Mini Dwivedi Gopinathan

In-Depth Talk With Mini Dwivedi Gopinathan

In-Depth Talk With Mini Dwivedi Gopinathan

Mini Dwivedi Gopinathan, We are back with another interview with the most talented super mom and Founder & Director of PlayStreet, Bangalore.

We would like to know about you in your own words.

Whenever I face a situation that is against me, I opt to be adaptable rather than grieve about it. It is not always easy, but I learn how to cope with the big changes. Even when the odds are stacked against me, I work tirelessly until the goal is achieved.

I think that my biggest strength is that I can find creative, ingenious solutions to problems.

What was the motivation behind choosing Special Education?

My son’s diagnosis of Autism had necessitated me to take diploma in Special Education in Autism to learn to work with my son and help him to learn in his own unique way.

I completed many more certifications after starting PlayStreet. Mini completed my Oral Placement Therapy level 2 certification and a module on sensory integration. Mini attended a conference on decoding Autism inside out, which became the cornerstone of my practice and inspired me to become a RDI Consultant.

How did the journey of ‘PlayStreet’ begin?

After my son was diagnosed with Autism, my husband and I were taking him for many therapies in the anticipation that “More is Better”. Every therapy we were not attending seemed to be the solution and what we were doing was not seeming to be enough. We were talking about the problems, the behaviours, the skills to be developed, but never talking about the child. There were two main challenges we faced; the first one was that all the ‘good’ therapists were at various locations and were not working in sync with each other.

Hence, as parents, we were very confused on what to prioritise in the limited time and energy we had. The second challenge was to clearly recognise the approach that was the best for my child, as we heard of some treatment approaches that were popular as the missing link to solve the puzzle of autism. We as parents were clueless and were pondering if there really was a single solution to autism?

Mini Dwivedi teaching child

In our journey

We realized that the only way to help our child is to preserve his childhood and to not lose our role as parents. We learned that as parents, our focus should not be on just focussing on developing his skills, but also on developing his sense of self and his faith in us; to help him understand that we believe in him and accept his differences completely.

kids learning

Thus, PlayStreet was born with the vision of empowering parents to understand their child with Autism with a new perspective based on latest research. Since we realized that it’s not just one approach that helps the family with a diagnosis of Autism, we made it our mission to provide all the effective therapies under a single roof, so that each child reaches his/her own potential.

What are the various services offered in Play Street?

As the name suggests, “play” has a very important role in PlayStreet. Our vision was to find solutions that enable our children to ‘enjoy’ play, find enjoyment in interacting with others and connect with them before they even begin to learn. So our array of services was chosen based on the vision of providing naturalistic approaches. We developed school programs to cater to children at different stages of their development with each school program having different focal points and a naturalistic environment was provided in a structured way:

  1. The entry level sub-program is called the NAUTI Program and its focal point is parent empowerment, where parents are made to understand the importance of communication and the strategies needed to develop communication and interaction with their child. This is done through 25 to 30 classroom
  2. After the NAUTI Program, the students move to the next sub-program called the CATERPILLAR Program. Here the focal point is play and early skills In this program, the emphasis is given on developing play skills and also developing other skills using play.
  3. The last sub-program is called the BUTTERFLY Program and is an emulation of a regular classroom environment. The focal point of this program is to develop readiness for Group Instructions, Academic readiness and Social Skills.
The second set of services provided by PlayStreet are clinical services as individual therapies. The various therapies provided by us are:
  • Oral Placement Therapy
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy & Sensory Integration
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
  • Interaction Program & AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) for developing language, Communication and Cognitive Skills
  • Special Education
  • AFTERSCHOOL program to support the students attending mainstream schools.
  • PLAY and SOCIAL SKILLS development program

The third array of services which we have developed is aligned with our most important vision which is Parent Empowerment. We do structured trainings for parents in a variety of ways through paid classroom trainings, blogs, free camps, webinars, Facebook Live Events or Facebook Groups, parent observations of the therapy sessions and also therapist’s observations of the parents’ interaction with their children.

We make sure that parents understand that they are the most important part of our team, and hence our motto is “One child, One goal, One team” We have been constantly improvising our trainings to make them more effective by helping families to integrate the therapy goals into the natural situations.

Do you want to know more about PlayStreet? Please click here.
Is there certification courses conducted for professionals?

Yes, We have developed a state of the art model to provide meaningful inclusion in the mainstream schools to give educational services to children with special needs. We have implemented the model in one mainstream school already. Currently, we are developing the certificate training module for professionals to implement the model at different mainstream schools.

How does your typical day at work look like?

My typical day at work is quite eclectic and needs careful planning to organize my time, my schedules and my workload and use the day more efficiently. Every day is not same for me and my role needs a ballet of moves from one work to another. It varies from helping parents/therapists with RDI, OPT and PlayTalk, or planning events like trainings or creating new services, or developing content for social media for creating awareness and acceptance for Autism, or creating activities for language/cognitive development for PlayTalk, or helping parents to deal with the diagnosis of their child etc.

How does typical work day at PlayStreet look?

typical work day at PlayStreet

A typical day at PlayStreet for the therapists is multi modal. We provide our school programs in the mornings where all the therapies are provided almost every day. During afternoons our therapists provide individual sessions to students who are going to other schools and need extra support. The team works to provide IEP meetings to all families thrice in a year.

typical day at PlayStreet

As I mentioned that play is a very important part of our program, thus our curriculum involves a lot of events across the year to break the monotony of therapies and bringing fun to the plate of students’ learning, and thus, our therapists also work for making the events successful. The example of events could be field visits, trainings to parents, or intra-staff knowledge sharing.

plate of students’ learning

There are few decorative products on your online store.  Are those made by PlayStreet children?

Yes, the products are made by our school students with the help of staff. They are being trained on various skills.

Child making diya

On PlayStreet’s 6th anniversary in August 2018, we launched the online store ( to sell the hand crafted products by children with the help of the staff.

The social impact of PlayStreet’s online store is to use technology to help various families to find a common platform to bring visibility to the products made by their children, thus working towards a program for teenagers with autism to provide an aid to lead a fairly independent life with sustainable income. This program is called “The Creative Curve” and will be launched this year.

Do you provide vocational training?

The program “The Creative Curve” mentioned in the previous answer is a program in progress to provide vocational training.

You have developed app called ‘Unkludge’. We are keen to know more about it.

The word “Unkludge” is coined by my husband which means removing chaos. Goal Track with is a web app developed by him that provides tracking and monitoring the progress of the child and IEP creation services for children. It gets parents onto the same team with therapists. Parents have access to their child’s goals and data on their progress through this software.

Aims of Goal Track

  • As a parent of a child with special needs, it is very important that they recognize every achievement that their child makes, since he is achieving them against immense odds
  • In the din of everyday activities, we tend to forget how far we have come.
  • A platform for interaction between therapists and parents regarding the goals of the child.
  • Reduce the administrative work load on therapists so that they can concentrate on the children.
  • Continuity of service to child even when a therapist has to be reassigned or is unavailable for a time.
  • A record of the child’s progress not just with text, but also with images and videos
  • Standardized goals for the children as defined by supervisors.
  • This helps maintain a high an uniform level of service from the organization
  • Facility for child specific remarks and clinical notes
  • Progress updates for a child – parents have access to their child’s goals and progress information

Create and track checkpoints so as to facilitate meeting with parents without any additional paperwork

Would you please share more about AAC PlayTalk developed by you and your team?

PlayTalk is an alternative and augmentative communication software for Android Platform. There are many AAC apps, but PlayTalk is different from other AAC apps as it is a comprehensive communication solution.

PlayTalk for kids

Through PlayTalk, I asked a child with Autism, “How do you feel about Autism?” He said, it is tough. When I further asked, “Why do you think it is tough?” he said that “other people treat us like idiots”!

This statement encapsulated the pain of the child, and is always a reminder to us for believing in our children.

Currently I am working on creating modules to help the child to move beyond the need based communication.

Since Children’s early conversations tend to revolve around things in their immediate environment, like their toys, food, familiar people, and daily routines. Eventually, though, they need to learn to talk about things beyond the “here-and-now.” We call this language for thinking and learning.

In order to understand and use language for thinking and learning, there are many things that children need to be able to do, for example,
  • Talk about past experiences (“I saw a Lion at the zoo.”)
  • Talk about things that might happen in the future (“We’re going for a movie tomorrow.”)
  • Explain (“I need a blue crayon so I can colour the sky.”)
  • Talk about feelings (“I’m excited to go on the airplane!”)
  • Use language to solve problems (“I can use tape to fix my picture where it’s ripped.”)
  • Describe (“The mud was cold and squishy.”)
  • Pretend (“My teddy is hungry and wants a snack.”)
  • Use language to predict (“I think he’s going to sneak out of his cage.”)

Thus, PlayTalk becomes a very important catalyst for the quality of communication of our children.

We heard about the Women Icons Award. Please share more about it.

Women Icons is the thought leadership, networking and recognition platform that celebrates and honours the accomplishments & contributions of women who have excelled in different spheres of life.

It is conceptualized and organised by the Singapore-headquartered Business Excellence & Research Group Pvt Ltd (BERG), the initiative underscores the paramount role played by women in society, while appreciating their attitudes, initiatives, will power and perseverance.

I received this award for my journey as an Entrepreneur & Provider of Education for Children with special needs by bringing excellence and innovation in the field.

What is your most overwhelming experience till date?

The most overwhelming experiences for me are the times when a non-verbal child indulged in stimming perceived as someone who is disconnected to the world, shares his/her thoughts with us on PlayTalk and let us have a peek into their beautiful minds and their matured outlook to the world and tell us that how accommodating and loving they are to this world which disrespects them and do not believe in them for their limitations. Every time they share their thoughts, it sets me thinking that how small we are in front of our children.

What are your words and suggestions for young professionals in this field?

My few words for young therapists are that never underestimate the abilities of a child with special needs, rest assured that the child knows much more then what we think he or she knows.

What is your ‘take home line’ for parents of children with special needs?

My take home line for Parents of children with special needs is “Slow down yourself to speed up the development of your child”.

Other than Founder, Director, RDI Consultant, how else we can see you? What are your interests and hobbies?

Currently I do not get much time to pursue much of my hobbies. These days when time permits, I cook as cooking is my forte. I focus on writing these days and I write articles about believing in our children.

It is so well informative conversation with Mrs. Mini Dwivedi Gopinathan. We thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and sharing worthy information with us. We wish you best of luck for all your future endeavours.

Our personalized Online speech therapy works for people of all ages and ailments, and it’s also convenient and fun. In fact, our customers tell us that they don’t feel like they’re doing “therapy work” throughout their sessions.

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