Camelot’s Unique Expressive Therapies Program Helping Students Grow
Alejandro, an 18-year-old Camelot Education vocational program student with autism, struggled to fit into a job in the community. He had a preoccupation with puppets that made it difficult for him to stay grounded in reality at his job placements. So Camelot’s Expressive Therapies Program director Megan Campbell and her staff worked to turn this problem into a strength.
Staff at Camelot’s Mt. Prospect campus developed a project for Alejandro to plan and construct a very elaborate puppet. He used skills including planning, problem solving and even how to safely use a sewing machine. He also learned to budget and go out into the community to buy fabric and other supplies. He developed social skills and gained the confidence he needed to appropriately communicate his needs. Now, he is using his puppet to read to young children at Camelot and to participate in talent shows. He was recently presented as a as a “Young Up and Coming Puppeteer” at the Rolling Meadows Opera in Focus Marinette Puppet Theater, and is planning to do another career shadowing project at Creventive Studios in Chicago.
“That is what expressive therapies, in this case, art therapy, are all about,” Campbell said. “A behavior the community thought was bizarre and didn’t know how to manage has become a conduit for learning to plan and solve problems. Now, this young man is a phenomenal student with a much better chance at success at holding a job in the community.”
Camelot’s unique expressive therapies program continues to grow and add success stories. Over the past two years the team has grown to six therapists. Therapeutic day schools like Camelot, which accept referrals from school districts, typically offer speech and occupational therapies and those are essential components of Camelot’s program. Expressive therapy – expressing one’s self through art, music, play, and dance – is an additional service rarely offered, especially on such a wide and all-inclusive scale.
“Verbal expression is not readily available for a lot of our students,” said Campbell. “Being able to express yourself through art, through movement, through music, is an opportunity not available in another public or alternative school setting. It’s unique to Camelot.”
Camelot has started using an art therapy-based assessment at the beginning and end of the year to track student growth in art therapy. All Camelot’s expressive therapies are evidenced based and each expressive therapist works with the student’s interdisciplinary team to tailor specific treatment goals to their individual needs.
“Each student is unique with his or her own individual education plan and we meet every student where they’re at. Some students could be part of a group and that group might run six weeks. Other students might have individual sessions and it might take years. It depends on what they’re working on and what their needs are,” Campbell said.
The therapists from Camelot’s other Illinois TDS campuses gather at the Mt. Prospect campus at the end of each week to go over cases and provide education and support to each other in order to provide the most effective treatment for our students.
Over the past two years Camelot’s expressive therapies team has handled nearly 200 students. Each therapist will have a case load of 20-25 students a week. The latest addition is dance movement therapy and new dance therapy room at the Mt. Prospect campus. It will be ready to go before the end of October.