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A Brief History of Everything: Conductive Education

How a Hungarian professor, András Pető, developed Conductive Education: A Holistic Approach to Learning for Children and Adults with Motor Disabilities.


Conductive Education (CE) is a holistic educational approach developed in Hungary by Professor András Pető in the 1940s. It is designed to help children and adults with motor disorders of neurological origin, such as cerebral palsy, reach their full potential.


Pető believed that the brain has a remarkable capacity to form new connections, even after damage has occurred. He also believed that learning is a holistic process that involves all aspects of development, including the sensory, motor, cognitive, communication, and socio-emotional aspects.

The doctor behind Conductive Education: András Pető

Professor András Pető, founder of Conductive Education

Pető (1893 – 1967) was born on 11th September 1893, in Szombathely, Hungary as a son of a commercial father and a teacher mother.


Having studying medicine at the University in Vienna and working in various hospitals in Austria, Andras Peto became an experienced neurologist. A physician and educationalist who was interested in finding new ways to help children with motor disabilities.


He believed that the brain has a remarkable capacity to form new connections, even after damage has occurred. He also believed that learning is a holistic process that involves all aspects of development, including the sensory, motor, cognitive, communication, and socio-emotional aspects.


In 1945, Pető founded the National Institute of Motor Therapy in Budapest, Hungary. There, he began to develop a new approach to education for children with motor disorders. He called his approach "conductive education" because it aimed to "conduct" the child's development through a process of active learning.


Core Principles of Conductive Education

  • Neuroplasticity: The brain is plastic, meaning that it has the ability to form new connections and adapt to change, even after damage has occurred. This is why it is possible for people with motor disorders to learn new skills and improve their movement.

  • Holistic learning: Learning involves all aspects of development, including the sensory, motor, cognitive, communication, and socio-emotional aspects. CE programs are designed to address all of these areas of development in a comprehensive and integrated way.

  • Active learning: Children learn best when they are actively engaged in their own learning. CE programs are designed to be fun and engaging, and they incorporate a variety of activities that allow children to learn by doing.

  • Social learning: Children learn best in a supportive and inclusive environment. CE programs typically involve group-based learning, which provides children with opportunities to learn from and interact with others.

CE programs are typically led by a Conductor, who is a specially trained professional. Programs are designed to be tailored to the individual needs of each child or adult, and they may include a variety of activities, such as:

  1. Motor exercises These exercises are designed to help people with motor disorders improve their range of motion, strength, and coordination.

  2. Cognitive activities These activities are designed to help people with motor disorders develop their cognitive skills, such as attention, memory, and problem-solving.

  3. Communication activities These activities are designed to help people with motor disorders develop their communication skills, such as verbal and nonverbal communication.

  4. Social skills activities These activities are designed to help people with motor disorders develop their social skills, such as cooperation, teamwork, and conflict resolution.


CE has been shown to have a number of benefits for children and adults with motor disorders, including:

  • Improved motor skills

  • Improved cognitive skills

  • Improved communication skills

  • Improved social skills

  • Increased independence

  • Improved quality of life


A Brief Timeline of Conductive Education

1950: The National Institute of Motor Therapy reached a capacity of 80 children, and was from then on funded by the Hungarian government.


1963: The institute no longer belonged to the Ministry of Health, but became part of the Educational sector. This was a milestone for CE, as it meant that it was now recognized as an educational approach, rather than simply a medical treatment.


1967: Professor Pető died, but his legacy lived on. Maria Hari, who worked closely with Pető, then led the institute until 1992.


1970s and 1980s: CE began to spread to other countries.


Today, it is practiced in over 50 countries around the world - including New Zealand, and continues to evolve and develop. New research is being conducted to better understand how CE works and how it can be made even more effective. CE is a valuable resource for children and adults with motor disabilities, and it is making a real difference in their lives.


Conductor Training


Conductive education (CE) conductors are highly trained professionals who specialize in working with children and adults with motor disorders of neurological origin. To become a CE conductor, one must complete a rigorous training program that covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Anatomy and physiology

  • Neuroscience

  • Motor learning

  • Psychology

  • Education

  • Special education

  • Teaching methodology

  • Group work

There are two main pathways to becoming a CE conductor, and it typically takes 4 years of more:

Crest of Semmelweis University, home of the Peto Institute

Multidisciplinary route

  • The Conductive College (UK)

  • The Hungarian Conductive Educational Centre (Hungary)

  • The Pető Institute (Hungary) *this is where our Conductor Ildi Dittrich had her training

  • The University of Vienna (Austria)

Direct entry route

  • The Conductive College (UK)

  • The Hungarian Conductive Educational Centre (Hungary)

  • The Pető Institute (Hungary)

  • The University of Vienna (Austria)

CE conductors play a vital role in the lives of children and adults with motor disorders. They help their students to develop their motor skills, cognitive skills, communication skills, and social skills. They also help their students to become more independent and to reach their full potential.

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