Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Special Day with Special Children

A little girl in a bright red frock walked up to the board. She picked the marker with a careless deftness, turned back and looked at her mom for what seemed like an approval.

Her mom nodded. Having got what she wanted, she put the marker on the board and drew a big ‘O’. She paused for a moment and then drew another ‘O’ right next to the first one. She then went on to add a cool 12 ‘O’s after that in quick succession.

The board finally read ‘OOOOOOOOOOOOOO’

She turned around, flashed a broad grin to her mom and happily frolicked to her lap. The room fell silent. Perplexed would be a better word. Every face stared at the mom looking for an answer to what her little girl meant. The mom smiled, raised her hands over her head and shook her fingers frantically.

“That’s my daughter saying hello”
”Oooooooooooooooooooooooooo” squealed the mother.

That was the language of autism.

I had been to the temple town of Madurai to shoot a workshop titled “Art for Autism”. The intent was to make a tutorial on it. The workshop organized by Prof. Ramamurthi of Madurai Kamaraj University and Andrew Nelson of West Virginia University, aimed at improving the condition of autistic children using drama, music and art. The 3-day residential workshop at the foothills of the picturesque Nagamalai Pudukkottai, brought together 16 autistic children and their parents.

Initially I was extremely reluctant to be a part of this. Even when Prof. Ramamurthi told me that the workshop can do wonders, I broad-brushed it as Shiv Kera-ish. However, I underwent a massive transformation on Day 1 of the workshop itself. The sheer power of socializing, which had been largely denied to these kids, was bringing each child out of its cocoon. The hyperactivity these kids exhibit went down for some in 24 hrs. I never expected a miracle in 3 days but then things that have been proved were once only imagined.

I would not want to bore you with the details of the workshop here. Please check the link below for the detailed reports.

The optimism of the parents was heartwarming as well. “We are gifted parents who have gifted children. It’s only because god felt that I could take care of my son better than anybody else that he decided to give him to me,” quoted a beaming parent. Amidst all this, there was this autistic little boy who was screaming in joy and prancing around the entire place for the whole 3 days of the workshop. He was unmindful of his parents, the serious didactic lectures of the academics, or the wails of other kids. The guy was in a world of his own.

“He dances to a different tune” quipped an onlooker.

Anybody interested in supporting this cause can log onto www.autismtheatre.org .

Posted by Deepan.


Fresh@Orchard said...

Nice post Deepan. Keep writing.


Dark side of the Moon said...

Thanks murali! I sure will..