Society

Notes on therapy

Music therapist Lakshmi Mohan says music is a medicine. Photo: R. Ashok   | Photo Credit: R_ASHOK

Mukundha Murari Gopal, Mukundha Murari...,” sings Lakshmi Mohan as she keeps time with the cymbals. Around two dozen children sit in a circle around her, some listening keenly, others visibly disinterested and restless. Lakshmi finishes the song and five-year-old Dayalan grabs the instrument from her and plays it with perfect rhythm. “Autistic children have amazing music sense,” says Lakshmi. “They have special abilities and are innately creative. They can be big singers and music exponents, if their talent is identified and nurtured.” For the past 11 years as a teacher at Lotus Foundation in Chennai, Lakshmi has been working on this. As a result of her music experimentation on autistic children, today a large number of them have taken up music. Three years ago, she even released an audio CD Listen to my heart with 15 bhajans sung by four autistic children. Another album Heaven Unplugged is in the making.

When she first came to Chennai from Nilakottai after marriage, Lakshmi teaching music to special children. As a music therapist now, she has penned nearly 30 books in Tamil on ways to deal with autistic children. “Initially when I used to sing to these children, I thought they were totally disinterested in music, as many of them wouldn’t pay attention,” recalls Lakshmi. “But, by the fourth session, I was taken by surprise when a six-year-old girl filled in a line in the song when I fumbled.” That moment, sensitised Lakshmi towards the needs of these children. “Music can heal them in a great way. It brings out pent up emotions in them,” says Lakshmi, who believes in the healing powers of Carnatic music. “There are certain swaras and ragas that can help children with Down syndrome and autism.” She lists out - Behaag, Sindhu Bhairavi and Shankarabharanam. “The methodology in introducing music to these children is important. For example, they will find it easy to pick up songs with a slow tempo,” she says.

As autistic children are good at imitating, they catch the style of singing and the pronunciation of the words with ease. “I repeatedly sing a set of songs to them so that they remember the words. Through this exercise, even non-verbal kids have started to speak. If continuously exposed to music therapy, they can form sentences also,” believes Lakshmi. “Parents should encourage them, instead of brooding over the disability.” Her book Autism arivom targets parents on how to develop autistic children into exemplary individuals. Lakshmi is currently working with over 60 autistic people aged between three and 40 years for a collective bhajan singing programme.

Lakshmi Mohan conducted a two-day music therapy workshop, at the Velvi trust in Madurai, as part of World Autism Awareness Day (April 2).

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:26:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/notes-on-therapy/article5867280.ece

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