“Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable”. This line by Leonard Bernstein holds true for the children of Priyanj Special School located in Goregaon West. As you enter the school, you are greeted by the smiles of enthusiastic children singing, banging the desk and making noise. These children look any other children but in reality they are autistic.
Apart from their regular sessions of special education, art and craft training, speech and language therapy, occupational and sensory integration therapy, individual counselling, self-help training and computer education, music sessions has made a big difference to these children in improving their social skills.
Eight-year old Raveena Poojari can play on the keyboard just any song that she has heard on the television while Vedant Roy, also eight-years old, can play on the keyboard any tune that a person hums. For Deepayan Dasgupta, music has made him talk; his speech has improved through music. Prathamesh Naik, Deepanyan Dasgupta and Devansh Rathor, all of nine years can learn any song and immediately sing in tune. “Music has made these children more verbal and has improved their social skills. Earlier getting them to talk was very difficult but now they have started responding to people,” says Dr. Reesha Dhulap, the school principal. Saurabh Jadhav can barely speak but once the bongo is handed over to him, he gets engrossed with it. “The children here are immensely gifted. They have never attended any formal music class but they have the knack of playing music just by ear. I just teach them the notes and give them the pitch. Raveena has the ability to remember song lyrics and has even written them in her exam answer paper!” adds Dinesh Kumar, the music instructor.
The school that started in the year 2000 has recently formed their own band that performs at various places. The school band consists of singers Devansh Rathore, Deepanyan Dasgupta, Vedant Roy, Ritika Shetty and Prathamesh Naik accompanied by Raveena Poojari on the keyboard, Saurabh on the bongo and Ingrid Lobo on the tambourine. The children are now in the process of learning to play the guitar.
When asked about the difference in teaching music to autistic children Dinesh Kumar answers, “While teaching these children, I have to wait for them to respond. I had never heard about autism before and after getting involved in teaching these children, I have gained lots of patience and satisfaction.”
Though these children have their limitations, they have emerged victorious with their special gift of music.