The Gainesville Conductive Education Academy (GCEA), a local school that incorporates specialized rehabilitation into its everyday schedule in an effort to make children with Cerebral Palsy and other neuromuscular disabilities functional and independent, begins another semester this August. The GCEA 's goal is to motivate the students to work harder and reach for the sky through daily exercise and learning routines. Regular classroom instruction is available at the K-12 levels, and is available at no cost to qualifying Florida residents. A new pre-K toddler class is being offered in the afternoons. Both parent and child work together to learn the principles of Conductive Education. The school is open year round with classes offered during the fall, spring, and summer.
The facility applies the Conductive Education method developed in Hungary in the 1940s by Andras Peto. Over the decades, Peto's Institute in Budapest has become a popular destination for Cerebral Palsy parents from all around the world, with many witnessing great progress in their children's walking, talking and other functionality skills. The “Conductive Education” approach has been adopted worldwide. You don't have to travel to Europe to find success stories, as the Gainesville Academy has had a fair share of its own. Katalin Szvoboda, the school's head teacher/therapist says she sees kids progressing every semester, including at the annual summer program that just concluded. One of her favorite stories is of Elijah, a boy with athetoid Cerebral Palsy. Elijah could not control his movements or stop when he was walking with a walker when he first arrived at the GCEA. After his first semester he was able to take 68 steps without a walker. Now he walks without a walker and returns every summer.
Szvoboda, who is known as the academy’s "Conductor," was born, raised and trained in Hungary, and has been involved with the GCEA since it first introduced Conductive Education to Gainesville in 2005. The school is operated by the Jordan Klausner Foundation.
R. Strzalkowski, who serves as the Foundation's Associate Director and is a Florida attorney, was born with quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and moved to America seven years ago from Poland. As a child he received years of Conductive Education therapy at the Peto Institute in Budapest, and he is now highly functional and serves as a conduit to encourage the GCEA students. Strzalkowski reminds students, “The Peto method is hard work. Pushing yourself, being pushed by others. But you do improve. You work hard, you get better and you feel like you earned it, because those moments of exhaustion and triumph are so worth it when your parents see you walking down the hall.”
The key to success in Conductive Education is having the children follow the carefully designed scripts of exercises to make them to stand, move and walk with the use of specially designed furniture that serve as rehabilitation tools. The goal is to educate children to be as independent and as functional as they can be; as school’s motto states, “Helping Special Children Help Themselves.” The Jordan Klausner Foundation was founded in 1999 by University of Florida professor James Klausner in memory of his son who had cerebral palsy. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run primarily by volunteers to offer a range of services to the disabled community in North Central Florida, including educational opportunities for children, advocacy and legal services. It was founded by parents and relies on grants, donations and McKay scholarships for funding. The Gainesville Conductive Education Academy opened in 2006. It is located at 4315 N.W. 23rd Avenue on St Michaels Episcopal Church campus.