Sunday, November 10, 2013

Questions for Peto.

I seem to have dedicated a lot of time in the last few weeks to Conductive Education, the approach to Cerebral Palsy developed decades ago in Hungary by Andras Peto. And for a good reason- as a child I've spent a few years in then world famous Peto Institute, as an adult I became an associate director of a nonprofit running a similar (in concept although not in scale) facility in Gainesville. I was asked to speak about it  in Munich and lastly I credit my independence and functionality to those  years in Budapest. I was also brutally honest in concluding that as involved and as knowledgeable my parents were when it came to my rehabilitation, they knew very little about the ideology and the theory behind the method, because that was information that the Peto staff never volunteered. In one of the comments reflecting on my own intellectual quest to understand what Conductive Education is and what isn't, but primarily to deduce not only what but why I found a seemingly straightforward answer. That the point of it is- to do everything yourself. Some of us may be happy with that response. It may help us sleep at night, but that doesn't begin to cover the questions I have about what went on at the institute. At the congress in Munich I've seen a number of presentations, many of them about the life, the work, the methodology of the methods creator- what he allegedly said and believed about bringing up children with neuromuscular disorders. As I listen to what he had to say about how to approach a child, how a conductor should position herself in a group it became to clear to me that a man apparently came up with a set of principles- not only about   raising kids but what rehabilitation is, what it should look like and what can it accomplish. And it made me ask, since nothing in the Institute was incidental and served a purpose, why do I know so little about it? Here's a few questions off the top of my head:
1. Is there a purpose in having the rehabilitation future mimic tables and chairs when it came to shapes? We delt with "chairs" that had grab bars and "plinths" were just tables and beds you could hold on to while exercising?
2. Why did the plinths double as beds? Was it for efficiency of space or did Peto want his clients to have some deeper familiarity with the rehabilitation equipment?
3. Why were we dressed in those outfits? It may be so we all look the same, and that it was like a work uniform of sorts, but I remember a strong insistence that we would only wear shorts and never long pants.
4. The exercises were divided into sets throughout the day. Starting with plinths, moving to routines involving standing, then walking, then sitting in chairs- was there a reason for having a day planned like that?
5. Was the "overnight stay" part of Peto philosophy or was it simply an afterthought of parents not being able to pick the children up every day?
6. Why were the exercises always in groups?
7. Why were the groups coeducational even as we slept next to each other and had showers scheduled?
8. Who designed the exercise scripts and how and why are they evaluated and changed? The method isn't about perfecting any particular movement after all.
9. How are parents informed about what is likely to be accomplished with their kids?
10.  Peto's alleged principles and beliefs are still honored in the Conductor community. Are they in any way evaluated or confronted with modern science?
11. Why were we assisted from the front when walking and never   from the back?
12. Since the concept is "do it yourself"- why did the kids have bowls of water brought up to them when washing up and never assisted to walk to the washroom. Why even those who were trained to use the toilet were sat by a conductor, in the general room on a chamber pot, rather than assisted into the restroom.
13. The rooms served multiple purposes. We slept and did  morning exercises in one as the  plinths were lined up and put away. We had dinner and sapper and exercised more in another. It always involved the conductors lifting heavy tables and plinths in both every day. I never quite understood the reason behind the ballet with the furniture and going from one room to the next throughout the day.

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