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Updated: July 19, 2013 10:11 IST

Sometimes, it isn’t just art for art’s sake

Tanu Kulkarni
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Tickled pink: Shishir Sreenath, part of the group that uses art-based therapy at the Snehadhara Foundation, is happy to show off his origami skills. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.
The Hindu Tickled pink: Shishir Sreenath, part of the group that uses art-based therapy at the Snehadhara Foundation, is happy to show off his origami skills. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

11-year-old Shishir, born with autism, is most at ease when immersed in his artwork

A pair of scissors, some crayons and colours, brushes and paper. That’s all it takes for 11-year-old Shishir Sreenath to find his happy place.

Whether it’s moulding yellow clay to create a simple face model or making a colourful weave out of wool, this young artist pours his heart into it.

A student at the Snehadhara Foundation in J.P. Nagar, Shishir was born with pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), one of the three autism spectrum disorders. At school, he’s part of the group that uses art-based therapy, which involves the use of music, drama, dance, play, fine arts, imagination and storytelling.

Shishir has been undergoing this training for two years now and his instructors say he has “surprised” them with his response to the therapy. A quick glance at his artwork shows he can given many an artist a run for their money. “His sense of perfection is self set. His cognitive language is much more than expressive language,” said Gitanjali Sarangan, executive director of the foundation, who has been working with the boy for two years, even before he joined the school.

Thrilled with the idea of a photo shoot for this article, Shishir decides he would like to show off his origami skills. He meticulously cuts the paper into different shapes and sizes. After we’re done with the photo session, Shishir, who refuses to answer any questions says, “I want to go home and draw.” He picks his bag and runs along.

He’s come a long way

Pointing to all his work displayed at the centre, his therapists emphasise that visual arts is his true calling. “Shishir loves patterns and is always on the look out for patterns around him so that he can reproduce in his visual art work,” says Pallavi Chander, who trains him in visual arts.

While most parents’ goals for their children involve good scores and medals at school, Shishir’s parents and therapists hope he is able to manage his daily chores by himself.

Srividya, his mother says, “Goals for me will align with his goals. I am confident that he will realise his dreams and my confidence comes from how he has been able understand and grasp things over the past few years.”

She adds: “There is no sense of regret or denial. We have surpassed all those hurdles. We find immense happiness in his involvement with art.”

When asked about her proud mother moment, she has a long list. “One of my most memorable moments was when Shishir fell from a rope ladder and instead of crying or throwing a tantrum, he quickly picked up his crayons and drew a four part series of how he fell.”

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