Last summer I did a posting on Sylvia Kottler, an early pioneer into Conductive Education in the US and the papers she wrote. This led to Andrew Sutton reminding me of a report of a research project on Conductive Education done in Wisconsin, US, and published in 1972.
Since then I have been investigating the report and Laird Heal its author.
This is what I found.
In the late 1960s a US university professor, James House, visited the State Institute in Budapest and this was reported via an interview in Ideas of Today (Maas, 1968).
In the Fall of 1968 a research project, The Integrated Management of Cerebral Palsy, funded by the US Office of Education, Bureau of Education for the Handicapped (DHEW/OE), was initiated and directed by Professor House, as reported by Heal in the acknowledgements of its published report:
There would have been no IMCP project without the tenacity of its founder and original director, James B. House who overcame overwhelming obstacles in order to introduce Conductive Education to this country. The talent and energy of Margo House, the project’s original supervisor were also essential to the founding of the program. (Vol.1, p.i)
The ICMP project was funded to evaluate a program that replicated as nearly as possible the procedures used at the Institute of Movement Therapy in Budapest Hungary (Vol.4, p.1)
Professor House left the project in 1970 for personal reasons and Laird Heal, an experimental psychologist (Vol.1, p.55 ) and associate professor of psychology, perhaps an unusual choice, took over from him.
It is interesting to note the following statement in the Introduction to the Report:
While the project had little contact with European centers for conductive education, it profited enormously from even this limited exposure. The accumulated months of training and consultation by Dr. Maria Hari and her staff at the Institute for Movement Therapy were an essential ingredient in the construction of the IMCP project. The consultation of Ester Cotton in London, England, was also extremely valuable. Finally, the three month sojourn of Margaret Parnwell gave the original staff daily contact with a consultant who had several years of first-hand experience with conductive education.(Vol.1, p.ii)
Like many other research projects this one suffered a variety of problems, including a high turnover of staff, inadequate setting up, and premature winding down, but interestingly those involved still ended up believing Conductive Education was worth pursuing and the report concludes on a positive note.
The staff ended the project as they had begun – believing firmly that the principles and procedures of conductive education are sound and that the effort to import them to this country should be pursued. This belief and the documented success of the procedures in other settings must be seen as persuasive arguments for the continuation of this pursuit. (Vol. 1, p.v)
The final report in 4 volumes was published in 1972.
Contains the preface, introductory section, the results, discussion and conclusions, references and raw data.
Contains Appendix A: IMCP Documentation Handbook .
Includes Appendix B: Field Test Report of the Eau Claire Functional Abilities Test and the Wolfe-Bluel Socialization Inventory
Is Appendix C: An Analysis of the Evaluation and Follow-up Data from the Institute for Movement Therapy in Budapest, Hungary.
Video material was also produced:
In addition to these four volumes, Judith Sorenson, with the assistance of the staff, has made a one-hour half-inch Sony videotape that tells the story of the project. This tape is available from the Audio-visual department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (Vol.1, p.iv )
I wonder if it is still possible to obtain a copy of this! I have written to the Eu Claire University in Wisconsin to ask.
As is usual after a detailed piece of research, Heal published two articles, one in Exceptional Children in 1974 and another in Journal of Special Education in 1976, presenting the results and conclusions. (See reference details of these below). There is no trace any later publications about, or connections to Conductive Education for Laird Heal that I can find.
Heal went on to become a Professor of Special Education, Social Work and Psychology at the University of Illinois and published books and articles about developmental disability. A list of these can be found at
Laird Heal died at the age of 65 on 21 November 1998 and a brief memorial notice was published in Inside Illinois, newsletter for the staff and faculty members, University Illinois Urbana and Champaign
Heal, L.W. (1972) Evaluating an Integrated Approach to the Management of Cerebral Palsy. Vols.1-4. Eu Claire: Wisconsin University
Heal. L.W. (1974) Evaluation of an integrated approach to the management of cerebral palsy. Exceptional Children, 40(6), pp.452-453.
Heal, L. W. (1976) The Comparison of intact groups using the analysis of covariance.Journal of Special Education, 10, 4, 427-36.
Maas, R. (1968) Breakthrough in Budapest: an interview with James House. Ideas of Today, 16, pp.110-114.