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It makes me smile big and cheers me up: 59 special needs kids gearing up for Dream Show

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Atlanta, GA, September 7, 2022: “It makes me smile big and cheers me up,” Advaith Nadella tells his mom about his upcoming dance performance practice. While it may sound like a normal parent-child conversation, it is anything but normal for a family with a special needs child. It is in fact a success story for mom Sunita Nadella, whose 17-year-old son, Advaith, is able to express himself, despite his limited speech. “Most of our kids are non-verbal or have very little language, so saying this is a big deal for him,” Nadella says. Having recently performed at Shiv’s Institute of Dance’s Annual Sensation 22, and Festival of India, the kids, she says are excited about other upcoming performance.

What upcoming performance?

Advaith is among 59 other special needs kids who are gearing up for the Dream Show, presented by Pure Hearts of Georgia, on September 18, 2022 at Duluth High School Theatre.

Pure Hearts of Georgia was founded by Anandhi Jambunathan, with Annapoorna Somayajula and Chelvi Selvanayagam as co-founders. Anandhi and her husband Ganesh Krishnamurthy have been actively supporting families of children with special needs in and around Atlanta for more than 15 years. Their son Krishiv is autistic.

What is so special about the Dream Show?
Dream Show is a 120 min presentation with 13 performances that exclusively includes 60 individuals with varied disabilities who get to shine bright on stage as stars of the show!

What is so special about being on a stage?

A child/adult with ID (Intellectual Disability) has to battle their sensory issues relating to visual, auditory, olfactory, balance (vestibular), awareness of body position and movement (proprioception), awareness of internal body cues and sensations (interception) to learn any routine – and getting them all to the stage which can be an intimidating environment, for anyone in fact.

For a child/adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the stage can be a place for transformative therapy, as well as a venue for friendship and fun. It provides an opportunity for them to learn to Listen for cues when others are speaking, Eye contact (with the person speaking, tracking, etc.), Waiting for their turn, Working with others, Staying on task, Teamwork and to Learn and experience the appropriate body language.

Each of the 60 individuals have been rehearsing many a times to achieve these skills and it has been challenging.

It is motivating for parents who may not be sure about their kids performing to see other parents and volunteers involved and witnessing their children learning and performing with their peers. During these rehearsals, Nadella had a few encouraging calls from some families where the parents were elated to report that their kids were starting to follow the dance steps and the rhythm of drumming now.

The progress is slow but steady. Some of the kids who had trouble getting on stage are participating in dance, drumming and many other activities this year and some of our participants who conquered the stage last time, took to an even a bigger stage (performed at other larger events) and received a standing ovation! And therein lies the magic of this show – the magic of transformation and the willingness to develop further. When a person observes another surge ahead and try new things, it breeds courage amongst those who might be hesitant. And finding bravery amidst a circle is so much easier than trying it out alone. 

The ultimate goal of the Dream Show is to modify the program to make it enjoyable and accessible for everyone involved. For an individual with special needs and for the families of such individuals, this joy becomes undeniable when they hit the stage and have a welcoming audience applaud and cheer for them.

Dream Show as the name implies is a Dream for many of families with members with disabilities to allow their kids to experience a sense of acknowledgement and introduce them to the world and with a voice of their own and to be able to say, “We Belong too – no matter what we can or cannot do!”

Appeal from the kids and organizers “We hope each of you reading this can encourage this show to cheer and support their efforts, especially the effort of our individuals with disabilities who are the highlight of this unique show!”

Please click here for tickets to the show: https://www.pureheartsga.org/event-details/dream-show-2022

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