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Sound effect: Bhajans (Hindu faith songs)  helping Autism
Women’s Power Book
Women’s Power Book
Women’s Power Book
Women’s Power Book
Women’s Power Book
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With the sound of music, we have no trouble locating music therapist Lakshmi Mohan’s second-floor house at R.A. Puram. We walk into a bhajan session. As we stand there and listen to the soothing sounds, Lakshmi suddenly lifts her voice and rolls her eyes so as to draw a restless student’s attention. Ten-year-old Anirudh, the student, comes and sits on her lap and begins to meddle with a rhythm instrument. This is not the usual music class where the teacher sings and students repeat after her. For 45 minutes, Lakshmi only sings bhajans and the children come just to listen to her. It’s a different kind of after-school activity for these children, who have autism spectrum disorder. They come twice or thrice a week to Lakshmi to listen to the bhajans. “All my children may not speak, but they love, enjoy and respond to music,” says Lakshmi, bringing an udukkai down from the shelf. For 12 years now, Lakshmi has shown that bhajans can have therapeutic benefits for children with autism. Last week, eleven of her students performed at the finals of Bakthaswara Bhajan Competition in Bharthiya Vidya Bhavan where they rendered bhajans for half an hour. “Making these children face the stage is a huge challenge and this is the fifth year that we are performing,” she says. Some of these children can sing individually but it takes a lot of practice for them to sing as a group. “Performing as a group needs harmony and a lot of finishing,” she says. Lakshmi’s first task is to make students sit in the lotus position. “I am particular they listen to music sitting in a structured position,” she says. On Saturday, her class shifts to Besant Nagar at the facility of the Lotus Foundation, to which she is attached. Here, it is a larger group where students and parents sit together to listen to bhajans. Lakshmi, who has also authored books on autism, plans to do a thesis on the improvement her students have shown. But, for now, her parents will vouch for the therapeutic effect bhajans have on their children. “My son hardly sits quietly for a minute. But, at last week’s performance, he sat for 15 minutes,” said a father. Another parent Shoba Kannan said, “It de-stresses and over a period of time, it transforms the inner soul.”
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