Reaching out to the disabled

Dance, music and theatre are the kind of arts that are used to train the disabled children - to heal the mind and body.

This art makes fascinating, flexible tools to help disabled children increase their cognitive/ communicative skills, motor coordination, develop speech and expression, originality and creativity. Learning to sing, dance and act enables them to socialize better, to become confident that they are in no way inferior to the so-called "normal" children. In fact, they have better abilities in certain areas.

But wait……

Ask yourself how you will make a blind child enact a rainy day. She will know the feel of raindrops on the skin, but not the spectacle of water pouring down from the skies.

How will you teach a deaf child to skip on the second beat in the rhythm cycle of a song?

Or make the orthopedic disabled play the role of one who has the use of all his limbs?

A mentally retarded child learns a poem and recites it without getting distracted?

The special children may not have magical gifts or faculties, but their very disadvantage made them fine tune what they had to an intense sharpness. The volunteers who come to teach them at the workshops are amazed by this. They discover during the work shop that the blind listened more, the deaf see more fully - this is the part of their instinctive survival strategy. Bearing this in mind, the workshops and productions do not isolate the disabled, though some special programs are confined to disadvantaged groups.

In a group of disabled children, there will some who are active while some sit in the corner and refuse to participate. You can encourage them, but you can never use force. As their insecurities melt, they begin to socialize more, open up slowly and their involvement gets stronger. The degree of involvement varies with each child.

For a teacher, success is in watching this change and growth of self assurance. The manner in which children with different degrees and kinds of disabilities overcome them in group activity is an eye-opener for the adults.

The workshops usually aim their focus to identify the more talented child for a successful show rather than help each child to grow in his/her way. The thrill is to get the child sitting apart in a corner to join the group, to laugh and smile, to dance and sing.

For example if they do a play in which a mentally retarded child had to cry 'Wolf! Wolf!', in fun, until a real wolf appears and frightens him. Then, another mentally retarded child in the audience then begins to shout 'He is frightened!' over and over again. He had fully responded to the situation and its scene!"

Thus, success of the show is the source of great satisfaction for teacher and the parents.