conductive education classics

Update on new online service

Last week I posted about the new online service

from Special Needs Jungle for obtaining copies of journal articles not yet free on the Internet.

I applied for an article and received a very nice email back  stating that my request had been forwarded to the publisher and I should hear in about six days or so.

Today I checked my email and found I had been sent a reply last night. The article was now available for me via the Special needs Jungle website where I was to follow the link given.

I did this and found the report by Ester Cotton on a study visit to the Institute for Movement Therapy and School for Conductors, published in 1965, was now available to me in a pdf format. Terrific service from an organisation staffed by volunteers!

I was also told :

Please do pass on this service to your colleagues and friends and feel free to share the research using this link:

All items requested in this way will be available to those who access the Special Needs Jungle website. This is the first,  and I am sure others will follow.  In fact, I have several I will ask for myself and I will check the list regularly to see what is on it relevant to Conductive Education.

Please remember that not every request may be granted, but do try it out.

Conductive Education Classic no.9

Ludwig, S, Leggett, P Harstall, C. (2000)  Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy.

Edmonton: Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

This is the only review so far to make a major critical proposal to better the quality of how evaluations done in Conductive Education. There were relatively few studies to look at, with five being carried out in Australia, three in the UK, and one in Ireland.
Why was it done?
The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Unit of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for medical research was requested by Alberta Children’s Services and Alberta Health & Wellness to assess the evidence of effectiveness of Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy
A review was requested to help the ministries answer the question, ‘is Conductive Education as a learning approach or therapeutic intervention safe and efficacious for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy…?…The HTA Unit conducted a systematic search for and critical appraisal of published scientific evidence regarding the impact of Conductive Education on the overall learning and health status of children with cerebral palsy. (p.1)
The review gives an outline of its parameters followed by a brief description of Conductive Education and its origins and then goes on to look at six primary studies and three studies that examined parental reactions, perceptions and satisfaction.
It sets out their summaries in the form of a table, giving the type of study, (e.g. randomized or non-randomized, controlled, descriptive), setting, (e.g. UK, Australia), the methods, and authors’ conclusions, and then discusses each one in more detail.
This is followed by a summary of the main, conclusions, a discussion of these, and the authors’ conclusions. And, of course, a list of references. Also included are several appendices on methodology, cerebral palsy, CE models in Alberta, primary and parent studies (including outcomes and comments). All set out as tables.
It is noted that there were few reasonable studies to consult at that time (as is still the case) and the evidence on the efficacy of CE is sparse and of poor quality
Their radical suggestion for the betterment of such evaluations was ‘manualisation’, I.e. actual stating in he form of a ‘manual’ what is was that was actually done with the subjects in the intervention being evaluated (a well known measure in clinical psychology). If one does this then it may even be possible that studies might be replicated. If not, then they cannot be. It would also offer readers of reviews to form thie own judgements of how far then work being evaluated in fact merit the name of Conductive Education in the first place (not a lot, probably in many cases.

As far as I know, no later studies have taken up this suggestion.

The full report can be viewed at

Conductive Education Classic no.8

Akos, K., ed. (1975) Scientific Studies on Conductive Pedagogy. Budapest: Conductors’ College.

This book was published in 1975 by the Institute for Conductive Education of the Motor Disabled Conductor’s College ( now the Peto Institute), edited by Károly Ákos and translated by Peter Szoke. It was the first one in English.This is not a very well known text and why it was produced I do not know, but perhaps there is a clue in the introduction by Hári Maria. She had read papers at meetings and conferences in the West since the 1960s and might have felt that she had not been fully understood. In the introduction she says:

The understanding of conductive pedagogy, just like that of many other disciplines, is often impeded by the enforcement of inadequate notions…The following papers are modest initiatives aimed at the clarification of the ideas of conductive pedagogy. The individual topics have been selected with regard to the aspects most frequently encountered according to experience…Our only objective is to promote the understanding of conductive pedagogy.


The notions of conductive pedagogy Introduction… Maria HáriThe application efficiency of conductive pedagogy…Maria HáriThe idea of learning in conductive pedagogy…Maria Hári

Didactics in conductive pedagogy…F.Székely

Relation of learning to teaching in conductive pedagogy…J. Pancsovay

The importance of playing in conductive pedagogy…F. Székely

Nursing activity of the conductive pedagogic network…Maria Hári

Therapy or teaching? A discussion on rehabilitation

The rehabilitation of motor disorder patients in statistics

The unity of theory and practice in the training of conductors…Maria Hári

A number of photos are included along with a short bibliography.

As to availability, I am not sure, but suggest that contacting the Peto Institute would be the best way of obtaining it as they may still have some copies for sale.

Several copies are in the National Library of Conductive Education.

Lists of Conductive Education literature

The discussion about prescribed and proscribed lists (see note at the bottom of this posting) has set me thinking, and I would like to make the following comments.
  • As you know the CE literature is very small compared to other subjects and this makes it very difficult to produce lists of any substance at any level. Servicing a degree course should have helped with this, by identifying for further discussion and analysis which items are worthy of study for essential reading and which are not. This has not happened as pressure to have ‘up-to-date’ references has influenced the compilation of such lists.
  • Not very much has been written or published recently of real significance that I am aware of, except Susie’s and Andrew’s blogs which offer practical and theoretical information respectively.
  • As Susie said, it depends who the list is for. Thus parents may need a list with a different emphasis than say, psychologists.
I think people, particularly students need to read and decide for themselves what is good and what is not so good – with a little guidance for those who know nothing at all about Conductive Education.Libraries can help with this as they collect all the material on a given subject and hold it in one place offering easy access. As I have said before it is not a librarian’s job to evaluate the material but up to lecturers and tutors, who, surely, must know the literature, to make sure the students know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Librarians can help by finding material and making suggestions based on feed-back and usage when possible.Note: In a nutshell, prescribed tells what is good, and a proscribed list what is bad. Please see Andrew’s comment on the Conductive Education Classic no.7 posting for further explanation.

Why are they Conductive Education classics?

I have been with friends over the weekend, enjoying the lovely sunshine and not looked at my emails or blog until tonight. It was very interesting to see the discussion that had built up over my last posting, Conductive Education Classic no 7, and I would like to respond to this.

When I started the Conductive Education Classics I wanted to highlight those texts that had been influential in Conductive Education, for whatever reason, good or bad. Needless to say there is not a huge list to choose from, but I still have a few more to do in the next few months. Their influence today is still great, perhaps because of the lack of in-depth academic publications to replace and up date them, take Conductive Education forward.

Perhaps some of you would like to share your opinions of my choices with me and maybe suggest others.

I have always felt that it was not my job to evaluate the literature, but to let other people more knowledgeable and academic than I do that. It is a librarian’s job to collect all available relevant material for study and evaluation. Saying that, over the years I have learnt what items were more useful and accurate and tried to steer people towards those if possible, but that was not the purpose of this ‘classics’ list.

The discussion between Rony, Andrew and Susie is very interesting and the types of list that they talk about has given me food for thought.


Conductive Education Classic no.7

This book, the first comprehensive overview of Conductive Education in English, was written mainly because Cottam and Sutton, as working academics, needed to publish a book. Regular publications such as journal articles and books are expected of those working in the world of academe. Both having recently come across Conductive Education, and considering it an important system for those with motor disorders, it was an obvious choice for both and resulted in this collaboration.
It was published in 1986, twenty three years ago and was consciously an ‘academic book’. The publisher, Croom Helm, was an adventurous young publishing house that would take on unlikely subjects in the expectation that some at least would be runners and accepted it straight away.
It was hoped that it would attract academic interest in the project proposed by the Birmingham Group and pre-dated the Foundation for Conductive Education by nearly 12 months. In the event Standing up for Joe ( the BBC TV documentary) created a wider interest and sales of the book rode on that. The proper academic interest never really took of, but lots of parents and practitioners bought the book (though it was not really directed to them).
Sales were good for an academic book of that kind and it went to three reprints in a couple of years. In 1988, Croom Helm asked whether the authors would permit a fourth, but they declined. Two years on into the project Cottam and Sutton already knew so much more about Conductive Education , so different from what all previous people had known, that they knew it to be not just out of date, but wrong in important respects.

To quote from the back of the book:

It describes the origins and development of Conductive Education in Hungary and its derivatives in Britain and elsewhere and how the system operates in practice. The difficulties of successfully applying Conductive Education outside Hungary are considered and discussed. The book includes a bibliography of all materials published in English on this topic and assesses both the prospects and limitations of Conductive Education.

It is divided into three parts with contributions from Andrew Sutton, Philippa Cottam, Jayne Titchener and Veronica Nanton.
Part one looks at the social-historical context and the practice as observed by Andrew Sutton.
Part two covers the practice outside Hungary and discusses the suitability of Conductive Education as an approach for the physically and mentally handicapped.
Part three looks at the problems and prospects in bringing it to the West and includes a chapter on Parkinson’s disease.

A bibliography of all relevant known publications is included and many of these are still referred to today.


It wasn’t widely reviewed. Academics tended to like it. professionals less so, but numbers were too small to generalise. Copies of these reviews are available in the National Library of Conductive Education.

This book is only one academic review of the whole phenomenon and is now over twenty years out of date, but holds a very important place in the development of knowledge about Conductive Education outside of Hungary.

Cottam, P. and Sutton, A., ed. (1986) Conductive Education; a system for overcoming motor disorder. London: Croom Helm.

Standing up for Joe BBC 1, April 1988.

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.

Conductive Education classics no. 5

Hári, M. and Ákos, K. (1988) Conductive Education. London: Routledge

This is an English translation by Neville Horton Smith and Joy Stevens of the original Hungarian book published in 1971 as Konduktív Pedagógia. It is the most frequently cited title and considered the standard text by many, although it disappointed a lot of people on publication because it was mainly medical in content.
Conductive Education was planned as the first in a series covering the background and basis for the practice of Conductive Education, but as far as I know no further parts were published. About two thirds concentrates on medical aspects – the brain, neurology etc before getting down to explaining how Conductive Education can help. These chapters cover such aspects as the group, facilitation, observation and task series.

A large number of photographs are included in an appendix , pages 233-375, showing certain tasks used in the groups for the different types of cerebral palsy.
This book is now out of print but is held in the National Library of Conductive Education and also a number of second-hand copies are available from Amazon or Abebooks at a range of prices.

Hári, M. and Ákos, K. (1971) Konduktív Pedagógia. Budapest: Tankönyvarkiadó

Conductive Education classics no.3

Proceedings of the First World Congess, 1990
The First World Congress on Conductive Education, ‘Preparation for the Future’, was held in Budapest, 29 November – 1 December 1990, and had delegates from all over the world, mostly from the UK. This gathering was organised by the International Pető Association and the proceedings were published by the International Pető Institute for the International Pető Association. A list of the overseas delegates, opening addresses by Mária Hári and Mr Arpád Göncz, President of the Hungarian Republic, are included with a mix of abstracts and presentations. Many of the presenters – including Helga Keil (Austria), Udi Lion (Israel), Claire Cotter (Australia), Frieda Spivack (US), Andrew Sutton (UK), Masanao Murai (Japan), Brendan McConville (Northern Ireland), Marion Fang (Hong Kong), – were well-known as pioneers of Conductive Education in their countries. Well-known Hungarians included Mária Hári , Ildiko Kozma and Eva Beck.
This publication provides a fascinating glimpse of the Conductive Education world at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s.
Not only was this the first World Congress, it has been the only one to have published proceedings. Future congresses were reported in a variety of ways but never as proceedings.
Subsequent Congresses
The second took place in Budapest, in 1995, was entitled ‘Continuity and Change’. It was recorded in magazine format. as Pető Magazine, in the summer of 1996. This included some of the presentations, news from around the world, a list of publications (including an advance announcement of the International Journal of Conductive Education, which unfortunately never became a reality), and a list of Conductive Education courses and organisations. There were no abstracts.
Number three, ‘From Creation to Development’, was hosted by the Warasibe Institute and took place in Urakawa, Hokkaido, Japan in 1999. Delegates received a list of abstracts (available in English and Japanese) of all 50 presentations and study abstracts. I am not aware of any other material.
London was the venue for the Fourth congress in 2001, organized jointly with Scope (UK). A selection of papers read were published in Conductive Education Occasional Papers, no. 8 by the International Pető Institute, and the Library has bound copies of a number of written presentations collected on the day by delegates from the Foundation for Conductive Education. A book of abstracts was published as supplement 3 to the Conductive Education Occasional Papers.
The Fifth congress returned to Budapest in 2004, entitled ‘Conductive Education Worldwide Science and Quality’. Conductive Education Occasional Papers no.11 contains a selection of papers and Supplements 4 and 5 contain the abstracts, in English and Hungarian respectively. The library also has a number of papers collected from presenters, in Power Point format as well as typescript.
Move & Walk, Sweden, hosted the Sixth Congress in August 2007 and published a programme, report and evaluation on the conference’s website Bound abstracts were given to all delegates as Conductive Education Occasional Papers, Supplement 6. As far as I know no other material is available.
The Seventh, ‘East meets West: Adaptation and Development’ will be hosted by SAHK in Hong Kong in December 2010. Further details will be published on the Congress website shortly
Let us hope that it is well attended and has many interesting and stimulating presentations, and most importantly these will be published as proceedings.
The International Pető Association’s World Congresses are run in association with organisations in the host countries.
Copies of Conductive Education Occasional Papers and its Supplements can be obtained from the Hári Mária Library at the Pető Institute