Service learning series
Lessons from the Ananth’s Adventures Project – 1
If you know one individual with autism, you know one individual with autism. We have all heard some version of this saying. This saying is worth questioning as it results in a mindset that can keep parents with years of experience from helping other parents. After all, since your child is so different from mine, I cannot say anything that will be useful to you. Right? I don’t think so.
Our experiences over the last few months led me to deeply question this position and I decided to write this post. As we were doing a 100-Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab for parents in early 2023, I was stunned when the mother of a 6-year-old child saw Ananth’s video with his teacher. She scaled down the video and patiently worked with her child to introduce the first adavu or movement pattern in Bharatanatyam.
The Parent Advantage
Parents are dedicated. They want to do the best for their child. If that means they must learn some Bharatanatyam and teach their child movement, they will do it! This is an important lesson to keep in mind as parents seek ways to help other parents!
Ananth’s Adventures Digital Tapestry Project
Since we had just launched Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel in early 2023, this little piece of data was very encouraging. Ananth (25) with over 10 years of Bharatanatyam learning could share what he was learning and a parent whom we have never met can use this lesson with her 6-year-old child!
Parents know! As one therapist used to say, I may be an expert on child development but you are the expert on your child. I trust parents to look at resources on our Youtube channel and figure out how to make it work for their child. We have seen many such instances of people using resources from our Youtube channel with their child!
In fact, this experience has now led to our emerging strategy:
We are focusing on Ananth’s Adventures Digital Tapestry as the core of our efforts to help parents.
What is Ananth’s Adventures digital tapestry? It is an intricate weaving together of Ananth’s varied learning experiences over time!
A random collection of videos will not be impactful. Currently, we are choosing content for video snippets and recording them for our 100-Days of Movement and Body Awareness project. Initially, Ananth’s Adventures started with the Story of the Month by Ananth. Then, we started adding resources on Thinkblocks, Fold, Color, Talk etc. Over the last two decades, Ananth and I have explored a variety of approaches. The Ananth’s Adventures Digital Tapestry is an intricate creation that brings together diverse ideas, approaches, and resources into a harmonious creation for neurodivergent learners, their families, and others.
Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) is the foundation for this Digital Tapestry project. As Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Founder and Director of RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) states, life is theater and theater is life.
In theater, each person plays a role. I am the project manager for this Digital Tapestry project. Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty and artist at the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning is our TAHD facilitator. Much of the content on Ananth’s Adventures includes lessons and demonstrations by Ujwal or Ananth’s presentations guided by Ujwal. Ananth is the student ambassador for RASA and TAHD. We discovered that to bring the lessons to life, at least one student is needed! Then, viewers can see guided participation in action.
Ananth’s classes have been transformed because of this 100-Days of Movement and Body Awareness project and the Digital Tapestry initiative. During each class, Ujwal and Ananth spend 10-15 minutes on creating video content for Ananth’s Adventures.
Ananth is now participating creating intros and outros and in editing the videos. This project is creating opportunities for him to practice a variety of digital storytelling and video creation skills.
1. Engage parents in thinking about outcomes
We are using the TAHD framework to think about outcomes. Through therapies and other experiences, parents can consider a list such as the one below and identify outcomes for their child.
2. Create, Compile, and Curate Resources
This step is critical for parents to effectively help other parents. Resources on Ananth’s Adventures are primarily intended to help parents and neurodivergent learners. Thus, most of our shares are to help other parents and educators rather than Ananth’s current learning and performances.
3. Encourage and support parents in using resources
We share a video daily and share tips and techniques. Parents are encouraged to consider ways of using the information. Some parents may directly use the activities presented on the video. Others may view the video, read the tips and techniques, and create their own activities.
Outcomes and Next Steps
Last week, we experienced a moment that confirmed that this approach can work. I shared an announcement for Ramana Bala Kendra, a program run by Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL). Ten parents of children of various ages and at various stages of development enrolled their children for this class. The class is offered by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh. Parents understand Ujwal’s approach and also see how his Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) implementation can benefit their child. This is an early indicator of success of our emerging approach to encouraging parents to explore certain paths. We hope to help more parents in the future.
Dr. Dasaratha Rama is a professor and home educator. She was the editor of a monograph on service-learning published by the American Association of Higher Education. This monograph was a part of a series of monographs on service-learning published by AAHE. She was also an Engaged Scholar with the Campus Compact, an association in the US dedicated to higher education civic and community engagement at colleges and universities. She is currently doing a certificate in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) from RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya).
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for RASA and TAHD. Ananth Raghunandan will be starting a diploma in Bharatanatyam shortly.
Their journey from homeschooling to collaborators and co-creators continues!
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