How conductive education can help families with brain-damaged children

Posted: 25/04/2016


For the second year running, Conductive Education Awareness Week sought to raise awareness of this system of education on a national level. As there is still some uncertainty as to what ‘conductive education’ actually is, Tim Wright of the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team summarises what this educational system means to a family with a brain-damaged child. 

The origins of conductive education lie in Hungary in the 1940s, when Professor Peto devised an educational model which was intended to provide children with disabilities with an education that met their special physical and education needs. Peto, despite being medically trained, viewed disability from an educational stand point rather than a medical one. 

Conductive education centres around the uncontroversial principal that the development of every aspect of a child is affected by the damaging consequences of a brain injury. 

Those who lead this education (called ‘conductors’) seek to provide a holistic intervention that will address all aspects of the effect of the brain injury. This approach reflects that all aspects of a child’s disabilities are seen as interacting and co-dependent. In addition, perhaps not surprisingly for a system that has its origins with a neurologist who trained in the town where psychoanalysis began, conductive education looks at personality. Conductors will often speak about the nature of the personality of their clients, always praising and looking to develop positive and constructive elements. It is this positivity which makes conductive education so attractive to parents. 

The conductor will look closely at those elements of personality and how they lie together and interact. Personality is seen as constantly changing. Conductive education attempts to build up and reinforce the personality of the damaged child. That change happens because the child is an active participant in the educational process, rather than the object of a “treatment”.

The sense of participation is an essential feature and cannot be replaced by the passive exercises sometimes seen during traditional therapy or classroom sessions. This interaction is an extended process and continuity is an essential feature. This means that the emerging skills must be developed not only in the classroom but also in every aspect of life. The conductor cannot be present all the time and therefore works by educating not only the child but, most importantly, parents and carers of all sorts. 

Those involved in the process do not act as separate specialists but act within an interdisciplinary model or transdisciplinary model, working in a joined-up way across professional boundaries. This ensures that the interrelatedness of the different developmental areas is taken account of and maximised in the learning process. Not surprisingly, it fits very badly with the NHS model which relies so heavily on a multidisciplinary approach, with each specialty acting within the limitations of his or her area of expertise. 

In summary, conductive education has six significant elements: group; facilitation; daily routine; rhythmic intention; task series; and a conductor. The conductor works to ensure that these elements work together as part of a unified system and not as a composite or amalgamation of these separate elements. 

Tim Wright is the secretary of the Dame Vera Lynn School for Parents (DVLCC), a charity which funds the School for Parents service and provides conductive education for pre-school children and their parents at Ingfield Manor in Billingshurst, West Sussex. He said: “It is a delight to watch the positive and constructive way in which conductors bring out the elements of personality in these often very damaged children."

Rachel Sebastino, head of Early Years at DVLCC, said: “At the Dame Vera Lynn School for Parents we offer an early intervention service, working in partnership with parents to develop their child’s physical, communication, social, emotional, self-help and cognitive skills. Our approach of active learning through play using the principles and practice of conductive education empowers parents to recognise their child’s unique qualities and maximise their potential.”

If you would like to know more, please either contact Rachel Sebastino on 01403 782294 or one of the established conductive education schools which will demonstrate its benefit.


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