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Conductive Education

Short Literature Review on Conductive Education 

 

A Report for the General Teaching Council in Northern Ireland

 

Presented by

 

Dr Despina Galanouli

 

School of Education/GTCNI

 

Queen’s University Belfast

 

March 2010

 


Conductive Education – A Brief Overview

of the Literature

Definition 

The term Conductive Education refers to a pedagogical system for assisting the development of those with motor disorders, in other words with problems of coordinating movement as a result of a neurological disease or damage.  Conductive education can be used with both children (mostly those with cerebral palsy) and adults. Although addressing the development of individuals with severe health problems, conductive education, as Sutton argues, is not a therapy as it proposes no cure, but is

 

‘… a pedagogy directed towards mental change, in motivation, self-worth, movement skills, self-help skills, with concomitant social effects through factors such as independence, family function and social relationships.’ Sutton 2002 (p109)

 

Sutton’s definition of conductive education as a pedagogy is further supported by MacKay (1995) who argues that the term ‘conductive education’ is not accurate since in its original form, in Hungarian, the term is ‘konductiv pedagógia’ and as MacKay points out this phrase does not translate simply as the broadly based concept:  education. Education includes pedagogy but also curriculum and other structural concepts such as school systems, assessment arrangements, advisory services for schools etc. Pedagogy specifically deals with teaching and learning and this is more relevant to the conductive education system as it is clearly a set of instructions to develop skills. Through conductive education techniques the child is encouraged and enabled to develop ‘orthofunction’, which means autonomous skills for daily living. Furthermore it represents an holistic approach to skills development in that it addresses the whole person and not only their disability (Morgan and Hogan, 2005). Darrah et al (2004) also point out that conductive education addresses many aspects of a child’s development and personality including academic skills, social skills and communication skills and not simply motor function.

 

 

History

Conductive education originates from Hungary where it was first conceived by Dr Andreas Petö, a doctor and educationalist, in the 1940s, while he was assisting children with motor dysfunction to attain ‘orthofunction’ so that they could attend school as independently as possible. According to Cozma (1995) it was the shift from teaching to learning and from passive reception to active participation by the learner that contributed and led to the emergence of conductive education. Petö’s development of such an innovative habilitation and rehabilitation process, through active learning and focusing on the personality, was considered revolutionary for his time as it was based on an educational rather than medical intervention (Darrah et al, 2004).

 

What made conductive education particularly unique was its holistic nature. Before its emergence, the support norm involved various experts looking at each problem of a disabled person, which might be motion, speech or learning-related, individually and independently of each other. According to Lind, the conductive education approach stresses the integration of all forms of therapy so that the child does not go, for example, through a physiotherapy session followed by a language session; it is an approach where all aspects are integrated (Lind 2000, p44). In conductive education a single individual, a conductor, is responsible for most areas of the child’s development. In Hungary, conductors attend a four year degree course at university level focusing on special education. According to Darrah et al, they plan and supervise the program and select the groups of children to attend. They are also responsible for curriculum development (2004) but this particular dimension is not universally agreed with, for example, MacKay (1995) arguing that conductive education has little to do with curriculum issues.   

 

Another key characteristic of conductive education is that it works in groups; children in each group work together and encourage each other with the conductor leading the group and providing a supportive environment. And, although benefits have been reported for adults, Kozma (1995) argues that conductive education’s greatest effectiveness has been demonstrated in cases of damage which occurred around the time of birth.

 

According to Morgan and Hogan (2005), conductive education was introduced from Hungary to the UK in1987 while Sutton (2002) sets this date one year earlier, in 1986, when the Foundation for Conductive Education, a national charity, was formed. This Foundation, through public funding and charitable donations, sent British teachers to Hungary to train as conductors and in 1995 it inaugurated the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) in Birmingham. Since then the Institute has continued to provide learning opportunities for children and adults with motor disorders. The Foundation, in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, trained the first conductors in the UK who graduated in 2000 (Sutton, 2002). In 2006, Rozsahegyi (2006) reported that conductive education was available in different forms in the UK in around 40 schools and centres.

 

 

Research on Conductive Education

 

Research on conductive education may be categorized (though with acknowledged overlaps) into evaluations of its benefits in relation to traditional forms of habilitation, research on parents’ views and research on the process of decision-making regarding selection for places in conductive education schools. This brief review will focus on these key issues.

 

Research on the efficacy of conductive education is at best inconclusive and at worst contentious. In the early 1990s, two projects, one in Germany and one in the UK, sought to compare conductive education with the traditional forms of special education in order to determine which system was more effective in promoting the development of children with cerebral palsy. A secondary aim of these projects was to identify and express the principles on which conductive education operates as there seemed to be a lack of a coherent theoretical basis for this system. This is consistent with what the successor of Petö, Maria Hari, wrote in 1970. In the foreword to her book on, what she called ‘the general principles and practice of conductive education’, she argued that this practice is not an ‘adamant routine but [should be] developed and shaped for each individual by skilled continual monitoring and adjusted at need’ (Hari & Akos1988, pviii – my insertion for meaning). 

 

Stukat (1995) reviewed both projects and found very few significant differences between the comparison groups with both groups, the conductive education and the control group, making similar progress. Regarding the UK group, it was found that there was a discrepancy between the research and the conductors’ assessment scales in relation to the children’s progress. When children showed progress on the conductors’ scales there was little change shown on the corresponding research scales and where there was regression shown on the research scales this was rarely reflected on the conductors’ scales.

 

Stukat also pointed out that while the findings of both projects were similar, the German project presented the results in a positive manner and apparently prepared the ground for introducing conductive education in that country. On the other hand, the UK conclusions and recommendations were negative in terms of the efficiency of conductive education. The author concludes that

 

‘… the essential message from the two projects seems to be that neither have the most sanguine expectations nor the worst misgivings of conductive education been substantiated by the evaluations reviewed…’ Stukat 1995, p159

 

When comparing instances of conductive education in England and Wales and the Hungarian model, MacKay (1995) argued that tensions can be created when transferring the model to the UK. Considering the demands of the National Curriculum in contrast to the Petö pedagogical system, MacKay quoted a paper by Lambert (1992). Lambert, formerly of the Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham, found that the two approaches to the teaching of language, writing, mathematics, science and technology are very different. As Lambert argued, the Institute of Conductive Education is part of the British educational system and it has to prepare its children for the local educational setting even if this creates conflict with the conductive education system. In his words:

 

‘… conductive education in a different national setting must take into account the school setting for which it is preparing its children...’ Lambert 1992, p151

 

MacKay stressed the importance of the integration of curriculum development and delivery method if conductive education is to be established in the UK and he echoed Lambert in saying that British children need a British system of help to prepare them to live in this country; a system that will be integrated with the British culture (1995).

 

Despite inconclusive research findings regarding the efficacy of conductive education, and the problems regarding its successful transfer from a country such as Hungary to the UK educational system, parents of children with motor disorders have been keen to secure a place for their children in the few establishments that offer conductive education in the UK. However, the literature reflects a number of challenges for parents looking for a placement for their child in conductive education settings such as the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham. Morgan and Hogan’s qualitative study on the experiences of education administrators responsible for allocating places in conductive education or special school settings highlights one such challenge (2005).

 

According to Morgan and Hogan, education administrators responsible for statementing are the people who ultimately decide whether a child will be placed in a conductive education school or not. However, they argue that such people have little or no knowledge of the actual needs of children with motor disorders or of conductive education for that matter, and do not receive relevant training. Furthermore, they argue that their official position in local education authorities does not require that they have any experience in special education issues or any relevant qualifications.  In their own words:

 

‘… education administrators could potentially be appointed on the basis of their academic qualifications and work experience but such work experience does not necessarily have to have been in the area of special educational needs or education. Moreover, subsequent training is arbitrary, often desired, but pragmatically problematic.’ Morgan and Hogan 2005, p153

 

In their study, Morgan and Hogan report that a typical response of education administrators to the question ‘what do you understand about conductive education’ was negatively expressed. Since conductive education is a system that involves not only the individual but the whole family, parents are actively participating in the process and as a consequence they usually have a substantial amount of related knowledge. This situation makes the statementing process and related discussions with parents more problematic for ‘… parents are often more informed about conductive education than are administrators’ (p154).

 

The lack of availability of clear information on placement criteria and decisions seems to have persisted since the introduction of conductive education in the UK; according to Taylor and Emery (1995). Their study on health sector professionals and their knowledge of conductive education highlighted the need for them to receive much better, clearer and systematic information in order for them to advise parents more fully’ (p178). It is indicative of their findings that 40% of the health professionals who took part in their study expressed uncertainty or lack of knowledge of the theoretical basis of conductive education.  It is interesting how ten years later, Morgan and Hogan find the same lack of information regarding conductive education among professionals, in this case education administrators.

 

Unlike some professionals, parents of children who attend conductive education classes are very knowledgeable regarding the conductive education system. Furthermore, despite the lack of what might be termed ‘scientific’ evidence on the superiority of conductive education in relation to other methods, parents have expressed more positive attitudes compared to professionals. Lind (2000) surveyed 200 families and more specifically parents’ views on the Move and Walk training, a conductive education system used in a habilitation centre in Sweden; of the 116 parents that responded 83 indicated that their expectations were either fulfilled or partly fulfilled. However, a sizeable minority also expressed their unhappiness with the training offered.

 

The positively disposed parents found that their children had enjoyed the training and had become more motivated to continue training at home. Although many parents said that it would be hard to continue with the training at home as they lacked time, 101 parents stated that they did continue with the training at home.

 

The social contact with other parents was also mentioned as a positive factor as it provided much needed support and the opportunity for those in a similar situation to exchange views and give each other advice.  Another positive aspect of this system was found to be the contact between parents and child during the course; they felt that in this setting they could offer time and attention to their child without being distracted by everyday duties (Lind, 2000).     

 

The Lind study and other research (for example Taylor and Emery, 1995; Morgan and Hogan, 2000)) have highlighted the fact that parents regard conductive education quite highly. In Taylor and Emery’s own words:

 

‘… the demand for conductive education in the UK, as in other countries, has been parent-led because they perceive a system which appears to produce results, enables them [parents] to be fully involved in the education of their child and welcomes them as participants in a concentrated and coordinated effort for development, which often contrasts with mainstream provision which is frequently (though not always) fragmented, desultory and episodic.’ Taylor & Emery 1995, p178

 

On the other hand, Lind suggests that one factor that should be taken into account when looking at parents’ views, is the amount of time parents spend with their child and the concentrated effort they make while participating in conductive education activities. Lind argues that many other activities in regular habilitation settings could probably give the same results if parents spent as much time with their child as they do within conductive education (Lind 2005).

 

Threats to Conductive Education Provision

 

The literature reports on the threats in recent yers to conductive education provision, with both analyses of reasons and possible improvement. Darrah et al (2004) for example, make an interesting point which may help to explain why conductive education may seem slightly dated to some and why funding may be difficult to secure. They argue that original conductive education programmes did not involve the use of any assistive devices except for equipment designed specifically for this system. The lack of accessibility to schools etc. in earlier times compared to today made independent movement and walking a priority so conductive education’s main aim was to get the child to walk independently. However nowadays there is abundance of assistive technology and good accessibility of most services to people with disabilities therefore conductive education ‘… should be modified to accommodate different cultural and educational models’ (Darrah et al 2004, p202).

 

This same proposition was made by Stukat nine years earlier (1995). His evaluation of the German and UK projects in the early 1990s, concluded, among other things, that problems arise from attempts to integrate technological innovations in a programme that traditionally has worked with very simple equipment and attempts to stimulate children to make use of the innovations in order to achieve greater independence (Stukat, 1995). He has also referred to the nature of the conductive education regime and its need for revision and theoretical clarification if it was to survive. In his words:

 

‘Much of the resistance that has met conductive education refers to features that are regarded as inconsistent with educational ideals of today – e.g. an authoritarian teaching style, a too structured programme and a non-relative view of handicap.’ Stukat 1995, p160

 

Rozsahegyi (2006), a conductor-trainer at the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) may have another solution to the problem of existing conductive education settings facing possible closure because of lack of funding. She argues that many of the children at NICE attend part-time and in addition to their mainstream early years setting. This allows them access to specialized input from a conductive education perspective to promote independence. At the same time NICE provides guidance to practitioners through workshops and training courses so that they can support successfully these children in ways that complement conductive education methods.

 

Sutton (2002) has also argued that although conductive education was introduced in the UK as full-time,  specialist education, it has now developed and diversified worldwide according to the needs of its recipients, often as short-time, part-time, summer-time or home-based programmes. Part-time conductive education centres may be more viable and easier to fund as they would not serve and depend on only a few pupils, instead they could offer their additional, specialized support to all those attending mainstream education.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

This review has considered some of the key issues highlighted by the problems associated with the inconclusive evidence on the efficacy of conductive education. There is evidence that the method may lead to better outcomes for children with motor disorders than other habilitation provisions and there is evidence that it may be no more effective than other methods. Studies such as that of Stukat (1995) are few in number and force the conclusion that the ‘scientific’ evidence involving systematic analysis of learning and orthofuntional improvement is inconclusive. There is also evidence that the parents’ desire for conductive education is based on more qualitative dimensions of the outcome of conductive education such as improved motivation of their children but there are also indications that this is not the experience of everyone. Overall there seems to be insufficient evidence to suggest that conductive education can be a viable alternative to special education. Darrah et al’s (2004) report for the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) emphasizes this position:

 

‘… the present literature base does not provide conclusive evidence either in support of or against conductive education as an intervention strategy. The limited number of studies and their weak quality makes it impossible for the literature alone to guide decision-making regarding conductive education.’ Darrah et al 2004, p202

 

 

Studies in the area of conductive education have failed, as Sutton (2007) puts it, to show whether conductive education, as an educational programme for children with motor disorders is better or worse than mainstream special education. Sutton’s 2007 report represents a more exhaustive review of the field than this brief work can match, but the conclusions are consistent across the various writers in the field. Sutton calls for more research and critical reviews in this area, and emphasizes the need for a different kind of research to the comparative outcome-based model that predominates at present. He argues specifically that researchers should forget where conductive education was first conceived seventy years ago and should see it as the international movement it has become in the last thirty years. In his own words:

 

‘It is high time that new research questions took account of the internationalization of Conductive Education and the realities of the twenty-first century.’ Sutton 2007, p18

 

 

Notes on the Review Sources

 

Key reference: Sutton (2007) - CE-related research; a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. Unpublished paper.

 

Literature searches were carried out as follows:

 

Database searches: ARRTS, BEI, ERIC.

 

On-line searches: Queen’s QCAT e-Journals including European Journal of Special Needs Education, British Journal of Special Education, Educational and Child Psychology.

 

 


References

 

Darrah, J., Watkins, B., Chen, L & Bonin, C. (2004) Conductive education intervention for children with cerebral palsy: an AACPDM evidence report. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 46, 187-203.

Hari, M. & Akos, K. (1988) Conductive education. Translated  1971 text into English by Neville Horton Smith and Joy Stevens. London: Routledge.

Kozma, I. (1995) The basic principles and present practice of conductive education. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 111-123.

Lambert, M. (1992) Conductive education in a new context. British Journal of Special Education.  19(4), 149-152.

Lind, L. (2000) Parents’ views of the efficacy of conductive education in Sweden. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 15(1), 42-54.

MacKay, G. (1995) Some problems with the translation: conductive pedagogy in the context of comparative education.  European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 162-168.

Morgan, A. & Hogan, K. (2005) School placement and conductive education: the experiences of education administrators. British Journal of Special Education.  32(3), 149-156.

Rozsahegyi, T. (2006) Careful planning and routine are key to development. Early Years Educator (EYE). 8(4), 52-54

Stukat, K.G. (1995) Conductive education evaluated.  European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 154-161.

Sutton, A. (2002) Alternative practice: Alternative perspectives. Educational and Child Psychology. 19(2), 107-116.

Sutton, A. (2007) CE-related research; a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. Unpublished paper.

Taylor, M. & Emery, R. (1995) Knowldege of conductive education among health service professionals. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 169-179.

 

Short Literature Review on Conductive Education 

 

A Report for the General Teaching Council in Northern Ireland

 

Presented by

 

Dr Despina Galanouli

 

School of Education/GTCNI

 

Queen’s University Belfast

 

March 2010

 


Conductive Education – A Brief Overview

of the Literature

Definition 

The term Conductive Education refers to a pedagogical system for assisting the development of those with motor disorders, in other words with problems of coordinating movement as a result of a neurological disease or damage.  Conductive education can be used with both children (mostly those with cerebral palsy) and adults. Although addressing the development of individuals with severe health problems, conductive education, as Sutton argues, is not a therapy as it proposes no cure, but is

 

‘… a pedagogy directed towards mental change, in motivation, self-worth, movement skills, self-help skills, with concomitant social effects through factors such as independence, family function and social relationships.’ Sutton 2002 (p109)

 

Sutton’s definition of conductive education as a pedagogy is further supported by MacKay (1995) who argues that the term ‘conductive education’ is not accurate since in its original form, in Hungarian, the term is ‘konductiv pedagógia’ and as MacKay points out this phrase does not translate simply as the broadly based concept:  education. Education includes pedagogy but also curriculum and other structural concepts such as school systems, assessment arrangements, advisory services for schools etc. Pedagogy specifically deals with teaching and learning and this is more relevant to the conductive education system as it is clearly a set of instructions to develop skills. Through conductive education techniques the child is encouraged and enabled to develop ‘orthofunction’, which means autonomous skills for daily living. Furthermore it represents an holistic approach to skills development in that it addresses the whole person and not only their disability (Morgan and Hogan, 2005). Darrah et al (2004) also point out that conductive education addresses many aspects of a child’s development and personality including academic skills, social skills and communication skills and not simply motor function.

 

 

History

Conductive education originates from Hungary where it was first conceived by Dr Andreas Petö, a doctor and educationalist, in the 1940s, while he was assisting children with motor dysfunction to attain ‘orthofunction’ so that they could attend school as independently as possible. According to Cozma (1995) it was the shift from teaching to learning and from passive reception to active participation by the learner that contributed and led to the emergence of conductive education. Petö’s development of such an innovative habilitation and rehabilitation process, through active learning and focusing on the personality, was considered revolutionary for his time as it was based on an educational rather than medical intervention (Darrah et al, 2004).

 

What made conductive education particularly unique was its holistic nature. Before its emergence, the support norm involved various experts looking at each problem of a disabled person, which might be motion, speech or learning-related, individually and independently of each other. According to Lind, the conductive education approach stresses the integration of all forms of therapy so that the child does not go, for example, through a physiotherapy session followed by a language session; it is an approach where all aspects are integrated (Lind 2000, p44). In conductive education a single individual, a conductor, is responsible for most areas of the child’s development. In Hungary, conductors attend a four year degree course at university level focusing on special education. According to Darrah et al, they plan and supervise the program and select the groups of children to attend. They are also responsible for curriculum development (2004) but this particular dimension is not universally agreed with, for example, MacKay (1995) arguing that conductive education has little to do with curriculum issues.   

 

Another key characteristic of conductive education is that it works in groups; children in each group work together and encourage each other with the conductor leading the group and providing a supportive environment. And, although benefits have been reported for adults, Kozma (1995) argues that conductive education’s greatest effectiveness has been demonstrated in cases of damage which occurred around the time of birth.

 

According to Morgan and Hogan (2005), conductive education was introduced from Hungary to the UK in1987 while Sutton (2002) sets this date one year earlier, in 1986, when the Foundation for Conductive Education, a national charity, was formed. This Foundation, through public funding and charitable donations, sent British teachers to Hungary to train as conductors and in 1995 it inaugurated the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) in Birmingham. Since then the Institute has continued to provide learning opportunities for children and adults with motor disorders. The Foundation, in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, trained the first conductors in the UK who graduated in 2000 (Sutton, 2002). In 2006, Rozsahegyi (2006) reported that conductive education was available in different forms in the UK in around 40 schools and centres.

 

 

Research on Conductive Education

 

Research on conductive education may be categorized (though with acknowledged overlaps) into evaluations of its benefits in relation to traditional forms of habilitation, research on parents’ views and research on the process of decision-making regarding selection for places in conductive education schools. This brief review will focus on these key issues.

 

Research on the efficacy of conductive education is at best inconclusive and at worst contentious. In the early 1990s, two projects, one in Germany and one in the UK, sought to compare conductive education with the traditional forms of special education in order to determine which system was more effective in promoting the development of children with cerebral palsy. A secondary aim of these projects was to identify and express the principles on which conductive education operates as there seemed to be a lack of a coherent theoretical basis for this system. This is consistent with what the successor of Petö, Maria Hari, wrote in 1970. In the foreword to her book on, what she called ‘the general principles and practice of conductive education’, she argued that this practice is not an ‘adamant routine but [should be] developed and shaped for each individual by skilled continual monitoring and adjusted at need’ (Hari & Akos1988, pviii – my insertion for meaning). 

 

Stukat (1995) reviewed both projects and found very few significant differences between the comparison groups with both groups, the conductive education and the control group, making similar progress. Regarding the UK group, it was found that there was a discrepancy between the research and the conductors’ assessment scales in relation to the children’s progress. When children showed progress on the conductors’ scales there was little change shown on the corresponding research scales and where there was regression shown on the research scales this was rarely reflected on the conductors’ scales.

 

Stukat also pointed out that while the findings of both projects were similar, the German project presented the results in a positive manner and apparently prepared the ground for introducing conductive education in that country. On the other hand, the UK conclusions and recommendations were negative in terms of the efficiency of conductive education. The author concludes that

 

‘… the essential message from the two projects seems to be that neither have the most sanguine expectations nor the worst misgivings of conductive education been substantiated by the evaluations reviewed…’ Stukat 1995, p159

 

When comparing instances of conductive education in England and Wales and the Hungarian model, MacKay (1995) argued that tensions can be created when transferring the model to the UK. Considering the demands of the National Curriculum in contrast to the Petö pedagogical system, MacKay quoted a paper by Lambert (1992). Lambert, formerly of the Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham, found that the two approaches to the teaching of language, writing, mathematics, science and technology are very different. As Lambert argued, the Institute of Conductive Education is part of the British educational system and it has to prepare its children for the local educational setting even if this creates conflict with the conductive education system. In his words:

 

‘… conductive education in a different national setting must take into account the school setting for which it is preparing its children...’ Lambert 1992, p151

 

MacKay stressed the importance of the integration of curriculum development and delivery method if conductive education is to be established in the UK and he echoed Lambert in saying that British children need a British system of help to prepare them to live in this country; a system that will be integrated with the British culture (1995).

 

Despite inconclusive research findings regarding the efficacy of conductive education, and the problems regarding its successful transfer from a country such as Hungary to the UK educational system, parents of children with motor disorders have been keen to secure a place for their children in the few establishments that offer conductive education in the UK. However, the literature reflects a number of challenges for parents looking for a placement for their child in conductive education settings such as the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham. Morgan and Hogan’s qualitative study on the experiences of education administrators responsible for allocating places in conductive education or special school settings highlights one such challenge (2005).

 

According to Morgan and Hogan, education administrators responsible for statementing are the people who ultimately decide whether a child will be placed in a conductive education school or not. However, they argue that such people have little or no knowledge of the actual needs of children with motor disorders or of conductive education for that matter, and do not receive relevant training. Furthermore, they argue that their official position in local education authorities does not require that they have any experience in special education issues or any relevant qualifications.  In their own words:

 

‘… education administrators could potentially be appointed on the basis of their academic qualifications and work experience but such work experience does not necessarily have to have been in the area of special educational needs or education. Moreover, subsequent training is arbitrary, often desired, but pragmatically problematic.’ Morgan and Hogan 2005, p153

 

In their study, Morgan and Hogan report that a typical response of education administrators to the question ‘what do you understand about conductive education’ was negatively expressed. Since conductive education is a system that involves not only the individual but the whole family, parents are actively participating in the process and as a consequence they usually have a substantial amount of related knowledge. This situation makes the statementing process and related discussions with parents more problematic for ‘… parents are often more informed about conductive education than are administrators’ (p154).

 

The lack of availability of clear information on placement criteria and decisions seems to have persisted since the introduction of conductive education in the UK; according to Taylor and Emery (1995). Their study on health sector professionals and their knowledge of conductive education highlighted the need for them to receive much better, clearer and systematic information in order for them to advise parents more fully’ (p178). It is indicative of their findings that 40% of the health professionals who took part in their study expressed uncertainty or lack of knowledge of the theoretical basis of conductive education.  It is interesting how ten years later, Morgan and Hogan find the same lack of information regarding conductive education among professionals, in this case education administrators.

 

Unlike some professionals, parents of children who attend conductive education classes are very knowledgeable regarding the conductive education system. Furthermore, despite the lack of what might be termed ‘scientific’ evidence on the superiority of conductive education in relation to other methods, parents have expressed more positive attitudes compared to professionals. Lind (2000) surveyed 200 families and more specifically parents’ views on the Move and Walk training, a conductive education system used in a habilitation centre in Sweden; of the 116 parents that responded 83 indicated that their expectations were either fulfilled or partly fulfilled. However, a sizeable minority also expressed their unhappiness with the training offered.

 

The positively disposed parents found that their children had enjoyed the training and had become more motivated to continue training at home. Although many parents said that it would be hard to continue with the training at home as they lacked time, 101 parents stated that they did continue with the training at home.

 

The social contact with other parents was also mentioned as a positive factor as it provided much needed support and the opportunity for those in a similar situation to exchange views and give each other advice.  Another positive aspect of this system was found to be the contact between parents and child during the course; they felt that in this setting they could offer time and attention to their child without being distracted by everyday duties (Lind, 2000).     

 

The Lind study and other research (for example Taylor and Emery, 1995; Morgan and Hogan, 2000)) have highlighted the fact that parents regard conductive education quite highly. In Taylor and Emery’s own words:

 

‘… the demand for conductive education in the UK, as in other countries, has been parent-led because they perceive a system which appears to produce results, enables them [parents] to be fully involved in the education of their child and welcomes them as participants in a concentrated and coordinated effort for development, which often contrasts with mainstream provision which is frequently (though not always) fragmented, desultory and episodic.’ Taylor & Emery 1995, p178

 

On the other hand, Lind suggests that one factor that should be taken into account when looking at parents’ views, is the amount of time parents spend with their child and the concentrated effort they make while participating in conductive education activities. Lind argues that many other activities in regular habilitation settings could probably give the same results if parents spent as much time with their child as they do within conductive education (Lind 2005).

 

Threats to Conductive Education Provision

 

The literature reports on the threats in recent yers to conductive education provision, with both analyses of reasons and possible improvement. Darrah et al (2004) for example, make an interesting point which may help to explain why conductive education may seem slightly dated to some and why funding may be difficult to secure. They argue that original conductive education programmes did not involve the use of any assistive devices except for equipment designed specifically for this system. The lack of accessibility to schools etc. in earlier times compared to today made independent movement and walking a priority so conductive education’s main aim was to get the child to walk independently. However nowadays there is abundance of assistive technology and good accessibility of most services to people with disabilities therefore conductive education ‘… should be modified to accommodate different cultural and educational models’ (Darrah et al 2004, p202).

 

This same proposition was made by Stukat nine years earlier (1995). His evaluation of the German and UK projects in the early 1990s, concluded, among other things, that problems arise from attempts to integrate technological innovations in a programme that traditionally has worked with very simple equipment and attempts to stimulate children to make use of the innovations in order to achieve greater independence (Stukat, 1995). He has also referred to the nature of the conductive education regime and its need for revision and theoretical clarification if it was to survive. In his words:

 

‘Much of the resistance that has met conductive education refers to features that are regarded as inconsistent with educational ideals of today – e.g. an authoritarian teaching style, a too structured programme and a non-relative view of handicap.’ Stukat 1995, p160

 

Rozsahegyi (2006), a conductor-trainer at the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) may have another solution to the problem of existing conductive education settings facing possible closure because of lack of funding. She argues that many of the children at NICE attend part-time and in addition to their mainstream early years setting. This allows them access to specialized input from a conductive education perspective to promote independence. At the same time NICE provides guidance to practitioners through workshops and training courses so that they can support successfully these children in ways that complement conductive education methods.

 

Sutton (2002) has also argued that although conductive education was introduced in the UK as full-time,  specialist education, it has now developed and diversified worldwide according to the needs of its recipients, often as short-time, part-time, summer-time or home-based programmes. Part-time conductive education centres may be more viable and easier to fund as they would not serve and depend on only a few pupils, instead they could offer their additional, specialized support to all those attending mainstream education.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

This review has considered some of the key issues highlighted by the problems associated with the inconclusive evidence on the efficacy of conductive education. There is evidence that the method may lead to better outcomes for children with motor disorders than other habilitation provisions and there is evidence that it may be no more effective than other methods. Studies such as that of Stukat (1995) are few in number and force the conclusion that the ‘scientific’ evidence involving systematic analysis of learning and orthofuntional improvement is inconclusive. There is also evidence that the parents’ desire for conductive education is based on more qualitative dimensions of the outcome of conductive education such as improved motivation of their children but there are also indications that this is not the experience of everyone. Overall there seems to be insufficient evidence to suggest that conductive education can be a viable alternative to special education. Darrah et al’s (2004) report for the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) emphasizes this position:

 

‘… the present literature base does not provide conclusive evidence either in support of or against conductive education as an intervention strategy. The limited number of studies and their weak quality makes it impossible for the literature alone to guide decision-making regarding conductive education.’ Darrah et al 2004, p202

 

 

Studies in the area of conductive education have failed, as Sutton (2007) puts it, to show whether conductive education, as an educational programme for children with motor disorders is better or worse than mainstream special education. Sutton’s 2007 report represents a more exhaustive review of the field than this brief work can match, but the conclusions are consistent across the various writers in the field. Sutton calls for more research and critical reviews in this area, and emphasizes the need for a different kind of research to the comparative outcome-based model that predominates at present. He argues specifically that researchers should forget where conductive education was first conceived seventy years ago and should see it as the international movement it has become in the last thirty years. In his own words:

 

‘It is high time that new research questions took account of the internationalization of Conductive Education and the realities of the twenty-first century.’ Sutton 2007, p18

 

 

Notes on the Review Sources

 

Key reference: Sutton (2007) - CE-related research; a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. Unpublished paper.

 

Literature searches were carried out as follows:

 

Database searches: ARRTS, BEI, ERIC.

 

On-line searches: Queen’s QCAT e-Journals including European Journal of Special Needs Education, British Journal of Special Education, Educational and Child Psychology.

 

 


References

 

Darrah, J., Watkins, B., Chen, L & Bonin, C. (2004) Conductive education intervention for children with cerebral palsy: an AACPDM evidence report. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 46, 187-203.

Hari, M. & Akos, K. (1988) Conductive education. Translated  1971 text into English by Neville Horton Smith and Joy Stevens. London: Routledge.

Kozma, I. (1995) The basic principles and present practice of conductive education. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 111-123.

Lambert, M. (1992) Conductive education in a new context. British Journal of Special Education.  19(4), 149-152.

Lind, L. (2000) Parents’ views of the efficacy of conductive education in Sweden. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 15(1), 42-54.

MacKay, G. (1995) Some problems with the translation: conductive pedagogy in the context of comparative education.  European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 162-168.

Morgan, A. & Hogan, K. (2005) School placement and conductive education: the experiences of education administrators. British Journal of Special Education.  32(3), 149-156.

Rozsahegyi, T. (2006) Careful planning and routine are key to development. Early Years Educator (EYE). 8(4), 52-54

Stukat, K.G. (1995) Conductive education evaluated.  European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 154-161.

Sutton, A. (2002) Alternative practice: Alternative perspectives. Educational and Child Psychology. 19(2), 107-116.

Sutton, A. (2007) CE-related research; a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. Unpublished paper.

Taylor, M. & Emery, R. (1995) Knowldege of conductive education among health service professionals. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 169-179.

Short Literature Review on Conductive Education 

 

A Report for the General Teaching Council in Northern Ireland

 

Presented by

 

Dr Despina Galanouli

 

School of Education/GTCNI

 

Queen’s University Belfast

 

March 2010

 


Conductive Education – A Brief Overview

of the Literature

Definition 

The term Conductive Education refers to a pedagogical system for assisting the development of those with motor disorders, in other words with problems of coordinating movement as a result of a neurological disease or damage.  Conductive education can be used with both children (mostly those with cerebral palsy) and adults. Although addressing the development of individuals with severe health problems, conductive education, as Sutton argues, is not a therapy as it proposes no cure, but is

 

‘… a pedagogy directed towards mental change, in motivation, self-worth, movement skills, self-help skills, with concomitant social effects through factors such as independence, family function and social relationships.’ Sutton 2002 (p109)

 

Sutton’s definition of conductive education as a pedagogy is further supported by MacKay (1995) who argues that the term ‘conductive education’ is not accurate since in its original form, in Hungarian, the term is ‘konductiv pedagógia’ and as MacKay points out this phrase does not translate simply as the broadly based concept:  education. Education includes pedagogy but also curriculum and other structural concepts such as school systems, assessment arrangements, advisory services for schools etc. Pedagogy specifically deals with teaching and learning and this is more relevant to the conductive education system as it is clearly a set of instructions to develop skills. Through conductive education techniques the child is encouraged and enabled to develop ‘orthofunction’, which means autonomous skills for daily living. Furthermore it represents an holistic approach to skills development in that it addresses the whole person and not only their disability (Morgan and Hogan, 2005). Darrah et al (2004) also point out that conductive education addresses many aspects of a child’s development and personality including academic skills, social skills and communication skills and not simply motor function.

 

 

History

Conductive education originates from Hungary where it was first conceived by Dr Andreas Petö, a doctor and educationalist, in the 1940s, while he was assisting children with motor dysfunction to attain ‘orthofunction’ so that they could attend school as independently as possible. According to Cozma (1995) it was the shift from teaching to learning and from passive reception to active participation by the learner that contributed and led to the emergence of conductive education. Petö’s development of such an innovative habilitation and rehabilitation process, through active learning and focusing on the personality, was considered revolutionary for his time as it was based on an educational rather than medical intervention (Darrah et al, 2004).

 

What made conductive education particularly unique was its holistic nature. Before its emergence, the support norm involved various experts looking at each problem of a disabled person, which might be motion, speech or learning-related, individually and independently of each other. According to Lind, the conductive education approach stresses the integration of all forms of therapy so that the child does not go, for example, through a physiotherapy session followed by a language session; it is an approach where all aspects are integrated (Lind 2000, p44). In conductive education a single individual, a conductor, is responsible for most areas of the child’s development. In Hungary, conductors attend a four year degree course at university level focusing on special education. According to Darrah et al, they plan and supervise the program and select the groups of children to attend. They are also responsible for curriculum development (2004) but this particular dimension is not universally agreed with, for example, MacKay (1995) arguing that conductive education has little to do with curriculum issues.   

 

Another key characteristic of conductive education is that it works in groups; children in each group work together and encourage each other with the conductor leading the group and providing a supportive environment. And, although benefits have been reported for adults, Kozma (1995) argues that conductive education’s greatest effectiveness has been demonstrated in cases of damage which occurred around the time of birth.

 

According to Morgan and Hogan (2005), conductive education was introduced from Hungary to the UK in1987 while Sutton (2002) sets this date one year earlier, in 1986, when the Foundation for Conductive Education, a national charity, was formed. This Foundation, through public funding and charitable donations, sent British teachers to Hungary to train as conductors and in 1995 it inaugurated the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) in Birmingham. Since then the Institute has continued to provide learning opportunities for children and adults with motor disorders. The Foundation, in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, trained the first conductors in the UK who graduated in 2000 (Sutton, 2002). In 2006, Rozsahegyi (2006) reported that conductive education was available in different forms in the UK in around 40 schools and centres.

 

 

Research on Conductive Education

 

Research on conductive education may be categorized (though with acknowledged overlaps) into evaluations of its benefits in relation to traditional forms of habilitation, research on parents’ views and research on the process of decision-making regarding selection for places in conductive education schools. This brief review will focus on these key issues.

 

Research on the efficacy of conductive education is at best inconclusive and at worst contentious. In the early 1990s, two projects, one in Germany and one in the UK, sought to compare conductive education with the traditional forms of special education in order to determine which system was more effective in promoting the development of children with cerebral palsy. A secondary aim of these projects was to identify and express the principles on which conductive education operates as there seemed to be a lack of a coherent theoretical basis for this system. This is consistent with what the successor of Petö, Maria Hari, wrote in 1970. In the foreword to her book on, what she called ‘the general principles and practice of conductive education’, she argued that this practice is not an ‘adamant routine but [should be] developed and shaped for each individual by skilled continual monitoring and adjusted at need’ (Hari & Akos1988, pviii – my insertion for meaning). 

 

Stukat (1995) reviewed both projects and found very few significant differences between the comparison groups with both groups, the conductive education and the control group, making similar progress. Regarding the UK group, it was found that there was a discrepancy between the research and the conductors’ assessment scales in relation to the children’s progress. When children showed progress on the conductors’ scales there was little change shown on the corresponding research scales and where there was regression shown on the research scales this was rarely reflected on the conductors’ scales.

 

Stukat also pointed out that while the findings of both projects were similar, the German project presented the results in a positive manner and apparently prepared the ground for introducing conductive education in that country. On the other hand, the UK conclusions and recommendations were negative in terms of the efficiency of conductive education. The author concludes that

 

‘… the essential message from the two projects seems to be that neither have the most sanguine expectations nor the worst misgivings of conductive education been substantiated by the evaluations reviewed…’ Stukat 1995, p159

 

When comparing instances of conductive education in England and Wales and the Hungarian model, MacKay (1995) argued that tensions can be created when transferring the model to the UK. Considering the demands of the National Curriculum in contrast to the Petö pedagogical system, MacKay quoted a paper by Lambert (1992). Lambert, formerly of the Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham, found that the two approaches to the teaching of language, writing, mathematics, science and technology are very different. As Lambert argued, the Institute of Conductive Education is part of the British educational system and it has to prepare its children for the local educational setting even if this creates conflict with the conductive education system. In his words:

 

‘… conductive education in a different national setting must take into account the school setting for which it is preparing its children...’ Lambert 1992, p151

 

MacKay stressed the importance of the integration of curriculum development and delivery method if conductive education is to be established in the UK and he echoed Lambert in saying that British children need a British system of help to prepare them to live in this country; a system that will be integrated with the British culture (1995).

 

Despite inconclusive research findings regarding the efficacy of conductive education, and the problems regarding its successful transfer from a country such as Hungary to the UK educational system, parents of children with motor disorders have been keen to secure a place for their children in the few establishments that offer conductive education in the UK. However, the literature reflects a number of challenges for parents looking for a placement for their child in conductive education settings such as the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham. Morgan and Hogan’s qualitative study on the experiences of education administrators responsible for allocating places in conductive education or special school settings highlights one such challenge (2005).

 

According to Morgan and Hogan, education administrators responsible for statementing are the people who ultimately decide whether a child will be placed in a conductive education school or not. However, they argue that such people have little or no knowledge of the actual needs of children with motor disorders or of conductive education for that matter, and do not receive relevant training. Furthermore, they argue that their official position in local education authorities does not require that they have any experience in special education issues or any relevant qualifications.  In their own words:

 

‘… education administrators could potentially be appointed on the basis of their academic qualifications and work experience but such work experience does not necessarily have to have been in the area of special educational needs or education. Moreover, subsequent training is arbitrary, often desired, but pragmatically problematic.’ Morgan and Hogan 2005, p153

 

In their study, Morgan and Hogan report that a typical response of education administrators to the question ‘what do you understand about conductive education’ was negatively expressed. Since conductive education is a system that involves not only the individual but the whole family, parents are actively participating in the process and as a consequence they usually have a substantial amount of related knowledge. This situation makes the statementing process and related discussions with parents more problematic for ‘… parents are often more informed about conductive education than are administrators’ (p154).

 

The lack of availability of clear information on placement criteria and decisions seems to have persisted since the introduction of conductive education in the UK; according to Taylor and Emery (1995). Their study on health sector professionals and their knowledge of conductive education highlighted the need for them to receive much better, clearer and systematic information in order for them to advise parents more fully’ (p178). It is indicative of their findings that 40% of the health professionals who took part in their study expressed uncertainty or lack of knowledge of the theoretical basis of conductive education.  It is interesting how ten years later, Morgan and Hogan find the same lack of information regarding conductive education among professionals, in this case education administrators.

 

Unlike some professionals, parents of children who attend conductive education classes are very knowledgeable regarding the conductive education system. Furthermore, despite the lack of what might be termed ‘scientific’ evidence on the superiority of conductive education in relation to other methods, parents have expressed more positive attitudes compared to professionals. Lind (2000) surveyed 200 families and more specifically parents’ views on the Move and Walk training, a conductive education system used in a habilitation centre in Sweden; of the 116 parents that responded 83 indicated that their expectations were either fulfilled or partly fulfilled. However, a sizeable minority also expressed their unhappiness with the training offered.

 

The positively disposed parents found that their children had enjoyed the training and had become more motivated to continue training at home. Although many parents said that it would be hard to continue with the training at home as they lacked time, 101 parents stated that they did continue with the training at home.

 

The social contact with other parents was also mentioned as a positive factor as it provided much needed support and the opportunity for those in a similar situation to exchange views and give each other advice.  Another positive aspect of this system was found to be the contact between parents and child during the course; they felt that in this setting they could offer time and attention to their child without being distracted by everyday duties (Lind, 2000).     

 

The Lind study and other research (for example Taylor and Emery, 1995; Morgan and Hogan, 2000)) have highlighted the fact that parents regard conductive education quite highly. In Taylor and Emery’s own words:

 

‘… the demand for conductive education in the UK, as in other countries, has been parent-led because they perceive a system which appears to produce results, enables them [parents] to be fully involved in the education of their child and welcomes them as participants in a concentrated and coordinated effort for development, which often contrasts with mainstream provision which is frequently (though not always) fragmented, desultory and episodic.’ Taylor & Emery 1995, p178

 

On the other hand, Lind suggests that one factor that should be taken into account when looking at parents’ views, is the amount of time parents spend with their child and the concentrated effort they make while participating in conductive education activities. Lind argues that many other activities in regular habilitation settings could probably give the same results if parents spent as much time with their child as they do within conductive education (Lind 2005).

 

Threats to Conductive Education Provision

 

The literature reports on the threats in recent yers to conductive education provision, with both analyses of reasons and possible improvement. Darrah et al (2004) for example, make an interesting point which may help to explain why conductive education may seem slightly dated to some and why funding may be difficult to secure. They argue that original conductive education programmes did not involve the use of any assistive devices except for equipment designed specifically for this system. The lack of accessibility to schools etc. in earlier times compared to today made independent movement and walking a priority so conductive education’s main aim was to get the child to walk independently. However nowadays there is abundance of assistive technology and good accessibility of most services to people with disabilities therefore conductive education ‘… should be modified to accommodate different cultural and educational models’ (Darrah et al 2004, p202).

 

This same proposition was made by Stukat nine years earlier (1995). His evaluation of the German and UK projects in the early 1990s, concluded, among other things, that problems arise from attempts to integrate technological innovations in a programme that traditionally has worked with very simple equipment and attempts to stimulate children to make use of the innovations in order to achieve greater independence (Stukat, 1995). He has also referred to the nature of the conductive education regime and its need for revision and theoretical clarification if it was to survive. In his words:

 

‘Much of the resistance that has met conductive education refers to features that are regarded as inconsistent with educational ideals of today – e.g. an authoritarian teaching style, a too structured programme and a non-relative view of handicap.’ Stukat 1995, p160

 

Rozsahegyi (2006), a conductor-trainer at the National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE) may have another solution to the problem of existing conductive education settings facing possible closure because of lack of funding. She argues that many of the children at NICE attend part-time and in addition to their mainstream early years setting. This allows them access to specialized input from a conductive education perspective to promote independence. At the same time NICE provides guidance to practitioners through workshops and training courses so that they can support successfully these children in ways that complement conductive education methods.

 

Sutton (2002) has also argued that although conductive education was introduced in the UK as full-time,  specialist education, it has now developed and diversified worldwide according to the needs of its recipients, often as short-time, part-time, summer-time or home-based programmes. Part-time conductive education centres may be more viable and easier to fund as they would not serve and depend on only a few pupils, instead they could offer their additional, specialized support to all those attending mainstream education.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

This review has considered some of the key issues highlighted by the problems associated with the inconclusive evidence on the efficacy of conductive education. There is evidence that the method may lead to better outcomes for children with motor disorders than other habilitation provisions and there is evidence that it may be no more effective than other methods. Studies such as that of Stukat (1995) are few in number and force the conclusion that the ‘scientific’ evidence involving systematic analysis of learning and orthofuntional improvement is inconclusive. There is also evidence that the parents’ desire for conductive education is based on more qualitative dimensions of the outcome of conductive education such as improved motivation of their children but there are also indications that this is not the experience of everyone. Overall there seems to be insufficient evidence to suggest that conductive education can be a viable alternative to special education. Darrah et al’s (2004) report for the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) emphasizes this position:

 

‘… the present literature base does not provide conclusive evidence either in support of or against conductive education as an intervention strategy. The limited number of studies and their weak quality makes it impossible for the literature alone to guide decision-making regarding conductive education.’ Darrah et al 2004, p202

 

 

Studies in the area of conductive education have failed, as Sutton (2007) puts it, to show whether conductive education, as an educational programme for children with motor disorders is better or worse than mainstream special education. Sutton’s 2007 report represents a more exhaustive review of the field than this brief work can match, but the conclusions are consistent across the various writers in the field. Sutton calls for more research and critical reviews in this area, and emphasizes the need for a different kind of research to the comparative outcome-based model that predominates at present. He argues specifically that researchers should forget where conductive education was first conceived seventy years ago and should see it as the international movement it has become in the last thirty years. In his own words:

 

‘It is high time that new research questions took account of the internationalization of Conductive Education and the realities of the twenty-first century.’ Sutton 2007, p18

 

 

Notes on the Review Sources

 

Key reference: Sutton (2007) - CE-related research; a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. Unpublished paper.

 

Literature searches were carried out as follows:

 

Database searches: ARRTS, BEI, ERIC.

 

On-line searches: Queen’s QCAT e-Journals including European Journal of Special Needs Education, British Journal of Special Education, Educational and Child Psychology. 

 

 


References

 

Darrah, J., Watkins, B., Chen, L & Bonin, C. (2004) Conductive education intervention for children with cerebral palsy: an AACPDM evidence report. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 46, 187-203.

Hari, M. & Akos, K. (1988) Conductive education. Translated  1971 text into English by Neville Horton Smith and Joy Stevens. London: Routledge.

Kozma, I. (1995) The basic principles and present practice of conductive education. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 111-123.

Lambert, M. (1992) Conductive education in a new context. British Journal of Special Education.  19(4), 149-152.

Lind, L. (2000) Parents’ views of the efficacy of conductive education in Sweden. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 15(1), 42-54.

MacKay, G. (1995) Some problems with the translation: conductive pedagogy in the context of comparative education.  European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 162-168.

Morgan, A. & Hogan, K. (2005) School placement and conductive education: the experiences of education administrators. British Journal of Special Education.  32(3), 149-156.

Rozsahegyi, T. (2006) Careful planning and routine are key to development. Early Years Educator (EYE). 8(4), 52-54

Stukat, K.G. (1995) Conductive education evaluated.  European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 154-161.

Sutton, A. (2002) Alternative practice: Alternative perspectives. Educational and Child Psychology. 19(2), 107-116.

Sutton, A. (2007) CE-related research; a memorandum to the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. Unpublished paper.

Taylor, M. & Emery, R. (1995) Knowldege of conductive education among health service professionals. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 10(2), 169-179.

 


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