Aspects: Sparkling Intelligence Unlocked; Esther Baston Was One of the First Children to Travel to Hungary for Conductive Education. in the Second Part of Her Series on CE, Health Correspondent Jenny Hudson Describes How the 16-Year-Old Who Was Born with Brain Damage Is Now Studying for Her GCSEs
Hudsons, Jenny, The Birmingham Post (England)
As a toddler, Esther Baston would lie on her tummy, unable to control her limbs sufficiently to support herself.
The brain damage she had suffered at birth left her so dependent upon others that her future appeared to be terribly limited.
But her parents Brian and Kathy Baston could see the sparkling intelligence locked inside their little girl.
As any parent of a disabled child will understand, they faced the immense responsibility of finding a way to engage that potential. And their choice would have a massive impact on their daughter's life.
They opted for conductive education, after seeing a BBC documentary about an unknown method which had been developed at the Peto Institute in Hungary.
In January 1997, Kathy took Esther out to Budapest with a group of ten other children from Birmingham.
Esther was three years old as she joined the first youngsters to venture behind the Iron Curtain to find out whether conductive education could really help.
Those six months did transform Esther's life - her progress even surprised the Hungarians, who had initially been cautious because of her severe movement problems.
Indeed, Ester has continued to surprise everyone, becoming the first disabled pupil to join her mainstream junior school at the age of ten.
She is preparing to take a wide range of GCSEs next year, including her favourite, Food and Technology, for which she is currently redesigning the traditional Christmas meal with a Russian pie.
While just like any teenager, she spends hours on the phone and grins broadly when asked about seeing Steps recently at the recent BRMB party.
Naturally, Brian is a very proud dad. 'When you have a child, you can watch them achieve things at different times,' he said. 'With Esther, every achievement has been a milestone.'
The brain damage Esther suffered at birth left her with severe motor problems in both arms and legs.
She would sometimes manage to bring a piece of food to her mouth - then her head would jolt back before she had a chance to eat.
Esther attended Victoria School, a special educational centre in Northfield. 'It was a very caring place, but you could tell that her needs were not being addressed,' said Brian.
'At the age of two, she was still unable to support herself and would lie on the floor, just able to raise her head.
'But it was really obvious that she had so much intelligence.'
The family decided to take Esther to Hungary and set about fund-raising to pay for the trip.
The group of ten parents from Birmingham worked together to raise enough money to enable the youngsters to spend six months in Budapest.
Brian, a health and safety advisor, stayed at home and looked after the couple's other three children while Kathy travelled to Hungary with Esther.
'I remember having to pack six months of disposable nappies,' says Kathy. 'We shared a flat with another English family and would take the children to the institute every morning at 9am.
'They would be there all day until 5pm, which seemed like a long day for a three-year-old. But Esther loved it, right from the start, it was such a joyful place. …