LIFESMART 2022

LIFESMART 2022

shiksha valli-age

Our vision is to inform, educate, and support parents of neuro-diverse persons so they can be more effective guides and champions for their children. We also seek to raise awareness among teachers/ mentors and other members of the community so they can enable the development of neuro-diverse persons.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” This is particularly true for neuro-diverse children and adults, and their families. We believe that the life-long learning of a neuro-diverse person proceeds first with the love and nourishment from the parents, followed by supportive teachers/ mentors, and then an inclusive community. Such multi-pronged efforts enable neuro-diverse people to have degrees of independence in their lives.

Soon after a diagnosis, parents start worrying about thearpies. They are worried about the child's education and independent living possibilities. None of us live by ourselves. Our message is to invest in a community that provides support, learning, and independence for life.

“shiksha” means education in many Indian languages. “valli” means a plant that grows independently yet is attached to a tree. In English, the suffix “-age” is usually applied when referring to “result of” or “act of” something. So the name “Shiksha-valli-age” is a play on this notion of education that enables neuro-diverse persons to attain independence even while attached to the underlying support network.

There is yet another meaning to our name. Shikshavalli is the first chapter of Taittriya Upanishad, and is in essence a contract between the student and society. The phrase “mAthru-dEvo bhava, pithru-dEvo bhava, Acharya-dEvo bhava, athithi-dEvo bhava” appears in the eleventh anuvAka of Shikshavalli. While this phrase itself is about the duties of the student, it also captures the sequence of those who help and influence the student. It also is appropriate to the idea that the parents, guru, and the broader society are needed to help neuro-diverse persons.

Hence the name, “shiksha valli-age”! shiksha-valliage is our pivotal concept for 2022!

Families Learning Together

The LIFESMART 100-Day Lab

Integrate theLIFESMART elements while implementing the shikshavalli philosophy.

We launched our 100-Day Lab in 2021. The purpose of this lab is to encourage parents to think about their role as a guide and to explore ways to enhance parent-child interactions. Parents do simple activities with their children (e.g., rolling a ball back and forth, hanging up clothes, picking up and putting things in a container). Parent and child roles are simple allowing the parent to focus more on interactions than on specific skills. While therapies support development, there is no subsitute for parent interactions with the child. The purpose of the first 100-Day lab is for parents to discover the power of simple predictable interactions that evolve gradually over time.

Once we complete the first 100-Day lab, we intend to organize additional 100-Day labs for parents to explore different tools and practices. For example, we plan on hosting our next 100-Day Lab on Build and Talk. This lab will focus on the use of visual and tactile tools to enhance communication.

The explorations in the 100-Day Lab are intended to encourage parents to be mindful guides to their child. As parents encounter various interventions and educational approaches, they can continue to evolve the interactions with their child

Families Learning Together

Honoring Gurus who Believe

We are all the products of countless hours of teaching that our many teachers have invested in us. This is also true for those on the ASD spectrum. But Autism spectrum disorders affect people in often visible ways, which often leads to them being pre-judged even by well-intentioned people. Children and young adults on the autism spectrum, and their families, know the curse of low expectations all too well. Finding teachers for their pursuits is typically difficult enough; finding teachers who believe in their potential, and push them to strive as they would with a neuro-typical peer, is truly rare. This is a particularly steep hurdle for those with a passion for the performing arts - attaining proficiency in the arts requires many long years of commitment by both teacher and student, which is unlikely to occur when expectations are low. But such gurus do exist in the performing arts and elsewhere. Somehow, they have found it in them to believe, encourage, teach, and nurture a shared passion for the arts in the ASD population.
shiksha valli-age Project Coordinator

Sweta Balasubramanian

Sweta Balasubramanian is the project coordinator for shiksha valli-age. As a young Carnatic vocalist, she is leading our digital storytelling efforts. Currently, she is organizing our first video project titled A Journey to Bharat through Natya. This project will use Ananth’s story to present the immense potential for using Bharatanatyam as a tool for development for autistic children.

Sweta will develop projects to showcase efforts to develop systemic, family-centered solutions to enhance support, learning, and independence for autistic children and adults. She will also continue to build on our Gurus who Believe initiative.

She will also explore ways to engage autistic teens and adults in projects. Our idea is to engage teens and adults in community projects, and showcasing their efforts and accomplishments through digital storytelling.

Sweta is a disciple of Sri Neyveli.R.Santhanagopalan. She pursued the Advanced Diploma course from the Advanced School Of Carnatic Music, Music Academy, Chennai. She received the ‘’Outstanding outgoing student award’’of the 2012-15 batch. She has completed her Masters in Music(Vocal) at the Tamil Nadu Music and Fine Arts Unviersity,Chennai. Sweta has performed in many sabhas and temples. Sweta has won many prizes in various vocal music competitions conducted by Sabhas in Chennai, Trichy, and Mumbai.