The Guild for Human Services recently was awarded a $19,130 grant from the Sudbury Foundation to support an online expressive arts therapy program for families of nonspeaking children at The Guild School.

Many Guild students experience congenital or acquired communication disorders associated with cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disability, or traumatic brain injury. These challenges are not unique to The Guild. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reports that an estimated 40-million Americans experience speech, language, and/or hearing disorders. These disorders limit people’s ability to communicate thoughts, feelings, and needs.

The Guild developed the concept of online expressive therapy in response to the profound impact of COVID-19 when families could not visit residential students with intellectual disabilities for 77 days. COVID-19 was particularly hard for nonspeaking students who were not able to communicate effectively on typical video platforms. The expressive arts therapy program will help to address the trauma of separation and create another means for families to connect with nonspeaking children while living at The Guild and beyond.

“Communication is a fundamental human right that allows people to learn, connect, express feelings, make decisions, and be involved in a community,” said Amy C. Sousa, The Guild’s Chief Executive Officer. “Through the generous support of the Sudbury Foundation, The Guild’s online expressive therapy program will empower students with communication disorders to connect with their family members using the video technologies on which so many of us rely.”

The Sudbury Foundation, whose mission is to transform lives and strengthen communities, provided the grant as part of its Children, Youth & Families Emotional Wellbeing Program.

“The Sudbury Foundation is pleased to support The Guild's Expressive Arts Family Therapy project,” said Sonia Shah, Executive Director of the Sudbury Foundation. “This was the type of program we had in mind when we designed the Youth Emotional Well-Being project grant. We are excited to be part of an effort that will help ease the social disconnect that has affected so many children and families.”

Expressive arts therapy is a beneficial conduit for therapy with families because creating art is an activity that enables all family members to participate at a similar level of communication, even if family members are nonspeaking. The Guild School will use this therapeutic approach to help families express feelings with one another while together as well as when they communicate via video conferencing methods. By providing this guided tool, families have options for connecting with nonspeaking children when separated by distance, allowing greater frequency and quality of communication.