Thursday, November 29, 2012

You want to help? Get out of [IN] the way.

  I know I've beaten this phrase to death; but the memory of it stands out so clear.  My Dad had the Volvo up on jacks, in the garage, during one of our Minnesota winters.  He had his wood-burning stove going too; and I don't remember what he was doing to that little white Volvo station wagon in which I smooched Joan and Vicki for the first time.  Anyway, I was out there wanting to learn something and Dad in his wisdom knew that I was more interested in the carburetors than the laws of gravity and the jacks holding the thing up.  After all, he was a construction superintendent; the guy knew hazards and how easily neophytes can find them.  So he uttered his 'famous' phrase: you want to help?  Get out of the way.
    Where I was going with this was to say that sometimes getting out of the way isn't the best thing to do.   Anne Wittig, QCS, conductor extraordinaire is still here!  The Vancouver area is one of the most insulting housing markets on Earth, and I had many quiet fears that Anne would be here for one year, and then say, Winnipeg ain't so bad compared to this! Surely, Manitoba has perhaps a few less mountains; but at least one can buy a house there.  Out here?  Ach, don't get me started.  My point was that conductive education is not an easy career.  The only way I could see to really help Anne & Chris settle in here was to say, "Welcome to B.C.  Start your own business.  I know some people who would like your services."  That's really all I had for her.  Since then, she has found many more people who like her services; but they're spread around.  Still it's just simply fantastic to me now that there is a conductive education service running out here;  but (you knew there was a "but" - stop acting surprised) how much can one conductor do?  I mean, yes, she owns a car and stuff; and families are calling her lots.  Her schedule is full; but still she spends almost half her working time DRIVING.  Goodness, she's not a cab driver!  And you should see the baskets full of toys and stuff she's been carting along.  Finally, she got a hockey bag for her toys; and now she is a truly Canadian conductor.
     Nonetheless, it's not ideal for a conductor to be so itinerant.  It is also a fact that kids with motor disorders do not all live in the same neighbourhood and go to the same school.  We have to find them where they are and get the conductor to them. I should talk!  I'm not even doing it; Anne is!  There must surely be something we can do though, us parents, us people who need to see conductive education on a more daily basis; more in the main stream; more accessible.  What is it that needs to happen?  Maybe it's time for people to get IN THE WAY.  Nobody knows more than you parents about how this should happen.  Anne can't do this all on her own; and we need to get more conductors out here.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Irresistable or not?

In my family, where we have my son 50%; and his school is NOT conductively oriented; it has been a long, somewhat sad road. I've been asking his teachers for YEARS to consider doing things a different way. I've been met with a cascade of yawns and blank stares. Finally, this year, he has ONE TEACHER who is willing to give things a try. So, we start by introducing them to Blue's legs; and after a few months, now they are waking up and really getting interested in it.  The application of CE in this case is fundamental.  It makes sense, and brings a smile not only to Blue but his teachers as well. It is, for lack of a better word, irresistable. That also could be read as "attractive."
       I am used to defining my son and our situation as kind of hopeless; but now some things are starting to happen which wonderfully are looking like they can't be stopped.  Much of it would not have happened had we not been exposed to CE when he was three years old, and the use of his legs and hands, and voice, etc. hadn't begun in earnest long before he was glommed onto by the school system. The upkeep and continual learning at home was the key element. What is happening in the school, though I am glad to see it, is frankly; very litte and very late. I won't rain on their happiness. Blue is happy about it, but I have seen what has happened with some kids who are free from the politics and stodginess that has hampered my boy. I know things could have been more remarkable for him; but that is a rather heavy and sad line that is somewhat unproductive to follow.
       The key is the irresistability. As individuals, we have often been turned away by folks who don't want to bother with CE. I have seen the largest public school district in BC, Surrey; ask me and Anne for a pilot project proposal and once they had it, nothing happened. I have seen a school  (the Mediated Learning Academy, which was founded on a method that walks perfectly with CE) plug their ears when a conductor appeared. The founder of mediated learning, Feuerstein himself; has gone very public with his love and respect for CE; yet the practitioners of his method here became somewhat offended when one of our families brought a real, live conductor in as a helper and advisor for their child. Feuerstein would surely have had something to say; but of course, nothing happened; and two families who were paying dearly for a place at that school pulled their children out. And the same challenge awaited them at the next school. How to get the conductor through the doors?
     It did happen at the new school, but CE still seems to be an activity that happens on the fringes. So even though we, upon discovery, fall in love with CE; it is unfortunately VERY RESISTABLE to the 'system' and those in it who have no desire to sprout new wings or change things up.  British Columbians who care about CE need to become more than a loose collection of folks who have heard of each other; regardless of how we are doing CE. CE is still CE, and that is worth standing up for; pun intended. Zsipp-Zsupp!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Invite to those interested in starting a BC CE Association.

     I think it's time to organize a BC CE Association.  Working in a vacuum is ridiculous, especially when I see how quick folks want to work  conductive education into their programs; be it home schooling, a public school family, independent schools, what have you.  We don't need a lot of people, but regardless of WHAT you are doing with CE, or how, CE is still what it is, and we can all benefit and help each other out by forming a public face for it.  Contact me if you're interested in being part of the association.  My main focus is to form it loosely, so it's not a big demand on our time; but can serve as a support for anyone trying to do anything with CE in BC.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Least Necessary Help. . .

Holy smokes.  Seriously, this one kills me; because in the world of able-bodied edumacation, "least necessary help" is the absolute norm.  Overexplaining, overly necessary help, simply strangles the educational opportunities that could pop and leap in the brain of a student. I call it staying out of one's peanut butter.  Imagine opening a fresh jar of peanut butter (the cheap stuff that has the bad hydrogenated oils in it).  It's a perfect swirl, unbroken and smooth.  You're just about to dig into it when along comes someone else and, like a perfect smartass, they plunge their silly butter-knife into your peanut butter and the moment is spoiled.  It's no longer yours. 
When I'm asking a student a question, it's quite often part of my routine to remind all the others in the room to "stay out of their peanut butter."  Let them think, let them try it, don't put an idea in their brain for them.  See what develops. 

In the conductive world, this is known as the "least necessary help."  I think there's a truckload of respect and dignity in this process.  After all, what's the point of 'caring for' someone if we don't 'care for' who they are?  We have to care about what they can do, what they'd like to do, what gives them a charge and some confidence.  

I'd go so far as to say that "least necessary help" is more of a human right than an educational precept.  What my son does is his.  My job is to help him have who he is and become who he is and who he wants to be; not simply change his clothes, clean him up, and keep him packaged, protected, and provendered.  I would think this is terribly obvious.  It seems ridiculous to even state it; yet when conductive types are trying to protect the peanut butter of their learners, a good deal of growling over the jar needs to happen, perhaps even the odd bite. 

As for those who disagree, the reverse applies.  
Bite me!   

Monday, July 16, 2012


So, that bastion of journalistic integrity, 60 Minutes, did a piece on the guy who wrote the biography of Steve Jobs.  Along the way, they touched on some of the quirkier sides of the Apple inventor; his less attractive habits, some of which had to do with not wanting to embrace all the simple traffic laws.  Turns out he was in the habit of misusing handicapped parking spaces.

 And here I am, all grateful and such over his invention the iPad; but turns out if I met the guy in a parking lot it might an iPunch I'd be contemplating.  I wonder what sort of explanation he'd offer.

"i'M the cat's ass. iCan do what iWant."

  Okay, Steve, we miss ya; but, . . .really? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes . . .

If you have a special nerd for a child, as we do; this will make a load of sense to you.  If your kid is still a little cute one, weighing less than say, 30 lbs. well maybe this will serve as a "heads-up."

Find a good physio, and take care of your back, and do your bloody exercises from the physio every day.  Of course, like a lot of people, I don't do my exercises every day.  Instead, I'm sitting here on my tookus again at the lap top. Blah blah blah.  As for the general topic, I've learned as much about how to take care of my aging corpse as I have about how to facilitate movement and such in my Beautiful Boy the Bamboozler.

Strengthening the core, creating stability for those overused, abused back muscles, just a lot of exercise-talk that I never thought  much about or cared for; this has become mantra for me.  With a tweakability factor of 7 (out of 10). I've enjoyed spasms that have laid me out on the floor immobile three times in the last two years.  We had to call the paramedics to give me nitrous oxide.  Then I went laughingly to their truck wondering why even bother; I felt so good all of a sudden?  Then, the hospital gave me morphine (even better, Baby!) and I laid in bed for 2-3 days mumbling incoherent instructions to my co-workers who were trying to cover my classes in my absence.  I'll never hear the end of that teasing!

My chiropractor and I became good buddies, then he said I should get an inversion table; so I sprung the $300 and got one.  Didn't help, actually.  Kinda made things worse.  In desperation, I take the radio at face value and go to the BC Back Institute; something new and different, might help.

Praise the Lord, it's done the trick.  Just had to exercise those weakened, afraid, pissed off muscles.  Now that they actually are working like they're supposed to, I can function.  Haven't needed morphine since March, sold the inversion table, and now when I try to stretch it out; it actually moves!  Wow.  My new guru is a youngster, A.J..  He's probably like 23 years old, just out of college, kinesiology degree, works at the BC Back Institute.  He's the dude who tells me what to do, and I obey; and I do my exercises like the grateful lion who's had the thorn yanked out of his paw (read: back).  Without the BC Back Institute and A.J. I'd be fearing every day how in the heck to take care of my  son, myself, my family, my job, everything.

Then, of course, it's comes as no other surprise that in our camp-fire visit with Anne the Conductor and Chris last night; we're talking about YOGA.  They've gone and educated themselves as yoga teachers, and a good thing.  All the lovely cerebrally palsied kids Anne works with come with tightened, twisted, and sprained parents who are staring somewhat confused off the bow of their little ship; wondering when they're going to hit that big unseen rock and really miscombobulate the spine of the boat.

Gotta pay attention, folks.  Bones ain't forever.  Call Anne or the B.C. Back Institute if your back got a little bit tighter just from sitting and reading this, eh?  Anne's at Moving Ahead Conductive Consulting.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

iPaid for the iPad.

Finally broke down and got an iPad for Blue.  We have the program "Tap-Speak Choice" on it.  Seems mighty useful already just to have the iPad.  SO easy to show Blue things and places while he sits at his table.  And we don't even have the tap-speak programmed yet. Just started.  It's easy to program it,  even for a dolt like me!  Making pages, using symbols and photos, and layering the pages to ANY set of choices you want.  The biggest requirement is time.

I'll update as we work with it.  Cheers!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ach! When can I give up ?!

Oh my hairy, stinky, ever-loving, excoriated, downward-pointing Stars!  When can I give up?

Blue's in daycare: I tell the lady, "He can sit on his own, if you just stay close to him and support a bit at the shoulders like this . . ."   She looks straight at/through me, smiles, and waits for me to leave.

Blue's in grade 1: I tell the lady, "He should have a bar on his desk, and he can sit there, out of his wheelchair and hold on, if you just stay close and make sure he knows he won't topple more than an inch away from centre." She smiles, and nothing happens . . .

Blue's in grade 2: I make a video of him sitting at the table and holding on by himself for 30 minutes.  I send a copy to the physiotherapist and other folks.  Nothing happens.

Blue's in grade 4: He changes schools, and I tell the principal, the lady, the teacher, the SEA, the world, the northern hemisphere, the dust bunnies, and other people that the diapers aren't necessary.  They look at me like I eat diapers for lunch and isn't that bearnaise sauce just the trick?

Blue's in grades 5 - 8: I blather, foam, mutter, mumble, dance, stand on my head and do the jitterbug. I tell the lady, "The diapers are actually for you.  HE doesn't need them.  The lift, the sling, the commode is actually for you.  He has a modern-age, portable, fully-adjustable lift that has its own power source to get in and out of his wheelchair; to the toidy, etc."  They wake up for a nanosecond and look at me and ask, "Really?  A portable, fully-adjustable lift with its own power supply?  What is it?"  I brutalize them with the truth.  I say, "His legs!"  It's too much to process.  Their eyes glaze over, I disappear into the fog.  Forty-five 3-inch binders with D-shaped rings bursting with professional gobbledy-gook are the last things I see as I pass out.

Blue goes to high school:  I stupidly take a luxurious sigh of relief.  The Canucks lose the Stanley Cup final.  Who cares?  I rehash my mantra.  He doesn't need the diapers.  He wants to use his hands.  He needs to get out of the wheelchair.  There are ways to help him stop the ever-open mouth and persistent gagging.  The diapers are for you.  He doesn't actually like to pee in his pants.  The sky is blue.   Kangaroos are native to Australia.  Carbon has four bonding sites. Tomatoes are actually fruit!  The SEA says the teachers don't allow it.  The teacher says the OT didn't approve it.  The OT says, "Oh James, you're up on your soapbox again."  The big meeting happens, 14 chefs and a simple sandwich cannot be made.  Holy bureaucrap, Batman!

Nothing is ever going to happen in this forest of plastic trees!  I don't need ONE creative professional.  I need an entire new school!  We cannot start one; because it does not exist here.

Here I stop.  I can no longer add the word, "yet."  Yet is a four-letter word today.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Emperor's New Hands

Apologies : I got all confabulated with email addresses and passwords and it took me a while to get back into my blog. It's nice to be back in here. As for the big CE school project: all was ready but the ten students. There are students, no doubt, but they are spread too far to reasonably commute to one spot. Maybe that will have to come later. 
      For now, CE marches on; or hug-walks in its own fashion.
      For me, I am happy about the arm splints! So, we finally have some arm splints. It took the kind persistence of Zsuzsi to remind me (now 3 years later) that she wants Blue to use arm splints here and there throughout his day. Bless her determination. On a recent trip to Hungary, she and her husband Artur went to no small lengths to get the splints and a grab bar with suction cups from the Peto Institute. I sent her the measurements for Blue's arms, and somewhere overseas a nice person sat down at their sewing machine and made them for us! Some soft cotton cloth, a few plastic stiffeners, some velcro, and voila! Look at that kid hold on, and he's relaxed, and watching the video, looking at the book, and all this without the heavy wheelchair and stuff. What a breath of fresh air.
      When I begged the PT and OT over here in Canada to please please please get me some arm splints; they refused. So, often I hear that; and my son's arms are starting to look more and more like chicken wings. His hands are looking like they could easily end up permanently bent like accessories instead of useful limbs.
      My stars, why are these things allowed to go on for so many years? It's as obvious as global warming. Anyone with a human body can see what is happening to his legs, arms, and hands; and what am I told to do about it? Get an assessment, put buttons by his head, accept that this happens, and la de bloody da!

 So, as not to spite them nor angrily smite them;
 I did what we could for my little man,
who needs not a "lift" to go the can.
 He has legs, and can stand!
 He prefers it, I proffer;
Nuts to the offer
of gear and gadgets that disarm my son.
He holds, we count past a hundred and one;
He grips at the bar and leans on his arms,
These simple things simply contain all the charms;
drained by "pros" like spaghetti from sauce,
(Things would be different if I were the boss.)
So we sigh and sniffle and stare at the sky,
why can't we just start with HIM? Tell me why;
well, actually don't. I've heard it before,
take out the ef, you're left with a bore.
The ef is from effort, you've seen that before?
Or is this all Greek, you see not what I seek? 
I see him do this each day of the week!
He will, and he likes it; he does, and he do.
One only need try, yet they never knew.

Rhyme, rhyme; waste my time.  Somehow feels a bit better though.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

B.C Teachers: you want to help? Get out of the way!

Holy smokes, the B.C. teachers are now on strike and a great deal of the whining going on is about the number of special needs students popping up in the classroom. It seems the integration movement has its drawbacks.

Is an everyday classroom overburdened with its "special needs" students? If so, maybe the answer lies in building an everyday, normal classroom setting for the special needs students; like, say, a Conductive Education School!

Speaking as a parent, I don't believe my boy's classroom ever went at his pace. The work was never the same for him, and the goals in his "IEP" were always vague and ridiculously easy; somewhat like a horoscope reading for the day.

Speaking as a teacher, (13 years now in an independent school) there is a megatonne of value in a school developed to serve one category of special needs students. For 30 years now, the Purpose Independent Secondary School has been successfully operating a program with over 40% "special need" students. It's a happy place, nobody feels left out; and parents are always remarking that great things happen here that just weren't possible in the 'normal' system. We get most of our students because they have given up and dropped out of the normal schools. The curriculum is the same; the atmosphere is different.

Now Purpose wants to open the Purpose School of Conductive Learning; the PuSCLe as I like to call it. Everything is in place but the 10 primary / elementary students necessary to start a new independent school.

Maybe it's time to stop thinking there is something scandalous about 'segregating' students. As the Purpose Secondary School shows, they can get into the same rhythm and progress together. After all, they don't demand that the football team have a volleyball player or two at each practice. And wouldn't the volleyball players all have more fun playing the same game? AND, aren't all these players engaging in sports anyway? SO, maybe the integration issue isn't such a big, fat, hairy deal to us: the families of these special nerds. After all, segregation has the same root as congregation; and a conductive classroom is a very gregarious place, bubbling with laughter and cheers at a rate unheard of in the normal school room.

Maybe we'd like to be free from the irrepressible good-will and endless talk of a system that perhaps may need our kids more than the reverse. After all, $36,000 per kid is some tasty temptation to a school board. When a boy who has been literally standing up and bearing his weight since toddlerhood is given no choice but a sling and a lift at toilet time, just because he's in school and they refuse to facilitate the use of his own body; well, it seems to me the tail may be wagging the dog. Or at the very least, someone is doing something to the dog. Poor beast.

In his book, Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today, Richard Gerver suggests that schools were structured for teachers first and children second. I must say that I've seen more proof of this than I have of its inversion. I must say that I'm tired of hearing about the teachers' woes. And I must say that I'm not asking for anything more from the school system. I think it's time to just embrace the "volleyball players" as a team, and let them have their own practice, their own space, and their own coach; and their own fun.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

8 reasons why Minnesota is better than British Columbia

1. Minnesota has a horizon, not just a bunch of silly mountains.
2. In Minnesota, they don't commit crimes en masse when the stupid hockey team loses.
3. In Minnesota, hockey is fun and religion is confined to church.
4. In Minnesota, people say "hi" when you look at them.
5. High-school kids in Minnesota don't think marijuana is salad.
6. Minnesota fans are happy to make the acquaintance of Canuck fans at Wild games. Canuck fans are sad that they might get in trouble if they pee on your pants as you stand at the urinal.
7. In Minnesota, there's not a starbucks every four blocks.
8. In Minnesota, six cans of beer aren't priced like six cans of caviar.

Stupid fish.

I've never seen the English version of "Finding Nemo"; but in the Spanish version, at the climax of the story when everyone is stuck in the net and it seems all is lost, the absent-minded Dory says, "Nada haremos."
This means, "Nothing we will do." BUT, the verb "nadar"(to swim) when conjugated as "nadaremos" means, in the future tense, "We will swim." These two phrases sound so similar that a group misinterpretation occurs. Dory was giving up, but everyone else thought she was chanting, "Let's swim together." It created a storm of co-operation; changing everything for everybody involved.
Somehow this screwball approach to success sounds familiar to me. Perhaps I have to tell myself this, for I have been surrounded not only by spendid folks like the conductive types I've met since 2000; but also by a veritable HORDE of nay-sayers. I feel (occasionally) that I must be nuts; that something indeed very large and compelling is wrong with me for drifting along so loyally with conductive education.
Ought I to be doubting it, at last? Hasn't the time come for me to drop this tattered flag and tramp on back through the mud to my camp?
Well, let me think about it...heck no! The end result of Dory's ravings and the blind repetitions of the hopeless crowd was FREEDOM. Freedom is not a thing easily found these days, even though so many institutions are set up to look out for the Canadian family.
As an American by birth, freedom has been kind of cemented in my head. Cement though, does not birth freedom. That is best done with more pliable things: like whoopee cushions, songs for reaching up, and group cheers at every object tossed about the room.
It's too easy to see the net; but why look at that bureaucrap when the massive, swirling, pulsing ocean sprawls out around us at every side?