Sep 01, 1997
In a previous Research Fact Sheet (September 1995), comments were made on a series of articles on Conductive Education published in the journal Infants and Young Children. In essence, the comments were aimed at the need for more valid information; information that was specific, reliable and reproducible. This need is still unmet.
During the past several weeks, the Foundation has had an opportunity to observe Conductive Education classes, speak to Conductors (education-therapists), and to parents of children enrolled. A number of thoughtful questions on the program were asked by well motivated, friendly participants. The following is a summary of those discussions.
Does Conductive Education work? Quite obviously it does work, as do a number of other interventions. However, that isn’t the meaningful question. The meaningful questions are: For whom? As compared to what? What are the long term effects?
When one incorporates total immersion for extended periods of time, heightened motivation, positive encouragement and reward, peer support and active participation, it should be expected to work. Conductors are professionals, skilled in utilizing their approach to the child both as an individual and as part of a group.
However, very little of anything works for everybody. Applicants to the program are selected by skilled professionals. What are the specific entry (inclusion) and exclusion criteria? These need to be documented and the reasons provided for their use — reasons hopefully supported by data.
Given these identified population groups, one can then begin to evaluate the successes and failures (criteria for “success” and for “failure”?) in comparison to other interventions.
Finally, what is the long term outlook? Is Conductive Education a “one time” intervention? Is a lifelong educational program necessary to maintain success? Is continuing intervention necessary? What kind of intervention? Is periodic intervention necessary? What are the criteria for discontinuing the program? For restarting it? What are the three-year results? The five year results?
Since Conductive Education often involves school age children and adolescents, what is the interaction of the total immersion needs (five to seven hours a day, five days a week) and the regular scholastic educational requirements?
We suspect that there is now enough of a body of experience internationally for the leadership of Conductive Education to arrive at consensus in reply to these questions. If so, the answers to these and other questions need to be written down so they can be examined and evaluated by others! Without this, the efficacy of Conductive Education will remain in the realm of “fringe therapy”, receiving enthusiastic support by a limited number of involved parents and professionals and looked upon with suspicion by a large number of others who have seen “remarkable therapies” come and go.
As the previous publication stated: “the time has come for both advocates and critics of Conductive Education to put aside their differences”. In respect to a study of Conductive Education, — “society demands it; the children deserve it”.
A start would be that the several responsible leaders of Conductive Education develop a written consensus statement in response to these and other questions. The statement can then be explored jointly by them and other persons with clinical, educational and research skills as a basis for cooperative evaluation studies.
The responsibility for showing efficacy of a program is that of the advocates of the program — in this case, the leadership of Conductive Education. If it assumes this responsibility, than organizations representing the government and the private sector can be asked to cooperate and participate in an evaluation endeavor.
Is the leadership of Conductive Education prepared to undertake this task? I hope so.
Note: In a 1998 article in the scientific journal DMCN (Vol 40; pgs. 763-770), Dr. D.S. Reddihough and her colleagues in Australia report the results of a randomized clinical trial of the results of conductive education (CE) compared with traditional programs of neurodevelopmental rehabilitation in children with cerebral palsy. The children in both groups received therapy of similar intensity and duration. The authors conclude that “children involved in CE – based programs made similar progress to those involved in traditional programs. Children with CP made developmental gains regardless of programs type”. The results of this study are similar to those reported several years ago in a non-randomized study in England.