Sunday, November 3, 2013

Peto: revisited

It was the summer of 1989 or perhaps 1990 when my mother decided to spend a small fortune to investigate the new Cerebral Palsy approach that was making waves in America: The Doman principle. She spent six weeks in Philadelphia learning the basics and the science behind the new method. For days she would watch videos of people with parts their brains removed as a result of gun shuts and injuries. She collected comprehensive materials and books. The lectures were translated into multiple languages parents in audience would understand. The course as my mom recalls it was extremely well prepared. She was shown pictures, data and explanations and the organizers seemed to go to great lengths to have her understand what it does. Theories about how brain regenerates itself and how other parts of it assume functions of the cells that were damaged. She may have not have been an expert, but she was knowledgeable and she felt educated in the field. When it was done it made sense to her- the theory did stick, especially when it was illustrated with success stories that the Doman approach has helped. For a few weeks, their book "What to Do About Your Brain Injured Child" became our rehabilitation Bible if you will, but we soon found that the method is not really suitable for Polish conditions. All the crawling I had to do every day to go through all the childhood developmental stages if you will, required huge apartments and big spaces. The patterning- the passive exercise in which people are supposed to recreate swim like movements by grabbing onto and animating a limb required a team that we simply didn't have. I think my mom even considered hiring somebody to come by each day and help out, that's how much she was on board with this. I really don't care to discuss the Doman principle at great length. In the years that followed it was apparently subject to some controversy and there were people who say that the research was doctored, but whether it was or wasn't is really of no significance to the point I'm trying to make. The Doman did the one thing the Peto method never cared to. Convinced my mom. As soon as she felt she had the tools, the theory and the understanding, she was dedicated to it. It wasn't as simple as "do this exercise, do that movement"- she had a sense of understanding why we are doing every single thing that we do in the system. When she was told to use a plastic breathing mask with me, it was not simply because Glenn Doman, the method Guru thought it's a great idea. She was given an explanation and shown how the brain reacts to an environment with increased C02 levels. The Peto people were very secretive about the philosophy behind everything you saw at the Institute. All that parents could copy, was the visible, the external- the exercises, the tools- without an explanation. Give us your child for a period of time. We'll do something to it, you'll be lucky if we tell you what because we certainly will not tell you why. Is there any doubt why the Peto method has an image problem and Conductive Education is no longer attracting kids and parents like it did 20, 30 years ago? You could say of course that the difference in transparency are simply the result of the fact that the two approaches adopted two entirely different models. They "sell" if you will different things. Peto is a rehabilitation facility. It takes kids in and works with them, perhaps that's the reason why it feels it needs to keep how it works a secret. If you can easily replicate it, what do you need the Peto Institute for? The Doman Principle sold the method itself. It offered knowledge. Training- tools for parents to go and work with the kids at home themselves. You could say that's a marketing choice. But I will tell you that it's incredibly hard to have someone follow you if they don't know what their doing and don't understand why. Especially if you  want them to have faith and dedication to it. They will never be as driven and as motivated  if all you offer as an explanation is a story of some man, a man of science who worked with veterans in the 1940's. The key to Doman's popularity back then was what seemed like transparency and information. The "we're not telling you what to believe but take this data and use your best judgement" approach. My mom felt like she was given access to something. That somebody leveled with her as to what they can do and how. Something that I think none of the other methods that only expected us to do as they say we tried has ever attempted before.


  1. It wasn't a very thorough Google search, I admit, Ralph, but I couldn't find any reference to the Doman Method World Congress nor to evidence of Doman Method centres growing outside America. Make of it what you like, but you might conclude that whatever it was Doman "sold", from an international point of view it was sterile, literally unable to reproduce. Doman "sold" the Method because that's what they do in America, it's the American way. Most of the rest of us are playing catch-up when it comes to marketing. But don't forget that the expression "snake-oil salesman" originated in 19th century America, too.

  2. Again, it's not the method that I'm focusing on, or if or not it's effective. It's the approach to have the parent in the loop. I also don't think they ever did "centers", they were centralized and giving you knowledge rather than admitting your child. PR is key, especially in the age of youtube, twitter and facebook, people need to see things.

  3. Ralph, you shared a longer version of your comment here on my Facebook page. I'm never quite sure how to link to FB but this may work, if anyone wishes to read it:

    Like you, I was commenting on marketing not on the method. 25 years ago Dolman may have, as you say, been huge based on energetic marketing. But what has been the lasting value of that marketing? I could find little evidence of their presence internationally. The Wikipedia link (above) is dated 2010 and following the links goes nowhere ( Moreover, these were links only to courses not centres. Finally, I was just rounding off with a reminder that marketing is also about the product - perhaps, in the end, Dolman just didn't have the product to market?

    I was also suggesting that there might have been something cultural going on here: that the reason the Institute did little marketing in a typical American (Dolman) way might have had more to do with Hungary's recent 20th century history than with any deliberate attempt to keep anything a secret, as you suggest.

    Somehow, news of CE got out of Hungary. Mostly, I believe through parents and word of mouth. My evidence that it got out (without any real marketing) is the recent World Congress in Munich and the previous one in Hong Kong , together with the number of countries around the world with CE centres and settings (as fragile as many of us are).

    I do agree with you though - and strongly - that today we should be doing much, much more
    1. with parents, to ensure they are "in the loop"
    2. to promote conductive education

    One of the encouraging stories from Munich, may I suggest, was the deliberate involvement in the Congress of parents, of children and of adults, like yourself, who have experience of conductive education 'first hand'. The organisers should be congratulated on that. We must build on that in Budapest in 2016.

    I came away from Munich with a rejuvenated sense, not only that "marketing" or selling ourselves to parents and the world at large is essential, as you say, but that we really do have an excellent "product". Now that should be a gift of a story to any marketeer!

  4. When I was a 1st year student in the institute (1988-89) worked with you and some other foreigner children while Hungarian kids did their schoolwork. That was the time when parents did not take part of the educational program. Today it is different, we work together with mums and dads, they are with us every day and very limited number of them understand what is CE about. Must of them find it hard to apply/use our exercises in their home, easier to tie the shoelace then teaching their children to tie themselves. Some of them think that they have to buy plinth and ladderback chair, use them 2-3 hours a day and the child will be fixed. I and my colleagues sit with them and explain and they nod to understand but when return they admit that did not have time at home to use CE principles. I am a mother myself a senior conductor, I know as a parent of early born twins how hard is to educate a child every day every minute following CE. It is much more difficult then giving lectures of three days or weeks, read books about it. Because it is SO SIMPLE no one believes it is the key of CE: DO IT YOURSELF - anyhow, somehow, figure it out how. The problem is that you have to do it yoursef and nobody can do it instead of you. Good to hear from you, all the best:)