150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

Commemorating 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, The Coloured Zebra, a social impact enterprise, promoted by Vandana Sehgal and Prerna Gupta is organising a musical play performed by 20 children, afflicted with Autism and intellectual disabilities at India International Centre, Delhi on June 30, 2019.

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

In an exclusive interview, Prerna Gupta told The Indian News, “As our organization, The Coloured Zebra is a social impact entity, we are working for children and young adults with special needs. Therefore, our aim is to impart just the requisite skill sets and training to these individuals in order to help them lead an independent and respectable life, going forward.”

While shedding light on their programme, Therapy Through Theatre, Prerna said, “This unique programme is an amalgamation of occupational therapy, speech therapy and behaviour modification. Apparently, our methodology to train these individuals on basic life-skills, communication and expressiveness is through the use of theatre. That is why we are staging a musical play with 20 odd-children affected with autism and intellectual disabilities, commemorating the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. As part of it, this musical play depicts Gandhi’s life and Indian freedom struggle. Also on the cards is the talk by Indu Chaiswal, renowned psychologist.”

Vandana Sehgal and Prerna Gupta, The Coloured Zebra.

The Coloured Zebra is the brain child of Vandana Sehgal, who has world of an experience putting in more than 12 years in this field. Vandana has also dealt with hundreds of students with special needs. Vandana started TCZ in 2006. Her daughter, Prerna joined her a couple of years back with the aim of giving The Coloured Zebra, a formal shape besides reaching out to more parents, whose wards are affected with autism and intelectual disabilities. Vandana, a Psychologist with a leading Delhi school and Prerna, leaving her corporate job to start TCZ.

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

Talking about the vision of TCZ, Prerna said, “The vision behind TCZ is to make young adults with special needs confident enough to lead an independent and respectable life. We believe in giving the children a very open environment, where they learn new things and discover themselves through expressive art, primarily theatre. As mentioned earlier, through our programme, Therapy Through Theatre, we will train these individuals on life-skills, enhance their communication and expressiveness, improve their body posture and balance and work on their fine and gross motor skills, listening and cognitive skills. In addition to that, we run six months to one year long workshops and organise stage shows for these individuals, where they perform plays and showcase their true strengths.”

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

About autism, Prerna says that as it is, medically, there is no cure for it. Nevertheless, autistic children can be guided to make them on par with normal children by working on the behaviour in the first place. So, the bottom line is to work upon the beahaviour of these children and further channelise it by offering them a creative space to their unbridled energy. In the autism arena, Therapy Through Theatre has come of handy and that had eventually helped a lot of children. Other benefit from the theatre activity is that the issue of rocking and stimming, which these autistic children tend to do, is resolved on most of the cases.

In a play, there are lot of physical activities, where the children need to concentrate, follow the characters they are display according to the situation. If a child is enacting a role of a Bishop, he cannot rock or stim. So the child will be made to understand that he has the propensity to slide back to his behaviorial imbalance. Rocking is nothing but moving backwards and forwards from side to side, while stimming is repetitive movements. Through Theatre therapy, these kinds of developmental disorders were rectified.

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

So what is the age group, TCZ is looking at? “We would like to admit children with special needs as early as they can. As a matter of procedure, the programme is aimed at children between the age of ten and twenty year.

When asked as whether group education or individual attention, which was important, Prerna said, “We believe that communication and socialisation cannot be taught individually. Rather, it only comes in a group. Furthermore, we take students in small batches with 3:1 student trainer ratio. We have also tied up with an NGO, whose children act as buddies to our children.”

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

TCZ has a slew of other programmes including Holistic Enrichment Programme, which is a day-care programme, where they teach functional academics and activities of daily living to the students. Also, there are a gamut of co-curricular actives such as Yoga, Art and Craft and Martial Arts. The Computer Training Programme offered by TCZ is one-on-one, where they train students from scratch, i.e., from how to operate a laptop to MS Office.

Humble beginning

The journey of TCZ was very humble as Vandana had just children, when she started off. Since then, TCZ has come a long way. Currently, TCZ has a full-fledged team of educators as well as counselors to take care of all the children’s needs. Thanks to their special education classes for all levels, right from kindergarten to Class XII for children with special needs, these children show remarkable improvement in the academics as well as other social skills. What is more, a chunk of the students from TCZ has passed Class XII with good grades.

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

Touching on the structure of the course, Prerna says, “We focus on all aspects of the course. Initially, we will begin with giving them a slew of exercises and eventually move to dialogue delivery. This is very important, as the course also involves expressive communication as an important tool to improve their attentiveness. So, it is a day to day activity for these children where we guide them to board a metro train and how to embark safely. In addition to that, we also impart skills to daily chores like buying fruits and vegetables from the market by paying just the price and not get cheated. The ultimate aim is to equip these children to be more independent and face the world with confidence like any other normal child in the society. Many of these children with special needs have issue with expressive communication, so we lay lot of emphasis on this aspect.”

150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: TCZ to organise Musical Play by autistic children at IIC Delhi on June 30, 2019

Also, these children will indulge in a range of games, which eventually help them in terms of improving their concentration levels, memory and logical thinking abilities as well. Fag end of the course, these children will gain a lot in terms of improving their fine and gross motor skills, or for that matter, their social interaction and the effective communication, expressiveness as well as inter-personal skills. Last, but not the least, according to Prerna, these children were also taught the value of sharing their things, in addition to respect everyone. “When selfishness and self-centredness are increasing like never before in our society, these children with special needs should lead from the front in becoming role-models for other children to emulate,” Prerna signs off.