Conductive Ed Overview

Photos: Csaba Korsos © 2011

What is Conductive Education?

Conductive Education, often described as rehabilitation through learning, was founded by Dr. Andras Peto in Budapest, Hungary, in 1948. Peto devised this unique, intensive group method of special education, which expects and demands active learning and participation by the child in attempting to overcome his/her motor disability (i.e. cerebral palsy, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, cerebral vascular accidents, etc.).

Trained “conductors” work as Specialists in Motor Learning (combining principles of OT, PT, SLP, and teaching). The conductors are responsible for facilitating education, utilizing concepts of goal–directed activities, verbal regulation, and group dynamics.

One of the primary elements of Conductive Education is the group setting. The social context works as a powerful incentive while allowing for individualization and adjustment to personal needs. The group motivates the child to complete tasks, encourages accomplishments, and supports confidence and effort. The group has the added benefit of providing an additional strategy to assist in teaching movement by capitalizing on peer–directed learning (e.g. watching how peers get up from a stool to use their walker).

The child’s active learning, within this group, is supported by “rhythmic intention” (e.g. using counting, songs, and rhythmical games) to provide the child with a basis of normal movement. This engages the child’s inner language in order to independently voice motor directions to him/herself, and ultimately incorporate these motor patterns into everyday life.

Conductive Education focuses on the whole person, recognizing physical, social, intellectual, and emotional aspects of learning. Your child develops autonomy and self–esteem through taking responsibility for their own movement. Focus is on functional skills such as dressing, feeding, and walking. Ultimately, Conductive Education contributes to the complex development of the personality.


Boy in Conductive Ed ProgramHow Does Conductive Education Work?

Although relatively unknown in the United States, Conductive Education is a mainstream form of therapy used to teach children with motor disabilities throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, China and Canada. Scientists have finally proven what Conductive Education practitioners have known all along: the brain is an amazing organ, capable of creating new pathways in spite of significant damage. This premise of neural plasticity is the foundation upon which Conductive Education is based.

Conductive Education recognizes the fact that a damaged brain requires a commitment of significant time in order to form new pathways, just as we recognize our children must commit several hours each day to their academic education. Intensity and repetition drive motor skill acquisition for typically developing children, and these treatment concepts also define the approach utilized at the Center for Independence.

The success of Conductive Education follows from the fact that the damaged brain has a vast residual capacity, and this can be capitalized upon with appropriate methods.

Movement, speech, and cognitive abilities are developed in tandem with functional movement. This is founded on the theory that the child with a motor disability develops and learns in the same way as healthy children do. However, what the healthy child learns through assimilation, the child with cerebral palsy must be taught overtly as a skill.

The Conductor does not solve a student’s motor problem but encourages active problem solving for movement so that the thinking will become habitual. As the habit is developed, the brain will rewire new connections as it learns new tasks.


Active CFI KidsAims of Conductive Education

  • To teach children functional skills with an attitude of self–help and motivation, while having fun and enjoying the process along the way.
  • To actively involve the child with a motor disability in his/her own learning and physical education. Conductive Education encourages each child to take responsibility for his/her own movement. This allows improved active participation in home, school and other social environments
  • To utilize the peer social context to motivate children to move and as an additional method of teaching by observing their peers. This is a powerful process that enhances positive development of the child’s body image and self–concept.
  • To set and achieve individual goals which maximize functional independence and facilitates positive interactions within the environment.
  • To maintain positive communications with parents/caregivers to better benefit the overall development of the child and incorporate skills learned into everyday life situation.
  • To improve postural control and develop normal progressions of movement in order to enhance functional independence.
  • To prevent secondary complications including pain and the negative impact from limited activity. Conductive Education is based on eliciting as much active movement from children as possible promoting skeletal development and overall health.
  • Provide a team of professionals who specialize in developing independence in children with motor impairment. The model utilized at the Center allows improved communication across disciplines allowing for the best care for your child.
  • To provide a cost effective and time efficient program which demands results.

CFI kid stretchingWho does Conductive Education help?

  • Conductive education is an appropriate method of teaching motor function to children and adults who have motor disorders resulting from damage or disease to the central nervous system.
  • Families interested in conductive education are asked to schedule an observation of the program by calling the Center for Independence.
  • Families interested in pursuing an evaluation at our Center complete a detailed intake form and participate in a function driven assessment. The assessment is completed by a team trained in conductive education; including the conductor as well as physical and occupational therapists.
  • All children participating in the program require a physician’s release to participate in an intensive motor function therapy program. The program also requests that the children’s physician provide a release stating that the child’s hips are cleared for intensive therapy. This can be included on the prescription for the evaluation along with the ICD–9 code.

Many families have children with Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, or motor delay and wish to find treatments to best serve their children. Conductive education is one option for many children with these impairments. Unfortunately, conductive education is not appropriate for every child with motor delay. Conductive Education may not be appropriate for children with uncontrolled seizures or who exhibit significant sensory processing impairments. For conductive education to succeed, the child must have good visual and auditory skills, he/she must be able to benefit from a group setting, he/she must be able to tolerate the intensity of the program, and the child’s level of cognition must be at a point where the child is able to interact with others and follow directions accurately.