive pedagogy of the oppressed is to emerge at all, experience suggests, from fields far wider than Conductive Education and even disability, then this will have to be forged from within the social experience and endeavour of those directly involved.

Meanwhile of course there is no discredit in the continuing struggle of privileged families in the Western world to resist established ways of thinking and working, and fight for a better alternative.

And possibly, the two together might find commonalities in their struggle from which both might learn -- with even the possibility of mutual formal arrangements such as that between bodies in Israel and China, just announced:


Sanchez, I. B. (2012) Taking a little bit of Conductive Eduction to Kerala, India, The Conductive Post, 16 June 2012

Schenker, R. (2012) Middle East meets (Far) East, The Conductive Post, 4 February

Sorongon, R. (2012) A different world, Autism Society Philippines, 26 August

Sutton, A. (2011) Last Year In Hong Kong, Conductive Education Press

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