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Collaboration creates murals for speech therapy patients

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — A three-year collaboration between Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s Art and Design Department and the Communications Sciences and Disorders (CSD) program in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences added murals to three therapy rooms that not only add color and life to the walls, but give therapists a new tool to connect with their patients.

“First of all, the murals brighten the therapy rooms and have made the room more child-friendly and welcoming to our pediatric patients,” said Florence Lim-Hardjono, M.A., Ph.D. (ABD), CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor and Program Director for the CSD program. “Secondly, our pediatric patients with speech and language impairments enjoy exploring the murals. Oftentimes, the murals serve as therapy tools to elicit verbal communication from them. Our patients, families and clinicians love them and enjoy them.”

The three murals were planned and designed by students Liberty Lutes, a farm scene (2018); Lauren Forney, a child’s toy room; and Olivia Huth, a three-dimensional ocean scene, as part of their independent study under the direction of Art Professor John Donnelly. The projects required the students to think creatively, plan and maintain a schedule, adapt to discern the needs of the clients, and be able to work with the public, said Donnelly.

“These murals provided the opportunity for students to learn the process of mural painting and receive course credit. From meeting with the client, planning, preliminary sketches, and adapting their ideas to the clients’ needs for the mural, the students did an excellent job,” Donnelly said. “Each style was different as requested by the audiology department based on age group of children they addressed.” 

The first mural, painted by Lutes in 2018, includes a farmer and his family, as well as cows, chickens, pigs, dogs, ducks and a sheep.

Forney’s mural was based on the request of the client and was another familiar scene for children.

“My idea was to create a scene filled with several objects of differing textures, colors and shapes for the kids to study and respond to when asked to identify what they see,” said Forney. “The layout was simplified so that it was easy for children with sensory issues to identify and comprehend.”

Huth’s scene took on the added challenge of being three dimensional, and included visual effects like sand and shiny items. The “under the sea” theme came from children’s books like “Rainbow Fish” and “Commotion in the Ocean.”

“I decided to use bright colors and a style similar to the children’s books since the mural would be used for children under 10,” said Hutt. “The 3-D effects had to be safe for the children to interact with, and secure enough to stay on the wall through the course of their therapy.”

She experimented with several different adhesives and materials before starting on the mural.

“To make the pufferfish spikes, for example, I ended up molding silicone caulk into bendy spikes to that the kids could have that texture without it actually posing a risk to them,” Huth said.

Both Forney and Huth were excited about their finished projects and what they will be able to do for the clients.

“It was a rewarding experience for me because it taught me a lot about the process of working with clients and how to properly manage my time when working around a company’s busy schedule,” said Forney. “I hope that mural provides kids with pleasure, comfort, and excitement whenever they enter a room.”

“I was very happy with the finished mural and I hope that it will help the children with their learning, as well as the students who will be helping them,” Huth said.

So far, the murals have been a hit with the staff and patients at the Hunter Hall CSD clinic.

One additional mural is planned, according to Donnelly, and he hopes this will lead to more opportunities for his students “to learn this craft and bring some more beauty to our campus community.”

For more information on MVNU’s Communication Science and Disorders program, visit

To read more on MVNU’s Art program, visit

Mount Vernon Nazarene University is a private, four-year, intentionally Christian teaching university for traditional age students, graduate students, and working adults. With a 327-acre main campus in Mount Vernon, Ohio, MVNU emphasizes academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service to community and church. MVNU offers an affordable education both in-seat and online to more than 2,100 students from 42 states and nine foreign countries.