Why should neurodivergent children and adults learn theater?

Recently, I became an ambassador for RASA (Ramana Sunritya Alaya) and TAHD (Theater Arts for Holistic Development). TAHD was developed by Dr. Ambika Kameshwar, founder and director of RASA (Ramana Sunritya Alaya). In theater arts classes, I do dance, storytelling and drama.

Why should neurodivergent children and adults learn theater?

Theater arts is relaxing. Theater arts is enjoyable. Theater arts provides opportunities to express ourselves in different ways. Theater arts helps us develop many skills.

Expression and Abhinaya
In Indian natya, there are four forms of abhinaya or expression. These include body language, speech, attire and props, and emotional expression. In Indian natya, body language is called angika, speech is called vachika, attire and props are called aharya, and emotional expression is called satvika.

My TAHD experiences include these forms of abhinaya. For example, I narrate stories and record them every month. My first story was the white peacock. I narrated it on my birthday. This narration includes all four forms of abhinaya.

Angika abhinaya: Body movements (e.g., bharatanatyam mudra and hand movements) are used throughout the presentation.
Vacika abhinaya: Story narration is the speech part of the abhinaya.
Aharya abhinaya: Thanks to Manu Sekar’s mother (Manu is the Founder of HashHackCode, an organization where I learn web development) for stitching the attire for my birthday. Originally, I wanted a maroon kurta. Then, I decided to choose colors that would work with the peacock story!
Satvik abhinaya: Facial expressions and hand gestures were used to communicate how the characters feel.

TAHD in Daily Life

Communication in life also involves these four modes of expression. We use these four modes of expression throughout the day as we play more roles. TAHD teaches all four modes of expression and prepares us to communicate better in life.

TAHD is not a drama program. It is a program that uses Indian natya to help us develop our communication and other skills. Practicing TAHD daily develops skills for daily living.

Ananth’s Adventures Storyboard
I am creating a planner and storyboard to describe my learning journey. My storyboard is organized according to the 4Es of TAHD:

My storyboard is available here

In this article I introduced the four forms of expression. I will discuss other elements on my storyboard in future articles.

TAHD in enjoyable because we can practice and use all four modes of expression. I hope you will explore TAHD too!

Visit my Youtube channel Ananth’s Adventures. The list of videos on my channel is available here.–FiXZpa3vO1-zCHg/edit?usp=sharing

Author Ananth Raghunandan

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Vinayak Raj


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.

specialsaathi Story

Muskaan the Drama queen

A blog on Muskaan’s first drama performance in school on annual day.

मन – day की बात SpecialSaathi के साथ

Dear Shilpi ma’am,

It’s a pleasure to be a part of SpecialSaathi group. This kind of platform is giving immense opportunity to our kids to showcase their talent whether it’s dance, art or drama or writing a blog.

Muskaan is a happy and a cheerful girl. Very caring, emotional but a little introvert by nature. She is 16 years now. She is very intelligent and observant. She is strong but little stubborn too. Can face any problem with a smile. That’s her biggest strength.

She speaks through her eyes and always has smile on her face as her name suggests… 😊. She was born with delayed milestones, so in the initial years of growing up she was diagnosed as a hyper active child and speech was very less in one word conversation or two or three phrases. But with various Speech & OT therapies she started improving. But later we got to know that she has “Selective Mutism “. And she would interact or socialise only in her comfort zone etc.
But as time grew she started learning with various techniques of social stories, play dates and exposure to new & known places.
Convincing her to take part in various activities was a challenge though but I kept on encouraging her to take part in dance show, sports events for three years and she won medals, & trophy 🏆 as well. Which motivated her to keep learning and performing.

With online classes and during pandemic as she didn’t have a choice she started speaking through a “Mike” first & then after a month or so she started to converse with her teachers and peer group verbally. This is how a Selective Mutism child can speak with her own will & confidence, that’s what I understood that day.

So every year participation in school annual day was also delightful to see her performing in dance etc. But this time it was Middle school participation in Dec’22.

So I am happy and proud to share that as Muskaan first time took part in drama performance at her school Annual day function. The drama named ” Safarnama” where she played a role of a guard to a king who was very possessive for his silver treasure. And the part which everyone ( her teachers & spectators) appreciated was that the dialogues were in bhojpuri .

The way muskaan learned them, understanding the co-ordination sequence with other kids ( main stream kids who she didn’t know) to go up & down the stage left & right on stage. Saying the dialogues as the drame performance. Imitation, synchronisation.

Patience level to cope up with anxiety to perform, as to who all will come, what will people & teachers say. How will the costume be. Apprehension towards wearing sun glasses as everything seemed to be blurred. Intelligence of putting them on nose to see the audience.

Initially I was not comfortable with the idea of her taking part in drama I thought dance is what she liked more but her teacher made me understand that this kind of exposure will be good for her.

And she was right, so many things she learned in last couple of weeks. And one of the areas which can be explored in future for her social interaction building and overcoming her fear of performing on the stage infront of the audience.

Muskaan was lucky to get this kind of role and she performed so well.

With applaud from their seniors , principal , teachers, family and friends made her very happy and excited.

Staying in a school for 10 hrs was not easy in last week at a stretch of 3 days. But I am glad she did it.

The hard work always pays and clear “Victory over fear”.

Stupendous performance. I wish she gets many such opportunities in future too.

Sharing few pics & video of her performance in this blog.

Hope you ll enjoy watching the same.

Regards Divya Surie

Author Divya Surie

I am a house wife and I run my own garments work from home. I love drawing and painting as it’s is my passion. I learned various forms of painting glass, canvas, water and oil colour etc…at the age of 40yrs. And few of my beautiful creations are now my house decoratives.😀So age is just a number.
I also help my daughter in designing of tote bags, wedding envelopes, pouches and gift tags. Basically she is now a part of “Sitaara Crafts” a platform where all kids with special needs can showcase and sell their talent. With making of beautiful and amazing products from best out of waste. We sell through Instagram too 😀.

ToteBag designed by Muskaan Surie

parentsaathi Resources

“All the world’s a stage…”

and we all are merely role-playing, we all have our parts sometimes defined sometimes not. We all have stories to tell.

With stories, we can understand perspectives, we can understand the environment, how characters understand and react with the environment. In a nutshell, Storytelling is “Experience taking”.

With our kids, we can achieve so much with it. We can do

  • Art and Craft like puppets
  • Drama
  • movement
  • Retelling same story in your words
  • Role playing of characters; dressing up as favourite characters
  • teach Sequencing
  • teach academics

We made puppets of the story “The little Red Hen”. We coloured the characters, cut them and pasted on wooden spoon to make puppets, which we are going to use in Role-playing of the characters.

Each one of us have taken a puppet and role-played those characters. Each character made its sound and actions like meow/quack-quack. The story I chose has very few words keeping in mind not to overwhelm anyone.

Adding movement to stories is a great way to move and learn. Today, we were reading a story and a character tiptoed around the room as the other one was sleeping. We immediately got up and enacted the part. We started tiptoeing around the house, sometimes talking loudly and sometimes quietly as if someone is sleeping or my husband working so tiptoeing in his room so that he doesn’t get disturbed. It was so much fun.

Drama is one of the oldest ways of Storytelling. What’s will be life without some stories and certainly, not a better way to connect with each other. Each new day brings new ways to play our roles, have our exchanges. So, lets choose a story and let the drama begin.


ParentSaathi talk 1.1 on Lifesmart parenting approach (parenting as theater ) by Dr.Dasaratha Rama on 9th November’22 from 8pm to 9m only on Google meet link