Welcome to the Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati
The Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati brings Conductive Education to the Greater Cincinnati/Midwest Region
New treatment coming
Center is for children with motor disabilities
BY KAREN GUTIÉRREZ/ ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
COVINGTON - Donna Speigel runs the Snooty Fox consignment stores. Her husband, Dennis, is the man behind the Purple People Bridge Climb.
Now the power couple is launching a more personal venture: A non-profit center for children with motor disabilities.
The Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati will be the second of its kind in the nation.
The Speigels' inspiration is their 4-year-old grandson, Dayton, who has cerebral palsy.
For two years, Donna Speigel has taken him every three months to the center in Grand Rapids, Mich. For a month at a time, Dayton spends three hours a day with "conductors" who teach children how to move during fun, everyday activities.
The approach was developed in Hungary and is common in Europe. But in the United States, therapy is typically one-on-one, and children attend 30- or 60-minute sessions a few times a week.
"Because of the progress Dayton has made, Dennis and I started asking, 'How do we get this program in Cincinnati?' " Donna Speigel says. "We felt we have the know-how and connections to get it done."
Officials with the Peto Institute in Budapest agreed. They're providing teachers for the center, which opens Sept. 18 in Covington.
St. Elizabeth Medical Center has provided a building rent-free for a year, and Mike Mangeot of Century Construction has donated remodeling.
Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that affects the muscles. Some patients have tight muscles; others have the opposite problem. They also may have trouble speaking and learning.
U.S. specialists tend to focus first on the muscles with surgery and medication, says Andrea Benyovszky, the program director in Grand Rapids. Conductive learning focuses less on specific symptoms and more on the whole child - social, emotional and physical. They are encouraged to do as much as possible for themselves.
When Speigel took Dayton to the center, she was told to unstrap him from the chair that held his body upright so he would develop that ability. She also was shown how to sit him on a potty seat regularly. Even though he's still in diapers, the practice has improved his posture, she says.
Speigel also likes the way Dayton is motivated by the children around him. Too often, one-on-one therapy takes place outside of any social context, she says.
Conductive learning has its strengths, says Linda Wnek, director of the Aaron W. Perlman Center at Children's Hospital Medical Center. But the verdict is still out on whether it's best over the long term, she says.
The Perlman Center, part of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cincinnati., also treats children in a group setting.
But trained therapists, not teachers, work with them, Wnek says.
Wnek knows parents who have had good experiences in Grand Rapids. But conductive learning may require families to set aside more traditional approaches, so they should be careful to make a well-informed choice, she says.
At the Covington center, a four-week course will cost $1,400-$1,800, which represents only a portion of Speigel's costs. She's applying for grants and opening a spinoff of Snooty Fox to help with expenses.
Meanwhile, Dayton is pulling to a standing position by himself and happily rocking his hips to a song by the Black-Eyed Peas.
He doesn't speak yet, and he has some mental delays. But Speigel feels confident he will have a good life.
"We always say, 'Dayton has cerebral palsy, but it's not a sad story,' " she says.