The word Illam ((written as இllam) is Tamizh for home, and it ties wonderfully with the French école for school. The home is a pivotal part of this programme and has allowed Snehadhara Foundation to achieve goals with the parent as an important, crucial cog along with the facilitators in the wheel centered around the child. Incidentally, the Arabic word ilm means knowledge.

Through this digital avatar, we plan to take the Snehadhara way of learning to every corner of the world.

The Story of école இllam

Snehadhara Foundation has been using the Arts as a medium to impart learning and achieve independence, inclusion, and therapeutic goals for the children. The programme started with a physical centre to house the children with their teachers and having artists, facilitators, special educators, artisans come in and share learning spaces together. Over time, this was augmented with add-on components like cooking, gardening etc. as life skills through a variety of programmes and innovations. Each innovation stemmed from the needs of the children we worked with. The efficacy of these methods has been tested and the programme fine-tuned to deliver desired outcomes.

While this process was on, Snehadhara has been keenly aware that remote teaching and tutoring for children with disabilities is essential to have the child in a comfortable setting, have the parents involved, typically beyond work hours; and make the programme available to a larger community. This perspective has manifested in the curriculum and content being built in a form and manner to suit the digital media commonly available.

Inadvertently and by providence, the COVID19 situation put our whole programme to the extreme test of fire and it came out in flying colours. This has given us the confidence and courage to advance the launch of école இllam for children beyond our current group of children. While our current group of children will have their semi-residential programme, the new set of children will be taught in a continuing education format of remote learning interspersed with occasional contact sessions.

What is école இllam ?

Children—you’ll be surprised—are often quicker and more enthusiastic about shifting gears than adults tend to be. They make lifestyle leaps and cope with change in their own ways and turn out to be more resilient than they’re given credit for. Children and adults with special needs too, will surprise you with how they’ve adapted and processed the tech-tonic shifts that the COVID-19 lockdown situation has brought with it.

The digital strides we’ve made this past quarter has given us at the Snehadhara Foundation the perfect inspiration to finally see plans for our online school being materialised with école இllam.

Specially crafted arts-based courses will be conducted online for children with special needs who want to sample our work without signing up to be with the Foundation full-time. They can do our virtual courses along with the sessions and workshops that they’re used to attending through the day. We recognise that while counselling sessions are still available online, there is a dearth of direct, knowledge-enhancing engagement through the Internet for children with special needs. With école இllam, we hope to plug that.

Meanwhile, the Snehadhara Foundation and its Nellamangala campus remain the mainstay of our work. Although these students have shifted to the virtual platform until it is safe for us to be back in school, we can’t wait to go back to the time when the experience of learning and teaching was more intense and tangible.

With a physical school that is currently coping online and a virtual school that has its own curriculum, Snehadhara Foundation reiterates its belief that knowledge and the arts cannot be confined by boundaries of language, culture and geography.

What is unique about us ?

This programme is created by Snehadhara, which has been identified as one of the six innovative schools worldwide as part of LEAPS – an initiative of the Qatar Foundation.

Until now, there has been no app or website that has engaged the Children in a meaningfull way.

Through this programme, Digital Literacy as a key life skill is being imparted to children.

Our online courses have been immensely successful drawing in participants from all quarters.

Highlights of école இllam

  • The Direct Care programmes that have been tried, documented, and researched over the past 8 years, have been adapted to form the curriculum of the virtual classroom.
  • A first-of-its-kind virtual curriculum designed specifically for children with disability, in the comfort of their homes.
  • Uniquely designed to partner the parents to participate in their ward’s learning and therapy process, thus creating sustainable care for the child. This crucial feature, singularly, has been instrumental in parents being able to connect with the child better while keeping simultaneously keeping their jobs and careers.
  • The virtual classroom sessions have been fortified with newer approaches that come in with different styles of working online and under the same overarching principles of using Arts Based Interventions as the primary methodology of learning together and meeting the therapeutic needs of the child.
  • Per the curriculum designed to achieve therapeutic goals, the virtual classroom sessions include crafts and multi-art forms like quilling, yoga, theatre, gardening, cooking, sign-language, singing, drumming, hygiene sessions and more.
  • Based on the therapeutic goals of the child, one-on-one and group sessions are customised for each child.
  • Academic concepts will be tailor-made to suit individual needs and facilitate the comprehension, composition and application aspects of language and science concepts.
  • Interaction with the children at the Campus once a month to facilitate experiences of group interaction to build social inclusion.
  • Sessions will be conducted by our team of trained and certified facilitators, arts practitioners, and educators.


On March 11, in line with the advisory issued by the government, Snehadhara, like the other schools in Bangalore, had to cut short its academic session. With the announcement of the lockdown, the parents were still coming to terms with the long haul that this was going to be. But Snehadhara, wasted no time and before the end of the month, had set up Virtual Learning platform for the children. Being extremely intuitive and prompt in their execution, with a few pilot sessions with the kids, they were ready to take it full throttle. The summer school which is much looked forward to by all, was run completely online, culminating in a big virtual party, bringing the children and their families together. Post the summer school, the regular 1:1 and group sessions have resumed and it feels like a normal school day – at home!

This form of engagement has been extended to the parents as well through virtual meetings and study circles and we feel much more connected as a family and partners in progress of our community.

As parents, we feel that the learning and the connections have not been impacted due to the lock-down, because of the continuity of engagement made possible by this endeavour. In fact, it is a new form of skill building, where the children have learnt to interact, follow instructions, and apply their learning to virtual space.
Snehadhara stands for a continuum which has expanded even to the digital space, offering virtual learning opportunities to the children and families alike.

Vani Tiwari - Parent

Thanks to Snehadhara. 

Snehadhara has made an impossible possible. By looking at the way the team is working with my son, your team has opened my eyes ? that if there is a will and passion definitely it can be made possible. I could see Aravind looking for the sessions to enjoy and we could see he has developed the patience to sit in front of the monitor and do the actions with the facilitators is amazing. Last but not the least you and the team have proved that you live by your values and vision of ‘continuum of compassion and care’.

I am grateful to you and the team for the support and change that you bring in Naren Aravind.

Swami and Lalitha - Parents

Sitting through the e-learning sessions with Mayan, I have the following observation to make. The learning space created via a virtual medium takes its time in the beginning to fall into a rhythm. Once that is achieved, one observes that the song starts to flow effortlessly. The ice is broken but not the screen. What we see then is the earnest effort from the facilitator to transcend the screen and the participant trying to tuck away his adulation in a shy smile. The composer and the observer merge into one at some point where only the music remains.

Manikandan - Parent

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