Research undertaken by Dr. Cheryl Cott and Virginia Wright clearly indicates that the three-week intensive sessions offered at Ontario March of Dimes during the summer of 1999 produced clinically viable results (Cott and Wright, “The Evaluation of a Conductive Education Program for Adults with Neurological Impairments,” Ontario March of Dimes, 2000).
However, as important as research demonstrating the efficacy of conductive education is to the acceptance and establishment of this method in Canada, it is not clinical results or evidence-based research that changes the day-to-day experiences of people living with physical disabilities.
As a system of education, intervention and rehabilitation, the aim of conductive education is to impact positively on independence, quality of life, day-to-day experiences, and attitude toward one’s own disability. It is a system that not only emphasizes what is learned in the classroom but, more importantly, uses what is learned to tackle difficulties faced outside of the classroom. It is a method that constantly evolves to meet the needs of each individual in every class over time, growing with them and their achievements.
Due to the limitations of funding, facilities and conductors, adult conductive education in North America traditionally has been offered in short and intensive three-week courses. Ontario March of Dimes research studies in 1995, 1996 and 1999 have shown that this three-week intensive model has measurable and significant benefits for participants. A one-year follow-up study (Laver-Ingram, “One-Year Follow-up Evaluation of the Three Week Conductive Education Intervention for a Sample of Twelve Subjects with Strokes,” Ontario March of Dimes, 1997) of 12 stroke survivors in 1996 showed that gains made by participants in the short three-week conductive education program were maintained after one year.
But the question remains, would there be more gains with a long-term, year-round program? To answer this question and to make conductive education available to more people, Ontario March of Dimes is offering conductive education for adults as a year-round program.
At present, there are 55 individuals taking part in the program. Many of the participants are people with multiple sclerosis or stroke survivors. There are also people with Parkinson’s disease, acquired brain injuries, Friedreich’s ataxia, partial spinal paralysis and cerebral palsy participating in the program, either individually or in groups that are organized based on participants’ individual needs, aims and type of disability. There are classes for all levels of ability and mobility.
In other conductive education news: last summer, 46 children with physical disabilities had the unique opportunity to participate in conductive education summer camps. The camps were offered through chapters of Positive Action for Conductive Education in Ontario (PACE) with the assistance of Ontario March of Dimes.
Ontario March of Dimes is providing administrative support and guidance to the seven PACE chapters in Ontario (located in Sudbury, Oshawa, Ottawa, London, Toronto, Mississauga and Niagara Falls). The administrative support includes: the creation of chapter guidelines and handbooks; the creation of application forms; the distribution of application forms and information packages to parents, relatives and friends; the sourcing and hiring of foreign conductors for the program; guidance on fundraising activities; organizing immigration and visas for all of the conductors; and the processing of applications, fees and donations.
Fifteen conductors were brought over from England and Hungary by Ontario March of Dimes on behalf of PACE to teach in the four-week programs.
This program would not have been possible without the generous financial assistance of the Toronto Dominion Bank, which donated $20,000 to help Ontario March of Dimes provide administrative support to PACE in Ontario chapters and to promote conductive education programs for children in Ontario.
(For more information or application packages for adults’ or children’s Conductive Education programs, contact Kim Sialtsis, Program Coordinator, or Elaine Hall, Program Secretary, at (416) 425-3463, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)