Your Child is not a Problem to Solve!

“मन – day की बात SpecialSaathi के साथ”

Enriching Family Interactions with Theater Arts

A therapy mindset, constant stream of information on problems and challenges, and many other factors can get parents into a constant problem-solving mode! Your mindset matters! I was delighted to hear from two parents last week that after being in the LIFESMART group for a few months, they have started relaxing and starting focusing more on rich interactions with their child. Remember, your child will develop for life. So will you.

The question to consider is:

How can you bond with your child, have enjoyable interactions and support his development?

Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) offers a pathway. Theater arts provide a set of tools for engaging and enjoyable interactions between family members. The five tools of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar include movement and dance, music and rhythm, storytelling, drama, and arts and crafts. Parents of babies and young children intuitively sing to their child, move with their child, tell stories to their child, use dramatic expressions to interact with their child, and do arts and crafts with their child. So we have all encountered TAHD elements in one way or another.

Enhancing Family Interactions: The TAHD Way
The ingredients are familiar but how do we use them in a mindful way to achieve different outcomes?
How can we weave in TAHD throughout the day to enrich interactions between the parent and child?
I am starting with this question in the second part of our 100-Days of Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) Lab to shift attention from “fixing” the child’s challenges to creating the right family interactions to help the child grow in the long-term. Join the TAHD 100-Day Lab here.

1.TAHD is not a drama course!
It is a way of teaching, learning, and living!

2. Your child is not a problem to solve.
TAHD gives a way of engaging your child in a more joyful way while addressing varied learning and development needs.

3. Evolve a more intuitive parenting style
One of Ananth’s therapists used to say that much of parenting is subconscious. It is very difficult to parent with ease with thousands of objectives and challenges running around in our brains all the time. TAHD can help you discover a more intuitive approach while addressing your child’s challenges.

A Guided Tour of TAHD
We are starting from Day 51 this week. As my goal in starting this group was to encourage parents to think about TAHD and support them, I will organize my daily shares as a guided tour. While TAHD is new to me, I have used elements of the framework for years because of our Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) experience, Waldorf/Enki education experience, and because of Ananth’s Bharatanatyam experience.

Since LIFESMART is my way of looking at development of neurodivergent (and neurotypical!) children and adults, I will use LIFESMART elements too in my presentation
L: Learning daily | I: Interests | F: Family interactions | E: Engagement with Community

Worksheets and Resources
I will also start sharing a few worksheets and resources that I am developing for parents to think about TAHD and its application in a systematic way. Please review and respond to posts when you can as it will help me develop such resources for parents

About Our Journey

Ananth started his journey with RASA (Ramana Sunritya Aalaya in November 2020). I discovered TAHD and decided to do the four levels of TAHD courses to help parents learn TAHD, work with TAHD professionals, and realize the benefits of RASA programs. Dr. Ambika Kameshwar is featured as the changemaker for February. Read about her journey here.

I completed level 1 of my training this week.

Many parents get certified in Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) etc. Until I found TAHD, I was not moved to get certified in anything. Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) is the only approach I have been moved to get certified in even though I know nothing about arts. I do know something about parenting neurodivergent children and I think TAHD is a pathway for more joyful parenting.

Dear parents,

My message to you:

Yes, you can! It is possible to experience joy and happiness while parenting neurodivergent children while addressing their challenges and putting in enormous effort every day for many years. It is question of how you see your role as a parent, what you prioritize, and where you invest your time and resources. Choose well!



Hello Friends!

My son Sarvagya got diagnosed at the age of 3 years. At that point of time, I decided to give up my career since I wanted to support him fully.

Just like any other parent, I also struggled to first accept his diagnosis and then to find a genuine therapist. However, for initial few months, I was very confused and depressed as nothing seemed to work. My anxiety and insecurities were at the peak. Literally, the thoughts about how his future would be, didn’t let me sleep.

Like all other parents, I also joined number of Parents groups where all issues related to kids, be it OT, Speech or special education were discussed day & night and indeed were helpful. However, over a period of time, I started realising that nobody was talking about the financial aspect of autism.

Being a Chartered Accountant, though I had given up my career long back, general ignorance about the importance of financial planning devastated me. At that time, I found myself in that category too. Despite being a finance professional, I too got caught in the web of challenges, therapies & never ending expenses and ended up being ignorant about my own son’s future financial planning. This is when I decided to first plan a secure financial future for my child. Just to share, I am in the process of creating a Special Needs Private Trust for my son. Once I revisited the long forgotten financial basics, I decided to try my bit to create awareness about financial planning with regard to the special needs families.

What I have experienced in my short journey is that so far as autism is concerned, financial planning is the most ignored aspect. By the time we realise how much we need it, it’s already too late. However, it’s nobody’s fault. We, special parents, are so over occupied with daily unexpected challenges that thinking about financial planning takes a back seat.

Life is very unpredictable. It is very important to start planning as early as possible. As we grow older, thoughts about the future and how our children will be provided for after we are gone start haunting us day and night. In a situation, where a couple has a special needs child, these thoughts literally scare them every moment from the day they discover about their child. “What after us?” is what they constantly keep thinking because when you have a special child, not only do you have to financially provide for that child after you’re gone, but you must also ensure that the child is well taken care of & that parents’ death does not compromise the child’s welfare and mental health in any way.

Planning for the future when you have an autistic child can be difficult & mentally stressful, but if you start early and take the right approach, you can successfully pave the way for a financially independent future for your child with autism, even when you both are no more in this world.
Being a finance professional and a special parent, I have started this series of ‘Financial Planning for Special Needs Families’.

Image source-

Today’s blog is an introduction to my thoughts regarding importance of financial planning for special needs families. In coming weeks, I will be discussing briefly some very important financial aspects viz Estate planning, Legal guardianship, various income tax benefits, Special Needs Trust, Will, Investment Planning, etc. I will try to share everything whatever little knowledge I have. Hope this initiative of creating awareness regarding Financial Planning will be helpful to all.

Thanks for patient reading,
Author Shivani Lohia

Shivani Lohia is a Chartered Accountant by profession and mother to 8 years old child on the autism spectrum. The cause of autism awareness is very close to her heart and she strongly believes in equal education for all & strongly advocates inclusion. She has been homeschooling her son since he was 5 years old.

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


Parenting as Theater

Today, I want to start the discussion of parenting as theater. This week, I will present a webinar introducing the tools of theater. The Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) approach views theater in terms of the following components:

  1. Dance
  2. Drama
  3. Music
  4. Arts and crafts
  5. Storytelling

I invite parents to consider how these five tools can be used by parents to support their child’s development.

Join us for the webinar on 9th November to explore this topic!

The TAHD is the latest step in my use of theater arts tools. It has given me a framework to think about the use of theaters arts as a parenting tool. However, I have experimented with many elements of theater through various therapeutic and educational approaches. During this session, I will discuss the use of theater arts tools in relation to these approaches. I have listed the website for each approach and included a brief overview from the website. Listen to the webinar and check out the resources that interest you!

  1. Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

RDI®  programs teach parents how to guide their child to seek out and succeed in truly reciprocal relationships, while addressing key core issues such as motivation, communication, emotional regulation, episodic memory, rapid attention-shifting, self-awareness, appraisal, executive functioning, flexible thinking and creative problem solving. 

2. Waldorf Education

Waldorf schools offer a developmentally appropriate, experiential, and academically rigorous approach to education. They integrate the arts in all academic disciplines for children from preschool through twelfth grade to enhance and enrich learning. Waldorf education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities.

3. Enki Education

Enki Education offers a unique and innovative way to approach living and learning, parenting and educating. At all grade levels, whether in classroom or homeschooling programs, all academics are taught using a three fold process. This process begins with the arts and, through a series of steps, opens to full mastery of skills and concepts. In this way, we nurture the whole child, weaving together a coherent program including academics, arts, story, activities, movement, and exploration, to bring about deep learning and growth.

4. Bharatanatyam and Natyashastra

The Natya Shastra is considered the sacred text for all performing art forms. One of the major aspects of Natya Shastra, the Abhinaya (ways in which an actor communicates or expresses) has been mentioned in great detail in this text. Other aspects such as the graceful body movements and postures, the mudras (hand gestures) and rasas (aesthetic experience) used in dance, drama and other performing arts have also been documented extensively.

5. Theater Arts for Holistic Development

RASA – Ramana Sunritya Aalaya was founded in 1989 by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar with the vision to empower one and all, through the Theatre Arts experience. Today, RASA stands as a 32 year old organisation with a multi-pronged approach to inclusion and transformation.

parentsaathi Resources

The language that you can talk  with your child

The language that you can talk  with your child

This blog post is in continuation to the one that said

“ Language cannot be taught, language is caught

970 Role Model Cliparts, Stock Vector and Royalty Free Role Model  Illustrations

So when it comes to language , there many components or types .the spoken words are usually forming the lexical component or commonly as “ Lexicon “. The non lexical  component is formed by the “ para language “

Para- language is intonation of speech , speed  and pitch

So when you are really tired your para language is low pitched and dull and uninterested

When you are angry the para language is high pitched , fast and very energetic and demanding

When you are anxious the para language is very feeble , not easily noticeable , speed is slow and very shaky

Paralanguage also includes hesitation noises like ah …. Or the pauses that one takes , facial expressions and gestures

 Role modelling is a very valuable strategy that is applied in training anyone any skill

If you have heard “ A teacher should be a positive role model for students. “ If you try to decipher this statement then it means that the teacher should actually demonstrate body language , behaviours that are appropriate and expected from students.

Thus if the teacher expects the child to s it and talk then she should display this behaviour to the child. Children do well with role modelling because they learn more lateral and non tangential teaching . If we directly try to teach the child , they may be nervous , confused or wont relate with it at all. They might also result into an escalating situation as they take it like a demand hammered on them

Let’s see how language and communication can be promoted by role modelling.

For e.g if you want child to get familiar with sensory words in their vocabulary and epressive language , a parent can demonstrate a jumping activity and say simultaneously “ lets jump fast “

If you be consistent , then the child can catch the language as well as the sensory movement of jumping

If you want the child to use and start with transition words in their oral language , then you can role model the spoken words or phrases  for e.g lets start dinner whenever you sit with dinner with the child

As long as the child observes the adult doing and using some words , he /she catches and is encouraged to use it functionally

It must be kept in mind children can take on the unexpected and inappropriate words as well as behaviours and emotional reactions from the adults too.

It is not wise to use uncool words or insulting words in front of the child , the same goes for behaviours and emotional responses that are undesirable like hitting , pushing , screaming when angry

Remember children are like mud , they can get moulded in any shape easily

It is your responsibility as an adult to prepare a positive appropriate cast or mould for this mud to take shape

Now let’s talk about a bonus strategy which I think can become your favourite.

This is…………………


Scaffolding is strategy that is used again to teach or start any new skill. This can be used both in language development , and any life skill

Let’s take an e.g

If you want your child to use primary vocabulary as well as secondary vocabulary . Primary vocabulary is “ball “, and secondary vocabulary is adding descriptive word to primary word like “ red ball “

Scafolding can be done in the following steps

First – You both see the picture of the ball and say “ ball “

Second – You both see a picture of red ball and say “ red ball “

Here both times you give the child a full verbal prompt

You can practice this for few days

Third – you show the child the picture of the red ball and point . let the child say alone red ball

Fourth – you open the page where red ball is and don’t give any physical or visual prompt , brcause of habituation and repetition the child would say “ red ball “ with no or minimal prompts

Thus scaffolding is like introducing something to the child with full prompts and then you fade thye prompt with lastly removing the prompt completely and child gets independent

Welll I know this too much information for the day . I would suggest read it , process it , practice it , you might fail but do not give up

All the best in eploring language  development in new way with your little genius

Creative Efforts and Language Stimulator – Heena Sahi

changemakersaathi parentsaathi

My Journey So far..

Getting your first born diagnosed with Autism- a lifelong condition which would require support of various degrees to deal with the day-to-day life is a daunting news for the first time parents to say the least.

Like thousands of fellow mothers, I too went through a haze in the initial years, with flurries of doctors, therapists, this test, that test, running from pillar to post, trying to make sense of life, and this mystery called Autism, trying to find ways and means to “get through” to my son Ammogh.

Yes, that is the name of my son- Ammogh which means Lord Ganesha or “the precise way of doing a thing”. Both the synonyms sounded like irony to me for neither hearing the ominous news of having your child labelled with a strange disorder felt “shubh” neither were we- as parents, able to figure where to begin in the first place, forget doing the precise thing!

Twenty odd years have passed ever since we got that diagnosis, and a lifetime of learnings which has enriched us as parents. In these years I realized that there is no end to the human potential, irrespective of any label- special need or otherwise.

For a person who could not sit still, eat on his own or hold a pencil, today my son has not only crossed all those milestones but is also learning to live independently with minimum support. As mother, I too have learned to be far more patient and compassionate to fellow human beings. I guess to do things precisely one needs to be persistent first:))

So, lets take a 360-degree view of our situation as parents of special need children.

What does a single mother of a special need child want? – Support.

What does an individual with special need want? – A peer group, opportunities and equal rights.

What does a family with a special need child wants from society? – Understanding, empathy and inclusion.

As a society there are gnawing gaps in what we as parent’s community expect for our children and what is offered to us, we are living on the margins and not at all happy about it. General ignorance, taboos, lack of good policies, governmental apathy, commercialization of education system which does not care in investing time on our children are few of the issues which can be rattled off at any given time. Stress is compounded by the lack of social, financial and emotional support.

But enough of that! For the list of woes is endless, so let us begin afresh!

I was always week in math but one equation taught in the school is still relevant to me which is – minus plus minus equals Plus!! I know that the challenges faced by our community are humungous and one can easily get overwhelmed by it! Creating support system for each other can bring a lot of relief . “दुख बांटने से कम होता है और सुख बांटने से बढ़ता है

I realized very early in my life that in order to carry on this arduous journey I will have to build support system for myself as well as my child, so I started working towards it -one step at a time. By talking to a random stranger staring at my son, sensitizing the neighbors in the immediate vicinity, by writing on various forums, joining forces with fellow parents, forming groups, association, becoming part of the larger parent’s organizations, making my voice heard, by becoming voice for the voiceless. For I believe in one thing- if you do not get support then become support for someone and the universe will send someone for you.

Four years back with my husband’s steadfast support I founded a Trust called ALAP: Assisted Living for Autistic Persons with the purpose to look after persons with Autism who would require lifelong support in some way or other. Today we provide short/long term respite to the families in a residential setting, teach independent living skills to the residents, providing them with all kinds of opportunities for their individual growth. They have their peer group, an inclusive space set amidst the mainstream where they get to interact and engage with people from all walks of lives, they are very much “visible” and are contributing a great deal in sensitizing the world about themselves.

The ALAP mothers get together, go for lunches, let their hair down, are lot more confident as they too are equally involved in capacity building, of their children as well as each other’s. For inclusion we must reach out to each other within our own community before we expect anything from the society at large.

So, to build a community here are the baby steps that can be taken:

Look around and see if there are few parents in similar situations, form a group;

Meet regularly, share information, experience, resource, and knowledge;

Become support for each other, if need be, baby sit each other’s child, give respite to fellow parents;

Travel together, go for outings together as you will get the comfort of having each other’s support and understanding in a hostile or not so understanding environment, be ears and eyes for each other’s child. As they say -safety in numbers;

Invest in good support staff and nurture them equally well, for you will always need them more than your relatives;    

Seek guidance from senior parents, for they have covered more miles than you and their wisdom and guidance can make you understand your child much better;

The truth of the matter is that we cannot gulp life in one go, we must savor it sip by sip, assimilating, digesting it slowly. Yes, it gets overwhelming, I learned to take a break from the daily humdrum time to time, away from the daily stress and found my “me time.” In that process I discovered my own inherent strengths and rebuilt my life with new fervor.

I do hope my journey and my learnings resonate with you all in some way or other and you too discover your own super powers, for only a happy and empowered parent can build a steady future for his or her special need child.

More power to us all!!

Neena Wagh

Founder- ALAP: Assisted Living for Autistic Persons

Writer, Playwright, Poet, Filmmaker, Translator