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Art beats for them

Anupama Ramakrishnan, August 06, 2016, DHNS 0:17 IST

Unique symphony

motivating Varied activities and art forms can help children with special needs.
I discovered my son was autistic when he was one and half years old. We were in the US then, soon we relocated to India. The life of an autistic child’s parents is full of challenges.

Three years back, we heard about ‘Snehadhara’, the art-based therapy centre, and enrolled him there, where they teach creative-based therapy which includes music and art to communicate with kids with special needs. My son, who is eight now, is enjoying it thoroughly. It has made a great difference in his life. At home also, he has been showing positive changes — communicating better, taking care of his needs including washing dishes.” Thiru, a Bengaluru-based parent’s story vouches how art and art forms like music, drama and puppetry can make it a level playing field for these children.

“There is enough scientific evidence on the correlation between art forms and the neuroplasticity of the brain,” says executive director of ‘Snehadhara’, Gitanjali Sarangan. “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said. So how do we communicate with someone who speaks a language that is different from what we know or rather how do we understand someone who does not speak, hear or perceive things like us. What better way than the language of arts?,” she asks.

Her centre uses multi-arts to help its students with motor, language and speech, cognitive, sensory and social skills. “Arts-based therapy encompasses the use of multi-art forms like music, movement, drama, visual arts and play to achieve therapeutic goals. Music and stories provide that language of expression and communication for the children,” she adds. Children, who have behavioural needs within the autistic spectrum and communication difficulties, find music a channel of communication.

NAD School of Music, started by drummer Wesley Newton, has been doing yeomen service by helping rehabilitate such children through music therapy and music instruction. It is being done in partnership with their sister trust, ‘Mended C[h]ords’. The faculty currently comprises Noel Aiyar on keyboards, Jonathan Reuben on guitars and vocals, John Jeban on keyboards and vocals, Jesvin Mathew on drums and Wesley on drums and music therapy.

Says Wesley, founder and principal, NAD School of Music. “We started out on this mission last October, and to see how music literally changes not just the lives of these precious kids but also our lives as teachers too has been an absolute delight to the heart. We've basically put in a lot of our hard earned savings into making this project happen and a few dear friends of ours have helped us in whatever way they could.”

According to him the only thing that has been a challenge is that “because all of us are professional musicians and are so involved with helping the kids through music at the school, the handling of administration, accounting, media, marketing, etc, on top of it all becomes quite tedious and challenging. We could surely use some good and faithful volunteers.”

“Art and art forms like music help kids with special needs in such a massive and supremely beneficial manner. In our work at the school, I've seen it help kids build their self esteem and confidence, it helps them express their needs with clarity, it helps in improving their communication and social interaction skills, and most of all, it gives them so much joy and happiness,” he adds.

An autistic child’s life can be surrounded by negativity, points out Thiru. “They have to often listen to people saying ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’, even from their own parents. This is not the right way. They need to be dealt with love and care and that is what my son is receiving now, through art based therapy,” he adds.

Every so often, one comes across children with special needs, but is not too sure how to react or what to say. “'Normalcy' as a concept,” says Gitanjali, “is overrated. Come to think of it, we as humans are all differently-abled from one another. Some people are a whizz at maths while other people fear it. Most people have the ability to walk but there are many who do not, and not everyone walks in the same way. Society at large needs to be sensitised to understand diversity in needs and diversity in abilities and also made to realise the role it itself plays in inclusion of children with special needs,” she adds.


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