Research into Conductive Education services in South Africa

Another Alert from Google about a masters’ thesis completed in 2015 has reminded me about an ongoing project in South Africa.

In September 2003 after an initial investigation into the needs of the Sizanani Children’s Home in South Africa, Conductive Education was introduced in two phases and by 2005 was available to all the children,  and as far as I know it is still part of the work there.

Since then there have been a number of publications and student research reports about this project.


Vermeer, A, et al (2006) Effects of Conductive Education in a home for children with developmental disabilities. Recent Advances in Conductive Education, 4(2), pp.9-20.

Vermeer, A.  and  Templeman, H. eds. (2006) Health Care in Rural South Africa: an innovative approach. Amsterdam: VU University Press,  (pp. 132-146)

Magyarszeky, Z. and Vermeer, A. eds. (2014) Disability Care in Africa: Community-Based Rehabilitation in Rural Regions. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit

Postgraduate studies

Six theses  have been submitted to the University of Utrecht for Masters degrees,  2010 – 2015.


Mathot, A. The evaluation of the Conductive Education program and the Cognitive Stimulation program in a home for children with developmental disabilities in a rural area of South Africa.Masters. University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Vos, R.V. and Westrhenen, N. van  The evaluation of the Conductive Education program and the implementation of a Cognitive Stimulation program in a home for children with developmental disabilities in a rural area of South Africa. Masters. University of Utrecht, Netherlands.

Velzen, J.M. and van Mathot, A.F. The evaluation of the Conductive Education program and the Cognitive Stimulation program in a home for children with developmental disabilities in a rural area in South Africa.   Masters. University of Utrecht, Netherlands.


Flesch, Kathrin. Evaluation of a cognitive play intervention in children with profound multiple disabilities at a children’s home in South Africa.  Masters. University of Utrecht, Netherlands


Twilhaar, S. Evaluation of a Conductive Education intervention for children with profound multiple disabilities in a residential children’s home in South Africa.  Masters. University of Utrecht, Netherlands.


Spek, A. An Evaluation of Conductive Education for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders in a Residential Home in South Africa.  Masters. University of Utrecht, Netherlands


This is quite usual in other fields, but unusual in Conductive  Education. As far as I know, it has been a long time since a number of studies  came out of the same project.



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.

Result of the search for Wisconsin research video

A few weeks ago I posted about one of the first  research projects into Conductive Education, headed by Laird Heal at Wisconsin University in the United States, and  published in 4 volumes in 1972.

In  Volume 1 there is mention of an hour long video tape that could be purchased.  In the hope that it might still be available I wrote to the Library and asked. Eric Jennings, Outreach Coordinator & Instruction Librarian, responded very quickly and told me that he would check this out with the help of his colleagues.

On Friday I received an email regretfully reporting their  failure to find any trace of it. After such a long time it is not surprising as libraries need to constantly ‘weed’ their stock due to restricted space, and technology has moved on somewhat – I think I may be one of the few people who still has a working video player! Also the university was not involved in Conductive Education again.

Still, at least we all had a good go at tracing it and he said if it did turn up at a later date he would let me know.

Libraries cannot keep everything forever. This shows how important it is to keep safe Conductive Education material in all formats  for the future  and any equipment needed to access it.

If by any chance someone has a copy of this or has watched it, please do let me know!

Laird Heal and Evaluating The Integrated Management of Cerebral Palsy

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.

Volume 1

Contains the preface, introductory section, the results, discussion and conclusions, references and raw data.

Volume 2

Contains Appendix A: IMCP Documentation Handbook .

Volume 3

Includes Appendix B: Field Test Report of the Eau Claire Functional Abilities Test and the Wolfe-Bluel Socialization Inventory

Volume 4

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

Vol 1

Vol 2.

Vol 3

Vol 4

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.

Update re the Virtual Catalogue and Repository

A few months ago I started moving the virtual catalogue on my blog at
 to a new page on Conduction’s website at
and now  253 items have been added  with more still waiting, but please note that this task will be never ending as I discover more items on the Internet.
I hope to be able to post a selection of items recently added regularly to give you an idea of the types and numbers of material available via the catalogue.
A Repository has also been set up. This will include the full text of documents which have not been published and are unavailable elsewhere. Items will be listed in the searchable catalogue –  a fine resource for those wishing to read more about Conductive Education.
I have several waiting to be included and last week Andrew Sutton alerted me to the possibility of another, a paper being delivered to a conference in the US. :-
   DeCleene, K, DePoy, L. Can Occupational Therapists Enhance a Conductive Education Program with Sensory Integration for Children with Cerebral Palsy? 24th Annual Dean’s Occupational Therapy Research Conference. Saint Louis, MO, March 2011.
I have been in touch with Kate DeCleene and she has agreed to send me a copy when the final draft is complete. This is wonderful and made me wonder if there are any more such papers, presentations that could also go into the Repository. If you know of any, or have papers of your own, please do let me know.
Naturally it will take time to get  everything up, but I am working at it as time is what I have plenty of at the moment!
Please do let me know what you think of this project and how useful it is for you.
Feedback of any kind is very welcome.

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

To share or not to share, that is the question

Andrew Sutton’s blog postings referring to the lack of conductor participation in conferences reluctance to write, evaluate, and ask questions about CE has prompted some strong reactions.

The point that financial considerations can limit participation at conferences is a valid one and probably goes a long way to explaining the lack of conductors at conferences.

For example, for a conductor working in the UK to attend the World Congress next December in Hong Kong he/she would need to outlay 1500 pound sterling at least. And do it in advance, to book a place and a plane seat.

As to recording and sharing knowledge, it was suggested that information should not be shared as it encourages others to start their own practice when they are not qualified to do so. Surely other professions, such as doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, do this without such fears or predicted results? Most people realise that you can’t learn how to do something like this from just reading a book, paper or seeing a film, realise that more in-depth knowledge is needed and this is provided by training. Otherwise there would be no need for training in anything- we could all learn by reading.

I think it is important to build a literature, to record practice either in paper form, on the Internet or on film. Collecting such material is what librarians do , bringing it together to make it easily accessible for those who want to learn more. If everyone refused to tell their ‘secrets’ the world would be a poorer and less knowledgeable place. As Tunde says, that is what helps to build respect for CE from other professions, and encourage researchers to investigate. I have asked hundreds of times over the years for conductors to write about their profession with little result. In fact, my last blog was on this topic. It took eighteen years to build the collection held in the National Library. This includes material at all levels, some well written, presenting CE ‘properly‘, and some not doing so well, but still helping to build a comparative literature, a basis for further study.

I heard an item on the radio last week about the statistics of domestic violence. Apparently some figures were being quoted by respected sources about this which had been obtained from an inaccurate report. No-one had queried their accuracy, even though the figures were unexpectedly high, before going on to refer to it. It made me think of Conductive Education and how this happens in a similar way.Because the people who know what it is, how it works etc don’t write it down and provide basic accurate information for those who wish to know more and understand it, so others use papers and books containing inaccurate facts in their research and thus compound the initial mistake.

So come on conductors, give it a go and help your profession move forward to a better acceptance and higher regard. Sharing can only help CE, not hinder.

Alberta Conductive Education report

It is great to find out that this research report is available again on the Internet as reported on Andrew’s blog.


Answers to enquiries here about research in Conductive Education after its publication in 2000 always included a reference to it and its URL given while it was known. At that time we were having quite a number of enquiries about research in Conductive Education so details of the report went out worldwide. Despite this, I am not aware that any subsequent articles/papers/reports etc have mentioned it or included it in their references/bibliographies. Let’s hope knowledge of its reappearance will now make it become a standard reference starting point for all researchers into Conductive Education.

The full bibliographic details of the report:

Ludwig, S., Leggett, P., Harstall, C. (2000) Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy. Edmonton: Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

It can be found at:

Please write as well as speak

There have been quite a few Conductive Education conferences over the years and the library here has a collection of proceedings from the 1980s. With the advent of computers and the spread of the Power Point presentation programme, the writing up of presentations and publication of these in proceedings seems to have diminished considerably. Selections from the World Congresses have appeared in the Conductive Education Occasional Papers published by the Peto Institute, but there has been very little else.
A number of conferences are coming up and the posting of the programme for the forthcoming conference in Chicago on Andrew Sutton’s blog has prompted this posting.

There are five other conferences/meetings I am aware of. The Germans have one in Munich, 24-25 October,

CEPEG (Conductive Education Professional Education Group) has its conference on 14 March 2009 in the UK, and there is, I believe another in Belgium in May and one in Finland in June. The next CE World Congress is in Hong Kong, 2010. More details about these later.

Finding information can be very difficult, I would be happy to put notification up on this blog if organisers would like to send me details of conferences in future.
Written published material from such meetings will help the Conductive Education world in its aim to continue to establish CE as a dynamic growing profession. If you do go to a conference, please write up your presentation and send it to the library here or even submit it to RACE, the online CE journal If no published proceedings are being considered then those unable to attend the conference will be able to access developments, accounts of conductive practice and philosophy etc. and gain an overview of what is happening in CE worldwide. If you attend but don’t present, a report of the events would also make a useful record. If there is nothing to chronicle the contributions and outcomes the CE literature will be poorer for it.