Celebrating Festivals: Discovering Opportunities for Inclusion

During the Ganesha celebrations in our community, Ananth performed a dance on Ganesha. This was his first dance performance after his arangetram in October 2020. Dance practice had been disrupted for multiple reasons. Eventually, Ananth started learning from Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh in Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru. This is the first piece he performed under Ujwal’s guidance.

L: Learning daily
Preparing for the dance created opportunities for learning daily. We also made discoveries to enhance daily learning in the future. When working with neurodivergent learners, it is important to adapt the learning process for their needs. I had requested Ujwal to teach the hand gestures and facial expressions separately because for Ananth the usual sequence of teaching foot movements, body/hand movements, and finally facial expressions means that when he is learning facial expressions, he is also doing all the other movements and does not have bandwidth to learn expression.
The video below shows how Ananth learned hand gestures and expressions before integrating them in his dance.

Viewers have noted that Ananth is looking more expressive now. Many reasons. One important reason is how Ujwal explains the meaning of every word multiple times. So Ananth is comprehending what he is showing clearly and that is one important reason for communicating better through body and facial expressions. Now that Ujwal has started pulling out hand gestures and facial expressions, I expect we will see even more progress. Another big benefit is that these storytelling parts Ananth can practice at any time during the day whereas he has a couple of set times for dance practice and that is when he will do full dance.

I: Interests
Ananth has been interested in Bharatanatyam for more than 10 years. Learning with more explanations through storytelling and improving our practice routines continuously helps sustain this interest because Ananth is better able to learn and perform.

F: Family interactions
We continue to support Ananth in many ways. For example, I interacted several times with the event organizers as they planned the event. We chose and shopped for the costume together. His grandmother attended the event. We posted the recording on Youtube channel and shared it with other family members.

E: Engagement with Community
Performing in the event created an opportunity to meet many people in the community. Many people spoke to him after the event. Hopefully, interactions will increase in the future due to such activities.

SMART projects
The dance was a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-framed) project. While Ananth has been exploring this piece for some months, the performance motivated him to practice more and refine the parts that he did not know well.

The objective of performance is not just to demonstrate mastery. The four LIFE elements show the varied benefits of performing in community events. Such events are an opportunity for inclusion. Neurodivergent learners may not have conversations in the same way as their neurotypical peers. But they often have varied skills that can be showcased and celebrated by communities.

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!

Join the discussion in our whatsapp group here:


How Ananth and I Use Visual and Tactile Tools for Storytelling

How Ananth and I Use Visual and Tactile Tools for Storytelling

Over 15 years ago, I learned about Dr. Cabrera’s work on the Distinction, Systems, Relationships, Perspectives (DSRP) method. According to Dr. Cabrera, DSRP are four universal patterns of thinking that support systems thinking, critical thinking, and other forms of thinking.

Using Thinkblocks

Ananth and I started exploring DSRP and Thinkblocks when he was in Elementary School. While we stopped using Thinkblocks after a few years, we continued using DSRP and other DSRP tools (e.g., Plectica). DSRP guides our use of all visual and tactile tools and gives us a systematic and consistent way of thinking about ideas.

Enki Approach to Homeschooling

In the meantime, we had started using the Enki approach for homeschooling. Enki is based on Waldorf and other approaches. Ananth also attended a Waldorf school for two years. We used many Waldorf materials in our homeschool. We used colorful scarves, wooden figures etc. Slowly, we started combining Thinkblocks and scarves for storytelling. We would use scarves to visually demarcate different settings. For example, Ananth used to love The Magic Treehouse books. We would use one scarf for Jack and Annie’s home and a different one for the place they visited in that story. We would also use treeblocks to build the treehouse.
While we narrated stories with Thinkblocks regularly, we did not record videos. Now that Ananth is older and developing interest in storytelling, we have an opportunity to share our storytelling ideas and experiences with parents and others.

Watch Ananth’s narration of Cow Lakshmi’s Daily Visits using Thinkblocks. After his narration, I have explained our journey and provided tips for using tools such as Thinkblocks for storytelling. If you don’t have Thinkblocks, use household objects or other blocks! 3-D objects have a different feel than pictures.

Now, Ananth is able to process such stories without visual support. He is also able to narrate without visual aids. In fact, he had prepared this narration (over 500 words) without visual aids when I suddenly thought that we can use this opportunity to demonstrating Thinkblocks. We will use such visual aids with more planning in future videos!

Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD)
Ananth also weaves in TAHD tools (movement and dance, music and rhythm, storytelling, drama, and arts and crafts) in his presentations. We are enjoying integrating Thinkblocks and TAHD! Our goal is to explore the use of visual and tactile tools as well as TAHD tools for thinking, learning, and communication.

Watch the video and join the discussion in our whatsapp group here:

Dr. Dasaratha Rama is a certified leader in systems thinking, mapping, and leadership under a program developed by Cabrera Research Lab. She is also doing a certificate in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) from RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya).

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Morpheus Nag


Abhinaya at an Android Workshop:
Practicing Workplace Communication with Theater Arts

Who do you think of when you hear the word abhinaya? The picture by Morpheus shows a popular actress, Sridevi. We think of talented actors and actresses who engage audiences with enthralling performances. This blog post is not about such actors and actresses. It is not about performances. It is about abhinaya as a tool for expression for everyone. Abhinaya as a tool for expression for parents. Abhinaya as a tool for communication for neurodivergent children. Abhinaya as a tool for developing workplace communication skills.

In this blog post, we will explore the use of Theater Arts for Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) as an approach for preparing neurodivergent learners for the workplace.

Enjoying an Android Workshop
By Ananth Raghunandan

As Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, developer of the TAHD approach says, life is theater. We all play different roles throughout the day. Work is also theater. At work, different people have different roles. Each employee must do their role well like actors in a play. On June 28, 2023, I attended the inclusive Android for neurodiverse individuals workshop organized by Google in Bengaluru. My role was to participate in the workshop. In this role, I expressed myself in different ways and communicated with different people.

As a theater student, I want to describe my experience at the Android workshop in terms of abhinaya. In Indian natya, there are four forms of abhinaya or expression. These include attire and props, body language, speech, and emotional expression. Attire and props are called aharya, body language is called angika, speech is called vacika, and emotional expression is called satvika. Being able to use these four modes of expression made me more comfortable and helped me enjoy my workshop experience.

Aharya (Attire and Props)
Manu sir gave me a t-shirt with HashHackCode printed on it. All the students wore such t-shirts. The students had to wear t-shirts so they could identify themselves as HashHackCode students. The mentors had their own dress code. As you can see, the pictures convey that the students are affiliated with HashHackCode.

We were also given Google bags. Google IO-connect bags for the event. I also got a water bottle and a hat.

Angika(Body Language)
When we are in professional events, we must be aware of body language. For example, we must sit up straight and look alert in the workshop. Bharatanatyam and theater arts help me practice body language in a systematic way daily so I am better prepared for events such as the Android workshop.

Vacika (Speech)
We did not talk much at the workshop, but we had many opportunities to talk before and after the workshop. Since I started the theater arts program, I have been working on voice modulation. In professional settings, we must use our voice appropriately when talking to people.

Satvika (Emotional Expression)
Facial expressions are also an important part of communication. Being pleasant, calm, and even smiling is important in a workplace setting. Towards the end, I was getting impatient, but I smiled for pictures. My training to smile during dance has taught me to smile even when I am tired.

About HashHackCode (HHC)
As explained on the website, HashHackCode is creating an alternative inclusive ecosystem that recognizes and builds the potential of people with different abilities to learn coding, digital expression and computational thinking.
Mr. Manu Sekar is the Founder and CEO of HashHackCode.

About me
I have been a student of HashHackCode since 2020. I am also a student ambassador for Theater Arts for Holistic Development/ Ramana Sunritya Alaya. I have learned Bharatanatyam for over ten years, and performed in plays for RASA.

Recently, I started a Youtube channel to practice abhinaya. I started with a story of the month project. Now, I have started creating other videos too.

Changing the Mindset: From Speech to Abhinaya
By Dr. Dasaratha Rama

Parents often worry about speech and language development. By changing our mindset to abhinaya rather than speech, we recognize that humans communicate in many ways. Speech is only one of many ways to communicate. Further, parents worry about speech means that they often overlook the struggles in other areas. They miss the struggles in nonverbal communication and emotional expression. These foundations of communication are developed long before speech! Abhinaya in Indian natya is a systematic framework of expression using varied modes of expression. Thus, abhinaya is a useful way of thinking about learning and development of children.

In a recent post on neurotypical behaviors, Bloggersaathi Heena Sahi states
“NTs go with the rule sitting on the chair
Well a ND would feel more regulated and calm on floor as they have and face challenges of poor body awareness , coordination and struggle with muscle tone too. So sitting on chair would actually dysregulate them. “

By learning Bharatanatyam for over 10 years and continuing his Bharatanatyam journey by learning theater arts, Ananth was easily able to sit and focus for one hour in the workshop. Given that we went to the hotel where the HHC group was staying, interacted with people at the hotel, and then traveled by bus to the workshop venue, Ananth would have found it difficult to sit for long and focus. His Bharatanatyam teacher, Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, emphasizes smiling while dancing. This practice of smiling seems to have developed Ananth’s capacity to regulate himself in noisy situations. In addition, as Ananth has started learning about Ramana Maharshi, he has also become intrigued by the concept of silence. He will often speak in a low voice and experiment with silence when we travel. These explorations also seem to be having an impact on his ability to regulate in noisy settings.

#Jump Back Up July

There is growing awareness of the negative impacts of masking and behaving in certain ways because it is expected by neurotypical individuals. The practice of abhinaya offers a different way of thinking about this issue. Ananth was not masking to fit in with a neurotypical group. He was a with a group of neurodivergent individuals, their parents, and peers. However, as he practices the different forms of abhinaya in a systematic way, his ability to regulate himself in such noisy settings grows.

Finally, Shipi Mayank Awasthi invited us to explore #Joyful June, an Action for Happiness initiative in June 2023. The July theme is #Jump Back Up July. I am glad that this post is being published on July 1, 2023. We will explore resilience as a theme this month in the LIFESMART community! It is important to develop the capacity to bounce back from setbacks. Ananth was not feeling well the previous week. He had not been sleeping well because of travel and because of a cough. On Sunday, we decided not to attend a workshop because he was exhausted because of lack of sleep. So I was happy to see him being totally engaged on Wednesday!

This week, Ananth and I decided to write together. We can then integrate his perspective and my perspective on our experiences in one article rather than splitting across his posts and my posts. Since we are also planning and creating videos together, we feel that this approach will work better. Thank you Shilpi for encouraging both of us to blog. We are excited about this new direction and hope SpecialSaathi readers find the articles of more value when presented this way.

Co Authored By Dr.Dasaratha Rama and Ananth Raghunandan


Narrating Stories with Hand Gestures

This blog post describes Ananth’s storytelling with hand gestures project under the guidance of Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, senior faculty and artist of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru.  More posts will be added in the future.  Parents and teachers can use these short segments to create lessons for children and teens.  Blog posts will provide lesson ideas for each story.

On December 2, 2022, Ananth shared his first story using hand gestures. This story included one hasta (hand gesture) from Bharatanatyam (mayura hasta) and other gestures. A short snippet of music to demonstrate the gesture was used as a prelude to the story.

In January, Ananth shared another story that used hand gestures. This story included another hasta (hand gesture) from Bharatanatyam (kartari mukha hasta) and other gestures. Again, short snippet of music to demonstrate the gesture was used as a prelude to the story.

Watch the video below for an explanation of how these stories and music pieces were created under the guidance of Dr. Sarada Natarajan, President of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru to teach students about the hand gestures as well as their usage. The video also explains RMCL’s perspective on Bharatanatyam.

The library of music and stories has been a tremendous resource for Ananth’s learning. It is easy for his teacher to provide snippets of stories to practice. These small segments integrate important Bharatanatyam skills while integrating other tools of theater such as storytelling. It is also motivating for Ananth to practice the hand gestures and stories to create videos for the community. These projects enable focused practice and have meaningful outputs. See the storytelling playlist here.

Dear parents and educators, Watch the videos and develop lesson plans for your students. Share your experiences in SpecialSaathi group or in the LIFESMART Parenting group on Facebook!

Author Dr.Dasaratha Rama

Creative representation of this blog is done by supertalented CreativeSaathi associate Dhairya Kumar Pal.


We are what we practice!

We are inundated with information. We get a lot of information daily. We have blogs, groups, webinars, and many other ways of acquiring information. But what are you practicing daily? Regardless of the information that we get, learning happens through practice.

Information is not equal to learning!

A lot of information does not make you more knowledgeable or more skilled! It may even get in the way of becoming knowledgeable and skilled.

In 2023, we are focusing on improving our methods for practicing. We are paying attention to the tools and techniques we are using to organize practice.

Our first and most successful effort is organizing dance practice. Thank you Vinayak Raj and Jaya Mulraj for this colorful picture of a dancer!

Smile Brightly and Dance

  1. We have started a 100-Day Smile Brightly and Dance project. While practice is an ongoing daily activity, creating a timed project (100-Day project) is useful. We set and refine goals for this project. We track progress. The key outcome for this 100-Day project is improvement in our daily practice routines and habits.
  2. We have created a Wakelet to organize practice.
  3. We are working with Ananth’s teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, to create resources in way that makes it easy to organize practice. Since December, Ujwal has been creating short 3-5 minute videos. We are compiling these videos in Wakelet. We choose videos and practice with ease!
  4. We are adding information about what we practice daily to our practice Wakelet.

Review our Wakelet here to see how we are organizing and documenting daily practice. You can use some of these resources to do your own 100 Days of Smile Brightly and Learn project!

Once we developed a clear practice approach for dance, we started replicating the same approach for coding and other activities.

Tip of the Week: Set clear practice goals for yourself and your child. Do not just think about making your child practice. There are many things that parents have to practice to become better guides and advocates for their child. What are you practicing daily?

Our Journey to Bharata through Natya

I started referring to Ananth’s journey as A Journey to Bharat through Natya. Later, I realized that it is my journey too. I started tuning into mindful practice with Bharatanatyam. I was fascinated by how instruction was organized around aduvus, structured movement patterns that are the building blocks of Bharatanatyam. The building blocks of teaching and learning are well-specified in Bharatanatyam. Hence, it is not surprising that the first process that fell into place for practice for us was Bharatanatyam. We are grateful to Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh for following this basic structure and working with us to create short videos as building blocks of our daily practice.

Announcing our New YouTube Channel: Ananth’s Adventures

Ananth’s Adventures will be used to share small daily explorations that Ananth and I do. Our focus will be on improving practice. We will do a series of 100-Day projects to continuously improve how we practice. Watch our first video on Ananth’s Adventures Channel below!

Smile Brightly and Dance: Practicing Pada Beda (Movements of the Feet) with Ananth

Rama’s Notes on the Video

A new phase in Ananth and mom’s theater explorations! Ananth has learned Bharatanatyam for over 10 years. Rama has observed and given suggestions to Ananth from time to time. We have acted together for many years. Ananth enjoys acting Ananth and mom stories. Now, Ananth is immersed in varied theater experiences through RASA. He is exploring dance from a Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) perspective. Rama is doing a parent certification in TAHD. We are exploring theater a bit differently now.

I am #notadancer and not aspiring to be a dancer! But TAHD approach is relaxing. I would feel more intimidated by traditional Bharatanatyam that I would have to be perfect in the movements etc.

The Four Es of TAHD

Exploration, Experience, Expression, Enjoyment

Ananth and I are having fun trying out some things together. I feel free to express myself. While following what was taught, if I forget something, no worries. Make something up 🙂 The point is to explore together and create a positive experience!


  1. Ananth’s teacher, Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru, emphasizes smiling while dancing. But it is hard for Ananth to practice smiling in front of a computer screen. So I started doing the basics with him.
  2. I don’t get enough time for exercise. We walk daily, I have started yoga, the aduvus add a bit more movement into my life.
  3. I keep saying don’t just make your kids do things. Do things with them. Action is better than talk. So Ananth and I can just demonstrate this in action through our new channel.
  4. I think TAHD has great potential to enhance the quality of interactions between parent and child. Hopefully, when parents see our video, they will get a glimpse of possibilities.
  5. I don’t want to just say do TAHD, it can really help your child. I believe people respond more to action than words.
  6. As a teacher, I am intrigued and fascinated by aduvus. What an elegant way of organizing teaching and learning! So I have an interest in aduvus.
  7. The 100-Day project format also increases my comfort level. I have committed to a 100-Day exploration of aduvus with Ananth.
  8. There are many small movement videos in our Smile Brightly and Dance Wakelet. Any parent can pick up some and try. Hopefully, if we share a few explorations, it will motivate others to try.
  9. Ujwal has started including simpler versions of the aduvus and telling Ananth “let us do this simple one so you can practice with amma.” So hopefully Ananth gets the message that he can teach something to others as well! It also means that the videos in our Smile Brightly and Dance Wakelet are easier versions for parents to try a little at a time.

10. Finally, remember that you are not here to fix your child. Your child has their own path. They might well lead you to change your path! I am an engineer and an academic. The sum total of my dance experience is one folk song I did while in college 🙂 We can always try new things and enjoy. #happiestsaathis

Practicing Coordinated Movement

Analyze the coordinated movement in the video above.

Consider related movements: 1) setting up the IPAD for recording and laptop for playing music, 2) setting up IPAD so both are visible, moving nearer or farther way, 3) coordinating (I will play the video, you start recording), 4) stopping the IPAD and laptop.

To create this short clip, we had to do quite a bit of coordination!

Sitting tolerance or engaging through movement? What should parents focus on?

Parenting and Perfection

Finally, I was thinking parenting and perfection may be on the opposite sides! As a parent, there is much to gain by quickly adding to my movement vocabulary and improvise while interacting with my child. If I were aspiring to be a dancer, then I would go much slower to develop each movement to perfection…

Think about all the different foot, hand, face/eyes and other movements in this short clip. As parents, we are free to just play with these movements.

Thanks Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Vaishnavi Poorna Ujwal Jagadeesh Hopefully, we will get more parents trying TAHD and benefiting from RASA’s work over the years.