Conductive education is a comprehensive method of learning by which individuals with neurological and mobility impairment learn to specifically and consciously perform actions that children without such impairment learn through normal life experiences. Children are encouraged to be problem-solvers and develop a self-reliant “orthofunctional” personality that fosters participation, initiative, determination, motivation, independence, and self-sufficiency.
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
- 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
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.
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.