The Power of Our Stories When we speak up and tell the stories of what we do, we give voice to our clients to tell their own. From the President
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From the President  |   October 01, 2015
The Power of Our Stories
Author Notes
  • Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, is associate professor and former director of the Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Kentucky. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 10, Issues in Higher Education; and 12, Augmentative and Alternative Communication. judith.page@uky.edu
    Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, is associate professor and former director of the Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Kentucky. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 10, Issues in Higher Education; and 12, Augmentative and Alternative Communication. judith.page@uky.edu×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / From the President
From the President   |   October 01, 2015
The Power of Our Stories
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.20102015.6
The ASHA Leader, October 2015, Vol. 20, 6-7. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.20102015.6
“So open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”
—Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
In a joint opening session of the ASHA Schools Conference and Health Care Business Institute this summer, David Isay made it clear that every life and voice matters. Isay is the founder of StoryCorps, a large oral history project that records and shares the stories of people across the country with diverse backgrounds and beliefs. StoryCorps has already recorded more than 50,000 stories—about families, loves lost and found, childhood memories, careers, everyday experiences, momentous events, illness, death. The stories are all told as part of a conversation between two friends or loved ones.
On that hot July morning in Phoenix, Isay took the microphone and created magic. Speaking simply and passionately, he (as recounted in this Leader blog post) let several of the recorded stories take center stage. We in the audience were entertained, taught, moved and inspired by the words of the interviewers and interviewees. By the end of the session, there weren’t many dry eyes in the room.
The session made me think about stories in general and the powerful role they play in our lives. Although story forms may differ across cultures, sharing stories appears to be universal, regardless of age, gender, culture and language. From early childhood through adulthood, we use them to share our experiences, to make sense of our lives and to bond with others. They serve many critical functions that enable us to survive and thrive as humans:
  • Through stories we communicate to our children (and to outsiders) how to act toward one another, what we value and what is possible.

  • Stories preserve our history and culture, passing our legacy to the next generation in a form that’s easy to remember.

  • Stories connect us. Even when they are fiction, stories have the power to elicit strong emotional responses in us. Immersed in a story, we can see the world through someone else’s eyes. Sharing our experiences through stories enables us to connect and empathize with others.

From early childhood through adulthood, we use stories to share our experiences, to make sense of our lives and to bond with others.

What about people with communication difficulties? What could they teach us with their stories? And what about those who can’t tell their stories? How do we make sure they have the ability and the opportunity to share their stories? For many of our clients, this is an important role for us. We give them the tools to tell their stories—along with their thoughts, experiences, feelings, hopes and dreams—to those around them. These tools affect the quality of their relationships and their lives. As Isay told us, “You are lifting people’s voices and lives. You help give them voice, love and hope.”
In addition to helping others tell their stories, we need to remember that we can use stories for advocacy and professional improvement. One of the things I have seen ASHA do very well is tell the story of our professions and the important contributions we make to people’s lives. Whether via letters to legislators, testimony on Capitol Hill, messages in publications and on social media, one-on-one discussions, group presentations, written documents, public service announcements, or other forms of publicity and messaging, your ASHA dues help support a wide array of tools designed to tell the stories of audiologists and speech-language pathologists.
Check out the great stories in this Leader issue. In “First Person/Last Page,” SLP Yvette McCoy describes being on the “other side of the (dysphagia) spoon,” dealing with post-operative swallowing challenges. In “World Beat,” SLP Sarah Riggsbee tells of her experiences practicing in a rural hospital in Nepal. A “News in Brief” piece explains how ASHA’s advocacy with the U.S. Department of Education brought about clarifying language regarding treatment for autism. What other stories can you find in this issue?
As one of many efforts to get our story out, ASHA recently launched a new campaign focusing on the value of the Certificate of Clinical Competence. The campaign ads feature real audiologists and SLPs telling our professional stories and targeting those who refer to, hire, supervise and evaluate ASHA-certified members. I invite you to stop by the Public Relations Lounge at next month’s ASHA Convention (Level 1-Street Level, Lobby F, Denver Convention Center) for an opportunity to be a part of this campaign by telling your own story and creating your own campaign ad.
If you can’t make it to the convention in Denver, I encourage you to find a way to share your story anyway—and to help your patients/clients/students tell their stories. As Maya Angelou told us, “There is no greater burden than carrying an untold story.”
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October 2015
Volume 20, Issue 10