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Fine arts with a purpose: Rasa Aadharan

Theatre for Holistic Development (THD)

Located on Bengaluru’s bustling Sampige Road in Malleshwaram is the truly unique Rasa Aadharan, a centre for children and adults with special needs. Committed to the holistic development of special students, Rasa Aadharan is a branch of RASA, Chennai.  The latter was founded by Dr Ambika Kameshwar, who advocates the use of Theatre for Holistic Development (THD) for the rehabilitation of people with special needs.

For the uninitiated, THD refers to a methodology of using fine arts like dance, drama, music and storytelling in the rehabilitation programme.  THD is based on the underlying principle that each person has an inherent sense of rhythm, movement and dramatic skills that can be tapped and channelized in order that they realize their complete potential. This method is especially effective in people with special needs as it is scientifically structured to meet their needs. Complimented with the use of various therapeutic techniques like physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychotherapy, THD is known to help such individuals achieve and improve their optimum level of functioning.

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Started three years ago in Bengaluru, Rasa Aadharan is run by Rupa Hemanth and is the only one of its kind in the city. “The sole mission of the centre is to inculcate life skills and initiate positive development in individuals with various kinds of conditions like Downs’ syndrome, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Apart from these conditions, many of our students are also mentally challenged,” says Rupa. The centre first started with a batch of nine students and today, it has a total strength of 25. The students are aged between 17 and 38. Rupa has three full-time teachers and four volunteers who work together on the students’ needs.
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A typical day

New students are enrolled in June and the first month is a period of observation during which the special requirements of the students are studied and a structured plan is put in place. This also includes a visit to the home of the student so that no important information is missed out. All lesson plans and activities chalked out for the year are vetted by RASA.

Once the students settle in, they engage in all sorts of activities that are planned in such a way that they become aware of not only their minds and bodies but also their capabilities. The day starts with a prayer and a session of physical movements including yoga. The morning session has music, dance or drama sessions.

Each day is unique and has a mix of different activities. The warm-up and yoga sessions are aimed at developing flexibility, concentration and body control. While dance and movements sessions help in improving mobility, music helps in honing listening skills and also in grasping number concepts. Drama greatly aids in developing social and emotional skills. Story, script and dialogue facilitate speech development, and reading and writing skills.

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Post-lunch is reserved for pre-vocational training and a final session of games. The latter includes indoor games like carrom, and outdoor games that happen twice a week. Assessments are conducted on a regular basis wherein effectiveness of the techniques employed is measured. “We are really satisfied with the centre and its approach as my daughter looks forward to going there every day,” says Manjunath, father of 18-year-old Priyanka.

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Other activities

The centre includes a number of fun activities once a month on a Saturday like fancy dress, rangoli and cooking competitions. “The whole idea is to make the students feel empowered and do something on their own while learning. For instance, we taught them the concept of colours during the rangoli competition and for the cooking day, we had the students shop for all the materials on their own and actually cook by themselves. The focus is on functional academics,” adds Rupa.

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The centre celebrates their sports day in January and annual day in April each year. “The best part about this school is that it motivates the children to perform above their potential. My daughter surprised me with what she can do during the sports day,” says Chandrika, mother of 29-year-old Madhuri, a recent student. Since January this year, some of the students have also been involved in vocational training and make products like paper and jute bags, and pen stands. Apart from this, there are structured bharatanatyam classes for selected students after the regular class hours.

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Rasa Aadharan is registered with VMware Foundation as a non-governmental organisation and does not charge any fee for its students for its regular curriculum. The students have been performing at various corporate events. It is during this time that they raise funds. The students of Rasa Aadharan have also been inducted to the Scout/Guide Movement through Sri Chamundi Scout Group.

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They have also earned the unique distinction of participating in a cultural event organised by Ranjani Kala Kendra wherein they created a Guinness World Records for 100 hours of non-stop cultural programme at Freedom Park, Bengaluru.

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Given the scale of the activities, the centre is currently looking to expand its 650 sq ft facility.  To know more, you can contact the centre on 080-23344688, 9880185367.

This article was originally published in Deccan Herald.

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