Month: June 2009

Conductive Education in the New Forest

Over the weekend I was visiting family in the New Forest, Hampshire, a lovely part of southern England. The first picture here is the view from their back door. As usual, I called in to the Conductive Education Support Centre. This centre is only a mile or two down the road from my family, situated in Brockenhurst, a beautiful part of the forest which is a National Park and conservation area. The building offers easy access with a garden, used in the practice, and car parking spaces.
Twenty one years ago Conductive Education Support Services was established by Judit Szathmary and the ‘practical side’ of the support services moved to its current premises eleven years ago. Amanda Elliott, one of the first to complete the Conductive Education degree course and receive qualified conductor status, joined Judit in 2000, and has helped develop services at Brockenhurst and abroad.

The centre offers Conductive Education to children and adults seven days a week, all the year round, with regular weekend workshops, a variety of training programmes, consultancy work and holds occasional conferences.

I arrived at 10.30 as the six children were having their snack break. All were very jolly and happy to talk to me before they went back to ‘work’ ten minutes later. On Saturdays there are two group sessions of three hours each run by Mandy, and the children come from all over the country, not just locally. Most are regular attenders and have got to know each other very well.

The centre has never had to advertise its services, as satisfied parents and adults have spread the word for them. More information about the services can be found at

Mandy has designed two sets of Challenge Me! cards. The first was produced to help improve mobility and independence skills in children between 3 and 12 with a motor disorder and the second set was produced to aid speech and communication. An information leaflet produced for the second set, published 2009, states the cards aim ‘to encourage children with speech and language difficulties to develop communication skills, breathing techniques, tongue control, vocalisation, lip closure…’

These cards and instruction booklets are the first such practical publications to be published by a conductor.

Further information can be obtained from

or the centre’s website.

More awards for Conductive Education

More recognition of Conductive Education has been recorded as a UK centre receives two awards.

To quote from the Wirral Globe:


Wirral charity Stick ‘n’ Step – which helps children with cerebral palsy – has won two awards for its work.
The Birkenhead-based group, which provides conductive therapy that helps the youngsters walk and communicate, picked up the Spirit of Merseyside Children and young people’s award and the Project of the year award.

It is nice to be able to report some good news.

I hope to maintain a list of such events which I will post on this blog.

Conductive Education classics no.6

Standing up for Joe and other British broadcasts

Joe, a British little boy with cerebral palsy, was taken to Hungary by his parents in 1985. They had endeavoured to find suitable education/treatment for him at home in England, but felt that what was on offer was not adequate for his needs. When the Peto Institute agreed to see if they could help him, the family travelled to Budapest. This film told their story.

Its record of his parents’ fight for appropriate services, their stay in Budapest, and the system Conductive Education, practised at the Institute, made fascinating, riveting viewing. It was first broadcast by the BBC on 1 April 1986, and British newspapers the following day carried a positive, enthusiastic review of the programme. It became the catalyst for the huge surge of interest in Conductive Education across the Western world.

The effects were enormous.

Within a few days of the broadcast, parents had formed an action group, Rapid Action for Conductive Education, that went on to lobby Parliament, twice. The Foundation for Conductive Education was established by Andrew Sutton in November 1986 with the intention of bringing Conductive Education to Britain, ‘to promote and advance the knowledge and skills thereof’ , and train conductors.

A follow up film, To Hungary with love, broadcast by the BBC a year later, showed the experiences of parents from the US and the UK who had made the journey to the Institute despite the Cold War, with their cerebral-palsied children, inspired by what they had seen in Standing up for Joe. Parents wanted Conductive Education for their children and wanted to know why they had not been able to access it back home.

A debate was held in a British television studio, broadcast on Kilroy, a programme presented by Robert Kilroy-Silk and participants included Andrew Sutton, Janet Read, Freddie Green, Director of Education of the the Spastics Society, (now Scope) Ester Cotton and some of her followers, plus a number of parents. Nothing much has changed since, as you can see from a You and Yours Radio 4 programme in March 2004. media interest continued for some time after 1986 and the National Library of Conductive Education holds many, many files of press cuttings generated all over the world.Even after watching Standing up for Joe many times, I am still held spell-bound whenever I see it and its influence still rumbles on. It’s the one thing about Conductive Education that most people have heard of, or seen, worldwide.

I used to get frequent requests for copies, which of course, I was unable to provide for copyright reasons.

The BBC no longer sell copies.


Yesterday I attended the Annual Awards Ceremony at the National Institute of Conductive Education. It was strange to go back after recent events, but great to be able to congratulate the ‘new conductors’, who I had helped in their research for essays and dissertations .

The programme of the day included several awards, celebrating a variety of achievements:

Qualified Conductor Status on the final year student conductors. There were four this year and they all have jobs to go to in North America and Germany. One was unable to attend, as he had already started work.

The Founder’s Award is given by Andrew Sutton in recognition of vital help and support given to the Foundation for Conductive Education, (especially in its early years) in particular, and Conductive Education in general. Three people who had to be annoymous for a variety of reasons, were remembered this year and Andrew intimated that these may be the last from the past.

Volunteer’s Award is given to an individual who has worked tirelessly for the organisation helping with fundraising, marketing and administration. This year it went to Pauline Hartley who has given her time freely in such ways for seven years.

Long Service Awards are given to staff who have worked for five, ten and fifteen years. Three people had a five year award this year – a conductor, a conductive assistant, and the current Chief Executive.

Speeches were made, photos taken, bucks fizz drunk, and a good time had by all.

Birthday honour for founder of Conductive Education Centre

This year I share my birthday with Queen Elizabeth II (her official birthday, not her real one, which is in April) and though I have not received an award in her birthday honours list released today, I discover that Conductive Education has.Founder of the Rainbow Centre, Helen Somerset-Howe has been awarded an MBE for ‘her amazing work with the Rainbow Centre in Fareham’, nominated by chairwoman of the centre’s trustees.

A few years ago a lady involved with the PACES centre in Sheffield received a similar award, but I believe this is a first for a founder of a centre.

Congratulations, Helen.

One year old today

It is exactly a year since I posted my first blog on 10 June 2008. Since then there have been enormous changes, financially and politically worldwide, and big changes for me and the Library. None of which could have been anticipated last June.

In starting this blog I hoped to publicise the National Library and its services easily and quickly, and encourage people to ask questions, request information and let me know of new documents, papers, websites , conferences etc. Since then there have been 4226 visits , now averaging about 100 per week and 99 postings – this is the hundredth – on a variety of topics. Not too bad for a blog in such a specialised field, and a ‘library’ to boot!

There have been a number of enquiries ( some in the past three months) all answered satisfactorily, and some interesting encouraging comments both on the blog and emailed privately.

What has changed?

The most important change for me personally has been my redundancy. The decision of the Foundation for Conductive Education to make the post of Librarian redundant three months ago ( yes, it is three months now!) which led to me leaving, resulted in a large number of emails and phone calls from old students, professionals, parents and conductors. They made me realise how important it was for people to know the Library and its services were there, even if they did not use them very often.

I always understood that the Library was not just for current users, not just there for students and clients at NICE, but was there as a foundation, a source of knowledge for the future, when Conductive Education would become of more interest academically worldwide. I still think that to achieve this it needs a professional to run it and increase its prestige internationally as well as that of the Foundation. I am sure that those who are manning the fort at the moment are doing the best they can, but their valuable time would be better spent doing what they know best, Conductive Education.

What next?

Well, I hope to continue disseminating information with news items, conference details, newsletters, more Conductive Education Classics, and items of relevance to those with interest in Conductive Education. Also I have registered to become part of Twitter. More of this later. I will do other things too and am looking at a couple of options.

As to the current meltdown in the financial and political world, all I can do is hope that Conductive Education and its supporters can survive and adapt to the new circumstances. For this people will need to work hard, be prepared for radical change, prepared to fight their corner and be prepared to stand up for the profession, verbally and in print.

In the meantime, please keep reading this and please, please, let me know what you think, send me your enquiries and be in touch. While its good to know that people are reading my postings, it will be even better to have more contact with you all.

Here’s to the next twelve months, and thanks for being there with me – Cheers!

Further details…

There have been quite a few more reports in the Hungarian press about Rita Szarvas the past few days and I understand that the Peto Institute has suggested an International Conductors Association be formed in her name. A wonderful tribute to someone who has touched so many. When I know more I will let you know, but in the meantime take a look at

There does not appear to be any more in the English language media other than passenger lists and reports of finding some bodies.

More news on missing airplane

Over the past few days there have been even more reports on the lost plane and Rita. Many are repeats of each other or listings of the passengers, but here are a few which offer a bit more information.,0,7558657.story

To do your own search just go into Google news and put in Rita’s name or Air France missing plane.

Conductor and family on missing Air France plane

Today there has been more than 20 reports in the Hungarian press re the death of Rita Szarvas, conductor, and her family, in the missing Air France plane.

These are available at

There are also some in English,0,7170158.story