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Reactions on “Like Stars on Earth”

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Like Stars on Earth Summary: A nine-year old boy named Ishaan Awatshi, is always failing miserably in his second attempt to complete his third grade in school. But he is a child who is imaginative and also creative, but once he sees words or mathematical problem, they are backwards and as if the words and numbers are dancing. After that he begins skipping school to avoid trouble or bad test results, his headstrong father and worried mother decide that the only way to get him to take academics seriously is by sending him to a strict boarding school (New Era Boarding School). Ishaan doesn’t understand why his parents did this and now this young boy without a family continues in boarding school and yet again, the teachers and students don’t understand what his problem is. Things are no different at his new school, and ×Ishaan has to contend with the added trauma of separation from his family.

One day a new art teacher bursts onto the scene, ×Ram Shankar Nikumbh, who infects his students with joy and optimism. He breaks all the rules of how things are done by asking them to think, dream and imagine, and all the children respond with enthusiasm, all except Ishaan. Nikumbh soon realizes that Ishaan is very unhappy, and he sets out to discover why. He also went to the house of the family of Ishaan and talked to his parent what is the problem of the child. Ram Shankar Nikumbh also talked to their principal that ×Ishaan needed time to learn because he has dyslexia. He gives him his time, patience, care and he ultimately helps ×Ishaan find himself. As time goes by, ×Ishaan had a great improvement and he even won in the painting contest. In that time, at the end of the school, his parent went there and has a great evaluation about their child. Reflection/ reaction

We all have individual differences, as well as ×Ishaan in the movie that has dyslexia. He is a person that just cannot seem to get anything right in class but are more interested in his surrounding like in the arts, animals and playing games. Though he cannot cope up easily with his class, he has a talent that anybody can’t have. As a future teacher, do not dismiss a person because they are not performing at the same level as everyone else. As we all know, every child has individual differences. Look for the underlying cause and work for it. Dismissal of ×Ishaan could have caused him to become much worse and he might have ended up being a drop-out. However, with a little dedication and some individual attention, he was able to strive hard and his above average intelligence showed. He also was able to express himself As a future teacher, do not dismiss a person because they are not performing at the same level as everyone else. As we all know, every child has individual differences.

Look for the underlying cause and work for it. Dismissal of ×Ishaan could have caused him to become much worse and he might have ended up being a drop-out. However, with a little dedication and some individual attention, he was able to strive hard and his above average intelligence showed. He also was able to express himself through his paintings which were very mature for his age. Sometimes what a person can offer to the world is not mainstream or one of the major interest areas such as science or mathematics. Encouragement should be given where children excel, though it may be art or another. As the movie continues, I see how Ram Shankar Nikumbh, made a way on how he will be able to help ×Ishaan find himself. We can also use that method to be make our learner improves, and put our whole heart to take care to them, to give them the attention they needed and let them find their selves. As a future teacher, we should also know the strategy and technique to make our students to become independent. We should also get the support and extra guidance that they need.

This movie is about Ishaan Avasti, an eight-year-old boy who constantly gets in trouble. He would much rather play with dogs than any other kids. Most of the times, he miss the bus because of sleeping and having a limitless dreams. He is different from his peers. He is lack of social skills and scores below average. His parents always get mad in him because he is a child misunderstood. His parents always notice his bad behavior and his laziness and lack of discipline. Therefore, they send him in a boarding school expecting that he would change and have a better attitude. In that school, there is a substitute art teacher who had an experience in catering to children with disabilities. The Mumbai-based Awasthi family consists of Nandkishore, his wife, Maya, and two sons, Yohan and Ishaan. Both sons attend St. Anthony’s High School where Yohan excels in his studies, but Ishaan does the opposite, having failed in his 3rd standard twice already.

His parents continue to be disappointed with his performance, and as a result he hides his report cards from them, often misses school, and keeps to himself all the time. Things get worse when he gets into disagreements and fisticuffs with other children, prompting his father to have him admitted in the New Era Boarding School in distant Panchgani. Even this re-location does not improve Ishaan performance, and the Principal decides to rusticate him. Then a temporary teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh is recruited. The art teacher has a different style of teaching one who infects his students with joy and optimism. He breaks all the rules of how things are done by asking them to think, dream and imagine, and all the children respond with enthusiasm, all except Ishaan. Nikumbh soon realizes that Ishaan is very unhappy, and he sets out to discover why. He also went to the house of the family of Ishaan and talked to his parent what is the problem of the child. Ram Shankar Nikumbh also talked to their principal that Ishaan needed time…

Like Stars on Earth Like Stars on Earth was an incredible movie about a young boy named Ishaan who had a disorder called Dyslexia which affects his reading and writing skills. Ishaan has a really creative young mind unimaginable to others and his parents didn’t his talent as something impressive or unique. He was feeling down when he would be yelled at because he wasn’t good at most of his school subject until a temporary teacher saw his pain and decided to help.

A reflection paper on the movie “Every child is special” Ishaan Awasthi is not an ordinary student. He has a very wild and creative imagination that brings him to different worlds, to worlds unknown to his classmates, teachers and family. He usually plays and does things on his own, he has his own special perception on things. Though his talent in painting and creativity is exceptional, he is just like every other kid, he loves to play and goof around. But the problem was, he cannot not cope with school the way other kids does. He has repeated the third grade, and still he did not show any improvement. He fails to read and write properly that’s why he was unable to pass his subjects. At the same time, he cannot attend to himself; buttoning his shirt or tying his shoe lace.

A kid at the age of 9 is capable of all those things, unfortunately for Ishaan he is not, because he suffered from dyslexia. Unaware of the boy’s real problem, his parents as well as his teachers thought he was p Like Stars on Earth is ostensibly about a small boy from India named Ishaan who has dyslexia, but from what is initially portrayed, he seems to have a larger problem with a wandering mind and very intense daydreaming, both in and out of class. However, this makes him a gifted artist, who is well above his age group in what he can draw and imagine. The movie says that he is 8 years old, but he actually looks much smaller than an eight-year old. While his older brother brags to his parents of his high marks, Ishaan tosses his test papers to the dogs, and tries to avoid talking about school.

It is perhaps the structure and restrictions of the normal expectations of the school system that rub him the wrong way, because one day, after having been punished by being sent by the teacher to stand in the hallway, he goes AWOL and wanders the streets, savoring the exciting sights of tourist-film India. He appears to be somewhat hyperactive. If his parents attempted to have him tested, it may be that he never sat still long enough to get a diagnosis.

Everyone in Ishaan’s life complains about him, from the school bus driver, because he is constantly late and must be bodily pulled away from whatever he is doing when it is time to take the bus; to the teachers who see sub-par schoolwork and bad behavior, to the neighborhood kids who have no love for him because of his bad aim with a ball.

Things come to a head when he is busted by his parents for having forged an absence note to account for that day out of school. They have a meeting with his teachers and it is revealed that Ishaan is repeating the third grade, and his teachers tell his parents that there’s been no improvement the second time around. They suggest Ishaan’s parents send him to a “special school”, but Ishaan’s father believes that it is the class size of 60 and a perceived “lack of discipline” that has led to Ishaan’s academic failure. So he makes good on his repeated threat to send Ishaan to boarding school, where the teachers attempt to cure his wandering attention by rapping his hands with a ruler, his problems seeing letters “dancing” in front of him on book pages and blackboards and his academic failures continue.

Ishaan is clearly depressed by the above by the time the school gets a new art teacher, who makes a dramatic entrance with a song-and-dance routine, playing a flute and wearing a clown suit. (This movie has several Bollywood-inspired mini-music videos effectively portraying certain situations and emotions in compressed amounts of time. They are very well done and a bit more restrained than in some movies meant strictly for East Indian consumption. The DVD has a separate section of them so they can be played independently of the movie.)

The new, youngish, enthusiastic teacher brings with him a wave of fresh air and happiness which is apparent to all, but doesn’t immediately sweep over Ishaan. The new, youngish, enthusiastic teacher (who also teaches at one of those so-called “special schools”) must first discover that Ishaan has dyslexia, and tell his parents and the other teachers, and embark upon a program of academic remediation for Ishaan and consciousness-raising for his classmates.

Superteacher will in time also reveal that he, too, has dyslexia, of course. (“Special Ed kid makes good by growing up to be Special Ed teacher” is the theme of any number of children’s books and college essays in the US.)

I love where he tells Ishaan’s father that in the Solomon Islands, villagers don’t chop down a tree when they want to clear land, but curse and hurl abuses at it, and the tree withers and dies soon after. My mother, a Special Ed teacher in a US-based special school, said “I would get fired if I were to talk to a parent like that”. This picture is a revealing look at middle class life in India, the importance placed by the striving middle class of India on school performance, and the school system in India, which, as it turns out has “Education for All” legislation on the books similar to Special Education laws which came into existence in the US during the 1970s, but which more often than not fail to be implemented on the school level in India.

One bright spot in Ishaan’s boarding school experience is that he makes friends with Raju, a boy with heavy, old-style braces on his legs who recognizes his intelligence, and (fulfilling the stereotype about disabled kids) is more observant and accepting than the other kids in the class.

Ishaan is seen having letters traced into his forearm, writing abcs in a sand tray, molding letters out of clay. Whatever problems he may have been having in Hindi (a language formally studied in school and spoken in class by some of the teachers) are not portrayed in this movie, just notebooks with backwards letters and misspelled words in English. Math concepts were given in an interesting fashion: the teacher had Ishaan ascend higher steps on an outdoor stairway to instill the concept of increasing numbers by multiplication. (What to do for a kid with both dyslexia and mobility impairments, if such a kid exists?) While all of these tactile measures portrayed may contribute to “rewiring” a dyslexic child’s brain, and are recognized techniques in special education, the idea that a kid will inevitably experience a shining improvement soon thereafter may not be realistic. The evidence of his inevitable improvement is portrayed as better English writing and his demonstrated ability to read a poster announcing a school-wide art contest and sound out a complex, multi-syllabic word

Like Stars on Earth


Like Stars on Earth (Taare Zameen Par in Hindi), is a Bollywood movie – the popular name for Hindi-language films that are made in Mumbai – which was released in the UK in 2007. Characteristic of most Bollywood films, it is long at 156 minutes and uses songs and dance, which are relevant to the storyline by offering the opportunity to explore what may be going on in the mind of a character or to anticipate an event that has or is about to occur. The songs may usefully be seen as ‘dream sequences’, which allow things to happen that are not founded in reality.

The soundtrack is a significant part of the final product and is often released separately to the film, as it is in this case, where the CD is enclosed within the DVD box. For a good introduction to Hindi-language cinema, the British Film Institute website has an excellent article by Shyam Benegal.

Like Stars oon Earth

Like Stars on Earth was produced and directed by Aamir Khan, who also stars in the film, in a collaboration with Disney Studios. It tells the story of undiagnosed dyslexia in a young boy with aspirational middle class parents. This film was made to educate families in India about dyslexia and other related conditions such as attention deficit disorder, as outlined in the panel discussion included in the DVD extras. Khan, who is a very popular and well-regarded Bollywood actor, made his directorial debut with Like Stars on Earth, receiving much critical acclaim.

The Film

The film opens with Ishaan, an eight-year-old boy, trying to net some small fish in the water by the side of a street, oblivious to the waiting school bus nearby. He is delighting in the task of fishing and completely absorbed in the task. In the next scene at school, Ishaan gazes out of the window of his classroom, distracted from the lesson he is in, which gets him into trouble and it becomes clear that he is repeatedly failing to attend to and complete his school work. At home, his older brother is a high achiever, to the clear approval of his aspirational parents. In contrast, Ishaan is drawn to the world of creativity, with a love of painting, puzzles and model building, which his brother is alone in praising. The first song sequence perfectly portrays the difference between Ishaan’s inner world and that of his striving goal directed family.

It is only after a series of failures in his class tests that Ishaan truants from school and gets his brother to fake the absence note. The head teacher finally makes his parents aware of the extent of his problems and suggests that he cannot proceed to the next year. His mother, who has tried to coach him in reading and writing at home, is frustrated by Ishaan’s apparent lack of concentration and ability in his studies whilst trying to counter her husband’s exasperation that Ishaan is being deliberately stubborn and lazy. As a result, Ishaan is sent away to a strict boarding school to be ‘sorted out’. Here he continues to fail academically and Ishaan soon becomes increasingly low in mood and more withdrawn socially, interacting only with another physically disabled pupil, who becomes his friend. During this period, he also loses enthusiasm for his creative activities, which have always brought him so much pleasure, as he struggles to cope with the loss of his family and his home environment.

It is only with the arrival of a temporary Art Teacher at the boarding school, called Ram Shankar Nikumbh, that there is hope for Ishaan. This teacher uses different methods to engage the pupils, as illustrated by his introductory song, in which he introduces himself to the class dressed as a colourful clown. Nikumbh soon becomes aware that Ishaan is not a happy child and begins to suspect the true nature of his difficulty. Nikumbh’s alternative attitudes to learning and his emphasis on creative freedom eventually engage Ishaan, as he realizes that they share a similar way of viewing the world that is acceptable. It is through this bond that Nikumbh eventually reveals he too suffered similar difficulties as a child, giving Ishaan a positive role model and a way out of his depression. Gradually, Ishaan’s self-esteem recovers with the sensitive encouragement of Nikumbh, who highlights Ishaan’s artistic talents to his parents and headmaster, who are finally able to be proud of him for his unique achievements.

Relevance to the field of Mental Health

As an introduction to the topic of dyslexia, Like Stars on Earth provides a wonderful case history that highlights not only the first hand experience of dyslexia in a young child but also the consequences of a missed diagnosis. Although viewers might find it hard to believe that Ishaan’s experiences at school could actually happen in the UK, it is important to recognise how easy it is for children to be labeled naughty or stupid when, in fact, they are struggling with dyslexia. As the actress Greta Scacchi writes, in her recent article for the Evening Standard newspaper, her son suffered from significant problems as a result of his dyslexia in the earlier years of his schooling in the UK, in both the state and the private sector.

The clever use of animation, in the song bheja kum, provides the viewer with an opportunity to experience what a dyslexia sufferer may see when they look at a page of print or numbers and the symbols dance around. As such, it would be a perfect springboard for a discussion about the symptoms of dyslexia. But this song sequence, with its fantastical exaggerations, also offers the viewer an important insight into the effect on a child of repeatedly failing in their academic studies and being made to feel stupid and lazy at such a young age. In turn, it becomes very easy to understand why there is a close association between dyslexia and both conduct and mood disorders.

Dyslexia or specific reading disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as ‘reading achievement (that is, reading accuracy, speed or comprehension as measured by individually administered standardised tests) that falls substantially below that expected given the individual’s chronological age, measured intelligence and age-appropriate education. The disturbance in reading significantly interferes with academic achievement 
 If a sensory deficit is present, the reading difficulties are in excess of those usually associated with it.’

According to the Dyslexia Research Trust, a UK charity, ‘1 in 10 children suffer from dyslexia. Dyslexia is the most common cause of childhood loss of self-esteem, leading to profound misery and even suicide, or vandalism, violence and criminality. 50% of convicted criminals are thought to be dyslexic’. There is a genetic basis to the condition, as confirmed by twin studies, which causes differences in the development of the brain, including microscopic differences in the arrangement and connection of neurons. These tend particularly to involve visual and auditory ‘magnocellular’ systems which are specialised for rapid information processing. Dyslexia is more common in males than females and there is often an overlap with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorders and with dyspraxia. The film offers an excellent opportunity to consider the issue of co-morbidity when considering Ishaan’s behaviour at various stages of the story.

The NHS choices website has some very informative pages on dyslexia, with a good discussion of the symptoms, causes and treatment options. It is interesting to note that brain imaging studies have shown that people with dyslexia use different parts of their brain, and that they make more use of the right hemisphere, which is involved in the more creative aspects of thought. Ishaan’s story helps to reinforce this different way of engaging with the world that people with dyslexia often have and that this can be used to their advantage once the condition has been recognised and the educational supports are in place. People with dyslexia are often very good at thinking ‘outside the box’ in an innovative and creative way. There is further information available about all aspects of the condition at the British Dyslexia Association website.

For psychiatrists, there were two excellent review articles, published in 2010 in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, written by child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr M.S. Thambirajah, entitled Developmental dyslexia: An overview (Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2010 v. 16, p. 299-307 abstract) & Developmental dyslexia: clinical aspects (Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 2010 v. 16, p. 380-387 abstract). These articles could be read alongside a viewing of Like Stars on Earth to provide comprehensive learning about dyslexia for anyone interested in working in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Ishaan Awasthi is a sweet 8-year-old who has a tremendous imagination, but has a hard time in the real world. He’s not good in school, and he is constantly picked on by those older and bigger than him. His teachers don’t understand him. His father always yells at him. His only true allies are his elder brother and his mom. His mom doesn’t know what’s wrong with ×Ishaan and doesn’t know how to react to him. His older brother is the smartest guy in school as well as being a top tennis player

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