How does music therapy in the classroom help kids with special needs?

Music therapy is an evidence-based effective approach for working with special needs children. Numerous studies and research have demonstrated its positive impact on various aspects of development, such as communication skills, improve behavioural engagement boost academic performance, social interaction, emotional expression, and cognitive skills by using the power of music to stimulate various areas of development.

Music therapy is beneficial for children with autism and intellectual disabilities, as it can help improve their shared attention, communication, and play skills. The rhythmic and melodic aspects of music can engage and stimulate various areas of the brain, by helping in their development and enhancing social interactions.

Music therapy can be particularly helpful for nonverbal children. Music involves both auditory and sensory experiences, it provides an alternative mode of communication for those who have difficulty with verbal expression. Through music therapy, nonverbal children can use instruments, body movements, and vocalizations to convey their feelings, preferences, and thoughts, facilitating communication and self-expression.

Benefits of music therapy is not only limited with non – verbal children. Engaging with music in a therapeutic setting can help verbal children to develop better articulation, vocabulary, and overall communication abilities. It also helps them as a form of recreation by engaging in a better way for them to explore their emotions and thoughts through song writing, singing, and other musical activities.

Music therapy can be incredibly beneficial for individuals with intellectual disabilities to stimulate various cognitive functions like memory, attention, and problem-solving as rhythm exercises and learning songs help in bringing positive changes in cognitive functioning.

Music therapy can help to develop speech and language skills, as well as better understand social cues. Music has a powerful impact on emotions so it helps in exploration and expression of feelings safely and creatively which may lead to better emotional regulation in intellectually disabled people.

Group music therapy sessions encourage them to build social skills and connect with others when they have to sing in a choir or participate in music based activities .Playing musical instruments or engaging in rhythmic movements can improve fine and gross motor skills along with regulation of sensory input and integration of various sensory experiences. Participation in musical task can help to boost their motivation, self confidence and self esteem.

Music therapy can also be beneficial for autistic children in various ways. It can help improve their communication and social skills by providing a nonverbal and engaging way to interact. It can also help regulate emotions and reduce anxiety, which are common challenges for individuals with autism.

Additionally, it can enhance sensory integration and motor skills through rhythmic activities.

Overall, music therapy provides a structured and enjoyable environment that can support the overall development and well-being of autistic children.

Also music therapy can have positive effects on the academic development of special children as it enhances cognitive skills such as attention, memory, and problem-solving through engaging musical activities, improves auditory processing, which can positively impact language and communication skills. As the nature of music therapy is structured its sessions can help develop routines and organizational skills that are generally beneficial in academic settings. At the same time it is also important to note that its effects may vary based on individual needs and capabilities.

Author Sradhanjali Dasgupta

Consultant Psychologist, Speaker , Learning Developmental Coach, Teacher and trainer Miss. Sradhanjali Dasgupta has been extensively working in the field of Counselling and education for the past few years in several Clinics, Hospitals, NGOs and educational sectors. She also contributes her writings and blogs in various newspapers, magazines and e- magazines Her training and workshops are both for the corporate as well as for the educational sector and are geared up for learning and development,upgradation and capacity building. She has actively taken part in many debates


Teaching Concepts with Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) – 1

Use Music and Movement to Teach Children

Thanks to the CreativeSaathi team for the creative representation for this story. Thanks to Morpheus Nag for the picture of the ashram. Thanks Dhrov Tikoo for the colorful squirrel and bird. Thanks Nikkil Thotham for the pictures of the monkey, dog, and cow. This is our second post where we have combined artwork from multiple CreativeSaathis!

Children’s songs are often used by parents and teachers to teach young children concepts such as body parts, animals, fruits etc. These songs are a fun way to teach that include many theater tools (e.g., music, movement, and storytelling).

This week we reached day 50 of 100 days of the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab being organized in collaboration with RASA India. This week we shared a movement activity for young children by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh of the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning.

While Ananth may not care for these children’s songs much now, the fact that his 1.5 year old nephew will be visiting us soon made him participate with much interest. He and I have been brainstorming ways to try it with Ishaan! Ananth has included his ideas to try with his nephew in his post.

Tips for Implementing TAHD Lessons

1. Practice I-Do, We-Do, You-Do Method of Teaching

A key point from the article above: Learning with a gradual shift of responsibility reduces task anxiety in students and makes studying a fun thing. There is proper time and space given to students to transition from a beginner to an independent performer.

Review this week’s lesson video. See how Ujwal Jagadeesh is using “We-do” teaching. One reason that we have done the videos with Ananth is that you can observe how the lesson is being taught. Even if you are not using the lesson itself, please watch the lesson videos. There are many things we can learn by watching guided participation in action.

Ananth can easily do a one-hour lesson because of this We-do format. He is mostly just observing and imitating rather than trying to process verbal instructions which are more stressful for him.

While I-Do, We-Do, You-Do method can be effective for everyone, there is a very important benefit of this method for our children – it reduces verbal instructions and prompting, reduces performance demands (Ananth mostly follows along as best as he can, with limited corrections in each class).

2. Imitate, Repeat, Memorize, and Improvise

Another key idea that I want to share is the process of learning through imitation, repetition, memorization, and improvisation. Children love to hear and move to the songs repeatedly. These songs are designed for repetition. There are extensive opportunities for children to imitate the parent or teacher. Repetition helps them memorize movements and concepts. Improvisation adds interest and variety. Repetition with improvisation provides predictability and novelty. Think of these four elements of the process when you do the lesson!

Review the video below and observe how imitation is being used in the lesson. Notice how imitation reduces prompting and verbal directions. Imitation is a useful tool for reducing stress because it allows lessons to be conveyed by modeling while limiting directions. However, the capacity to imitate is required. Since Ananth has danced for many years, he is able to quickly follow even if he cannot do all the movements perfectly in the beginning. The teacher also does not correct much during his regular Bharatanatyam lessons. He picks and chooses selected skills to work on rather than trying to correct everything at once.

3. Use Nonverbal Communication

Such movement activities provide many opportunities to practice nonverbal communication. Ananth is following Ujwal without verbal direction. Autistic children often have difficulty in following nonverbal cues as well as in imitation. The movement activity can be adjusted according to the child’s capacity to imitate and follow nonverbal cues.

Movement activities also naturally provide opportunities for nonverbal communication. The student has to track the teachers movement and follow. There are numerous movements to follow even in a simple children’s song!

4. Expand the activity

There are many ways to expand the exploration. Read about the animals. Draw and paint. Make crafts. Write about the animals. Explore other songs.

Consider the five TAHD tools: 1) Movement and dance, 2) Music and rhythm, 3) Storytelling, 4) Drama, and 5) Arts and crafts to identify extensions in a systematic way.

There are many children’s songs that you can use to incorporate movement and to integrate movement and language. Here is a video explaining Ramana Rhymes by Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, faculty at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning, Bengaluru.

Many parents are aware of the need to use visual tools. Many use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Theater arts tool (movement and dance, music and movement, storytelling, drama, and arts and crafts) offer varied ways of engaging young children in learning about any topic. Once parents become aware of the possibilities for using such tools, they can find ways to implement theater arts for teaching their child any concept or topic.


Teaching about Animals

A movement activity for parents and children

I have been reminiscing and enjoying Raffi songs with my nephew, Ishaan in London. I vividly recall my cousin learning those songs when he was young.

So when my teacher, Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh suggested taping some Ramana rhymes for parents to do with children, I was interested because I could do it with my nephew. Since my nephew will visit us soon, I was motivated to learn this song now. Even when my nephew was only a few months old, he would sit on my mother’s lap and watch my dance class for more than an hour. He enjoys gestures with songs. Hopefully, he will enjoy these new songs.

Thanks to my CreativeSaathi friends for the creative representation for this story. Thanks to Morpheus Nag for the picture of the ashram. Thanks Dhrov Tikoo for the colorful squirrel and bird. Thanks Nikkil Thotham for the pictures of the monkey, dog, and cow. This is my second post where I have combined artwork from multiple CreativeSaathis!

Last week, I taped the animal song with , my teacher, at the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning
Ten Ideas for Using the Animal Song.

  1. I will sing “In Ramana Thatha’s ashram” to Ishaan.
  2. I will show the gestures for each animal.
  3. I will show how we can enter the ashram and look around with great interest.
  4. I will sing hap, hap, happily and jump around.
  5. I will play the music and do the movements and gestures
  6. I will read him the animal book.
  7. I will take him around the neighborhood and show him some animals(dogs, cow, crows, cats).
  8. I took a picture of monkeys in Madurai. I will show him that picture and others.
  9. I will do other songs such as “the ants go marching” and use gestures and movements from Ramana Thatha ashram song.
  10. Ishaan has a toy in London that plays the old McDonald tune. I will sing “In Ramana Thata’s ashram” to that tune.

I will share how it worked in a later post!

Getting Ready

We have taped the song

We bought some books to read with Ishaan.

Parents: How do you teach about animals to your child?

Children: Are you interested in learning about animals? How do you learn about animals?

Share your ideas with us in our group here.

BloggerSaathi CreativeSaathi

Smile Brightly and Dance – Part II

Exploring Theater as a Tool for Stress Management 

Many neurodivergent individuals and their parents face significant amounts of stress. This stress arises not only because of challenges that an individual has in areas such as motor functioning, executive functioning, and communication but also due to the environment. Finding the right environments for neurodivergent individuals to thrive is not easy.

Can Theater Arts for Holistic Development be used to teach stress management?

This is the question that I have been mulling since Ananth started his Bharatanatyam lessons with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, a senior faculty and artist at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL), Bengaluru.

Ananth has been learning Bharatanatyam for more than 10 years.  Even during the first lesson with Ujwal, I felt a striking difference in his approach from Ananth’s past experiences. I had connected with him through the Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) program by RASA India. So I already knew that his approach was shaped by TAHD. As lessons continued, I realized that his approach represents an integration of The Ramana Way and The TAHD Way! Ramana Maharshi is one among the great spiritual masters of India who has guided the world to get back to their own nature which is divine and blissful. Thank you Morpheus for your amazing artwork for our blog posts! Ananth and I are happy you shared your portrait of Ramana Maharshi with us for our blog.

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

The question below and the response (emphasis added) is from Ananth’s blog post yesterday that included an interview with Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh.

4. Did you start incorporating Ramana Maharshi’s life and teachings in dance before integrating TAHD?

Yes, Ramana came first and with it came the understanding of the true purpose of dance  which is to realize our true nature. I loved listening to stories always. After the training of TAHD the primary goal of all the lesson plans was to understand that our true nature is happiness. These lesson plans includes song, dance and stories.

The first time I observed Bharatanatyam lessons at RMCL, I was struck by the opening lines:

Omkaranai idhayathil ninainde

Mahizhudun Punnagai Purinthen

Thai ya thai ennum spurana thudane

Thataduvai nam saidiuvum

Lyrics by Sri Ujwal Jagadeesh Tamil Translation: Dr. Sarada

These lines invite the student to think of God’s power within themselves and smiling before starting dance. We did four lessons during our first visit. Somehow, these opening lines caught my attention each time. Later I realized that these opening lines shifted aduvu (small patterns of movement and expression that are the building blocks for Bharatanatyam) practice in a subtle but important way.  I continued to observe aduvu teaching during online sessions. The theme of being attentive to God’s power within you and smiling brightly were a part of every lesson!

Smile Brightly and Dance – A 100-Day Project is Born

Over the last month, I have been considering the possibility of TAHD as a tool for practicing emotional regulation and stress management. The Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration (MNRI) video on Strengthening Stress Resilience and Immunity is a useful resource to think about aduvus as a stress management practice. 

Stress is an internal state of the organism and mental processes. A need or demand that is perceived to exceed the resources available to effectively deal with it at a certain time or disease can cause stress. The description of the video notes that MNRI® offers new approaches to enhance stress resilience and immunity, as we contend with the neurodevelopmental impact, the emotional/physical trauma, and the panic from the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty and challenges during the pandemic and other situational factors have resulted in a period of stress for Ananth.

So I was intrigued by the possibility of Smile Brightly and Dance as an approach for teaching stress management while teaching dance. Since MNRI is not easily available in India, TAHD and especially the aduvu practice as a way of affect regulation and stress management is a possibility worth exploring.  Even if MNRI were readily available, dance brings the practice into a fun and engaging activity for the learner to take ownership of this practice rather than a therapy organized by others.

Our 100-Day TAHD Project Begins

Once I saw the possibility of using aduvus as a tool for practicing emotional regulation, I started thinking about a 100-Day project.  Aduvus struck me as a powerful tool for creating opportunities for learners to practice facial expression.  Facial expression is also practiced in storytelling and drama but aduvus provide a systematic, incremental, and consistent way of practicing affect regulation daily.  

Hence, the 100-Days of Smile Brightly and Dance project was born.

Day 1: 12-15-2022

Pay attention to God’s power within you.

Ananth is beginning to internalize this message.  Today, he told me that he had a hard time with fast transitions because he was not paying attention to God’s power within him!

Building Positive Thinking Trails

Today, I had an aha moment. Ananth has a tendency to get stuck on negative thoughts/experiences.  So I suggested that the next time he has a negative thought, tell himself that God’s power is within him.  Since Ujwal brings this message daily in one or more ways, this thought (and related thoughts) can provide an alternate path for thoughts.

What we did

Ananth and I did the following together

  1. Vyayama
  2. Tattaduvu  (We tried the Aduvu Adaivu video in the morning but for our purpose, the one Ujwal and Ananth did at RMCL works better.  It is slower and repeats Omkarane twice.

I have decided to practice the exercises and aduvus with him.  While he is doing fine with a teacher or in a group, his attention and concentration have been significantly affected during the last year.  In the early days of learning dance, I used to practice parts of the lesson with him.  For this 100-Day project, I will be doing exercises and some aduvus with him as I think it will help get the most benefit out of this practice.

Day 2: 12-16-2022

Ananth learned one more aduvu in a slower format in his class. We will add that to our daily practice for the 100 days.

Day 3: 12-17-2022

We practiced the mettaduvu. We are seeing a goal for skills practice. Side bending while doing mettaduvu is our goal for the coming week!

The poster below shows our project timeline.

We invite you to create your own Smile Brightly and Dance 100-Day project or some other 100-Day Theater Arts project and share your journey with us in our LIFESMART groups!

BloggerSaathi CreativeSaathi

Raga time with Autism

Creative work by Heena Sahi

Raga Time with Autism

Music is something that we all can groove to anytime anywhere.

Well, now how can Autism are linked to the Indian ragas.

ASD is characteristic of neurological aberrations which mean that levels of neurotransmitters LIKE DOPAMINES, SEROTONIN, ENDORPHINS and OYTOCINS are altering.

Music in form of ragas evokes emotions and hence can thus be regarded to work on social – emotional communication in autism

Thus music is a persuasive tool, and thus helps in synchronising various brain functions in a neurodivergent individual

Research says when a brain is exposed to happy music inform of Indian ragas , the brain parts like insular , temporal lobe , caudate put amen get super activated and emotional awareness is created . Thus it a building block to initiate some social communication either in form verbal gestures or body language or social cues like smile, clapping etc

Now let’s gear up for the “SWARA EFFECT “

The frequency at which a swara is played to form an entire raga has a dominant role on making the raga a happy and cheerful one. for e.g. more shuddha swaras in a raga is directly proportional to make is a cheerful one while more of komal swara could make the raga a sentimental one and evade out sorrowful emotions

Thus music can create a mood of compassions and calmness and hence playing Indian ragas for an autistic child should never be ignored

Even the rhythm of the raga will also have an attribute on outcome from the child if the rhythm is fast , a hypoactive child would get more reactive and would show good automaticity

While on the other hand if a slow and feeble rhythm of raga is played the child might be less aroused and would also show poor attending skills and just be very relaxed and little detached

We should keep in mind out intension behind the playing of the ragas

A raga with it frequency and rhythm can have varying affect and this should be importantly noted


Well we our humans and we can’t let go off the circadian rhythm of body. Thus for an autistic child, a raga played at a specific time of the day can be more effective than any other time of the day. This is another observation that should be payed attention

If you look back to our heritage and history, there are specific ragas for specific season and this definitely has a good logic backing it

This surely coincides with the point I just made

Well this is something I wanted to touch upon that ragas might be underestimated but may no longer after reading this blog of mine.

Don’t forget to appreciate a fabulous artwork representation of music and raga by CreativeSaathi associate Morpheus Nag.

Artwork by Morpheus Nag

Thank you; hope you liked this piece of writing and the artwork!

Creative efforts and music lover – Heena Sahi