What happens when music enters the classrooms of the differently abled? It may help in getting their attention, engaging them and even teaching academic lessons. But primarily, it calms them down; and that seems to be an accomplishment for some.

Twenty-four-year-old musician Abhinaya Shenbagaraj began singing at We Challenge Autism Now (We CAN), an NGO and resource centre for autistic children, on the suggestion of her guru Bombay Jayashree.

“I have seen visible, if not remarkable, difference in these children. I don’t consider these as classes and don’t aim to teach them any song; my intention is to only calm them down,” she says.

She chooses simple bhajans like Radhe Shyama, Kurai Ondrum Illai, Muralidhara Gopala and Chinanchiru Kiliye and prefers to sing the songs in a certain order that allows the children to understand when her classes begin and end. “There are a few words the children have picked up from the songs, over time. For instance, when I sing ‘Nandha Nandhana’, the children complete the line by saying ‘Govinda’. Their concentration in the classroom has certainly improved,” she says.

Aarabhi Badri and Anu Alex of Vidya Sagar, an organisation that works for the welfare of spastic children, say they teach the food chain cycle through music.

“We create a song with the steps of the food chain. Also, we try to build stories for lessons, create a song for it and teach them,” says Anu.

Aarabhi, a Bharatanatyam dancer, says the training in this classical art form gives her a better understanding of the disability and also the gestures of children.

“Three years ago, when I started teaching them, their movements were restrained; now, I see they have got better,” she says.

Not only does it help to capture

the attention of differently-abled students and engage them, it also calms them down