‘Rhea was always very different to her peers from birth really. I started to notice the things she did differently. She didn’t cry much, didn’t like crowded places, new faces and I had to stick to her daily routine otherwise I’d have a very unhappy baby on my hands. She has grown into a very calm, neat and tidy 6-year-old. Very honest and enjoys the company of adults rather than younger children.
Due to the difficulties she faced at school, loud noises, the playground, PE and making and keeping friends, we decided to have her assessed and sure enough she was diagnosed with borderline Autism.
My friend had been taking her daughter to the bhangra classes and sug-gested I enrol Rhea. If anything she got to interact with her daughter, Jiya, more. I was looking for a class for Rhea to join which was not competitive and I wanted to encourage Rhea to participate in a class and develop her motivational skills in her own time. This class proved to be excellent and exceeded my expectations. The enrolment process allowed for me to share that Rhea was Autistic. The tutor, Kush, picked up on this straight away and had a conversation with me, asking what the main issues and concerns were and of any limitations.
I just wanted Rhea to join and have fun and learn to move though dance and music without too much pressure on being perfect.
It was a struggle to get Rhea to go to classes, it took her about 4 weeks to get used to it and take control of her anxiety. The hall was big, the children and tutors unfamiliar and the music loud at times. Not only did she have to dance in a large group, she now had to learn the moves, listen to instruc-tions and the music. She had to master movement and timing, which is diffi-cult for a child with autism, but practise will help. Her class mates were able to do moves, she couldn’t and Rhea is very aware of what she cannot do, which usually makes her give up. I had to offer a lot of praise and encour-agement, but never pressure. I was always outside if she needed me. Initial-ly Kush suggested that I stay in the hall while Rhea became comfortable with her new surroundings. After a couple of weeks Veena and Kush sug-gested I wait in the foyer, but let Rhea know that I was just outside the door if she needed me
Rhea slowly started to want to go to class. I guess it was becoming a routine for Monday evening and she was now getting familiar with the class. The tutors played a huge role in this. They were understanding and encouraged Rhea without putting on any pressure. This was invaluable and has a huge part in contributing to the positive experience Rhea had.
Rhea now interacts with her class mates and the tutors. She joins in and does her best, but the best bit is, she does it all with a smile. This is the only indication I need to know she will be ok. When she got her Apna Virsa T-shirt she wore it with pride! The End of Term Showcase was emotional. My husband and mum also came to watch Rhea, fully expecting her to be stand-ing alone, in a corner and not participating. They couldn’t have been more surprised! Our little girl was enjoying herself and she had fun. She danced with the rest of her group and didn’t give up!
Positive experiences can change our outlook on things and I believe that this one has. I hadn’t mentioned to her school teacher that Rhea had enrolled in a new class and so I was surprised when her teacher asked me if we were doing anything different with Rhea as she had noticed a big change in her at school! She was growing in confidence and getting better at interacting with other children. Bhangra was the only thing that we could attribute this posi-tive change to! I now have a very happy girl who enjoys going to school and just doing her best. She has overcome some of her fears with noise. We still have a long way to go but this is a great start.
I could have taken Rhea to any class, there is so much pressure on children to do things well and with perfection. Children learn through understanding and love and the tutors, Kush and Veena, were so lovely. They took the time to build up a relationship of trust with Rhea and myself and due to this she has flourished. Teachers play a huge role in a child’s learning and if they are caring and build a relationship of trust and respect, any child would excel. So I would like to thank them for their time and support.’
“Bhangra classes make me really happy! At school my teachers say that I am ‘on fire’ ! that means that I am really really good and I have really improved. That makes me feel really happy. I am looking forward to going back next term. I really like Kush and Veena, they are really good fun. Kush looked funny with her red hair for Halloween! I got very nervous about dancing in front of everyone, but it felt great. “
We are so proud of all our children, and so proud of Rhea – a true superstar!
A huge thanks to Rhea’s family for sharing their story. These kind of condi-tions can be seen as a taboo subject within our community and so it takes courage and strength to share your story. I am sure that you will agree that this is a very heart-warming story and it offers hope to others who may be in a similar situation.
Of course, this would not be possible without our amazing tutors, Kush and Veena. A little bit crazy, sometimes whacky but ALWAYS FUN! Thank you both for your continued dedication and support to our little learners!