Saturday, November 25, 2006

Conductive Education

Training as a Conductor

Conductors are a new profession, providing an altogether new way of helping children and adults with motor disorders, and their families, to live fuller and more fulfilling lives.Motor disorders are chronic and incurable conditions in which damage or disease to the central nervous system causes difficulties in controlling bodily movements. In childhood most common are the cerebral palsies, in which damage to the brain's ability to direct movement occurs during pregnancy or in the earliest period of life. This can affect every aspect of a child's development, emotional bonding with parents, exploring the environment, playing, speaking and, later, school learning. And of course family life is fundamentally changed. In adulthood, motor disorder is most commonly the result of Parkinson's disease, head injury, stroke or multiple sclerosis. In such cases, movements which were learned long ago are lost, with effects on mobility, writing and speech, self-care, employability and personal dignity. Again, the lives of a whole family may be changed for ever.Conductors work with individuals (children or adults), with their families and through institutions that serve them. Their work is new, different and exciting because they approach motor disorders and the problems that stem from them as problems of learning that are amenable to skilled, empathetic and structured teaching. This approach is called Conductive Education.

Conductive Education
Conductive Education (CE) originated in Hungary shortly after World War II. It was 'discovered' about fifteen years ago and is now spreading across the world. The main force for setting up Conductive Education services comes from the families of those who wish to benefit from it. As Conductive Education spreads to new countries then new opportunities are arising to apply it in new ways, to new problems.At the heart of Conductive Education teaching lies conductive pedagogy, an approach to teaching and learning which considers that all people, however disabled, can learn and that the onus of achieving this rests with the conductors. People learn because they have things that they wish to learn and conductive pedagogy leads ('conducts') learners to new intentions and new motivations through meticulous attention to finding what works for every individual and capitalising on every success.Conductive Pedagogy for motor-disordered children and adults involves understanding their underlying conditions, how these are manifest in each individual, how this affects the family. Above all, it involves not simply how to teach but how to teach active learning.

Training Conductors
Degree-level Conductor training at the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) began in 1997, in collaboration with the University of Wolverhampton. Until then conductor training had been available only in Hungary where this system originated. Since this training began students have come to NICE from Canada, the United States, Korea and Norway, as well as from the United Kingdom. The training lasts for three years.Students following the Specialist Route will on graduation be awarded a BA (Conductive Education) which the Foundation will recognise as conferring Qualified Conductor Status. Students may also follow a Joint Route, combining Conductive Education with another subject.The core of conductor training is supervised and monitored practice within groups over the whole of the three years. Placements are at NICE or in associated institutions in which NICE conductors work. Students may, after their second year, choose to specialise to work with adults or children or continue with a generic qualification.In addition to the practical pedagogic craft learned in the groups, there is a full academic programme to produce critical and self-aware professionals fully able to take their place amongst other professions in analogous fields. Modules include human biology and physiology (shared with nursing students), modules from education studies and sport sciences, and modules specifically created by NICE. Practical conductive pedagogy is underpinned by lectures and tutorials and by theoretical bases in psychology and neuropsychology.The course is taught partly at the University of Wolverhampton and partly at NICE.

Working as a Conductor
Conductors may work across the life span and across the motor-disorder spectrum (i.e. all relevant conditions at all degrees of severity from slight to very severe). It is unlikely that any one conductor will work in all these ways, more likely specialising initially in a particular age-group.There are already around thirty places where conductors work in the United Kingdom. So far most of these focus on children under school age and most centres are in the voluntary (charitable) sector. Across the country there already exist most of the services now provided at NICE. Conductive Education has been developing in the UK for around fifteen years, with lack of conductors a major factor in limiting its spread.Interest in Conductive Education is now intense in North America, on Continental Europe and elsewhere. Again, shortage of conductors is a major problem.The new conductor profession has the exciting potential to generate new institutions to deal with age-old problems, both in the UK and overseas. A career structure is already beginning to emerge, including responsibility for the work of other conductors and training. The new profession will also need academic researchers and managers, entrepreneurs and lobbyists.

No comments: