Reduce Stress and Enhance Engagement through Imitation – I

Why use imitation?

  • Imitation reduces stress by reducing use of verbal prompts, instructions and directions, and performance demands, reduces stress: Many neurodivergent learners experience considerable stress and anxiety. Low arousal techniques have evolved as a way of teaching neurodivergent learners. See an overview here. Some techniques are reducing demands, reducing talking, providing quiet time, and including movement. An imitation-based approach can be used to create low-arousal environments.
  • Imitation expands opportunities for engagement: Learners can engage in many ways by moving their body, using facial expressions, hand gestures etc. Imitation is based on observation and use of the body Mindful use of imitation changes communication between teachers and learners. Imitation provides a opportunities for those with language processing and other challenges to stay engaged in lessons.
  • Imitation creates opportunities for parent engagement: When a guide uses imitation as the core teaching process, there are many opportunities for parents to engage their child in simple and meaningful ways. Lessons taught through imitation can be repeated by the parent with the child. As the learner gets used to this process, the parent can routine use this process to provide predictability and variation in the learning process.

Imitate, Repeat, Memorize, and Improvise

Varied experiences over the last two decades have brought us to our basic learning process:

  • Imitate
  • Repeat
  • Memorize
  • Improvise

In today’s world, three of the four steps in this process (imitation, repetition, and memorization) seem unfashionable. The push is for creativity and innovation! However, I believe that imitation, repetition, and memorization support creativity rather than hinder it. We learn from a model, practice repeatedly, store things in memory and eventually improvise and use in our own way.

So I was very happy to read this blog post by Simmi Vasu on imitation. Imitation is not just the first step towards learning for babies and small children, it is a process we can use throughout our lives!

As Simmi notes: “Imitation skills are one of the most important developmental milestones. It clearly shows that the child is environmentally present, he is aware of his surroundings and is responding to the stimulations he receives from them.”

As Ananth learned Bharatanatyam for over ten years, this process slowly came back into focus for me. As I see it being used repeatedly in Theater Arts for Holistic Development (TAHD) lessons, I am learning more about this process and applying it in a more mindful way. Here is an example of a video demonstrating imitation. Imitation is often used to teach movement and dance.

While imitation is a poweful way to teach any individual, there are additional benefits for neurodivergent individuals such as stress reduction and expanding opportunities for interaction beyond speech. It can also be challenging to implement imitation with neurodivergent individuals because they may have difficulty reproducing movements, gestures etc.

Learning Drama

Ananth’s drama teacher, Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna of RASA India uses this process to teach drama to differently-abled adults. Students prepared for the RASA Day performance on February 23, 2023 using this process. Movements, gestures, and facial expressions were learned through imitation in class. Then, Ananth repeated these movements, gestures, and facial expression at home. Repetition led to memorization. Finally, one has to be well-prepared but be ready to improvise as things unfold on stage. Read about Ananth’s drama experience using this process here.

Learning Dance and Storytelling

Ananth also uses the imitate, repeat, memorize, and improvise process for learning dance and storytelling. Parents use imitation and repetition with young children. However, we often do not use it for older children or adults. Neurodivergent children may have missed developmental milestones and have language processing and other challenges. Hence, it is useful to implement the imitate, repeat, memorize, and improvise process in a more deliberate way.

Here is Ananth’s first story of the month created using this process:

Enhancing Learning with SMART Projects

Our basic process is

Imitate –> Repeat –> Memorize –> Improvise

The monthly SMART project focuses and organizes this basic learning process.

Key benefits:

  1. Ananth has a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-framed) project to complete each month. Having a SMART project keeps him focused.
  2. Since the stories are attached to aduvus (basic movement patterns in Bharatanatyam) or hastas (hand gestures), Ananth has a narrow and clearly defined set of skills to practice each month. He practices other skills but the targeted practice for the story of the month is proving to be a very helpful part of learning.
  3. Ananth is practicing the story until he can narrate it fluently. This process is creating opportunities for memorizing and recalling language, thus growing his oral language capacities.

Author DrDasaratha Rama

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Shubh Pathak


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.


Maths using Stories

A video blog on how to teach math concepts (Teaching Fractions) using a play way and storytelling method. Playtime by Manju K Iyer.

Mamju 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).


Storytelling Discoveries and Tips – 1

October 2022 – December 2022

This year has been a year of storytelling. I started blogging with SpecialSaathi in October 2022. I started learning Bharatanatyam with storytelling from Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh,a senior faculty and artiste at Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL) in October 2022. I am also learning drama from Dr. Vaishnavi Poorna, Deputy Director of Ramana Sunritya Aalaya (RASA) India and storytelling from Ms. Usha Sankaran, a senior facilitator for RASA.

In December, I tried several storytelling techniques. I want to share three tips for bloggersaathis based on my experiences.

Thanks to Rajni pal aunty and Dhairya pal for creating the beautiful artwork that captures the message of this blog clearly.

Tip for Junior Bloggersaathis:

  1. Narrate stories and record them. Include videos in your blog.
  2. Interview people who inspire you. Include their thoughts and suggestions in your blog.
  3. Build a photo gallery in Pinterest. Use this gallery to narrate your stories.

Tip 1. Narrate stories and record them. Include videos in your blog.

This tip is based on my first project for December 2022. I presented The White Peacock story at a webinar on my birthday on December 2, 2022. I enjoyed sharing the story. I intend to do more storytelling videos in 2023. View the video below:

Thanks to Sathya aunty for stitching the kurta for my birthday and presentation. Sathya aunty is Mr. Manu Sekar’s mother. So we could plan the costume and check it out while learning coding! I am sharing this acknowledgement now because we took a picture with Sathya aunty and Mr. Manu Sekar at the Christmas party.

Thanks to Ms. Shilpi Mayank Awasthi for including my message based on the story in the first SpecialSaathi desk calendar 2023. It will be a great memory for us!

Tip 2. Interview people who inspire you. Include their thoughts and suggestions in your blog.

I interviewed Shri Ujwal Jagadeesh, a senior faculty and artiste at the Ramana Maharshi Center for Learning (RMCL). Read my blog here. I will be publishing more interviews in my blog in 2023. I will be summarizing these interviews and linking to the blog in the Gurus who Believe section of my website. See this page of my website here.

Tip 3. Build a photo gallery in Pinterest. Use this gallery to narrate your stories.

I have started compiling pictures and information on Pinterest. I am organizing pictures and descriptions on a board (Ananth’s Adventures). The Board is organized into sections. I am creating one section for each month. Now that I have started compiling and curating information on Pinterest, it will be easy to track and include the write pictures and information in my blog posts!

This is the first post where I have shared tips based on my explorations and discoveries. I plan to publish a post with tips each month. Thank you for reading my blog and let me know your suggestions for future blogs. You can email your suggestions to

bloggersaathi Junior

My Mumbai Travel Blog (Part 2) by Lavanya Iyer Bloggersaathi junior

Part 2 : “And the Fun in Mumbai continues.. “

Welcome to my Mumbai travel blog part 2. My travels continued for the second week in Mumbai!

Day 1 : Chitti’s (aunt’s) house to Mani Mamu’s (uncle’s) house : “I love birds! A cockatiel sat on my shoulders”

I love birds! I got excited as we went to Mani mamu’s (uncle’s) house. There were two cockatiels and many budgies in their house. One cockatiel sat on my shoulders. I was so excited and happy. It was fun to meet their daughter Naira. We played with clay there and came back home in Chittappa’s (uncle’s)car.

Day 2 : Chitti’s (aunt’s) house to VVMC park : “Meeting other homeschoolers”

Next day we went to VVMC park. I saw a lot of birds in the park. I love birds, I love to see them flying and chirping. There were a lot of children in the park too and we had a lot of fun. There were slides and swings and wonderful rides. It was a park for kids and we also met other homeschoolers like me there.

Day 3 : Chitti’s (aunt’s) house to tailor shop : “Searching on the streets for a tailor shop”

One day we went to find a tailor shop to stitch a lehenga choli for me to wear in Anu akka’s (sister’s) marriage. We saw several shops but we did not find any tailor shop to stitch my lehenga choli. At last we found one lady who agreed to stitch it. It was a relief to finally find her.

Day 4 : Chitti’s (aunt’s) house to Aaji Aajoba park and Calisthenics training centre : “Kesar Lassi was so yummy”

Next day we went by train to Malad and took an auto from the station to Aaji Aajoba park. There was a drawing day for homeschoolers there. There were also rides in the park. They were fun. Next we went to the Calisthenics training centre as the park got closed. There I did a lot of fun activities like hanging on the bars. When we came back, I ate Pani puri and Kesar lassi in the shop near the station. It was so yummy.

Day 5 : Chitti’s (aunt’s) house to a book exhibition : “My favourite Hanuman story book”

Next day we went to a book exhibition. There we saw many books. There I found a Hanuman story book. I started reading it. It was fun to read the book standing there. We bought some other books and came back home in Chittappa’s (uncle’s) car with my cousin, Anshu.

Thank you for reading my blog! Hope you enjoyed!

Author Lavanya Iyer

Lavanya Iyer is 9 years old Neurodivergent. She loves to read, draw, paint, and do traditional dance. She is a newly incorporated CreativeSaathi junior and a bloggersaathi junior with our team now.

Artwork by Dhairya pal

Creative representation of Lavanya’s blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Dhairya Kumar Pal.