The Art of Conversation: Developing SAAAC’s Art and Social Skills Projects
“I began SAAAC not only because I wanted to help individuals impacted by ASD, but I wanted to help them in innovative ways”, says Geetha Moorthy, founder and Executive Director of SAAAC. The spirit of innovation seems ingrained into the daily operations of SAAAC. It was the first developmental centre to create and implement a classical Indian dance program for participants. In addition, the centre has utilized consultants and volunteers in creative ways in order to maximize resources, while providing quality care. The innovation seems to be continuing as SAAAC looks to create a social skill developmental and arts program. “I’ve always believed in the power of art to inform, heal, and develop. I wanted the arts to have a prominent role in the lives on these kids,” says Geetha. The arts program will be utilized as both a therapeutic tool and creative outlet. Activities will range from painting, drawing, sculpting to creating jewelries and other accessories. There will also be group centered art activities that look to create works for special holidays and occasions. The program will be initiated by students from the community who specialize in art studies in college and university programs.
Another innovative program that looks to be developed and implemented in the next few months is SAAAC’s social skills project. One of the most common challenges of those impacted by ASD is having difficulty socially interacting with those in their environment. “Connecting with others is very difficult for individuals with ASD. The challenge is made even greater because most of these individuals already have trouble with speech and language,” says SAAAC’s program director Neeran Kuni. “It’s hard for individuals with ASD to know what another person might be thinking. For most of us, we can observe and guess, through hearing a person’s tone of voice or body language, what the social situation may be. But for individuals with ASD this is a challenging process”. SAAAC’s social skills development project will look to build social skills through group focused activities like game playing, sharing, engaging in group discussions and one to one conversations. “We will start the program with the adolescent members at our centre, who range from 15-21” says Neeran. He adds, “The group we have in mind is perfect for this pilot project. They are very thoughtful, funny guys. A lot of the activities I will do with them will be around scripting scenarios. For example we would have to act out scenarios on how we would act when we are bothered by someone or what we say and do when we introduce ourselves to someone new. It’s all very exciting stuff and I am really looking forward to it”.
SAAAC’s innovative projects will take form over the next few months, and they’ll continue SAAAC’s growing tradition of developing creative pathways to help individuals with ASD reach their true potential.