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Aquinas Students Help Lead the Way in Conductive Education

Since the 1997 collaboration between Aquinas College and the Peto Institute in Budapest, Hungary, established the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) in Grand Rapids, the city has become a center for Conductive Education in North America.

Now, 15 years later, the CLC is regarded as the leader for Conductive Education in North America, and Aquinas’ POHI (Physically and Otherwise Health Impaired) teaching program remains the only program in North America implementing the Conductive Education methodology. The CLC serves families both locally and internationally, while also serving as the lab school for AQ POHI education students, who spend a minimum of ten hours per week observing and assisting in the classrooms to gain invaluable experience for their POHI major and teaching degree.

“The AQ students in the labschool bring a new vitality to the center,” said Terry Stelter, who has been the CLC Executive Director for the past four years. “Minds that ask questions, encourage the staff to reflect on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of what they do every day and the importance of it.”

Originally discovered in 1945 by Dr. Andres Peto in Hungary, Conductive Education was introduced to Grand Rapids by Chuck and Sue Saur, who wished to provide assistance to local families with physically disabled children. They recognized the dedication and success shown by the method’s unique combination of medical knowledge and educational methods to help children with motor disabilities achieve their potential physical, cognitive, and social independence. The CLC was founded under the joint direction of both Aquinas and the Peto Institute.

“Spending that much time in a school setting is so helpful and provides for many learning opportunities. We learn by doing,” said sophomore Carolyn Tuski. “I have learned so much from the students alone, it’s incredible. Not only does Conductive Education build up the student’s confidence, it gives him/her independence and self-expression.”

The CLC, which is located at the intersection of Breton Road and Burton Street, serves children of various ages ranging from birth to early adulthood who have Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Traumatic Brain Injury and occasionally genetic disorders. Stelter described the duties of the Aquinas students to help teach the children “to see themselves as active and self-reliant participants in the world.” More specifically, the AQ students are responsible for assisting the conductor-teachers wherever needed, and helping the children perform various tasks throughout the day.

“I absolutely love my time at the CLC. The children are so precious and working there is very rewarding,” said sophomore Victoria Jones. “Concepts that I am learning in my classes at Aquinas are able to be directly applied at the CLC. I am learning so much more than I would be able to if all my studies were done sitting at a desk.”

Along with providing the confidence necessary for entering into the career world, the CLC experience and POHI degree opens up many opportunities for Aquinas graduates. The POHI certification, which is endorsed internationally, is in high demand in North America, allowing many of the students to find jobs even before graduation, including returning to work as conductor-teachers at the CLC.

“[The CLC] is, in a way, the thing that links the subject of Conductive Education all together for me,” said sophomore Alana Curtin. “This is also giving me a plethora of experience for my career. It is helping me establish myself as a teacher to find out what kind of teacher I am and want to be.”

>More information on the CLC