When you are faced with adversity and obstacles, how do you respond? This is one story of an entrepreneurial grandmother looking at serious adversity, her special needs grandson not making any progress with typical treatment regimens, and deciding to overcome the problem – even when she knew nothing about the solution. But, she did have an entrepreneurial mindset and that made all the difference in the world.

Ms. Donna Speigel, Founder of the Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati (CLCGC), was interviewed by Radio WMAP for the show “The World’s Most Amazing People.” They discuss the origins of CLCGC, the reasons, and pathway to starting the school, overcoming obstacles and “Making Meaning” in one’s life.

Radio WMAP, founded by KC Armstrong, is a station dedicated to inspiring and celebrating the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. The show features interviews of people who have faced incredible hardships only to become a greater version of themselves in the process, sharing their stories from the first person perspective. There is no better way to describe the journey of the soul as it meets and defeats life’s challenges but to say – Simply Amazing.


Radio host Ms. Capriana (Ms. C – WMAP): Thank you for coming on the air today.

Ms. Donna Speigel (Ms.DS): Thanks. I appreciate you having me.

Ms. C – WMAP: So, tell us a little bit of background about yourself?

Ms. DS: Well, I own a business called the Snooty Fox. It’s a retail chain of 11 consignment, clothing and furniture stores in the Greater Cincinnati that I started 38 years ago. A while after I started my business I had a different type of challenge arrive. My grandson, Dayton, was initially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. He came to live with my husband Dennis and I when he was two-years-old and we began raising him.

Ms. C – WMAP: That is a challenge. Running a successful retail chain and raising a special needs child.

Ms. DS: Yes. And very quickly it became apparent something else was wrong. Dayton was not hitting his milestones, not reacting to anything and I just couldn’t find anything that stimulated him. He didn’t move. It was heartbreaking. So, this is the story about how I came up with the school, The Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati, inspired by my grandson Dayton.

Ms. C – WMAP: Wow, okay. So, you took a major life challenge you were going through and spun it around into doing something positive.

Ms. DS: Yes

Ms. C – WMAP: What happened next?

Ms. DS: Dayton was prescribed different therapies, Occupation Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and a few other therapies, for a total of 1 hour per week. Insurance typically only pays for the hour or so. And in that hour you’re lucky if you get 40 minutes of hands-on therapy. But we were getting no results with this approach. I would leave in tears because it wasn’t helping Dayton do anything.

So I researched other forms of treatment and I ran across a TV segment on CBS 60 Minutes about a young mother taking her special needs son to Hungary for a specialized therapy called “Conductive Education.” It was an amazing story and I saw what I was looking for. Progress. A regimen that promised progress.

Ms. C – WMAP: Okay. Conductive Education. And what is Conductive Education?

DS: It was developed by Dr. Andras Peto, in Hungary, to instill independence in children facing motor challenges resulting from neurological damage. Dr. Peto believed that children with cerebral palsy (and other neuromotor challenges) deserve to be all that they can be, and that motor challenges can be worked on just like the ABCs — in a group setting as students, not patients.

Conductive Education is a treatment focusing on rehabilitation through learning by doing rhythmic and repetitive physical tasks in a group environment. It is not hospital PT or OT – it’s more akin to rehabilitation through learning.  Conductive Education helps people with Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke-related disabilities, and brain-acquired trauma.

Increased Independence with Conductive Education

After seeing the segment on 60 Minutes I thought, oh my goodness, I’m going to go to Hungary for my grandson. But first, we decided to search around the United States to see if there was a closer option. That’s when I ran across a school in Grand Rapids, Michigan offering Conductive Education.

Ms. C- WMAP: That doesn’t sound close to Cincinnati.

Ms. DS: It isn’t. But I drove the eight hours there and stayed at a Holiday Inn. Just for some perspective, typically In the U.S., health insurance covers one hour a week of physical therapy. In this school, Dayton’s Conductive Education therapy was 20 to 25 hours a week, three to five days a week, working with other children in a group setting, where they motivate each other.

After four weeks, Dayton rolled over for the first time. After another six weeks, he sat up for the first time. That might not sound like much to you – but to us – it was like a miracle.

Ms. CP – WMAP: Wow. It does!

Ms. DS: I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t take him out of the Conductive Education program. After a year there, living in a Holiday Inn for seven to eight weeks, I also realized I couldn’t keep spending so much time in Michigan – it’s hard to run your business from another state in a hotel. I thought: I’ve got to open a school close to home.

Ms. CP – WMAP: Bold! And what did you know about running a school?

Ms. DS: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sometimes it’s better to know nothing. Start fresh. And so I talked to the school in Michigan about helping me open a school in the Greater Cincinnati area and they did! And I just decided that when I put my mind to wanting to open my luxury consignment stores – it worked. And when I just have to do something, I do it. I put my mind to it. And with the support of the community, my husband and others, it worked.

Ms. CP – WMAP: How did you bring it all together? That seems like a lot to take on.

DS: My husband found a building that worked, and then we had to get “Conductors” to facilitate the program. “Conductors are similar to teachers (but more). We had to go to Hungary to recruit and find the skilled, trained Conductors. To be able to bring them back to the United States we were able to establish an affiliation with a Xavier University here in Cincinnati to get working visas. Then we brought the conductors here.

Ms. CP – WMAP: So, you started the Conductive Learning School of Greater Cincinnati – what does the school offer as services?

DS: We offer Conductive Education which is a combination of rehabilitative therapies, five days a week, five hours a day in a group setting where the children motivate each other. Conductive Education is well-known in Europe, and in China, but it was slow to come to the United States. There are now approximately 34 schools in the country that do what we do.

Ms. CP – WMAP: And what type of disability is this conductive education work best for?

DS: It works best with children with

  • cerebral palsy,
  • spina bifida,
  • Parkinson’s,
  • multiple sclerosis,
  • stroke-related disabilities,
  • traumatic brain injury,

And other motor-challenged children.

Ms. CP – WMAP: What sets apart Conductive Education from the regular physical therapy places that we already have here in the United States, what makes conductive education so different and rare?

End Part 1