The Center for Independence through Conductive Education provides intensive group motor training programs to children with physical disabilities at three locations in the Chicagoland area – Countryside, Chicago, and Lake Zurich. To ensure vulnerable children with physical disabilities have access to the Conductive Education program, the Center collaborates with several nonprofits.
In the past year, the Center served 152 children -- 53% live in low-income households. The Center trained children to optimize their physical, cognitive and social independence by providing motor training programs based on the principles of Conductive Education (a program originally created by the Peto Institute in Hungry). The program is delivered in unison by a team of conductive education teachers, occupational therapists and physical therapists. The transdisciplinary team simultaneously develops the child’s movement, speech, cognitive and social and emotional abilities, all in an intensive, complex, motivating approach.
The desired outcome for each child is maximal independence called orthofunction, which refers to the ability to enter school, the community, and ultimately the workforce, with minimal assistance. Children attend the intensive motor training program which focuses on mastering life skills while simultaneously attending their neighborhood schools to focus on the core curriculum. As a result of the Conductive Education program, several outcomes are achieved, such as:
- Children learned techniques to carry skills to the school and home environment.
- Families noted improvement in their child’s ability to perform a daily life skill.
- Children showed improvement in at least four functional daily life goals.
- Reduced reliance for a one-on-one classroom aides.
Children with physical disabilities who are not taught living skills that include dressing, eating and toileting independence will struggle as adults in transitioning to the workplace where a personal assistant can be prohibitive or impossible. The program teaches children, family and school staff how to successfully eliminate, or significantly reduce, the need for a full time one-on-one personal assistant. Most children in the program, including those with profound quadriplegia, have reduced their reliance on one-on-one classroom aides by 9th grade.
Key Lesson Learned
Recent research studies confirm that, if given the opportunity, children with physical disabilities can learn to be more functionally independent:
- The Center partnered with Governors State University and Dr. Robbie O’Shea to study the impact of conductive education on a child’s ability to perform motor tasks. Three major studies have been completed and each demonstrated improvement in children’s functional skills. (Download Capturing Success in Conductive Education)
- Master's level physical therapists, Maureen Michalski and Liz Balas recently completed an 18 month case study, which demonstrated clinically significant functional improvement as a result of CE programming. (Download Functional Changes of Conductive Education)
Funding from the Coleman Foundation has allowed the Center for Independence to offer and expand CE programming, research to demonstrate functional improvement and creation and development of the Certificate in the Principles of Conductive Education for occupational therapists and physical therapists at Governor's State University.