Friday, 26 September 2014


A conductive parent looks back
Yesterday Conductive World touched on inclusion and about what the aspirations of thirty or so years ago look like today:
In response, doyenne conductive parent and CE advocate, Emma McDowell responds, with a look back over the same timespan, and more, from the perspective of a service-user –
I too am annoyed (exasperated, or despairing) at parents' short-sightedness when they condemn their obviously special children to mainstream 'education', based on illusion, self-deception, wrong advice, faulty understanding of equal opportunities, or I don’t know what else. Ignorance, mainly.  And an unfortunate collective social memory of 'special schools'– where only the really, really severely and multiply disabled children go.
As you know, 40 years ago we parents did not have the choice: handicapped child = special school. OK, I was lucky to find the Institute in Budapest well before my George’s compulsory school age, but when he reached that he had to go to special school in Belfast. OK, we manipulated things somehow: to give him a ‘conductive upbringing’ in spite of the 'soft' educational discipline at the school and its low expectations. While George attended his special school during most of the school year, he also had longish 'refresher courses' in Budapest and, since I fully subscribed to the principles of Conductive Education, we tried to practice these in our daily lives. 
Yet – and I never thought that I would say this – special school as a basis, since  we did not live in Budapest and there was no CE then anywhere else, was still better than trying to establish George in the local primary school, even though that’s what I wanted to do when he was seven, and that’s what he was prevented from doing. He could walk a bit by then but he certainly could not have participated in a lot of the school’s activities, and trying to do so he would have had to get used to the wheelchair (and later to an electric one, as George has quite a serious form of cerebral palsy).
At his special school, however, he enjoyed the yearly drama performance, the sports day, swimming, riding and, yes, he did get SOME physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy incorporated in the school routine. They also let him walk with his sticks and, once he had learned (at the Institute in Budapest) to walk without them – yes, in a protected environment.
I do not understand why today’s special schools – or rather, special pre- and nursery schools – cannot be run on a Conductive Educational basis, seeing how well conductive principles can be embedded in ALL the good education that children with physical and/or learning difficulties need, and then continue on into in a mainstream environment when they are ready for it, physically and characterwise… possibly earlier than 17 years of age, when George was finally allowed to enter college in the bad old days...

Just under a year ago George presented at the 8th World Congress on Conductive Education, in Fürstenfeldbruck near Munich. This coincided with publication of a book that collects together some of what he has written (published in English and in German).

Emma remains a enthusiast for the conductive lifestyle, and a vocal advocate of the rights of carers.


McDowell, G, (2013) What does conductive lifestyle mean to me? Abstract Book: 8th World Congress on Conductive Education, Fürstenfekdbruck, 9-12 October, pp. 196-197

McDowell, G, (2013) George's Travelogue / Urlauberlebnisse von George McDowell, Nuremberg, CN Press 
To obtain copies, email conductor Susie Mallett at

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