Friday, 8 July 2016


Saying what you do, and what you think
On Facebook yesterday I posted notification of a summer CE experience organised by Judit Szathmáry one of the range of such experiences offered annually around the world. I woke this morning to see that this posting had been shared and commented upon:
I did not know precisely what to say for the best about this, so I sat up and wrote the following (far from precise) blog posting anyway. Sorry that it is so 'personal', but that surely is one of the things that blogs are for.

Being involved with Conductive Education over the years has brought me many dilemmas, not uniquely I am sure. One of these has been on how much to say of what I think, and how best to say it.

Just how outright should one be when expressing what one thinks of the actions, practices, ideas, views of others, in and out of the field of Conductive Education? What is the ideal balance between the one hand transparency, openness, honest debate, and on the other being sensitive to the feelings of others and encouraging not discouraging them to make their contributions?

I certainly have had no wish to upset people for the sake of my personal contrarianism, anyone, and most certainly not people who have faced up to circumstances and achieved things such I could never myself manage.

Further, when I was responsible for an institution I was very aware that fundraisers and funders, and others, could be very unhappy with being involved in 'controversy'. So sometimes (too often) I held back.

For such reasons, and because I shy away from from conflict and confrontation (in other words I am a bit of a coward) I tended take the line of least resistance. In doing so, I do not think that I have always got the balance right for the longer-term benefit of the cause that I hope to serve. I do not always get it 'right' Some like it, saying that they are glad that someone has spoken out. Others do not and I look back on some unpleasant experiences. There is no right or wrong answer to such dilemmas. Every adult faces them, and children have to learn that they are part of life. There is often no simple right or wrong answer. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Most who come into Conductive Education, as users or providers,most certainly do not wish or willing to be involved in conflict. They want to get on with what they are doing and achieve their personal goals for their own good and the good of others. Doing so they can meet some extraordinary barriers and display corresponding ingenuity and dedication. In such circumstances encouragement can help. Public scorn does not.

Over the years I have tried to encourage people to innovate and to share what they have tried. Conductive Education around the world includes a huge well of creativity and imagination of potential benefit to all, not just in Conductive Education – as long as it can be shared without fear or other constraint. Mea culpa, I have done my time as a 'purist' about Conductive Education but the relevance and benefit of this stance depends wholly on what you are trying to achieve. Be as 'pure' as you wish, but be clear and explicit to yourself as much as others about what it is you are trying to say and to what end, recognising that others live their lives in different worlds and may wish and need to do things differently.

I once naively thought that new communication technology would free up the sharing initiatives, potential leads, possible ways forward, and by diversifying practice generate the context from which deeper theoretical understandings of Conductive Education could potentially be generated (and everyone knows what a desperate hole yawns in that department). Over the years, again and again I have seen the aversive responses that people can experience when they describe what they do or state their views, and heard how it has hurt them and pushed them out of the public domain.

Whatever their intended specific purposes of such aversive comments, their longer-term effect may be toxic, corrosive to the well-being and prospects of Conductive Education as a whole.

Precisely on this his issue, Mária Hári, not always the most tolerant soul, used to say:
There are many roads to Rome

One can be critical in a positive and friendly manner, enter into dialogue, 'agree to disagree', be a 'critical friend', and we can all of us learn better ways.

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Blogger Mandy Elliott said...

If I may, I would like to clarify as I think there may have been some misunderstandings along the way.

The students who participate in the summer adventures are not merely passive observers in a ‘sightseeing tour run by Conductors as tour guides’.

The students spend 7-14 days 24 hours per day with 3 senior Pető and British trained conductors along with other trained staff as part of a Conductive adventure and retreat. They will experience living away from home in a luxury environment. They will use the facilities such as beds, baths, showers, and tables, chairs which are available (and not specialised) and learn to access them in a conductive way. They will help to prepare breakfast, participate in juicing fruits and vegetables, organise their belongings, be taught how to get dressed, squeeze their toothpaste onto their brush and all of the things which many of us take for granted.

They will learn how to get in and out of a taxi, on and off of buses (whether using a wheelchair or walking aids) tackle crowds, order tickets, plan what they would like to eat and how to order their meals. Along the way they will be able to experience some of the most beautiful places in England (many of these the children have previously requested themselves) and have access to 5 star facilities which the majority of people would never be able to have access to.

Conductors understand the burdens which many parents face on a daily basis – the service which is available enables the children to practise and learn skills and put these into practise in ‘the real world’ in a conductive way and give them an experience unlike any other whilst their parents can have a break themselves, safe in the knowledge that their children are safe with experienced staff who understand the complex physical, learning, health and emotional needs of their children.

After the days adventures it is time to travel back to the base where the children are still being taught-supper time, forest walks, getting ready for bed.

And the cost? Well the Conductors earn less than the average conductor who takes part in a daily summer school of 5 hours a day. We are providing a 24 hour residential service. Of course there are financial implications so that the children can access the standards of luxury we aim to provide but this is not an earning of the conductors it is an outgoing.

It is hard work and a huge responsibility.

I really hope this helps to clarify more about the summer activities, the above is just a brief summary.

I do believe that everyone should speak freely, but perhaps as conductors we could express our opinions just that little bit kinder, once we know the whole picture.

Friday, 8 July 2016 at 18:23:00 BST  
Blogger NormanP said...

Brilliant idea. I love it. Should be for adults too. I know one who would be delighted to have the chance!

Friday, 8 July 2016 at 23:18:00 BST  
Blogger Mandy Elliott said...

As to other comments regarding our French retreats on Facebook I would like to post my reply here as well :)
The French retreats are not a replacement for regular Conductive Education - I don't believe this was written anywhere, but rather as an extra special edition to what we offer throughout the year.

Similar to our children's services in the UK during the holidays - participants with Parkinson's have the opportunity to go to France to participate in a daily CE complex programme and implement their skills in an environment which they may not be able to because of their needs.

They are supported not only to learn strategies to assist in daily living but also other practical solutions such as learning to manage and co-ordinate their movements to get in and out of taxis and also onto and off of an aeroplane. I know many many people with Parkinson's whos mere thought of walking around a busy supermarket in their local community is enough to just stay at home - let alone go away on a holiday abroad and even consider walking on a moving aeroplane.

Imagine 'freezing' in an airport would a regular 'tour guide' know what to do? - or help to find strategies to cope with a panic attack? How about getting dressed? - Managing coins, going to a shop up a cobbled street in St Paul- de Vence to find a postcard and managing to legibly write a message to send to a loved one back in England. Last year one of our participants learnt to swim at the age of 83 for the first time in her life.

Tips and information is shared through the conductors research and experience in health and well being.

I feel that yes these things do contribute to helping people transform their lives to be absorbed in an environment guided by experienced conductors and to have a holiday of a lifetime to be inspired by forever.
Perhaps conductive education and beyond...

Saturday, 9 July 2016 at 21:10:00 BST  
Blogger NormanP said...

Thought this might be of relevant interest:
"“Honest comment” on a matter of public interest is one of the principle defences to an action for defamation (the others being justification (i.e. truth), absolute and qualified privilege). The defence of honest comment (or fair comment as it used to be known) reflects the protection that English law affords to an honest person who expresses an opinion, however “prejudiced, exaggerated or obstinate” that view may be. Aside from the requirement that the comment must be on a matter of public interest, it must also be based on facts which are true and the comment must be recognisable as comment as distinct from an imputation or statement of fact. A statement of fact which is not true and tends to make people think worse of a person or exposes him or her to ridicule, may well be defamatory."

Sunday, 10 July 2016 at 11:59:00 BST  

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