Autism is a neurological condition affecting 1 in 68 children according to the Centre for Disease Control, USA (2014). Individuals with autism have difficulty with
Apart from these three major impairments, individuals with autism have difficulties with generalisation, understanding social cues, some may be verbal or non verbal and many display obsessive interests and repetitive behaviours and poor motor skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder – the level of difficulty varies with each individual. It is a matter of concern that the cause of autism has not been found and therefore there is no treatment available.
The Problem Presently, ASHA has 60 children with autism and most have a severe form of autism that includes severe behavioural problems, caused by hyper or hyposensitivity to noise, light, smell and the environment. Behaviour problems are also due to the fact that they have poor communication and experience frustration because of it. Poor motor skills affect their posture, difficulty with writing and this affects their classroom learning. They also have poor generalisation skills and are not able to apply what has been taught in the classroom to the real world. This also permeates to their daily living skills that are often poor.
Children with autism learn best on one to one teaching methodology and this make education more expensive. Parents find it difficult to provide for and many children with autism are often kept at home as the parents simply cannot afford to send them to a school! Special schools are also not able to help these children as there are no social service provisions and legislations set by the Government.
Apart from these problems that affect our children directly, the attitude of the society at large towards autism and disability is not a favourable one. Disability is often viewed as unproductive in India and even when we take our children for our weekly outing programs, people often stare and laugh. There is a need to break this attitude and build acceptance within the society towards autism.
The parents of children with autism are often under a lot of stress as they have to manage their children and as they display negative behaviours in unfamiliar environments, parents do not take them out often. The parents are also not able to go out and enjoy an active social life or take a break. Parents are often demotivated and have very little hope for their children.
Intervention for autism is mainly through intensive and varied therapies. It can be in the form of speech therapy, early intervention therapy, occupational and physiotherapy. Some newer forms of therapy such as yoga, arts based therapy and technology intervention has shown promising results.
ASHA has been providing varied therapies and classroom activities but we find it difficult to generalise skills learnt in the classroom to focus on their communication, language, motor skills and imagination.
Solution To help address all these issues and bring about awareness in the society, ASHA has been conducting a creative intervention program from the past 10 years. The practice sessions last for 60 days culminating in a 1 day finale where the children get to display their talents to all the parents, other organisations and mainstream schools on stage. This program is composed of dance, music and short dramas set to a particular topic. Our past programs focussed on topics such as Unity in Diversity, Evolution of Mankind, Ramayana, Krishna etc.
Below is a glimpse of the program we conducted last year on Hindu god ‘Krishna’.
This year, ASHA is conducting a creative intervention program titled ‘Dynasties of India’. This program will include short dramas, music and dance based on the historical kingdoms of pre-independent India which will be performed entirely by children with autism. The rehearsals and preparation for the program have already begun for the grand finale to be held on the 21st of January 2017 at Bal Bhavan, Bangalore, India.
To make the event truly inclusive, 20 children from mainstream schools will be participating in the final event. Through this, the parents and friends of these 20 children will understand more about children with autism and will be sensitised on disability.
The parents of children with autism after seeing their children perform on stage are often renewed with hope in the abilities of their children. One parent from our event reported “I never thought my son could act in a drama and that too on such a big stage! I’m very happy with his performance”.
The amount of preparation that happens for this event is enormous!
The theme of the event is finalised along with the script, dramas, music and dance segments. The music for the entire program is selected and recorded.
The children are assigned roles based on their strengths and skills. Lessons are prepared by the teachers to explain the role of each child. The teachers then choreograph the dance movements and drama. The teachers then demonstrate live and through video recordings.
The music of the whole program is played repeatedly to the child for him/her to get familiarised with the flow of events.
The teachers and children prepare the props.
The children are trained on the stage entry, exit, stage dimensions and placement of props.
The rehearsals commence with children using the props and costumes for them to get comfortable with.
The final day looks like this!
Arranging a program of this scale takes time, effort and money. We are ready to devote the time and effort but we do need support with money. Arranging for costumes, preparing the props, venue fees, lighting, stage preparation, sound and computer graphics and refreshments in the form of snacks are a big part of the program.
Why we need you!
Putting up such a grand event requires huge resources.
A small donation of Rs. 1,175 (17 Euro) can help put one child on stage.
A donation of Rs. 7000 (96 Euro) can help sponsor one event like a dance or a drama with 6 children on the stage! But we want to see all our 80 children on the stage!
This small gesture will not only help in putting a child on stage but also promote the development of essential skills in the children, bring awareness in the society about autism and bring hope to hundreds of parents!
We invite you to the grand finale in January 2017 to witness this grand and special event that’s very close to our hearts. You can also get to help us backstage or help our children get ready for the big day!
A big ‘Thank you’ from all of us at ASHA for your generosity and kindness and we look forward to your continued support.
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