ABOUT NIRUPAMA RAO

Dear friends,

My name is Nirupama Rao. I’m a psychologist with 24 years of experience in the field of Special Needs and Child Development. I am a mother of 2 girls, 22 and 12.

I have previously run my own Waldorf kindergarten/ Centre for children for special needs called Niraamayaa for five years. I have worked in various school, hospital and NGO settings.

Have authored and published two books:

Parenting- The Art and Science of Nurturing with Dr Shekhar Seshadri, NIMHANS

The Autism Story. A little illustrated fictional booklet.

I love writing and post articles on this blog whenever inspiration strikes on various topics.

I currently work with preschools and with parents of young children with autism, attention, emotional and behavioral issues.

I also conduct awareness workshops for parents, teachers and general public on Autism, Special Needs, Child Development, Waldorf Education, on Conscious, Simplicity and Slow Parenting Styles.

There are many factors that exacerbate attention, sensory and behavioural issues in sensitive children. I educate the parents about these factors and help them to understand how conducive diet, rhythms, lifestyle and environment (physical and emotional), will maximise the potential of their children.

I work with the mothers closely and help them with their anxiety. I handhold the parents and guide and support them through various stages of the child’s development by leading them to the right resources. I believe in long term support.

I help parents see the gifts in their children and together work out ways of strengthening them; to celebrate the uniqueness of the child; to respect and accept differences in the child; and to eventually become their advocates.

I work from my home office at Hiranandani Powai, Mumbai.

I consult by appointment.

Thanks and regards,

Nirupama Rao

Contact:

raonino@gmail.com,

blog: http://www.wordpress.niraamayaa.com

THE WELLNESS OF OUR CHILDREN

November 30 2010

Rohit, 9 years old, comes back from school, tosses his bag aside, kicks off his shoes, goes straight to the fridge, grabs a bottle of coke, helps himself to a pack of chips from the pantry, and settles down on the couch and switches on his favorite cartoon show on TV.  His mother Reema goes ballistic as he’s snacking before his lunch. She some how makes sure some decent meal goes in as he continues to watch TV. Reema is not even sure if he knows what he‘s had for lunch! She checks his diary with trepidation…hoping there’s no note from the teacher today. No such luck! “Rohit’s Class work is incomplete- not concentrating in class. Please meet the class-teacher”.

Post lunch he moves to the comp, logs on to his Facebook account to increase his Farmville points. It’s soon time for tuitions. After tuition, he goes straight to his friend’s house. They’re both excited about the new PSP game his friend has acquired! After his mother figures out where he is by 9pm, he goes home for a family dinner- in front of TV of course…Indian Idol is on! His day ends by about ten thirty after struggling with some last minute home work, when he goes to bed with his I-pod. He has to be up by 6 so he can get his school bus by 7am.

Sounds familiar? This is now a typical scenario in today’s urban households. This is the lifestyle of children today: Feasting on coke and fast food, glued to electronic entertainment, busy with tuitions and classes and absolutely no physical and out door play.

So it’s no wonder that the children of our generation do not seem to be as calm as they were, say fifteen or twenty years back. More and more children are on the hyperactive side. Incidences of ADHD that is clinical hyperactivity, autism, learning problems are on the rise. Even a seemingly calm child seems to have difficulty in concentrating for longer periods of time and gets bored easily. Health issues like asthma, skin allergies, anorexia, bulimia, high cholesterol and digestion problems which were earlier considered as medical problems for adults are plaguing children as well. A child today is much more sensitive, emotionally as well as sensorially. A major role in causing these issues can be attributed to changing lifestyles.

The need of the hour is to adopt a holistic healthy approach to life that heals and promotes well being. We are so caught in the rat race to make it big in life or in catching-up-with-the-joneses that we hardly make any time to smell the roses. Our children bear the brunt of our unconscious ways much more than we realize.  They tend to lose their innocence and childhood too soon.

As adults, we often take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the good old days when we ate mummy’s yummy ‘chaklis’ and ran down the neighborhood to play ‘chor-police’. Those were the days of fun and frolic. Don’t we owe it to our children to let them have a beautiful childhood too? It’s time to make some basic simple changes in our lifestyle and watch the magic unfold.

The following are some of the changes that we need to make in our life styles if we want our children to become more grounded and be comfortable in their skin. These tips are helpful universally to all children but some children are more sensitive to the environment than others, and so are more important and necessary for those children who need special attention.

DIET

This is the single most significant change that has happened in the past 15 to 20 years- the sudden flooding in the market of packaged foods, instant foods, sweet, artificially flavored, preserved, frozen foods. We don’t seem to eat fresh food anymore. Even the fruits we buy off the shelves are imported, hence preserved with chemicals. We are feeding our children toxic food in the form of chips, artificially colored candies, jams, juices, colas.  Children are addicted to these foods and denying them their favorite junk food often ends in temper tantrums. More often than not parents give in to their kids’ demands to buy peace, thus starting a vicious cycle of offering toxins as pacifiers, not to mention the fact that they are inadvertently raising spoilt brats in the process.

Please give your children natural, farm fresh, locally produced, homemade foods, free of any artificial flavors, preservatives, colors, sugars. This will play a major role in calming your child and in increasing their attention span. Good nutrition is the very basic thing a parent can provide the child with. Tampering with the basics can lead to many harmful repercussions in the long run.

ELECTRONIC GADGETS

Keep children away from TV. TV is harmful for children, and so are computers, mobile phones, video games, PSPs, microwave ovens. The electro-magnetic field generated by the TV and computer can structurally damage children’s brains. Research supports the fact that children under 2 should not be watching ANY TV at all!

Children have stopped going out to play because of TV. As they are used to being passively entertained, their brains can’t come up with innovative ways anymore to entertain themselves otherwise. They’ve become dependent on these gadgets which have already enslaved our generation. The second the TV is off, they start saying they’re bored! Please don’t worry when they complain of boredom, for that is what leads to creativity!

Parents should cut down on TV time, especially in the evenings when they should be playing outdoors, and during meal times. If they do watch TV, the content should be monitored to ensure what they’re watching is age-appropriate and give suitable explanation where required. And beware of advertisements. They can give the young impressionable mind faulty ideas about what is supposedly good or bad for us just so we go and buy their unnecessary products.

For more information on TV, one can find the article:

Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children’s Minds by Susan R. Johnson, M.D. on the net.

TOYS

Many parents fret that young children get easily bored with the expensive toys that we buy for them. That is because these toys, in spite of their attractiveness, cannot engage the child. They bring nothing out of the child.

What children really need are simple things from the home like paper, boxes of soap, paste, etc, utensils of various sizes from the kitchen, preferably filled with water, chapatti dough, clay, paints, beads, wooden blocks, cloth, simple wooden toys, stones, shells and other treasures from nature. A good toy is only 10 percent toy and 90 percent child! Complete and finished toys give a child no scope for creativity and imagination. Whereas you give a child simple materials, and the child can create entire worlds out of them!!

Once you get the idea, your creativity can take over. Here is a toy hidden in every nook-n-cranny of your house. The trick lies in using your imagination rather than taking the easy way out and buying expensive gadgets across the counter. For example, even if a toddler puts seeds in the masala box he is improving his eye-hand coordination while being fruitfully engaged. And please don’t mind the mess!

If you do any work in the kitchen, keep the child with you on the counter if it’s safe, or on the kitchen floor.

Let the child imitate you and do whatever you’re doing. Washing rice, peeling, pouring, kneading, making balls of dough, sorting vegetables, mopping the floor, washing clothes, all the while talking to the child about what you’re doing. Working with our hands is as good for us as it is for our children. It’s all about being in the here and now, for at least sometime everyday with the child with nothing in between. Not even your thoughts! Try this at home….it’s magical!! You will be amazed at the wonders children work out with everyday humdrum items lying around the house. Their creativity knows no bounds once they get started. Working with the hands is very calming for the mind and builds thinking capacity.

As for the older children, they need to be outdoors with children of their age, sweating it out and engaging in physical sports and games apart from reading and engaging in a meaningful hobby.

ATMOSPHERE

Keep the atmosphere in the house calm and noise free. It will help if the mother also calms down in her thoughts and actions.

Avoid loud music, talk to them in soft soothing voices, meditate and keep your own emotions under control. Children imitate us at an external and an internal level. If we are calm, we help our children be calm.

Avoid choosing a mall as a weekend outing program. You may notice that you feel drained out after a trip to the mall. That’s because malls are an assault on our senses…the sights, sounds, colors, movement, the beckoning products on display, the resisting of temptation, all this puts a lot of strain on us (the games arcade takes the cake for over-stimulation). Then imagine the effect they have on children! If children behave badly in malls, is it their fault?

Instead, go to calmer places like the garden for walks together, to picnics with friends, to the beach, climb a mountain, go boating; etc. There is nothing as rejuvenating as being one with nature. The pleasure of exploring nature’s bounty with your children can’t be compared with a trip to the neighborhood mall.

TOUCH AND WARMTH

Do you touch and hug your child enough? Do you rock him on your knees? Do you bounce him in the air? Do you carry her and go round and round until both of you fall with a spinning head? No? Then do it!

Also massage your child’s (any age) calves and feet at night with oil or cream in gentle circular movements, put on socks, and make him sleep with a story or a song. Warmth in your approach to the child (stress free), and warmth of touch and temperature- these are necessary for every growing child.

RHYTHM

Early to bed, early to rise, truly makes a child healthy and wise. Set a regular pattern – Breakfast, lunch, afternoon nap, and evening play in the park, returning home for an early dinner, getting ready for bed. Make sure the calm ambience (TV off, dim lights, soft sounds, into the bedroom) for sleep is set at least an hour before bedtime. And please remember, children need at least ten hours of uninterrupted sleep, for that’s when their bodies grow and rejuvenate.

Try to maintain the same routine everyday so the child knows what to expect next. But be sure not to be obsessed about it. It’s good to be disciplined but it’s equally important not to lose sleep over it. It helps to be conscious and aware of the better way of doing things and to make an honest attempt at getting better.

This will go a long way in helping your child feel secure, confident and most importantly, be healthy.

I need to put in a few personal notes here. I felt it was important to let the readers know that I have not written the article only as a Psychologist, who has seen in her practice, a number of children whose problems can be traced to an unhealthy lifestyle but as a parent myself, still struggling to make what I’ve written about as much a part of my family’s lifestyle as possible.

When I first became aware of these possibilities, my elder daughter was already 10 years old and my younger one was just born. Three years back, I started my journey into a more conscious way of living. Then I wondered…is it too late to bring about changes in the lifestyle of my family? Is my daughter too far gone in her addiction to TV and instant foods? Will my husband cooperate? But no…now that I am getting to know about a better way to live, I cannot consciously do things that are unhealthy for my children.

So I am not already someone who’s been there and done that, but is someone who is right in the middle of a storm that any change tends to bring about.

But am happy to say that in three years, my first one is almost free of asthma, her school performance has improved and the younger one is more robust than the first one was. It is a hard struggle, but its well worth it.

These are a few things that will surely help your child too if followed with consciousness and conviction.

Don’t worry if you’re going off track. Be aware and conscious. If you could do something right, just be aware that you did. If you couldn’t, you tell yourself that you couldn’t do it this time, but you’re going to keep trying. There is no need for us to judge ourselves on any matter, not just matters related to children. We do what we do and we’re ok. But if we get to know of a better way to do things, we will try that. That’s more important. With practice, you’ll get there and when you see the results, you’ll be convinced and you’ll be able to convince others, that the best way to live is naturally!

It is as if Mother Nature is appealing to us through our children:

“Please slow down; become conscious of what you’re doing; let children be children; respect what is natural; take care of your children and wake up before it is too late!!”

And when I say this, I do not talk about any one child. I’m talking about all the children and parents of the world…the collective consciousness. Every time one more person becomes conscious, it adds to this collective consciousness, and this will help to heal our planet!

Nirupama Rao

THE MESSAGE OF AUTISM FOR THE ENTIRE HUMANITY

THE MESSAGE OF AUTISM

For the past two to three years, I’ve been living with the question about why Autism exists and why it is increasing in today’s time. The answers are slowly beginning to unravel. First there was Down syndrome (DS). If you look at people with DS, we can see that they are positive, happy, sociable, friendly people, who can change the mood of the place they step into. At the time when there was an increase in incidence of DS, the world that was stricken by war and hatred, actually needed these pure, positive and happy people. But then technology stepped in to terminate these happy souls before they could be born. But they did manage to bring in a social consciousness among people.

Today it is Autism. Why is Autism on the rise? What are these new angels that are being sent from the heavens trying to convey?

Autism is not just the responsibility of the family in which the child is born. We are all responsible for the increase in the incidence of autism and other conditions like ADHD, Learning disabilities, asthma, allergies, etc. Wondering why?

If we ask ourselves why is there increase in these conditions, we will begin to understand that it is because of the direction in which we’re all collectively moving. We are moving away from all that is natural. We are all moving away from real human contact and more towards technology. We are making this world too toxic a place for our children to come into- physically, mentally and spiritually.

All children, but especially those on the spectrum are PURE beings. They thrive in a pure, calm, non-toxic environment which is now not available to them. Let us stop and think about how we grew up, how we played, what we ate and the number of loving people we were surrounded by, how our childhood was- free and without pressure and then let us look at how children are growing up today. People say that we need to keep up with the times, but then we have to pay a price for it. Our children have to pay a price for it.

We keep thinking about bringing a change in their behavior. But to do that, we (the entire human race) need to become more conscious and provide all young children with an atmosphere that is calm, quiet, peaceful, clean and pure. Not surprisingly, this is what our Mother Earth needs too! She is trying to talk to us through these children who in my opinion are Messiahs who have come to awaken us! To STOP and question the choices we are making….not just parents of children with autism, but the entire humanity!

Just imagine for a moment about the children that will be born to this whole generation that is feeding on junk food, processed food, chemical fertilisers, GMO foods and glued to gadgets like mobiles, tablets, video games, internet, etc?

As parents, therapists and all the people associated with autism and all the conditions and syndromes of our modern world, we need to wake up, realize, become conscious and then give our voice to these children who speak to us not with words but with their being- the way they are. They are all the time trying to tell us something. If we listen truly, we will understand that they bring some lessons for the whole world:

  • Children on the autism spectrum are one with the universe. They are not individualized or ‘separate’ like the rest of us. They do not suffer from ‘ego’ problems like us as they are ‘selfless’ beings. They teach us the lesson of oneness. But because of this, they feel the vibrations of our thoughts and feelings! That makes them way more sensitive than all of us!! They can’t express it but they are deeply affected by our thoughts and attitudes!! So the more conscious we are in their presence, the happier they are and they actually thus helping us to evolve into better human beings!!
  • Let us teach our children by example. Let us be inclusive in our thoughts! Let us be more tolerant and accepting of imperfection. Perfection is a myth! Let us raise our children as sensitive human beings who can reach out to those that can use some empathy and understanding. If we hear that our children are being bullies, let us not jump in to defend them. Let us look in to the matter and if it’s true, use the opportunity to teach our children to be more sensitive!
  • Be in touch with Mother Nature. Human beings are products of nature. We can’t afford to forget that! When we are in harmony with nature, we are in balance and healthy. Children calm down in quiet natural places; and as they are ONE WITH NATURE. They’ve not fully separated from it. To be aware of and follow the repetitive and predictable rhythms of nature- being random and whimsical makes them feel insecure (read Patrick Jasper Lees note on Natural Rhythms); to make nature a part and parcel of our life- what we eat, what we drink, how we entertain ourselves; over-stimulation that is, loud music and noises, electronic media and entertainment is addictive, making children restless and causes them to lose their ability to be in the present and to be grounded- to think, to concentrate. We want our children to achieve more, but we are not providing them with a suitable atmosphere for them to do that!
  • Early stimulation is not limited to stimulation of the brain. A human being has many more aspects other than the brain. The brain can come in later. But first we need to develop their senses, their physical bodies, their emotions and their will. Parents are falling for the trap of early brain stimulation and children are losing their childhood too early and are becoming precocious. We need to preserve their innocence for their own good!
  • Realize that children are affected by and learn from ‘who we are’ and not ‘what we say or do’. Our state of being as a parent or a teacher has a direct bearing on their well-being. If we are well, so are they.
  • But, we need to refrain from being judgmental of ourselves and others; nobody’s perfect. We all can be better and it’s important that we are on the right path.
  • Not dwell in the past or future but to enjoy the present;
  • There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ experiences- only learning opportunities.
  • The children being born in this generation are vibrating at a high frequency. We need to increase our positive vibrations so we can reach up to them; to think pure thoughts- for they are sensitive enough to know what we think and parents will vouch for the fact that their behavior deteriorates when there are negative emotions in their environment and they calm down when we are calm. Calmness is a state of being where we can just be– neither positive, nor negative
  • Use technology and wealth for the betterment of life and society, instead of becoming slaves to it!
  • Slow down! Calm down!

We need to become conscious of our choices and make suitable and healthy changes in our lives to enable our children to cope with the world. We need to look at the deeper causes of the problems our children are facing, and deal with that- like food intolerance, lack of healthy rhythms, healthy emotional environments, etc. rather than try to ‘cure’ or ‘treat’ symptoms.

We all need to get together and work towards PREVENTION. We now know what is causing these syndromes, so we all need to become crusaders. This is not the time to blame or find fault with one another. This is the time to join hands and do what our children want us to do.

Create a better, cleaner world! Develop healthy lifestyles-Together, we can prevent and reduce the incidence of Autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies, obesity, malnutrition, childhood heart diseases, and increase the ‘well being’ quotient of the world! With the help of internet and Facebook, we can spread this message all over the world!

But for making this possible we need to start with ‘the man in the mirror’ so to speak. Let’s begin with ourselves- are we ready to let go of something that is convenient but unhealthy? Are we willing to make little sacrifices for the betterment of the entire world? Are we willing to give up our attachment to the material and move towards the natural, the spiritual or at least find a balance?

Let us try to listen to what our children are saying even if they are not speaking. They don’t need words, we do. We need to use our gift of intuition- with which we can listen to what our children are saying. They have chosen us to help them. Let us try to understand who these children are and what they need us to do to make this world a better place- at least for all the children who are yet to come.

Nirupama Rao

-Inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (Spiritual Scientist and founder of ‘Anthroposophy’, who started ‘Curative Education’ for children and adults with special needs. Curative Education Centers and Camphill Communities are established all over the world and in India there is Saandeepani (Hyderabad), Friends of Camphill (Bangalore), V-Excel (Chennai) among others, including Niraamayaa (Mumbai) that are inspired by Steiner’s philosophy),

Also William Stillman, Suzy Miller, Patrick Jasper Lee, Temple Grandin, Gayle and Lyrica Mia and most importantly by all the children with Autism from whom I’ve been learning and many, many others who are also on this journey with me.

NIRAAMAYAA- Nurturing Children Naturally

First posted on 30 December, 2010

NIRAAMAYAA

Sarve bhavantu sukhinaha

Sarve santu Niraamayaaha

This verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad means:

“May everyone be happy, may everyone be well (without disease)”

But what does Niraamayaa actually mean?

One of our parents told me the true meaning of the Sanskrit word Niraamayaa. Although I did know that broadly it meant freedom from illness and a state of complete wellness, the actual meaning of the word is clearer when we break it up into nir+aamay. ‘Ama’ in sanskrit means ‘toxins’ or ‘impurity’. So nir-amay means a ‘toxin free state of purity’. This was such a revelation for me as this is exactly what we are striving for at Niraamayaa…..the children who come to us from the spiritual world are so pure, that they cannot take in anything that is not pure- like synthetic food, electromagnetic radiation, vaccines, antibiotics, allopathic medication, etc. We need to instead, try and purify their environment for them, serve fresh, home made food and last but not the least, purify our own heart and mind spaces for them so that everything that is fed to them as food and through the environment (that includes us) is ‘digestible’ to them….then they can reach the state of ‘niraamaya’…..

Everywhere we look these days; there is talk about wellness- Wellness spas, wellness stores, wellness foods, and so on. Why this sudden need for wellness? Perhaps we have realized that in our struggle to survive in this pressure-filled competitive world, we are compromising on our well being. Perhaps we are also realizing that as we are getting sucked in by the hypnotizing realm of technology, gadgetry and modern day living, we are somehow losing out on the human touch and are losing touch with Mother Nature.

The further we move from the comforting and harmonious rhythms of nature and rely on synthetic, unnatural products and ways of living, the further away we move from feeling well. This lack of well being manifests itself as physical, emotional and mental symptoms and syndromes. We wait for something drastic to happen before we awaken and realize how far away we have moved from being really well.

Especially when Mother Earth chooses to express her anguish through our children….whom we value more than anything else in the world.

There is increasing incidence today of children with various special needs- learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity and so on.

Increasing number of studies seems to be pointing to a deep connection between unhealthy lifestyles and habits to Child Mental Health issues. For instance there was an article in the Times recently linking speech delay in toddlers to homes where the child does not get enough language stimulation. There are also issues because children do not play enough. Parents say: “what can we do? We don’t have a choice! This is what everyone’s doing. It’s the norm today.” But is this norm the healthy for our children? Is there a better way to live? Don’t we want our children to lead healthy, productive, balanced lives not just for themselves, but also so that they can contribute to the community? And most importantly, are we willing to come out of our comfort zones for the sake of our children? Are we ready to make aware and conscious parenting choices?

This is the objective behind Niraamayaa, a “Centre for the well being of children and parents”- to help parents make the right choices. To provide them with healthy options for the well being of their children, irrespective of whether they have special needs or not.

In her experience of 15 years with children needing special care, Nirupama Rao the co-founder of Niraamayaa, a psychologist by qualification, has learnt that doing therapy directly with children is only one part of the job. Of equal importance is the home environment, lifestyles, dietary and sleep habits and last but not the least, the physical and emotional well-being of the parents themselves.

Hence, at Niraamayaa we believe in spending as much time with parents as is possible, through counselling and guidance as to the healthiest possible ways of raising children in today’s time and age, along with creative and rejuvenating activities which leave them feeling refreshed and cared for. This is done by way of workshops as well as individual counselling sessions.

Very often what we ‘want’ for our children is not the same as what they really ‘need’. What we ‘want’ is that they fulfil our expectations and perform to ease our anxiety; but what they really ‘need’ is for us to slow down, understand them, observe them and accept them for who they really are.

Our main purpose at Niraamayaa is to

  • help parents understand children and their needs,
  • to create awareness about the connection between child mental health and healthy life styles and

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  • to sensitize the society about the true needs of growing children- that children, at least in the first five or six years need to play, connect to nature,  need good role models and need to really remain children for as long as they can, without the cares and pressures of adult life which they will have to face as adults anyway.
  • To help children and even us adults to actually try at reach that state of ‘Niraamayaa’- the state of freedom from toxicity and the state of purity in body, mind, soul and spirit!!

Nirupama Rao,