What is Conductive Education?

Children with cerebral palsy have a neurological condition, mobility deficits, and usually a unique set of associative conditions that can greatly impact access to educational environments, as well as ability to process information and learn.

Most children with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy will go through traditional therapies and conventional educational programs. These programs are designed to provide children with a free and appropriate public education by providing supports that promote accessibility and inclusion to maximize their ability to learn and interact with their peers to the best of their ability in an educational environment.

But there’s more than one way to look at remedies for learning, and one of them is conductive education. Founded in the 1940s by Hungarian physician Professor Andras Peto, conductive education assumes motor disorders are learning disabilities. Because of this, conductive education programs are not medically-based, but task oriented. They take into account that those with special needs have extra and different learning needs to accomplish actions.

More common in Europe than in North America, conductive education involves all aspects of functionality – from physical functioning to communication to cognitive development to social interaction, experimentation and psychological acceptance – and how these components interact.

The most striking difference between conductive education and conventional treatment is that it’s not a therapy, or a treatment. It’s a comprehensive method of learning by which individuals with neurological and mobility impairment, like cerebral palsy, learn to specifically and consciously perform actions that children without such impairment learn through normal life experiences.

With conductive education, children may use specialized learning strategies to perform daily functions. They cognitively think through the process and emotionally connect to physical tasks to understand how to perform them successfully. This is known as orthofunction and orthofunctional-personality; the ability to perform orthotically in a positive manner to accomplish.

The focus, for the child, is to learn ways to access information about their environment without modifying the environment. Performed correctly, conductive education elicits spontaneous responses to external stimuli. The program relies on a child’s natural abilities, not corrective, modified or adapted. This in turn allows for a child to develop appropriate strategies within ability to function in various environments.

Devotees of conductive education praise the program’s focus on:

  • exploration within a given environment
  • participation in group activities and amongst peers
  • assuming the individual is a whole person with infinite capabilities, desires and potential
  • specialized learning strategies performed routinely

What is Conductive Education?

The program is largely dependent on group activities; with the goal of stimulating the senses through social interaction, active learning and task achievement.

The goal of conductive education is to encourage:

  • Personality development
  • Independent living
  • Coordination development
  • Speech and language development
  • Sensory integration
  • Motor functioning
  • Motor control
  • Learning
  • Physical adaptation
  • Psychological acceptance
  • Emotional exploration
  • Social interaction

Conductive education is built on the assumption that the damage to the central nervous system which causes motor dysfunction can be overcome by using specialized learning strategies and that the nervous system can generate new neural connections. Education is designed to teach individuals how to complete daily tasks such as reading, eating or speaking in practical situations. The situations, be it at home in an educational setting, present opportunities for a patient to learn in real-world environments.

Because conductive education takes the position that motor disorders are learning disabilities, children are taught to see themselves as active participants in their own education; they are encouraged to be problem-solvers and develop a self-reliant “orthofunctional” personality that fosters:

  • Active participation
  • Initiative
  • Determination
  • Motivation
  • Independence
  • Self-sufficiency

The skills that are emphasized during conductive education include:

  • Physical functioning
  • Play strategies
  • Social interaction
  • Academic skills
  • Self-care strategies

What are the Benefits of Conductive Education?

Conventional therapies for children with cerebral palsy make use of adaptive equipment and assistive technologies that help them to function in the world. Proponents of conductive education believe such equipment can engender passivity in children and adults, and a feeling of powerlessness.

Conductive educators believe the same equipment can discourage children from using independent movements to complete tasks or explore their environment to the best of their ability.

The benefits of conductive education is that at every turn, children learn how to be independent, and, what they learn can be applied to various situations, allowing a child to develop routines, engage in education and hobbies, and foster coping mechanisms – while minimizing dependence.

Need more information on the therapy options available to those with cerebral palsy?

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When is Conductive Education Advised?

Both adults and children have participated successfully in conductive education. However, most participants are children who have been diagnosed with cognitive and/or motor impairment. All patients will be assessed to ensure they are capable of participating in activities, and can work in large and small groups as well as individually.

How is Conductive Education Performed?

Conductive education addresses their lack of experience and minimizes dependence on assistive equipment by teaching children how to:

  • perceive their abilities differently
  • encourage activity
  • pursue autonomy
  • develop coping skills

To meet that goal, all activities are broken down into doable tasks that stress continuity, routine and utilize positive reinforcement.

For conductive education to work, children must have numerous opportunities to practice strategies to complete tasks throughout the day – meaning that these techniques must be practiced and supported at home and in an educational setting. This provides children with the ability to cognitively integrate physical and mental activities as a way of life. Children will most often take part in group programs so they can support and encourage each other.

There are six components of conductive education, including:

  • Conductor – The conductor is the person who facilitates conductive education, and his or her goal is to cultivate an orthofunctioning personality. This person works directly with the student group, and designs and monitors the course of education.
  • Group Dynamic – Structured, group activities are broken down into a series of steps that represent intentional activities. By working in groups, children learn how to complete tasks within their age-appropriate skill levels while interacting with others in real-life settings. Peer interaction provides encouragement, acceptance, social skill development, behavior modification, support, reward and friendship.
  • Facilitation – Conductors facilitate tasks to make sure they are effective. Facilitation is used sparingly – the basis of conductive education is empowering a child to complete tasks independently, using specific problem-solving skills to expand their functioning level. The conductor will determine when facilitation is necessary, and whether verbal instruction, hands-on assistance, motivation or psychological counseling is required.
  • Daily Routine – Building a routine is important for children in conductive education; it gives children an opportunity to hone their skills in a real-world environment. Conductive education breaks down daily routines into a consistent sequence of actions that eventually become habit-forming. These routines, in turn, support their efforts to expand their physical, cognitive, psychological and communication capabilities.
  • Rhythmic Intention – The concept of rhythmic intention involves enabling children to learn alternate ways to complete tasks by helping them use the rhythm and intention of language and music to pace their movements. The intention is a goal, such as walking. A child is then asked to state his or her goal and then uses the rhythm of language or music to regulate their movements.
  • Task Series – Tasking is the method by which conductors help children gain control of their movement and improve their cognitive functioning. The series of tasks allows children to learn skills while sitting down, standing up, picking up books, reading, and performing self-care rituals that are transferable into many situations they will encounter throughout life. The tasks, once mastered, improve a child’s ability to function both physically and mentally when confronted with uncharted, never-before performed tasks. They learn to plan out the process to perform a task based on skills already developed.

Where is Conductive Education Performed?

Conductive education is a relatively new concept in North America, and is not offered in most public education systems and private programs. Most insurance companies don’t cover conductive education expenses in the way it is covered in Europe.

However, there are a handful of programs in North America that focus on conductive education as an alternative to conventional therapies and treatments. Most are non-profit organizations exclusively dedicated to conductive education services.

Also, conductors offer group and individual services independently.

It’s important to remember that for conductive education to work, techniques and strategies must be carried out at home to provide children with an opportunity to put learnings to practice in everyday living.

Who Provides Conductive Education?

Conductive education is provided by the conductor; a professional that has undergone training in the field. The conductor acts as a partner to create an environment in which children can master new skills.

Conductors administer exercises based in real-life settings – or act within a real life scenario – to facilitate appropriate responses based on the needs of the group, and the individual. Often times, a conductor will have a background in education.

The role of the conductor includes:

  • Facilitating select activities for children
  • Developing and planning curriculums
  • Assessing patients
  • Problem-solving
  • Empowering progress and achievement
  • Consulting with other professionals
  • Working with families, caregivers and children

In the United States, the Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Governors State University in University Park, Illinois, offers training in conductive education.

Aquinas College

The Aquinas College program is a degree program (5 years, full time, 28 credits, 57 hours) that graduates conductor-teachers. Aquinas is the only institution in the United States that offers a Physical or Other Health Impairment (POHI) undergraduate program that utilizes the conductive education method. Professionals from the International PETO Institute in Budapest, Hungary, instruct. The undergraduate program is run using a cohort model (minimum of 4-5 students in each cohort) and includes:

  • POHI major application and coursework
  • General education courses
  • Elementary education teacher preparation courses

Aquinas is committed to conductive education research and creating an international center for conductive education. The Aquinas’ Conductive Learning Center (CLC) located in Grand Rapids, Michigan is run through the joint direction of Aquinas College and the Peto Institute in Budapest and proudly serves children with motor impairments while providing a hands-on training environment for students of the college.

For more information on this program, visit Certificate in Conductive Education at the Conductive Learning Center, Aquinas College, Michigan.

Governors State University

Although the Governors State University program does not result in conductor-teacher status, the Governors State program provides an important professional development opportunity for therapists (school-based, hospital-based, and long-term residential care), educators and others to better understand conductive education. They offer a certificate program (1 year, part-time, 16 credit hours, online) that targets practitioners wishing to gain a basic understanding of the principles of conductive education and issues certification in conductive education-related coursework upon completion. Their certification program currently includes instruction from experienced occupational therapists, physical therapists and conductive education teachers from the U.S., Australia and Europe. Practicum experience (45 hours) is provided at the Center for Independence through Conductive Education in Countryside, Illinois, and coursework includes:

  • Principles of Conductive Education
  • Disease Processes Relevant to Conductive Education
  • Advances in Motor Control and Motor Learning
  • Research in Conductive Education
  • Practicum in Conductive Education
  • Learning Processes in Conductive Education

For more information on this program, visit Certificate in Conductive Education at the College of Health and Human Services, Governors State University, Illinois.

In general, conductors are trained in several concepts, including:

  • Child development
  • Psychology
  • Pedagogy
  • Anatomy
  • Neurology
  • Human development

The Association for Conductive Education in North America (ACENA)

The Association for Conductive Education in North America (ACENA) is located in Grand Rapids, MI, and represents programs and professionals that promote and practice conductive education within North America. They are proactive and promote organized collaboration. ACENA ensures and identifies quality standards of conductive education programs while offering continuing education. They provide networking opportunities for those involved with conductive education programs and increase awareness of conductive education as a treatment/educational model for individuals with motor disabilities. For more information, visit The Association for Conductive Education in North America or call 616-575-0575.

International Programs

Conductors outside of the United States may earn a masters, bachelor, or earn course credits in conductive education depending on the program chosen. Conductors in Europe can complete four years of training at the András Pető Institute in Budapest, which is the original training center, or the National Institute of Conductive Education, in Birmingham, England. Course credits and summer education programs are also available. For more information on these programs, visit The András Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training in Budapest and The National Institute of Conductive Education in United Kingdom.

What Happens During Conductive Education?

A session will begin with an assessment of a child by the conductor to determine functioning levels. After those factors are identified, the conductor will determine what tasks a child will engage in and the structure of a session.

Children with cerebral palsy have generally not built up sufficient motor skills, and much of what takes place in conductive education is repetitive in nature to help them build strength, and learn how to systematically apply what they learn to other tasks.

For example, a child will learn how to get out of a chair first by positioning their feet, extending their arms to push themselves upward, and balancing themselves. These skills are transferable, and must be practiced regularly. And children must also understand the meaning and goal of the movements.

Other tasks used in several combinations include:

  • Grasping
  • Pushing
  • Stretching
  • Reaching
  • Balancing
  • Standing
  • Sitting

Often times, conductors will use music or rhymes to facilitate movement. The best of a song, or rhythmic intention, can be helpful for children who can count off as they move. This method also assists children in building language skills.

Most often, children will receive conductive education in a group of students, which greatly enhances a child’s social experience. Groups are typically broken down by age.

It’s important to remember that conductive education continues at home. Parents will be asked to implement strategies at home; for example, if a child needs to reach for a jar of peanut butter, he or she should use the steps learned from the conductor.

Are There Special Considerations or Risks for Conductive Education?

Conductive education is generally very safe, and can provide children with insights and skills about their abilities, their role in their family and their social group. But not all children with cerebral palsy would be considered a good candidate for such programming, thus necessitating program evaluation.

Children that participate in conductive education are generally those with motor impairment. Children that would benefit the most should have basic cognitive skills and are able to comprehend and respond to verbal commands and engage in conversation.

Need more information on the therapy options available to those with cerebral palsy?

Call 800-692-4453.
Request MyChild™ Kit No. 327

The MyChild Treatment and Therapy Kit

MyChild™