Chennai, Jan 27 (PTI): When eight-year-old Srivats, an autistic child, could not sustain his focus on anything, -symbolised by a flung ball and strewn books- his parents though worried, were optimistic.

Apart from regular therapies, they decided to try out something new to help their son sustain his attention and that was when they heard of pottery.

“To make him sit for 45 minutes and execute ‘pitting’, which involved rotating clay, was certainly an uphill task.

But gradually through hand-building exercises in pottery, he has improved,” says Veena Srivat’s mother.

In the beginning, though Srivats enjoyed pottery as clay is cool to feel and touch, he continued to be restless and had always wanted to go home no sooner than the class commenced.

“Lack of attention, poor eye-hand co-ordination and repetitiveness are among the challenges faced by autistic children,” says Dr Sankar T S R Mohanaselvan, who treats autistic children.

Asked how Srivats has improved, his teacher Malini says she used to ask him to “count just 20 and make 20 small balls of clay.”

The clay making also involved a mudra style by using just three fingers, which helps the nerves, she said.

“But eventually, Srivats would land up doing 100 balls as I would count over and over again, cajoling him to do it.Over a period of time, he was able to focus better than what he used to do,” Malini told PTI.

She specialises in artistic pottery making and is the founder director of Artistic Pottery Training Academy. She has conducted workshops for the benefit of autistic children.

“From my experience I can tell you that sustained effort pays off,” she says.

Today, Srivats is 16 years old and sometimes even helps his mother in the kitchen, depending on his moods. He also paints fairly well.

The challenges faced by autistic children are due to improper or damaged nerve connections in the brain due to various etiologies, says Dr Sankar.

“Creative art like pottery no doubt can help autistic children,” the doctor says.

Twelve-year-old Rahul’s mother Prasanthi says her son’s tolerance to stay put at one place continuously, “say for about an hour,” and eye-hand coordination has improved with hand-building pottery.

Rahul had his first brush with clay play when he was about 10 years old and the creative art “does help,” Prasanthi said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.