Bengaluru

Special teachers for children with special needs

NGOs and volunteers teach music to children with intellectual disabilities at ASHA Academy for Severe Handicaps and Autism.

NGOs and volunteers teach music to children with intellectual disabilities at ASHA Academy for Severe Handicaps and Autism.   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

ASHA plans to train musicians to meet the increasing demand for music therapists who can work with children with special needs

Fourteen-year Mohit (name changed) grows listless in the classroom, fidgeting with his pencil and staring blankly at the blackboard. The teenager, who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refuses to make eye contact with the people in the room: three other students and two teachers. Soon, he gets a cue from one of the teachers to sing.

The transformation is instantaneous as he belts out a song from the popular Kannada film Kirik Party with gusto. The other students in the class also seem to be enjoying the short music session at the Academy for Severe Handicaps and Autism (ASHA).

To ensure that the benefits of music reach out to more children like Mohit, ASHA along with Inner Wheel Club of Bangalore, Vijayanagar, has decided to launch a project to train more educators in schools as well as musicians to use their music as therapy for children with special needs. The jury is still out on the benefits of music therapy, but it is one of the many tools used by therapists to help people with ASD.

Jayashree Ramesh, Director of ASHA, has observed that autistic children respond well to music. “Several parents also say that it helps calm down the child and improve their concentration,” she said, adding it can also be used as a tool to conduct socially inclusive activities. “In fact, for children who are talented in this field, it can also become a vocation,” she said.

The workshop will focus on using music as an intervention for children with autism, cerebral palsy, learning disability, and intellectual developmental disabilities. However, she cautioned that children with special needs may not connect with a conventionally planned class; the interventions need be thought through carefully.

Meenakshi Ravi, who is a music therapist and has worked with over 50 students with disabilities, uses music as one of the tools for counselling. “After my sessions, I find significant improvement in children with intellectual disabilities. Their hyperactivity reduces, speech clarity improves and they also are able to focus better,” she said.

With more awareness, there is a huge demand for music therapists in the city, but only a handful have been trained to share their skills and love music with differently-abled children. “We gets calls from different parts of the city from parents who are keen on enrolling their children for music therapy. My aim is to train such music therapists,” she said.

She, however, pointed out that currently, the evaluation is based on observation and feedback from parents and hopes that there will be scientific and objective research in this arena.

Shailashree Ravishankar, secretary, Inner Wheel Club of Bangalore, Vijayanagar said the club has been involved in several social projects. “When we came to spend time with them, we decided that rather than spending a day, we wanted to be involved in something that benefits them on a long-term basis. That is how this project was conceived,” she said.

Sama — an orientation session for parents — would be conducted on October 25. The organisers are looking for musicians who want to volunteer as music therapists, schools working with children with intellectual disabilities as well as parents who are keen on knowing more about this. This will be followed by a five-day workshop.

For further details, contact 080-23225279 or send a mail to info@ashaforautism.com.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 9:02:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/special-teachers-for-children-with-special-needs/article19896772.ece

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