Sunday, 11 October 2015


Glimpse into start of CE in New Zealand

The modern history of Conductive Education began in 1986, specifically at nine o'clock in the evening of 1 April when the BBC screened its TV documentary Standing up for Joe. This is no arbitrary date but a real instance following which nothing would be the same again for what has come to be called Conductive Education, with the focus of the action thereafter shifting increasingly out of and away from Hungary.

New Zealand was soon up there at the forefront of this action and,over the ensuing years, with its generally upward progress in expanding and coordinating its CE services, it has remained a leader.

A thesis submitted in 2008 by Adrienna Ember in part fulfillment of a PhD in European Studies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, offers an overview of how this progress got under way –
Conductive Education
Another important and successful joint project between New Zealand and Hungary was in the reverse direction: with the assistance of New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mike Moore, and PGG director John Paterson [Pyne Gould Guinness Ltd., stock agents], Hungarian expertise was exported to Christchurch in the form of Conductive Education in 1991. This case is an excellent example of how established diplomatic and business contacts can have a positive influence on other areas in the home country. Conductive Education (Figure 7.7) was developed by Professor András Pető in Hungary between 1930 and 1945:
[It is] an intensive, comprehensive and structured learning programme for the rehabilitation of people with motor disorders. The aim of the Conductive Education is for an individual to gain maximum independence through the improvement of all areas of development: fine motor, gross motor, communication and social skills, cognitive skills, self help and life skills. (New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education, 2005, p.2)
Sally Thomas, manager of Conductive Education Canterbury, explained that many families saw a British documentary Standing up for Joe (BBC 1986) about a disabled child who was bought to the Pető Institute in Hungary and who made very good developmental progress. A group was set up with the intent of bringing Conductive Education to Christchurch. Contact was made with PGG director John Paterson who used his contacts in Hungary to assist with the employment of a conductor who was specialist trained in Conductive Education practices, and he helped with fundraising efforts to help bring this Hungarian conductor to Christchurch.

According to interviews with John Paterson and Sally Thomas in 2005, in establishing Conductive Education in New Zealand, challenges were encountered in gaining recognition for the organisation and getting New Zealand government funding. The concept was not well known or understood and was originally seen as being a rather negatively perceived 'alternative' type of therapy, both by professionals and nonprofessionals alike. All Conductors were brought over to New Zealand from Hungary, where Conductive Education is taught over four years as a tertiary degree. The Pető philosophy was adapted to be compatible with New Zealand customs and education system. Today, ten Conductive Education centres operate throughout New Zealand, offering nationwide rehabilitation from pre-school age children through to adults.

(pages 230-231)

Yes, there is an elementary factual mistake in the first paragraph quoted above ('Conductive Education was developed by Professor András Pető in Hungary between 1930 and 1945': it was not, as he was not in Hungary over more than half of those years, the most mysterious period of his mysterious life). And others who took part in events to establish Conductive Education in New Zealand might tell the tale a little differently. As for the rest of Adrienna Ember's story, from half a planet away it has the ring of academic plausibility for what it reports. A history comes together over time, through sifting and testing sourced material, not necessarily all agreeing, to create a broadly based and intellectually plausible tale.We may never have a history of pre-modern Conductive Education (it would be wonderful to be proven wrong on this) but writing the story of CE in NZ could be a realisable task...

History does rather belong to those who tell it.
Ember, A. (2008) Enlarged Europe, shrinking relations? The impacts of Hungary's EU membership on the development of bilateral relations between New Zealand and Hungary, University of Canterbury, unpublished PhD thesis

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