Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


This was meant as a response to Andrew Sutton's post on Conductive World -- but I got excited, wrote too much for it to be an acceptable response length, and have decided to repost it here.  Please see Andrew's original posting and hopefully you will find further discussion here: 

Conductive Education: who is it for? -- Andrew Sutton

In terms of suitability -- or sweetability -- I agree completely.  For me it has never been about whether a person is or is not 'suitable' for CE, but I feel that it is appropriate to ask whether for a particular person and in that particular instance CE is appropriate for them.

For example
1.  There are some people that are looking for 'a magic pill' -- and whether or not the conductor feels that the person can learn and benefit that person might choose to continue to pursue their miracle elsewhere when they realize that CE involves hard work over time.  
2. Just because CE has been right for a person at sometime in their life doesn't mean that it is always right for them -- people have to choose depending on where they are at whether they want to work this way.   In fact Shane, Sue O'Reilly's son said that he preferred Bowen therapy for now because he wanted something gently and relaxing not something that required him to work hard when he was unwell and tired.   He will be welcome back if he chooses later, and maybe I'll learn something from Shane about Bowen 
3.  Sometimes, for whatever reason the relationship between the conductor and the participant is not conducive to a productive, positive environment for either person.  If there are 10 conductors and lots of options in the schedule there might be an other solution, but when you are running a small program by yourself accommodating a person might not be viable.  I have had people refuse to work with me or with other conductors; I have had a person that none of the conductors would work with because he was so vulgar and inappropriate.   

There are other factors too -- everyone might be suitable for CE, or as I prefer to say CE might be appropriate for everyone, but I think that conductors should have the choice to say 'this is where my comfort zone is, this is where my experience is, this is where I know I can be successful'.  CE might be suitable for everyone, but conductors tend to be specialized and that shouldn't be a judgement on their practice.  That said, oddly enough, I have had a lot of criticism from conductors senior to myself because I have 'specialized' in the 'weird and wonderful' or the 'too hard basket'

I'm quite proud to say that in my time as a conductor I have only twice said 'no' to trying with somebody.  One was a man in his mid nineties with advanced Parkinson's and rapidly progressing Alzheimer's who was not only blind and deaf, but also had never been English speaking.  Had I met this family now, with my practice being private and more outreach based I would have offered to work with him and the family in their home but I did not think my classroom environment was appropriate.  The other was a young man with late stage leukodystrophy malacia.  I remember him and his mother clearly as if I had met them yesterday  although it was 10 years ago.  I couldn't make contact with him, couldn't get a response, had no idea where to start, was terrified of the mother's desperation and conviction that he was still there, and as you said Andrew, I had no idea where to start or what to do.  In my inexperience I told that mother that CE wasn't suitable for him and I instantly regretted it and still feel guilty about not trying, and again now, with the option to work with him in his home I would like to think that I would try.

In terms of 'assessment' - I don't assess, I consult.  I meet with a person, let them get a feel for me, try to see where they are at, see what they are looking for, work out where to start, what I will need, establish the relationship and build trust, collect relevant information.  I never charge for consultations -- in private practice people are spending a lot of money for my time and need the consultation as much as I do to decide if CE is 'suitable', if I am the right person for them at that moment.

As you know, I also work as a personal trainer, and I have the opportunity to 'conduct' able-bodied and elderly people.  Sometimes this occurs subtly -- which to be honest is nice; I don't have to try to explain what CE is, I just approach a person or their session differently.  I also have able bodied gym clients who have taken an interest in CE, 'my other life', who I discuss pedagogy and CE with, who immediately pick up that I 'CE' them, and like it.  It is actually incredibly interesting and amazing to see what it is like to teach movement and problem solving to people not restricted by motor disorder -- it helps me understand things better regarding motor disorder.  People give me words like -- 'I just don't feel confident' and I better understand the role of thinking and perceiving in skilled movement


  1. Gillian Maguire has asked me to post the following comment...

    As always a very interesting post and very informative. Thank you, Lisa. I imagine all conductors approach their work differently as well as developing new ways of working as experience and confidence grows. Its great to be able to know more about this.

  2. Thanks Gill -- writing about what I do has helped me understand it better too. I love reading other conductor's reflections, but often question my self and my work -- I don't know, something about being 'on my own' and only having my head to bounce things around in instead of someone else's head. It has been very reassuring to get people's positive responses since I've started blogging -- and this blogging experience has been very different than the discussion forum of yesteryear.

    Gill's blog can be followed at http://www.gillian-maguire.info/