Now in its 51st year, the Devereux Glenholme School is a boarding and day therapeutic school in Washington, Connecticut. Glenholme accepts youngsters from ages 10 to 21 with high functioning autism, depression, anxiety, Tourette’s, OCD, ADD/ADHD and other learning differences. The Glenholme School provides a panoply of data-driven and evidence-based clinical, behavioral and educational interventions individualized to meet each student’s needs. The goal of the school is to prepare our graduates for post-secondary college and career opportunities.
Glenholme’s therapeutic program is woven into each facet of life at school. With the support of boarding faculty and the abundance of opportunities for socialization and treatment, students learn to make friends and establish healthy relationships, as well as to develop skills to manage their frustrations in an appropriate manner. Students are also instructed on personal hygiene and domestic care, fitness, sportsmanship, community involvement, and fun. The school has equine and canine-assisted therapy.
Two exceptional programs illustrate how treatment goals are furthered and integrated into extracurricular activities: The Theater Arts Program and the Community Service Program. A new ground-breaking program is in the works: Dance Movement Therapy.
Glenholme’s Theater Arts Program involves most of the students. A four-person team comprised of a music teacher, the Arts Director, a movement teacher and an acting teacher work together.
In keeping with the Glenholme school’s strengths-based, all inclusive ethos, everyone who shows up at auditions will get a part. There are jobs available in lighting, sound, costumes and scenery. Sometimes there are so many of the students in the cast and crew, there are not many students left in the audience.
At rehearsals, the children are kind and supportive of each other. Matthew deLong, Arts Director since 2000, ventured, ”There is a remarkable depth of empathy in the youngsters that we see elsewhere in the school. The kids step up for each other. If a child makes a mistake in rehearsal, the others will clap for them and encourage them to try again.” Staff may need to provide support to get them to show up, when they are not in the mood. Students are sometimes stressed and fearful. Staff and other students encourage them to go on and work through their fear. The result is that they get through it, have fun and learn a generalizable lesson, that success can come despite fear. When the finished product goes on, staff and parents alike are often amazed at the transformation of the students. In day-to-day life they may be anxious and shy. On stage they shine and belt out their lines and numbers and one would never suspect this child was ever anxious!
Through the arts program, students pick up many things. Students want a good product and learn just how much practice it takes to achieve one. The hours of practice, and work on a common goal makes for friendships among the performers.
The children learn to accept feedback from each other. Some children have poor relationships with cottage mates. They become curious about their stage characters. In learning how to embody these characters, they self-reflect on how they are coming across. This adds an ability to introspect to the youngster’s skills. It is non-threatening when done in the service of the play. This budding skill circles back and assists youngsters in their peer relations. Mr. DeLong has seen students gain poise, self-esteem and confidence. The child’s success sees them become more interactive and willing to try new things.
The arts aren’t the only thing that boost Glenholme students in their development. For 15 years, groups of students run weekly Bingo games at a nearby Health and Rehabilitation Center. Children are paired with residents who need help hearing numbers or seeing their cards. Other students call out the numbers and wheel the prize cart around.
Chrissy Steward, the Community Service Coordinator likes to take the more challenging students. She has found that when these youngsters become “caregivers,” their exterior toughness softens. This infuses the students with a sense of competence and mastery. Many of the youngsters have grandparents that are far away, or don’t have grandparents. The residents at Candlewood are like surrogate grandparents; showering kindness, approval and appreciation. The affection is bilateral. After interactions, the seniors talk for days about the events and eagerly discuss upcoming plans.
A new program is afoot to develop a movement-based, multi-modality intervention that can be integrated with clinical and behavioral treatment plans. The overall aim of this initiative is to develop individualized interventions that address sensory needs and heal traumatic exposure when applicable. Movement-based interventions will incorporate contemporary scientific research on the neurobiology of self-regulation, executive functioning, and trauma with movement-based activities in an effort to integrate the “best of what we know” about improving brain function, calibrating the central nervous system, and creating new neural pathways through movement-based fun! These include yoga, dance therapy, brain-based gym, music-based interventions e.g., drumming circle, drama or imagination-based theater, and swimming.
The convergence of treatment goals in these programs thread through the all-encompassing milieu at Glenholme. For additional information on The Glenholme School, check out their website: www.theglenholmeschool.org or call or email the Admissions Director, David Dunleavy at 860-868-7377 or firstname.lastname@example.org .