How Ananth and I use Storytelling to Explore Values

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Ananth started his theater arts journey with Ramana Sunritya Aalaya in 2020. Since that time, he has explored many values through his theatre arts experiences. Value exploration is deeply embedded in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) experiences. TAHD was developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, Founder and Director of RASA.

The Need for Value Exploration for Neurodivergent Learners

Values give a sensemaking framework and along with movement and other TAHD tools and techniques can help neurodivergent learners manage stress and lead a fulfilling life. Storytelling has been used as a vehicle for teaching values for a long time. Neurodivergent learners experience language processing, auditory processing, working memory, executive memory, and other challenges that pose significant barriers to storytelling and value exploration. However, given these challenges, an explicit teaching of values and daily practice may be even more important for neurodivergent learners as compared to neurotypical learners who acquire values through interactions with many people in daily experiences throughout their lives.

In this post, I will describe our journey of discovery. Over the last 2.5 years, we have seen different ways in which values are explored through TAHD experiences. Ananth started learning Bharatanatyam from Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh, Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Facilitator, Senior Faculty and Artiste, Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning in October 2022.
As Ananth started learning Bharatanatyam with a TAHD facilitator, value exploration became more systematic and consistent because of the way in which value exploration and storytelling were integrated with the structure of Bharatanatyam lessons. Today, we have started exploring values as a more intentional daily practice.

Exploring Values through Storytelling: The TAHD Way

Watch the video by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh for an overview of his approach to teaching values through Bharatanatyam, the TAHD way.
Two key points in the video:
1. The Power of Repetition – Ongoing repetition of core values in dance classes reinforces the ideas for students. As mentioned in the video, values embedded in stories are like times tables that can be accessed and used at the right time.
2. Value Exploration – A Co-Production Approach

One key point mentioned by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh in the video is value exploration as a process of co-production. Co-production is a useful lens especially for older learners. Parents have extensive experience exploring varied approaches and have identified many approaches, tools and techniques that work for their child.

As mentioned in the video, an important way in which parents can contribute is by sharing what values the learner is imbibing and exploring. This feedback can help the teacher refine the lesson plans and personalize it for the learner.

Read more about co-production here:
Quotes from the above article:
• Co-production requires a relocation of power into the hands of families and young people
• Collaborative co-production requires that users are experts in their own circumstances (which families often are) and capable of making decisions. Professionals need to move away from being fixers to being facilitators.
TAHD professionals are referred to as facilitators and this culture of co-production is easy to realize with TAHD.
Evolving a Daily Value Exploration Practice

As Ananth started Bharatanatyam lessons with Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh in October 2022, value exploration had also shifted though we did not realize it at that time. The first indication of this shift was when Ananth decided to narrate The White Peacock story on his birthday. Ramana Maharshi’s love and acceptance of all living beings was a theme that Ananth and I thought about daily as he practiced for his presentation.

Then, we realized that Ananth was drawn to Ramana Maharshi’s teachings on silence. As he practiced the nattadavu (a basic movement pattern that is repeated frequently during lessons) and learned The Golden Mongoose story, we discovered that silence was something Ananth wanted to explore.

As he heard about Ramana Maharshi’s journey to Arunachala and how he desired nothing, Ananth started exploring this value. He started questioning whether we can be completely without desires and how much desire one can have. He also started making connections to other stories. For example, he remarked how Bharat did not have desire and did not want Rama’s kingdom.

The Power of Repetition for Learning Values
Ananth’s first story narration at a SpecialSaathi webinar on his 25th birthday. When Ms. Shilpi Mayank-Awasthi invited him to present, we were thinking of a traditional presentation. Suddenly, he asked whether he could narrate The White Peacock story. I was surprised. So were his teachers. To this day, I am not sure why he wanted to narrate a story and why he chose The White Peacock one. Could it be that the simple story of love and acceptance resonated with him? As Ananth has become older, he is very aware that he is different and cannot make his way through the world as others do. I will never know what motivated him to choose story narration or why he chose that particular story.

However, I think the process of learning used in TAHD classes played a role in sparking this interest. As Ananth repeatedly heard several stories in his dance class, he was processing these stories and would share some thought based on these stories. Imitation is powerful. Young children pick up values as they narrate their favorite stories repeatedly. Dance created an opportunity to imitate The White Peacock and other stories many times while practicing hand gestures. This repetition created multiple opportunities to think about the story and values over time.

It struck me that the imitate, repeat, memorize, and improvise is a process for learning values too. Repetition builds a vocabulary of values as well an understanding through story and movement. Repetition sets the stage for recalling the value as needed.

Integrating Value Exploration and Daily Experiences

We are also finding ways to integrate daily experience and values presented in class. For example, we went to a theatre show in London. A few days before the show, I had injured my leg. So when Ananth went to drink some water, he thought of bringing water to me. In his latest story on Cow Lakshmi, one part of the story was about how Ramana thatha fed idlis to Cow Lakshmi and how he cared for all his devotees paying attention to even small details. I reminded Ananth of the theatre incident and told him that was an example of how he was caring when he brought me the water. This type of reflection is useful because spotlighting small successes makes the individual more aware and more likely to repeat the behavior in the future.

Bharatanatyam and Value Exploration

The following features of the Bharatanatyam class shifted value exploration:

1) Specific stories and values are attached to the adavus (basic movement patterns that are typically practiced at the beginning of each class) and hastas (hand gestures that are also practiced in every class). Since the adavus and hastas are repeated, story and value presentation is also repeated. Repetition is important for drawing attention to and thinking about the values of characters multiple times.
2) Since Ramana Maharshi stories have been carefully selected and sequenced for presentation in the dance class, there is a values curriculum in the dance class.
3) Before the dance class, Ananth was exploring different values in different experiences such as storytelling and drama but aligning the story presentation to the Bharatanatyam lesson structure made the value exploration systematic and consistent.

Ananth has also learned Bharatanatyam in a traditional format for over ten years. In contrast to his earlier experiences, storytelling and value exploration has been a focus in Ananth’s recent TAHD informed Bharatanatyam experience.

A TAHD informed approach to Bharatanatyam may be better for neurodivergent learners because a flexible mix of technical elements of dance, storytelling, value exploration etc. can be crafted based on individual needs. Even for Ananth, this flexibility has been invaluable. For several months, he was more focused on storytelling and developing his monthly storytelling practice and Youtube channel. Now, he has turned his attention more to dance practice.

Value Exploration with Neurodivergent Learners

Consider language processing, auditory processing, working memory, executive memory, and other challenges while practicing storytelling and value exploration. We have used visual and tactile tools for storytelling for years because of these challenges. Since starting storytelling through theatre arts and especially as an integrated practice with Bharatanatyam, Ananth’s ability to process stories through auditory input without any visual support has increased tremendously. Looking back, Ramana Maharshi stories have been an excellent choice for value exploration. Earlier stories such as The White Peacock and Robbers in Ramana thatha’s ashram had few characters and simple storylines. Thus, Ananth was able to pay more attention to value exploration. As stories have become more complex, he also become more familiar with the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi. Thus, he is able to process more complex stories with auditory input. He is also initiating value exploration in other stories.

Value exploration is important for all learners. I wonder whether it is more important for neurodivergent learners to experience explicit value exploration through storytelling since they experience communication challenges that make it difficult for them to explore values and practice using these values in life experiences through daily experiences. Based on our experiences over the last 2.5 years, I am glad we have had the opportunity to explore values in a systematic and consistent way through Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD).

A Memorable Moment

Ananth attended the Saturday satsang by Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL). I suggested that he attend Ujwal’s part as he is accustomed to his storytelling style. The next day, I asked Ananth about the story narrated by Ujwal. He was able to explain about a girl throwing stones to get fruits from a tree, bees getting disturbed and stinging her, and the girl telling Ramana thatha about the bees. Attending to auditory information, comprehending the story, and narrating it with ease are outcomes from Ananth’s Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) experience. While we have explored storytelling for years, we used visual aids to organize and recall information. Further, it is easier to process information and recall during a dance class when there is a lot of movement. Processing oral narration and recalling while sitting down is exciting to see. Exploration of another value, compassion has now started for us.

Author Dr.Dasaratha Rama
Dr. Dasaratha Rama 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.

Contributor – Ananth Raghunandan

Join the discussion in our whatsapp group here:


Daily Rhythms: A LIFESMART Perspective

Daily Rhythms: A LIFESMART Perspective

Routines provide structure and predictability. However, life is often unpredictable. Rhythms are more flexible and fluid. What would a healthy daily rhythm look like?
Does your child have a balanced and healthy daily rhythm? What kinds of activities should be included in the day?
This post is an updated version of an earlier post on daily rhythms. I have updated my earlier post to show how to analyze your child’s daily rhythms using the four LIFE components and four indicators for each of these components. Read the post and complete the worksheet at the end of the article. Email me at if you want to discuss your child’s routine in terms of these elements.

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

Discovering daily rhythms that work means the process of finding the right combination of activities for the day. For example, we start the day with long walk. Dance is an important part of Ananth’s daily routine. A list of some activities to include in the daily rhythm is given below.

• Include movement daily
• Include visual and performing arts
• Include activities of daily living
These activities support overall development. Include them as part of your child’s daily rhythm!
Activities of daily living
• Hanging up clothes
• Folding clothes
• Setting the table
• Cleaning tables
• Making the bed
• Cooking
• Putting things away
• Watering the plants
• Loading Laundry in the washing machine
• Helping in sorting vegetables and grocery items and putting them at proper place
Structured movement activities
• Swimming
• Cycling
• Running
• Karate
• Skating
• Yoga
• Playing a sport like – table tennis, football, badminton etc
• Drawing
• Painting
• Crafts
Performing arts
• Singing
• Dance
• Instrumental music
Theater Arts activities
• Movement and dance
• Music and Rhythm
• Storytelling
• Drama
• Arts and Crafts
Academic learning
• Language and communication

Daily Rhythms for LIFE
I am not the first one to talk about daily routines or daily rhythms. The activities listed above are familiar too. What I can add to this discussion is the LIFESMART perspective.

L: Learn daily
Four words to start thinking about how to support daily learning: imitate, repeat, memorize, improvise. Starting with imitation and evolving to own exploration (improvise) is the way I see the progression of learning.
Practice the imitate, repeat, memorize, improvise steps daily. This is an important component to build into the daily routine.

I: Interests
The words I chose are motivation, initiation, commitment, and effort. Initiation is an important indicator of interest! Not everything we learn is interesting to us. But we are likely to be motivates, initiate, commit time, and put in effort when are interested.
Interests are discovered during daily learning. Encourage exploration of interests daily. However, the daily routine should include activities of high interest, medium interest, and low interest. Everything in our daily routine cannot be of high intrinsic interest!
F: Family interactions
Safety (physical and emotional), encouragement, support, and enjoyment are the words I chose for family interactions. The four words spotlight the role of parents. Ensuring safety, encouraging children in varied experiences, providing support as needed, and enjoying experiences together are the foundations of parent-child relationships.
Family interactions are the foundation for daily rhythms. Parents discover ways to engage their child in varied activities. Parents play a key role in discovering and implementing daily rhythms.
Family interactions are of particular importance for neurodivergent children and for much longer than for others because educational and other systems pose numerous challenges for them.
E: Engaging communities
The words I chose are acceptance, inclusion, expression, and co-creation. All four components are linked. Learning daily, discovering interests, the right types of family interactions enable our children to find the right inclusive environments for expression and co-creation. Being part of such environments daily is something that is happening for us only now.
While access to the right environments for neurodivergent children and adults continues to be a challenge, I believe systems are evolving. By being proactive, we can discover the right environments, facilitate inclusion, and change the system for the better.

Activity for Parents
Use the LIFESMART Parenting Worksheet below to analyze your child’s daily routine in terms of the four LIFE components and the four elements of each of the four LIFE components.
Based on these sixteen indicators, what changes do you think are needed in your child’s daily routine?
Every parent is a change agent. Every neurodivergent child and adult is a change agent. Change begins with discovering the right daily rhythms for yourself and for your child!

Author Dr.Dasaratha Rama


And the answer is…

And the answer is…

A speech and language therapist used to play a game with Ananth. The game was called “And the answer is…” Regardless of the question posed by one participant, the second participant always responded with the same answer. This is my experience with Ananth over the last 20 years! Regardless of the outcomes of interest, challenges, opportunities etc. we seem to end up with seven key components that inform our daily routine and habits. I have organized these components into seven tips.

Seven Tips for Parents

Over the years, we have focused on many outcomes. We have encountered a variety of challenges (sensory and movement challenges, language processing challenges, working memory and executive functioning challenges, stress management and emotional regulation etc.). Regardless of outcomes of interest, the seven tips represent seven key parts of our solution strategy!
Initially, I wrote these tips to align with days of the week:
Monday: Be mindful of movement.
Tuesday: Try theater arts tools.
Wednesday: Work with your hands.
Thursday: Use visual and tactile tools for thinking and communication.
Friday: Enrich family interactions.
Saturday: Practice sense-making.
Sunday: See what is taking shape.
While I developed the seven tips about two years ago, I have refined them over time. For example, once I started learning Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD), I modified the second tip to specifically focus on theater tools.

Reaching the Learning Brain:The Three Rs

Dr. Bruce Perry suggests that to help a vulnerable child to learn, think and reflect, we need to intervene in a simple sequence. His three Rs model provides a simple and consistent way of organizing the design of learning experiences for neurodivergent children and adults

Over time, I realized that the sequence of these tips also works! Movement, theater arts, and working with hands are calming and enjoyable. They help address Regulation and Relationships (the first two Rs of Bruce Perry’s three Rs for reaching the learning brain). Thinking and communication is cognitive and addresses the third R (Reasoning). Family interactions, sense-making and observation include all three Rs.
The seven tips flow well with the sequence suggested by Dr. Perry.

Learning Together: The Three Rs Tetrahedron

The seven tips poster shows the three Rs model as a folded circle. We have divided the circle into two halves to represent the parent and child.
Once folded into a tetrahedron, the bottom triangle represents the parent and child regulating together during experiences. The middle triangle represents relationships. The two triangles at the top represent parent reasoning and child reasoning respectively.
The model shows that the parent and child’s past experiences shape their capacity to regulate together and their relationship. Intervening means shifting the way parent and child regulate together and interact with each other. Therapies such as Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) intervene to facilitate the guided participation relationship between parent and child. The child may also need occupational therapy and other interventions to be better able to regulate and engage in activities with the parent.

The LIFESMART Parenting 365-Day Exploration

Hence, we have started a 365-day exploration our LIFESMART Parenting group. We will focus on these seven tips with one tip each day and look at how these tips can be used as a starting point for thinking about different issues and outcomes while raising neurodivergent children. The activities for days 1 to 7 are given below. We encourage community members to do the daily activities. The activities will be discussed on Mondays during our weekly meetup!

Day 1: Review your child’ daily schedule. Describe how you are incorporating movement throughout the day.
Day 2: Try Theater Arts Tools: Review your child’ daily schedule. Describe how you are incorporating theater arts tools (movement and dance, music and rhythm, storytelling, drama, and arts and crafts) throughout the day.
Day 3: Work with your hands: Review your child’ daily schedule. Describe how you are creating opportunities for your child to work with his hands. In Waldorf curriculum, they include, knitting and crocheting. Chores are a way of working with your hands. Ananth used to follow Wholemovement approach for folding. This was a key activity for him and he will be sharing in a video.

Day 4: Think and Talk with Visual and Tactile tools: Review your child’ daily schedule. Describe how you are incorporating visual and tactile tools (Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), specialized AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) tools, and general-purpose hands-on and computerized tools)throughout the day. We have explored a variety of tools over the years including index cards, post-its, folded circles, notebooks, OneNote, Plectica, Thortspace, Canva, Prezi, Powtoon, and Obsidian. The tool that we will discuss today is index cards. We use index cards to organize memorization. Index cards work better for Ananth than notebooks since information is organized in small chunks. We use post-it flags to identify cards that he needs to memorize.
Day 5: Enrich Family Communication: Each of the previous activities can enhance family communication. For example, our daily walks (movement) provide opportunities for many conversations. Exploring theater activities (movement and dance, music and rhythm, storytelling, drama, and arts and crafts) together is a way for parents and neurodivergent children to enjoy time together. It is important to view the goal as enjoyment rather than skills development or performance. The mindset of doing theater arts activities together for fun rather than for learning specific skills sets the stage for building authentic communication. In a similar way hands-on activities are calming and create opportunities for communication. Finally, visual and tactile tools can be used to enhance communication between neurodivergent learners, parents, and eventually other family members.

Day 6: Practice sensemaking: Family communication paves the way for practicing sensemaking. We learn how to think about situations, make decisions, and engage the world through communication with parents, mentors, peers, and others. The previous activities facilitate communication and hence enable sensemaking together. Theater arts tools, especially storytelling is an important vehicle for sensemaking. Choosing stories that explore different values are a way of practicing sensemaking with your child.

Day 7: See what is taking shape: Finally, it is important to observe what is happening. Observe what is working and not working for the child. Consider what is happening in your life. Consider support and guidance available from others.

Join the LIFESMART Parenting 365 Day Exploration on Whatsapp:

Author Dasaratha Rama


Magical Visual Calendar

A video tutorial by Monika misra (special educator) on the importance of Visual Calendar and how to teach it to our kids.

A concrete visual calendar is an effective way to show our students exactly what is going on. A calendar is a good way to help your child understand what is happening on a larger scale than a daily schedule.

Unusual events which interrupt the regular routine can confuse children, resulting in behavior problems. Calendars allow you to present these changes in a clear, simple way well in advance using a picture symbol such as going to the doctor on Thursday or to the mall on Saturday.

A calendar can also be used to show:
• When someone is coming to stay for a visit
• When the family will be taking a trip
• When your child might be staying at another house
• Doctor or dentist appointments

Author Monika Misra

Monika Misra
Founder of Deific Skill Portal, Lucknow
Special Educator at Sunrise learning, Noida.
Parent counsellor at Kant Brain Center, Lucknow.


Child Empowerment- Empowering kids with the Responsibilities: Play Time by Manju K Iyer

Video tutorials by Manju K Iyer

Child Empowerment

Today I will tell you an easy way to teach empowermebt in our kids by assigning them the daily responsibilities at home and beyond.

Author Manju K Iyer

Manju K Iyer is a Psychologicist, Counselor,  Parent coach, Play Therapist, Homeschooler and Founder of PlayTime ( A coaching program for parents of children with special needs).