For mother-daughter duo, Vandana and Prerna, the zebra hue is beyond black and white. It is coloured. Together, they run The Coloured Zebra: Beyond Black & White, a social impact enterprise for children and young adults with special needs.
Armed with years of experience in the field of special education, the concept to start The Coloured Zebra was born following their umpteen interactions with parents of children with special needs. “Although we have been dealing with special needs’ children for more than a decade now, providing academic support and counselling sessions, we started our pre-vocational courses in May 2017. Therapy Through Theatre is our main programme, along with Self-Help Course and Computer Training Course. We focus on imparting the right skill set and training to make these kids more independent and confident to face the real world,” says Vandana, a counsellor and special educator, with a major in Psychology.
Her daughter Prerna, who had picked up the art of dealing with special needs kids quite early on in life while lending her mother a helping hand, quit her well-paying job in the corporate world to work in this field full-time. Explaining the methods of theatre therapy, Prerna says, “Therapy Through Theatre is one of its kind programme focusing on holistic development of children and young adults with special needs. It is an amalgamation of occupational therapy, speech therapy and behaviour management. Since expressive communication is a hurdle for special needs children, the programme focuses a lot on this aspect so that they can express themselves freely.”
The class starts with various exercises and slowly moves on to dialogue delivery, role-plays and a few sessions dedicated to brain gym activities to improve coordination and concentration in these kids.
“We use natural ways of doing various therapies, such as playing a game of statue or walking in a straight line with equal distance. The latter does not only help in legs and arm movement but also improves concentration, the ability to take orders, work in a team and each child gets a chance to lead, which improves their sense of leadership and responsibility,” says Vandana.
During the initial four months of the course, the focus is on making the child ready to face the audience by working on his or her posture, stage presence, speech, eye contact, memory and concentration level. The last two months involve preparing an act, which includes a lot of dialogues (improving a child’s speech and memory) and hand movements and expressions (improving his sensory and expressive skills). “The holistic treatment results in overall personality development. After the programme, we organise a stage show and invite dignitaries from the field plus other guests,” says Vandana, whose current batch will have its culmination ceremony in February. The batch size is small with a student trainer ratio of 3:1.
The author writes on food and entertainment among other things.