Monday, 5 October 2015


Paralysis versus revolution

A paradigm is a generally accepted way of thinking and doing things in a given context, a philosophical and theoretical framework for understanding and action. In the fields of disability, special education and rehabilitation, Conductive Education represents a new way – a new paradigm.

Conductive Education is a new way because its focus is not upon physical conditions as such but the host of social and psychological effects that stem from them in the circumstances of learning and of life, and their effects upon every aspect of individuals' developing personalities – and of course upon what might done practically to ameliorate these effects through social and psychological mediation.

The focus of this new paradigm is not physical conditions as such, sought through physical interventions that aim for physical outcomes, but rather upon the psychosocial effects of such conditions, mediated through psychosocial means in order to bring about psychosocial outcome. Its angle of attack is not the musculature, the reflex mechanism, some insufficiently understood part of the nervous system, but personality, morale. etc.

This new paradigm does not deny understandings and interventions at lower levels but requires their incorporation into a wider human whole.

Change to new and better, higher-order ways of thinking and doing do not necessarily come about smoothly. Sometimes people and institutions may get stuck immovably in old paradigms. In such 'paradigm paralysis' service-providers may know of no other way forward than providing more of the same, researchers may think of no conceptual advances than more precise measurement. Worse, no matter the general disappointments about how things are currently done and what is achieved from doing them, there may be outright refusal to see beyond current models of thinking and action – even stubborn opposition to possible new ways'

In the context of 'mature science' the usual developmental pattern is for general successive transitions from the one paradigm to another, one after another, as revolutionary new ways of thinking and doing overthrow the old: 'paradigm shifts'. These may be hard, even painful for some of those involved but are an essential to the advancement of understanding. Special education and rehabilitation are not, however, mature sciences, and have no mechanisms to incorporate new ways or to dispense with the old.

Whatever widespread and keenly felt disappointments there may be with what is presently on offer in special education and rehabilitation, substantial expansion of Conductive Education around the world may be limited until conditions emerge to combat paradigm paralysis and force possibilities for general paradigm shift.

The transition from segregation to inclusion may be construed as a paradigm shift. Concepts such as cerebral palsy may be overdue one. Conductive Education is situated on tectonic faults.

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