Publico aqui a versão em inglês do artigo que será publicado no jornal Recent Advances in Conductive Education, ainda neste trimestre, na Inglaterra. Para ler em português, clicar aqui
Hungary, México, England and Brazil: Our family’s experience of Conductive Education.
Conductive Education is a holistic approach to dealing with cerebral palsy, which treats the individual as the sum total of his or her physique, cognitive ability and social relationships. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, nor is there any treatment. After the causal injury, the situation is static and there is no change over time. Conductive Education teaches the body to work functionally, irrespective of its condition, in an attempt to improve the individual’s quality of life
This article tells the story of our family’s first experience of Conductive Education, starting in early 2005 when we planned a trip to Hungary, then to a short time spent in México in July of that year, and finally to our time in England where we spent the following year. I describe how my children evolved during this period, and also what we as parents learned and the plans we now have to introduce the concept of Conductive Education in our own country, Brazil.
Hearing about Conductive Education
The first we heard about Conductive Education was on a Brazilian TV programme. It described a method developed in Hungary especially for children with cerebral palsy, which advocated a way of life that promoted independence of the individual. The TV report, broadcast in early 2005 was short but managed to outline the method of treatment and its benefits. This rapid glimpse was enough to stimulate our interest in finding out more about the Hungarian method.
We have twins with cerebral palsy, the result of an infection during my pregnancy and their premature birth at 28 weeks. We have closely followed our children’s development and are always in search of new stimuli that may provide their brains with neuronal plasticity, in order that they may enjoy a better quality of life.
Since their birth, we have subjected them to a variety of therapies, each one focussing on a different part of the body. Over the years they have been through, at one time or another, motor physiotherapy, speech therapy, visual stimulation, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and equotherapy. The treatment has always been individual and carried out by specialists, each of whom worked on improving the condition of a specific part of the body
After subjecting our twins to all these therapies, we came to learn more about our own bodies. We have come to appreciate that our bodies need stretching exercises, the importance of movement and weight transfer etc, but deep inside we kept asking ourselves the same question: when are we going to make our children realise that all these movements need to be functional in order to achieve a goal ? We knew we needed to experiment with something new and that is how Conductive Education came into our lives: a new methodology which we wanted to learn more about to see if practice matched theory.
We sought more information on the internet and discovered that most sites were written in either English or Hungarian. We attempted to read the theory but could not understand how it worked in practice. Everything we read made perfect sense and tied in with our own ideas about what our children really needed. In fact, it led us to question the inumerous therapies they had been through over the years.
The Mexican Experience
We were keen to visit either England or Hungary but by chance we came across a school of Conductive Education in México. We were living in Florianópolis at the time, an island in the south of Brazil and considering how far we were from Europe, we felt such a huge and risky journey would cause problems in terms of the children’s adaptation to a new language. The school in México was offering a 4-week summer course in July 2005. In less than a month our family was in the town of Jiutepec, México to learn about Conductive Education (1).
During this first experience we learned about defining objectives, purposeful movement and how the ideas and format of the methodology relate to the children.
Conductive Education taught us to see our children as they really are, independent of what they have been through; we could see them in the present, and set tasks for their future. Conductive Education respects one’s current situation and believes in one’s potential.
My children had just turned three years old and after the one-month experience in México, we realised they were working with the conscience of an adult, with responsibility, with a set of goals, and able to appreciate what they had achieved.
Whist at the school in México we had the opportunity to watch some videos about the history of Conductive Education and its creator, Andras Peto. The more we learned, the more we realised we were on the right track. It was as if everything was new and was moulding our reality, setting out before us what we had always been looking for.
Of all our experience up to that point, what most motivated us was listening to the words of the founder of the Mexican school talking about the development of her own daughter, all the searching she had done, until she found Conductive Education. They could have been my own words.
Investing in The Future: England
It was the end of 2005 and we made the decision to invest a period of our lives in the development of our children at a Conductive Education school in Birmingham, England. At that time most of the information we had about Conductive Education had come from the internet site of the National Institute of Conductive Education – more than from anywhere else. (2). So we started to correspond with the administrative department of the school, informing them of our case history and working on a new life project. It was definitely a high-risk investment.
An investment that would take up all our time, that would not allow us to have jobs, that would separate us from our family and friends and most of all, that would cost us a great deal of money. We decided to take the plunge, of course, investing in the present so that our children might have a better future, instead of saving the capital so that the children would be able to use it themselves in the future. We followed the old addage: “Prepare your children for the future and not the future for your children”
Before the trip many doubts and anxieties passed through our minds. The unknown and the feeling of change appear on the one hand to unsteady us, but on the other hand serve to reinforce the desire to integrate into new cultures, to learn new languages and to resolve problems encountered along the way. It is living at the limit that gives us the clarity of ideas to be able to resolve whatever situation we face. It was in this frame of mind that, six months later, we found ourselves in Birmingham, UK. It was 1st January 2006.
So many new ideas confusing our thoughts; a new place to live, the school, culture shock, our very limited knowledge of English. If this was how we felt as adults, imagine how our children must have felt, suddenly flown away to a land where the temperature was barely above freezing, there were no leaves on the trees and there was snow on the ground. Add to this the stress of a first day at a new school, in a new environment, amongst students and teachers babbling away in a language they could not understand.
To our surprise, we actually adapted to our new life more quickly than we expected. Our experience in México was still very much alive inside us. Our children recognised the school furniture, the teaching programme, the musicality of instructions and the pace of the daily routine. It seemed they knew exactly what was going on but with people and a language they could not relate to. It was as if they had been there before.
Within a week they knew they wanted to stay at the school and after two weeks they were able to keep up with the group. Even their English started to show signs of development, as they began to say “bye-bye” when they left each day.
We realised that because Conductive Education is a group process, their learning developed through observing their classmates, even though their knowledge of English was still limited.
As they watched the group in action, our children were able to link the spoken instructions to subsequent activities carried out. After a month they had expanded their English vocabulary as well as being able to count to ten. After three months they had totally adjusted and had won the trust of their colleagues and teachers to be able to speak with the microphone, say their name and even express sadness at not seeing their classmates who had missed class that day.
Summer Course in Budapest
We were feeling comfortable and happy with our life. We realised that three months at the school was enough time for our children to become totally adjusted to the country, the methodology and the school routine. It was, however, too short a time to see any long-lasting results for their development.
Our original idea had been to get some experience of Conductive Education in England for three months and then decide whether to continue with a further three months in England or go to the Peto Institute in Budapest (3). Not to go to Hungary seemed an insane idea – after all, we were so close to the very cradle of Conductive Education.
Then we had our first meeting with Andrew Sutton, founder and counsellor of the Birmingham Institute and Wendy Baker, the children’s educational director. We discussed the experience we were having, our plans, our satisfaction with the school, the high degree of professionalism of the teachers and the success the children were having with their school tasks.
This was also the time to make plans for the following term and prepare ourselves to go to Budapest for the Summer School there, which was scheduled for August 2006. As our conversation developed, we asked Andrew Sutton about the Peto Institute and our plans to include a visit there as part of our trip, in the hope that we would learn more about Conductive Education.
Andrew answered us with the following analogy:look at the telephone, we don’t know where it was invented or why it was invented; we know that it is useful, functional and exists the world over. Conductive Education is the same thing – wherever we are, it will be useful and it will be adapted to local circumstances, be they of the country, the school, the group. It’s not necessary to go to Hungary to discover what Conductive Education is, it is a global phenomenon and can be experienced anywhere.
Considering how happy we were with the Birmingham school, we decided not to interrupt our children’s development there and gave up on the idea of going to the Peto Institute for the time being. From one moment to the next, something that had seemed so urgent to us no longer appeared so necessary.
One Year Later
We are about to end the year at the school in Birmingham and it is with great pride that we can evaluate the progress our children have made. All the investment that we have made is tatooed for ever on the experience we have had, on what we have learned and what we have acquired. Our children have acquired social maturity, the ability to work in a group with colleagues and teachers through sharing activities and experiences. They have learned how to observe their emotions and assess their behaviour.
The daily routine at the children’s school consists of 3 hours of activities per day, five days a week. Our childen were in the pré-school group and were learned everyday tasks such as changing their clothes, going to the toilet, getting up, rolling over, crouching and handling objects, toys and food. They also ate, drew, painted,, and pasted during their activities. It was a mix of social, motor and cognitive abilities.
With regard to their motor skills they became able to remain seated without assistance for a certain time and were able to crouch and squat with assistance. Their standing position and walking posture was improved. They became able to roll over on purpose. Their ability to use their arms to perform functions such a seating, brushing their teeth and playing was also significantly developed. The ability to control their urine and faeces continues to improve and accidents now rarely occur.
Their cognitive development and language learning appear to be progressing without difficulty. Their answers and responses to instructions in English were quickly mastered.
After a year it seems we have found harmony in the group, the concentration during the activities and the enthusiasm to continue to discover new ways to develop. There is no doubt that we have totally fallen in love with Conductive Education.
Although we have now been in the United Kingdom for almost a year, we still exploit the experience intensely. We are highly focussed on the children’s work, regularly observing their progress in class with the guidance of their teachers, learning about and noticing the differences in their development.
Conductive Education affects the entire family. In our home life we have learned to give the children more opportunities to do things for themselves. At meal times we help and encourage them to eat and and drink independently and to go to the toilet on their own. We encourage them to get up by themselves, with help only if necessary, and when they are playing or watching TV we get them to sit and stand on their own. Our experience at the Birmingham school has been highly productive for the whole family.
We have also managed to regualarly visit the school library, to study the history of Conductive Education and how it has developed over the years. At the library we broadened our own knowledge and became more and more interested in the field itself and in our family’s own journey.
Our friends and relatives back in Brazil became increasingly curious about what we were doing with our children and what results we were getting after such a major move. They also wanted to know more about Conductive Education.
At this point we decided to share our studies and experiences, which up to then had been kept private, and so we started to put things on the internet in Portuguese. We saw this as a way of awareness-raising and passing on our knowledge about the method in Brazil. We now have a blog –“Conductive Education – with love” (4)
The next step
Being aware of the need to continue our work, we have decided to set up a project in Brazil. Our plan is to start with a group of pre-school children and work with Conductive Education, also involving our own children. There are many obstacles to overcome, but we already have premises, equipment and a very enthusisatic teacher to get things started.
So now we are about to embark on another venture, to introduce the concept of Conductive Education in Florianópolis and surrounding region, to show how our own children have developed under this method and to set up a new group who will have the chance to experience the same process. The excellent quality of life and the low cost of living in our country opens doors for qualified professionals in this field to take on a new challenge.
The project will begin in February 2007 and with the energy and enthusiasm that we have acquired over these past few years, we hope we can keep interest high for a good time to come. This motivation and our plans for a pilot project bode well for a promising future.
(1) Website Escuela Connosotros, México –
(2) Website National Institute of Conductive Education, England –
(3) Website Peto Institute, Hungary –
(4) Website Blog Educação Condutiva- Com Amor, Brasil –
Leticia Búrigo Tomelin Kuerten
Birmingham, November 2006