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"A Journey to Bharat through Natya" BloggerSaathi

Bridging the Neurodivide: Thinking with Circles

A Production of Ananth’s Fold, Color, Talk

Why think about complex topics such as neurodiversity, neurodivergent individuals, inclusion, and bridging the neurodivide using only words? Building visual and tactile models clarifies ideas and helps us think and talk about our ideas. Have fun exploring ideas in different ways with visual and tactile tools.

I have been folding circles since 2007. I use Wholemovement, an approach developed by Bradford Hansen-Smith. I used to fold circles to create tetrahedrons, octahedrons, icosahedrons, Vector-Equilibrium Sphere, and many other interesting structures. After folding, I enjoyed coloring it. While some children like my cousin liked to fold many circles in a day, I folded one or two and spent time coloring.

Since I kept folding and coloring, my mother started organizing ideas on the circle creations. We used these foldables to think about different topics and to talk about our ideas.

See the video below and try folding!

https://youtu.be/FJ4VIetBbYg?si=pK7FDI93Ieogjawq


I enjoyed folding and coloring because
• It was relaxing
• I enjoy coloring
• I could learn better with visual and tactile tools

I did an entrepreneurship summer camp in 2014. I created the concept and logo for Fold, Color, Talk.

Bridging the Neurodivide

When my mother started preparing for her presentation on Bridging the Neurodivide, she asked me to fold a tetrahedron and then an icosahedon using four colors.

Tetrahedron

The first fold divides the circle into two parts. We used one side neurotypicals (NT) and another half to represent neurodivergent (ND). Once folded into a tetrahedron, the bottom two triangles represent NTs and NDs having experiences in environments that work best for them. As they learn in their own ways, different people (learners, parents, teachers, etc.) discover ways to bridge the neurodivide (triangle at the center). These discoveries enable them to bring NDs and NTs together in different environments.

Icosahedron

I used four tetrahedrons to create an icosahedron. The icosahedron can help us visualize the process of bridging the neurodivide more clearly.

Sustaining (green)

NDs and NTs have experiences in environments that work for them.

Initiating (yellow)

We initiate activities to bring these learners together.

Adapting (orange)

Students, teachers, parents and others adjust to changes

Extending (blue)

New activities and ways of bridging the neurodivide are discovered and implemented.

We have started tracking our progress in bridging the neuro divide using this Icosahedron.
Watch the video below to see how we are using it.

https://youtu.be/MBgGNUyc_oA?si=3tMUv05ISY9kR9wN


About Ananth
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) RASA and Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD). Ananth Raghunandan is doing a diploma in Bharatanatyam.

He enjoys folding circles and created Fold, Color, Talk with his mother Dr. Dasaratha Rama during an entrepreneurship camp.

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"A Journey to Bharat through Natya"

Why Should Neurodivergent Learners Explore Classical Dance?

Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya – 2

Last week, I started writing about whole body movement and communication through Indian natya. While we hear of many neurodivergent learners who sing, play musical instruments, draw, paint, etc., we do not hear much about their dancing. Further, we do not hear much about neurodivergent people and classical dance. One of the questions I am going to be exploring in this series of blog post is:

Why should neurodivergent learners explore classical dance?

Many neurodivergent individuals have significant motor challenges. I did too. When someone has motor challenges, we do not think of teaching them dance. Dr Masgutova, developer of the Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI), suggested that I learn dance. I started learning dance in September 2011.

I started my dance journey with hip hop and tap. When we were in Tirupati, I saw a Bharatanatyam performance for the first time and wanted to learn it. Once I started Bharatanatyam, I discovered that I enjoyed Bharatanatyam better than hip hop and tap. Bharatanatyam was taught in a very structured and systematic way which made it easier for me to learn.

Three components of Bharatanatyam lessons that make it easier for me learn the dance form are:
1. Adavus
2. Hastas
3. Bedas


Adavus: Adavus are structured patterns of movement that are the foundation of Bharatanatyam learning. When we start learning Bharatanatyam, we focus on the adavus. Adavus are movement patterns that are done to rhythm. We do the adavus to three speeds. We continue to practice adavus even when we become more experienced students.

Practicing these adavus makes it easy to learn different pieces because the choreography builds on these adavus.

View this playlist to see some lessons on adavus by my teacher Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty for learning (Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning).
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqFzR-vYU-ZilCqKnBaBpxrU_zzprOunQ&si=S_7_Xl5CbIbDIpUq

Hastas
Hastas are hand gestures. Hastas are a unique feature of Bharatanatyam training and performance. We use hand gestures and facial expressions for communicating emotions. In my diploma program, I am learning 52 hand gestures (28 single hand and 24 double hand gestures). Each hand gesture can be used in many ways. I am learning these 52 hastas and their usage.

In TAHD (Theater Arts for Holistic Development), storytelling is one of the tools that is combined in my dance class. We are taught stories for each hasta. This is a unique feature of my TAHD dance class. I did not do such stories when I was learning Bharatanatyam before my arangetram.

See The White Peacock Story and Robbers in Ramana Thatha’s ashram in my storytelling playlist

Watch the White Peacock story with the hasta here.
https://youtu.be/ytnZTB3PRz4?si=rqt6TPuobHciNhs2

Bedas

In addition to adavus and hastas, we also learn bedas. Bedas focus on movements of specific body parts. For example, three bedas that I have learned are:
1) Pada Bedas (movements of the feet)
2) Shiro Bedas (movements of the head)
3) Dhrishti Bedas (movements of the eyes)

These bedas are a systematic way to practice movements of specific body parts and to develop body awareness. For example, Pada Bedas make me more aware of foot positions and movements.
See a playlist of bedas videos here:
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqFzR-vYU-Zie54SRJJBqWDORT4K65lXx&si=VPY1h1_YbDLZvUlz

Classical dance has been a wonderful learning opportunity for me. I am grateful to my gurus Smt. Harija Sivakumar, Professor Kalakshetra Mohanan, and Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh for teaching me Bharatanatyam for many years. The structured and systematic way of learning and practice works well for me. Adavus, hastas, and bedas are three building blocks of Bharatanatyam. By practicing these building blocks regularly, I can learn the dance pieces more easily. I encourage neurodivergent students and their parents to explore classical dance.

Writing Techniques

In my blog posts, I will also mention the writing techniques that I used. Writing is a very important skill and I hope parents will explore these techniques with their children.
I used the five paragraph essay to write this blog post. I practiced this technique daily when I was learning grammar and writing using Shurley grammar.

Shurley Grammar Website
http://www.shurley.com

Celebrating my Birthday: The TAHD Way

On my last birthday in 2022, I narrated the story of The White Peacock on SpecialSaathi. That experience led to the development of my story of the month project and the Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel.

I will be doing a session for SpecialSaathi on my birthday on December 2, 2023, 8 pm IST. Hope you will join the session on whole body movement and communication with Indian natya!


About Ananth
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) RASA and Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD). Ananth Raghunandan is doing a diploma in Bharatanatyam.


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"A Journey to Bharat through Natya" BloggerSaathi

Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya – 1

“A Journey to Bharat through Natya” by Ananth Raghunandan

Recently, I started my diploma in Bharatanatyam. I have been learning Bharatanatyam for over ten years and completed my arangetram (the first solo performance by a Bharatanatyam student after years of training) in 2020. I enjoy Bharatanatyam and want to continue learning and performing in the future.

Now, I am learning Bharatanatyam using a Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) approach. TAHD has five tools: 1) movement and dance, 2) music and rhythm, 3) storytelling, 4) drama, and 5) arts and crafts. TAHD gives more opportunities for movement. For example, I have also experienced movement through drama.

Movement includes any kind of movement or dance. It includes structured and
Unstructured movement. Walk, cooking, chores, dance, yoga, play, swimming, karate, sports etc.

The following are some benefits of dance for me:

– Relieves stress: I start my day with a daily walk. I do dance and theater activities throughout the day
– Creates enjoyment: Dance is enjoyable and I look forward to my dance lessons and practice.
– Builds strength: For example, when I practice a varnam for 20 – 30 minutes, I develop stamina.
– Improves sleep: Now that I have started dancing more because I started my diploma in Bharatanatyam, I am also sleeping better.
– Improves attention: My attention also improves when I do dance and theater throughout the day

Whole Body Movement and Communication through Indian Natya

According to TAHD, the purpose of movement is to

a) Understand one’s body at rest and in motion (body awareness)
In a classical dance form like Bharatanatyam, we develop body awareness in a systematic and structured way. The playlist below shows some examples of movements of different parts of the body such as feet (Pada Bedas), eyes (Drishti Bedas) etc.
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqFzR-vYU-Zie54SRJJBqWDORT4K65lXx&si=59aA_Gwxl2d32_7P


b) Expression of feelings
In Bharatanatyam, we use movements to communicate feelings. For example, I have used movement of facial muscles to express joy, anger, disgust, fear etc. In addition to facial expressions, body posture and movements also communicate feelings. Here is a playlist of my recent performances
https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqFzR-vYU-ZjsgY6SuF44eQ3XsMdmBQxL&si=UJ8Dj1jsJDQgB34m


c) Enhance Non- verbal communication
We use body movements, hand gestures and facial expressions in dance. This helps me practice nonverbal communication

d) To communicate and express oneself in various spaces
As compared to individual dance, it is more challenging to move in space in drama because we have to coordinate our movements and body positions with other characters. See a playlist of my theater performances below

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqFzR-vYU-ZikQkkzU2571oFZm7-Jv4cn&si=yRrx6BBpbEJHMgDN


e) Stillness
Stillness / pause is also a part of movement as it creates the right impact. Stillness also helps convey an experience sometimes.

I want to encourage neurodivergent learners to explore dance and Indian theater. There are many forms of dance in India but a structured classical form like Bharatanatyam works better for me.

Celebrating my Birthday: The TAHD Way

On my last birthday in 2022, I narrated the story of The White Peacock on SpecialSaathi. That experience led to the development of my story of the month project and the Ananth’s Adventures Youtube channel.

I will be doing a session for SpecialSaathi on my birthday on December 2, 2023. Hope you will join the session on whole body movement and communication with Indian natya!

About Ananth
Ananth Raghunandan is a student ambassador for (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya) RASA and Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD). Ananth Raghunandan is doing a diploma in Bharatanatyam.

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BloggerSaathi

Why should neurodivergent children and adults learn theater?


Recently, I became an ambassador for RASA (Ramana Sunritya Alaya) and TAHD (Theater Arts for Holistic Development). TAHD was developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, founder and director of RASA (Ramana Sunritya Alaya). In theater arts classes, I do dance, storytelling and drama.

Why should neurodivergent children and adults learn theater?

Theater arts is relaxing. Theater arts is enjoyable. Theater arts provides opportunities to express ourselves in different ways. Theater arts helps us develop many skills.

Expression and Abhinaya
In Indian natya, there are four forms of abhinaya or expression. These include body language, speech, attire and props, and emotional expression. In Indian natya, body language is called angika, speech is called vachika, attire and props are called aharya, and emotional expression is called satvika.

My TAHD experiences include these forms of abhinaya. For example, I narrate stories and record them every month. My first story was the white peacock. I narrated it on my birthday. This narration includes all four forms of abhinaya.

Angika abhinaya: Body movements (e.g., bharatanatyam mudra and hand movements) are used throughout the presentation.
Vacika abhinaya: Story narration is the speech part of the abhinaya.
Aharya abhinaya: Thanks to Manu Sekar’s mother (Manu is the Founder of HashHackCode, an organization where I learn web development) for stitching the attire for my birthday. Originally, I wanted a maroon kurta. Then, I decided to choose colors that would work with the peacock story!
Satvik abhinaya: Facial expressions and hand gestures were used to communicate how the characters feel.

TAHD in Daily Life

Communication in life also involves these four modes of expression. We use these four modes of expression throughout the day as we play more roles. TAHD teaches all four modes of expression and prepares us to communicate better in life.

TAHD is not a drama program. It is a program that uses Indian natya to help us develop our communication and other skills. Practicing TAHD daily develops skills for daily living.

Ananth’s Adventures Storyboard
I am creating a planner and storyboard to describe my learning journey. My storyboard is organized according to the 4Es of TAHD:
Exploration
Experience
Expression
Enjoyment

My storyboard is available here
https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVM_HfeEY=/?share_link_id=258586415870

In this article I introduced the four forms of expression. I will discuss other elements on my storyboard in future articles.

TAHD in enjoyable because we can practice and use all four modes of expression. I hope you will explore TAHD too!

Visit my Youtube channel Ananth’s Adventures. The list of videos on my channel is available here.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hFF4h7dN0BMy5t11-EfVOy1vqc–FiXZpa3vO1-zCHg/edit?usp=sharing

Author Ananth Raghunandan


Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Vinayak Raj

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BloggerSaathi

Learning by Playing it Forward 1: Learning about Trees

By Ananth Raghunandan

Learning by Playing it Forward 1: Learning about Trees


Learning by playing it forward means sharing our explorations with others. Recently, I started my Youtube channel, Ananth’s Adventures to share what I am learning and to give ideas to parents, teachers, and neurodivergent learners on different tools and techniques for learning. The SpecialSaathi blog is another way I play it forward. Thanks to Shilpi mam for encouraging me to blog.


In this blog post, I want to share my project on trees. I have shared two videos on my Youtube
channel. I hope you enjoy the videos and use them to teach your child about trees!


The Tree Song Video


Exploring Trees with Thinkblocks Video


LIFESMART Project Planner


Since I have started creating resources regularly, I have also started using the LIFESMART
planner to organize my projects.

The Planner is organized into four sections:
I: Lesson/ Project Goals and Activities
II: LIFESMART Outcomes
III: Narration Tools and Techniques
IV. Progress and Next Steps


A key feature of the planner is that the LIFESMART elements are used to organize outcomes for the project. The four LIFE components (L: Learning daily, I: Interests, F: Family interactions, E: Engagement with Community) are consistently used to think about the outcomes of every lesson.
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) goals are written to address these LIFE goals. Finally, the longer-term impact of projects on the Six Cs (Connections, Conversations, Clarity, Choice, Competence, Coordination).

Trees Project Plan and Progress


1. What is the goal of the lesson/project?
To teach how a tiny seed becomes a big tree with many parts such as the roots, trunk, branches,
leavers etc. The goal is to wonder about the miracle of the tree adnd to appreciate what trees give
us. Thanks to my friend Kabir Vernal for a beautiful painting of a child looking at a tree.


2. Describe the activities in the lesson/project.
– Learn the tree song dance and create a video
– Create a video on the use of Thinkblocks to describe trees.


3. List the roles of people involved in the lesson/project.
Tree song lesson is by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD)
Facilitator and Faculty/Artiste
Trees using Thinkblocks created with Dr. Dasaratha Rama


4. How does the lesson/project address the four LIFE goals:


L: Learning daily
Narration (retelling or communicating what we have learned) is an important tool for
learning. I have used movement and visual tools such as Thinkblocks since 2007. Both
types of tools increase learning and are fun to use. Now, I have more opportunities to
practice narration daily as I create videos for the LIFESMART community.
I: Interests
I am very interested in dance and music. So learning and teaching with movement and
music is more fun than just reading books. I also found Thinkblocks more fun than just
reading from a book.
F: Family interactions
I enjoy doing the tree song and other dances with my nephew. My nephew is one and a
half years old. He does not understand the whole song. But he loves it when I jump
around and even tries to copy some movements. When I was young, I used to learn with
movement and visual tools with my mother.
E: Engagement with Community

I have fun learning these songs for my nephew from my teacher. Now I can also share it
with the LIFESMART community. My mother and I are also creating video lessons on
Thinkblocks and other tools.


5. Write SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) goals for the
lesson/project.


Recording the Tree Song
S: Specific: Record the tree song with my teacher
M: Measurable: Post a video of the song on Youtube
A: Attainable: The project was easily attainable because I have to learn enough to imitate but do
not need to perfect it like a dance for a performance.
R: Relevant: This project was relevant to goal of enjoying my time with my nephew
T: Time-framed: I had to finish the project before leaving for London.


Recording the Thinkblocks Video
S: Specific: Describe the parts of the tree, relationship between trees and people, and the miracle
of the tree growing from a tiny seed using Thinkblocks.
M: Measurable: Post a 3-5 minute video on trees with Thinkblocks on YouTube
A: Attainable: The project was easily attainable because I have used Thinkblocks for many
years. I have also been practicing making short videos for a few months.
R: Relevant: This project was relevant to goal of creating resources for the LIFESMART
community.
T: Time-framed: I had to finish the project before leaving for Bergen because my Thinkblocks are in London.


6. Describe the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) tools (movement and
dance, music and rhythm, storytelling, drama, arts and crafts) used in the lesson/project.

The tree song uses music and movement to teach the parts of the tree. There is also a story of how seed becomes a tree. We can expand the lesson by telling stories about trees by enacting stories about trees and by drawing or painting trees.
Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) has been developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Founder/Director of RASA (www.rasaindia.org).


7. Describe other tools (e.g., visual mapping tools) used in the lesson/project.
This lesson introduces DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives) method and the Thinkblocks tool. According to Dr. Cabrera, DSRP are the four universal patterns of thinking. We have used DSRP and associated tools for many years as a way of structuring information in consistent ways.
DSRP and Thinkblocks are creations of Cabrera Research Lab (www.cabreraresearch.org)


8. How is the process of imitation, repetition, memorization, and improvisation used in the
lesson/project?
Imitation: I learned the tree song by imitating the teacher.
Repetition: I repeated it a few times because I was going to do the video with my teacher. When I
do the video myself, I have to repeat many times until I can do the movements well, and until I
can narrate the story well.
Memorization: I did not have to memorize the movements or the song for the video because I
was doing it with my teacher. But as I do it with my nephew, I will memorize it.
Improvise: My mother and I improvise in different ways as we do the song with my nephew.


9. Describe your progress on the lesson/project.
I completed the tree song video and we have tried it with my nephew a few times. We will
explore it when we see him again.
I have completed my Thinkblocks video and shared it on my YouTube channel.


10. How is this lesson/project growing Six Cs?

· Grow Connections: Our connections with the teacher and community are evolving
through the story of the month and other video projects.
· Participate in Conversations: We have regular conversations to plan the story projects.
· We clarify goals and activities for the story of the month project and other video projects
over time.
· Make choices with ease and confidence. I chose the story for the first narration and we
have continued to choose stories and make other choices as we have progressed.
· Evolve knowledge and skills (competence): I am developing multiple skills. One of the
most important skills is listening to and retelling stories or reading and retelling stories.
· Coordinate activities (workflow, routines): We are also collecting and curating resources on Ananth’s Youtube channel. We coordinate the story of the month projects including the development of the Youtube channel.


In this blog post, I shared a lesson about trees and a lesson/project planner. Join the conversation on LIFESMART Parenting group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/434866845118386) for more details.

Author Ananth Raghunandan