By Jodi DeLong
Photography: Bruce Murray/VisionFire
Adults and children who live with a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, an acquired brain injury, stroke or Parkinson’s disease often struggle with independence and community living, as well as with other challenges brought on by their disability.
A program known as Conductive Education (CE) that was developed more than 75 years ago by a Hungarian doctor provides a method of helping with accessibility and inclusion. It’s described as an educational approach to rehabilitation, where trained leaders called conductors break down skills and techniques to help individuals recover lost skills or develop new skills. CE is offered through March of Dimes Canada in several provinces, including Nova Scotia.
Beth Lynch is the lead conductor with March of Dimes Canada in Nova Scotia. She explains the theories behind the educational approach. “Neurology now recognizes that the human brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells,” she says. Through training in CE, she continues, “we believe that learning is possible after an incident in the brain and throughout all of life.”
The benefits are twofold, Lynch says. CE looks at the whole person and helps them improve their independence physically, “however, through our positive, active approach to learning, participants also gain greater self-confidence, leading to them wanting to try more on their own; and a greater sense of independence.
CE regards learning as a lifelong process, Lynch says, meaning that once someone achieves one aim—for example, standing up from a chair— “then we help them learn to transfer weight, then to take a step, then to walk. There is always potential for everyone to learn more, and we view learning for people with neurologically-based motor disorders the same way.”
Proponents of CE stress that this is not a therapy or a treatment—it’s a method of education where individuals with neurological impairments learn to deliberately perform actions that their unimpaired contemporaries simply learn through life. Likewise, the conductors are specially trained instructors who must graduate from an accredited university or other recognized CE training program. CE is an excellent complement to traditional therapies used with people living with neurological disorders.
If someone is interested in the CE program, they contact the local March of Dimes office directly, fill out an application, then have an initial consultation with conductors. At this initial meeting, Lynch says, “Participants learn more about CE; we go through a series of movements that we would do in class, and set aims based on what the individual would like to work on to improve their independence.
Conductive Education has been available in Nova Scotia through March of Dimes Canada (MODC) since 2006. Through MODC there are programs in Halifax, Toronto and Calgary, making Nova Scotia the only Atlantic province offering this type of training. Lynch says they run CE programming yearround out of their Bayers Road offices. “Participants typically attend classes weekly for 10-week blocks, four times a year.” She adds the Nova Scotia office also runs an overnight March break camp at Brigadoon for youth and young adults with cerebral palsy, summer camps for children with cerebral palsy, and a CE recreation camp for young adults with CP, where they do CE programming but also recreation activities in the community, such as accessible yoga and adapted water skiing.
Header Caption: Left to right: Victoria, Beth, Nora, Yosef, Jackson and Brittany at one of the Conductive Education classes in Halifax, NS.
Intro no caption: March of Dimes Canada has its roots in the late 1940s, when poliomyelitis was a major health concern throughout North America.