Expanding Horizons

Broadway Kids - A special community partnership for special kids

“There’s no business like show business…” at least for the teens participating in Expanding Horizons: Broadway Kids, a collaborative program involving Loyola Clinical Centers (LCC), Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, (CCTA) and the Howard County Public Schools.  Their latest production, “A Broadway Revue” was presented recently to packed houses at Glenelg High School. The inclusive show spotlighted 22 students, half from the school’s academic life skills class for students with special needs. These students work together for two semesters through a variety of drama and speech-language therapy-based activities to build communication skills and work toward their spring performance.

Since 2010, Expanding Horizons: Broadway Kids has addressed the needs of children with disorders of social communication through a partnership of LCC and CCTA. The goal each year is to improve students’ social communication skills through performance activities meant to inspire confidence. Ten Loyola speech-language pathology graduate students, five each semester, join with CCTA staff members to conduct therapy sessions that encourage a team approach to learning while building communication skills. As the performances get closer, the graduate students assist with rehearsals.  It’s difficult to know on the day of the performance who is most excited: cast members, staff, graduate students or parents.  This year, after the curtain went down following songs from Grease, the Wiz, and Hairspray, there was a spontaneous standing ovation from the entire audience, including community leaders, Howard County public school administrators, and the entire student body.

“Technically the show is meant to be therapeutic, but you can see the pure enjoyment on the students’ faces on stage,” says Maren Townsend, division director for speech-language pathology & audiology at the LCC. “Watching all the actors celebrating and enjoying the experience together was amazing.”
The program is partly funded by a grant from the Horizon Foundation. Their support covers a significant portion of the operating costs associated with the program. The grant also allowed Erin Stauder, a Loyola clinical faculty member, to deliver a presentation about the program at the annual conference of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
“The Expanding Horizons: Broadway Kids program offers the LCC an opportunity to collaborate with a number of community partners in Howard County, including the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts and the Howard County Public School system,” says Janet Simon Schreck, executive director of LCC. “We know that community outreach is most beneficial when it is integrated across multiple agencies. We are also extremely thankful to the Horizon Foundation for their ongoing support of this program.”