Selina has cerebral palsy. She cannot walk independently or use her hands the way most people do. Her speech can be hard to understand.
We first heard about conductive education from one of Selina’s early physical therapists, who learned of the principles in a program in the New York City schools.
What appealed to us immediately was the intensity of the system, because it was already clear when Selina was a toddler that she needed much more than 30 minutes of therapy, one day here, another day there. She had so much to learn, it was clear she could learn and she was able, as are most disabled children, of working much harder than was then expected of her.
So, we found a little CE program in northern Virginia. Selina loved going, despite a long drive there daily from our home in Baltimore. The conductor was a loving, skilled soul who had high expectations for her students. We discovered two other great things about conductive education: the teacher had a knowledge of working with children like Selina that came from her exposure to hundreds of CP students at the Peto Institute. Secondly, Selina and her fellow students thrived on working with one another. Some tasks they accomplished the same way. For other tasks, different students reached the same goal differently. Such group dynamics were fun, motivating and stimulating. Selina began to learn about helping herself and helping her classmates.
What came next? A conductor moved to Baltimore, and we founded a little summer camp, just three students and one teacher, for three years. With the proximity of this program to Selina’s academic-year special education preschool, we observed the success Selina could achieve independently in conductive education. She was challenged to find her own solutions to physical problems and given the bodily freedom to attempt them, the straps were off! We also noticed now the holistic approach, which was a contrast from what we’d tried before with different therapists addressing different issues and attempts to co-treat largely falling through the cracks.
The conductor moved on. End of program. That brings us to Grand Rapids, in February, in the snow. Despite the travel, the time missed from school and the expense, we believe Selina is in the right place here. And we’ve been coming back for eight years. The program here embodies all of the advantages of conductive education, but there is more. The larger size of her class makes for more opportunities for students to learn from each other. The bigger student body means that adolescents are served here. The larger faculty allows for collaboration and teaching among conductors and conductors-in-training, which also benefits the students.
Selina’s increased independence, self-motivation and ability to get along with others have been fostered by conductive education. We’d like to thank the Conductive Learning Center, Aquinas College and Grand Rapids for offering “the best of the best” to people like our daughter.