What is Conductive Education?
Conductive education is an intensive, multi-disciplinary approach to education, training and development for individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other motor challenges. Conductive Education was developed in 1945 in Hungary by Dr. Andras Peto. Peto theorized that people with disabilities are characterized by disintegrated function. His theory was that this may be overcome, and that co-ordinated functioning can be developed through an indirect cognitive route involving teaching and learning. The rehabilitative plan should be produced for the person, not for the function. The plan is not symptoms or lesion centered but focused on the personality. Conductive Education integrates medical knowledge with educational methods to enable the individual to learn how to gain control over his or her movements. Children are taught to see themselves as active and self-reliant participants in the world. The goal of CE is the socio-cultural integration of children with these motor disorders by assisting the child to develop an ortho-functioning personality. Orthofunction is the ability to solve the problems of daily living, such as dressing, eating, practicing personal hygiene, and other activities that are part of daily life and will allow the child to ultimately live as independently as possible. The achievements learned through conductive education increase confidence, self esteem and provide problem-solving skills for daily activities. The result of conductive education is that the quality of life is improved as well as the psychological well being of the child and family. Conductive Education contrasts markedly with traditional therapies in the following ways:
- Conductors: Specially trained teachers licensed after approximately five years of college level training. The conductor carries out the principles of CE. This method links speech, thought and movement together in a way that helps the child to focus on and internalize the movement.
- Group Instruction: A key element of conductive education is that individuals work as part of a small group of children with the same condition. This offers an opportunity for individuals to face challenges, share solutions and reward efforts to learn new skills within the dynamics of a group.
- Environment: Provides for security of the child. Equipment is unique to CE and includes slatted tables called plinths, ladder chairs, and boxes that promote body alignment and support the tasks designed to facilitate learning.
- Rhythmical intention: Many of the activities are done with the use of simple folk songs that relate to the activity. By pairing rhythm with movement, movements become more fluid and the lyrics provide verbal cues to the child.
- Program and daily schedule: The child is viewed as a learner and the conductor teacher promotes confidence, motivation and an understanding of how this child can learn to perform everyday movements to become more independent in their functioning within their homes, schools and eventually in the workforce.
- Curriculum: Conductive education helps these students build their cognitive skills and helps them learn to use alternate strategies to accomplish common motor tasks such as sitting, standing, walking, dressing, eating.
- Involvement of the family: Emphasis is put on teaching family members to use these strategies at home to reinforce the application of CE skills in all aspects of daily life.
Conductive Education is a psycho-educational approach that focuses primarily on the child’s personality and lifestyle, integrating physiological and medical aspects. It is a combined special education and physical therapy, based on Peto’s theory that motor control can be learned. The approach focuses on improving the physical effects of a disability while encouraging motivation to become independent and increasing self esteem. The desired outcome is maximal independence called orthofunction, which refers to the ability to enter school, the community, and ultimately the workforce with minimal or no artificial aids. This total approach to learning and training targets children under the age of six, when the potential for impact is greatest, and they can be prepared for the traditional classroom. “When you do not educate the child to be independent, you educate the child to be dependent.” Maria Hari, former director of the Peto Institute.