“To develop a complete mind, study the science of art, the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
-Leonardo da Vinci
The curriculum of our Monday to Friday program, Uhuru, is designed to enhance the childrens’ skills and achieve therapeutic goals.
Uhuru, which means freedom in Swahili is our Arts Based Therapy program for children with special needs . Art Based Therapy (ABT) is the evidence-based use of multi-art forms that includes music, drama, dance, play, fine arts, imagination and story-telling to accomplish individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship. Arts based therapy enhances development through the deliberate combination and involvement of both the body and the mind. This unique approach holistically addresses the critical dimensions of development namely cognition, behaviour and social skills.
ABT aims at enhancing these basic capacities so that practitioners create for themselves a vocabulary of creative arts-based techniques which they can apply along with assessment, therapeutic objectives and evaluation.
The use of arts and healing forms the bedrock to therapy and learning in this program. A team of ABT Practitioners trained and certified by World Centre for Creative Learning Foundation (WCCLF), Pune, conduct ABT sessions in Uhuru.
Highlights of the Program
Uhuru, focusses on the students’ skills and goals. The curriculum is designed to achieve the therapeutic goals and enhance their skills. They are divided into groups for the one-on-one and group sessions.
The domains and goals worked on for the larger goal are:
- Body – Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Oro- Motor, Physical Agility and Alertness
- Attention – Levels of Attention – Focussed, Sustained, Divided attention
- Cognitive – Auditory Speech Discrimination, Spatial Reasoning, Non-verbal Thinking
- Group interaction – Cooperation, Assertion, Self-control
- Narrative Capability – Vocalization, Basic vocabulary, Descriptive Speech
- Expressive Capability – Self Expression through the Arts
Implementation of the Program
STRUCTURE OF THE DAY
A typical day, at the Direct Care has been from 9 to 5. This routine incorporates meetings, reflective practices, trainings etc for the team. Each group follows its own opening ritual followed by two morning sessions that include group sessions as well as one on one ABT sessions. At lunch the children and adults eat together, children buddied with adults. On any typical day the children are a part of sessions in classrooms as well as outdoor sessions. The individual closure-sessions for each group are followed by snack time before end of day. Besides the activities at the centre, some children have been going to Kid’s Corner school for Snehasangiti and for Overnighters where on Friday evenings they stay over at each other’s homes till Saturday noon.
A glimpse of some of the sessions that the children were exposed to:
There were regular sessions with ABT practitioners who work towards achieving therapeutic goals for the children across domains. The ABT sessions focus on verbal and non-verbal expression, sequencing and forming associations, reciprocal communication and joint attention as well as balance and coordination.
We believe that play is important to a child’s development and learning. It is a central way through which most children express their impulse to explore, experiment and understand. We explored the children’s response to directive and non-directive play settings and its impact on cognitive, social and emotional domains of learning. Some children were identified and were exposed to direct interventions using play.
Another venture this year has been gardening, where we looked after a small patch in the neighborhood park. We started as a whole group, allowing everyone an opportunity to explore the garden and work in whatever capacity they could and slowly a subgroup of the children was formed that went the garden at least thrice a week. Then we expanded the group by adding another team of facilitators and students. As the program evolved the students started recognizing this time in their schedule and the tasks assigned to each. Some are now able to carry out activities such as digging, sowing, watering, and cutting with minimal prompts. It’s a pleasure to see the students taking charge of all the tools and materials that have to be carried to the garden. The children have experienced the complete cycle from the garden to the table as the vegetables and herbs grown have been used in the Café Obattoo, every week.
Our work with using Arts Based interventions over the past few years has paved way to and has birthed our program Sparsh – stories that live in our bodies. Sparsh allows children and young adults with special needs to explore their identity, and to find, trust and use their voice more confidently in private and in public life. The sessions wove drawing and painting with body & movement, voice meditations, guided visualisation, ritual and personal story telling to empower the children in achieving simple activities of daily living as well as understand sexuality. We initiated the process this year with personal space as exploration for girls and physical workout for boys in the form of basketball and cycling.
Ishanya offers a technology related (computer, apps, video modeling and other handheld devices) intervention to improve communication i.e. communication related to daily living and communication in different scenarios. Some children from the centre are a part of twice a week sessions at Ishanya.
We open ourselves to learning beyond the bounds of the center through two programs this year:
CLASSROOMS WITHOUT WALLS: EXCURSIONS
From April onwards we aimed at taking the children for outdoor trips this year. These excursions could be to a village that is ready with open arms to welcome our children in their midst or it could also be to spaces that promise outdoor experiences in the lap of nature. Each place would epitomise a sense of community and inclusion that organically flows through it.
The first such trip was to Devaraya Samudra. Our children explored the pristine beauty and warm hospitality in untouched corners of our beautiful state, at Devaraya Samudra , a hamlet some 90 km outside of Bangalore between Kolar and Mulbagal in Karnataka, India . A new environment, new people, new space , weather that was hot and evenings when it rained, new trekking experiences on the hilly terrains, food cooked and served in way that we usually don’t eat, a new routine for the day. The most amazing part of this experience was that the children adapted to each one of these changes in patterns effortlessly.
At the end of the year we revisited our aim to enable our children to cope and adapt to new surroundings, to envision independence for themselves, to be exposed to genuine spaces of inclusion. In pursuit of our aim of aligning groups in a way that we enable the older children to support the younger ones, two groups went to two different places. One group went to Adavi Field Station, Ragihalli State Forest, a pleasant, simple place of elegant beauty where children were a part of the agricultural practices and the sericulture farm adorned by majestic banyan trees that boasted a varied range of beautiful birds. Another group went to IIM Bangalore where it was an opportunity for the older ones to help the younger children navigate through the green environs, meeting new people, adapting to new surroundings and helping each other through the transitions.
CLASSROOMS WITHOUT WALLS: OVERNIGHTERS
A journey that started with a focus on independence goals, social skills and flexibility of patterns this year took these objectives a notch higher. We looked at the children to acknowledge their peers at a deeper level, forge closer relationships through, together, sharing not just Snehadhara as a learning space but also each other’s homes.
9 families opted for this program and three groups were formed. The idea was for 2/3 children to stay over in each other’s homes on Friday nights and spend Saturday there joined by the team from Snehadhara in the morning. Each group explored the idea in their own way. Some converted it into a shared dining experience and for others a community did evolve out of the original idea of hosting children through Friday night into Saturdays. We saw the children adapt to a diversity of unfamiliar spaces, it also enabled greater contact between the children and parents as well as opened further avenues for our children to explore.