Conductive Education teaches the development and application of physical skills in everyday situations and was developed for children and adults with physical disabilities resulting from damage to the brain or conditions affecting the central nervous system.
It merges elements of education and rehabilitation in an holistic ‘whole person’ approach, and helps people with permanent disabilities gain greater independence by improving their physical, cognitive and problem solving abilities.
Conditions where conductive education has proved particularly helpful are cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke or Acquired Head Injury.
In general it is appropriate for children and adults with neurologically based disorders of movement, balance, voluntary and involuntary muscle control, perception, speech and language.
The role of the ‘teacher’, known as a Conductor, can be viewed in a similar light to the conductor of an orchestra: Analysing, providing feedback, keeping tempo, guiding, rehearsing, coordinating, encouraging and motivating individuals as they gain mastery of their ‘instrument’ – their minds and bodies. The ‘music’ is the particular functions and tasks that an individual needs to perform in order to gain greater independence and control. These are different for every person.
It is education because it helps develop transferable knowledge and skills in a class or group environment. This is distinct from training – when a person is taught to do particular thing in a particular way – or therapy, something a person receives or has done to them. In conductive education, the person is an active participant who is helped to establish goals, develop greater knowledge and appreciation of their abilities and, where they can, adapt the programme to their particular learning style, needs and abilities.
What is the Goal of Conductive Education?
The goal is for children and adults with physical or neurological difficulties to develop greater autonomy, control of their physical abilities and independence in their lives. Skills are not taught in isolation or abstractly, but within a clear framework of intention and purpose. In plain English, people are not taught to do things in order to do that particular thing but because they have general or particular everyday needs.
For instance: A conductor would not teach someone to grasp a long thin object, or raise their hands to their mouths as an exercise or a physical therapy. They would teach those two actions because these are what someone would need to be able to do in order to feed themselves, or brush their teeth.
These very practical and everyday results are one of the prime sources of motivation and lead individuals – adults and children – to have an emotional and ongoing commitment to their learning. Another strong motivator is the social environment in which conductive education takes place, individuals both giving and receiving encouragement from each other.