Conductive education is a learning system developed by Andras Peto, a Hungarian doctor who specialised in working with children and adults with motor impairments, such as cerebral palsy.
In the 1920s Dr Peto studied medicine in Vienna. He then worked in Austria in various clinics until he was forced, as the Second World War approached, to return to his native Hungary.
In 1938 he took refuge in a friend's basement in Budapest, where he spent most of his time studying and playing with her daughter, who had cerebral palsy.
He began to consider the child as a whole, rather than in terms of her particular needs, and became convinced that a learning programme rather than a series of focused treatments would be more beneficial. From there, his theories of combining the skills of different specialists to work on both the cognitive and physical needs of the child developed.
When the war finished in 1945, he began training others, which eventually led to the development of qualifications for "conductors", as he called them, up to degree level.
In 1950-51, he opened his first Institute for the Motor Impaired with 80 places. In the 1960s, this institution was transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education, placing it firmly within the context of learning.
The primary aims of conductive education are to encourage an active lifestyle, develop cognitive functions, provide a complex but unified educational programme and to help children to walk, gain greater control over their body and so encourage independence.
Conductors have a range of skills, including education, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and nursing. They spend the day with the child, following through a series of planned activities. The routine includes tasks carried out in different positions, such as lying or sitting, which are all inter-linked. Skills learned in these positions are not purely physical; the conductor also focuses on age-appropriate cognitive, social and emotional skills, such as colours, directions and numbers.
Every child has an individual learning plan, but there is also focused group work to help develop personality and social skills. This encourages them to learn from one another and to develop friendships.
During the day, the conductor will set personal goals for the child to achieve, enabling him or her to feel successful and appreciated. Praise and encouragement help to motivate and to create a feeling of self-worth.
There are five important elements which are required to facilitate the process of conductive education. These are:
* the conductor
* the programme
* the task series
* rhythmical intention, and * the group