Realizing the Power of Communication A clinician’s early interest in drama therapy leads her to speech-language pathology—a career that also advances human connection through communication. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   June 01, 2016
Realizing the Power of Communication
Author Notes
  • Claudia Doan, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinician with Therapy for Language and Communication in Wallingford, Connecticut, and has worked in public and private schools. She created and blogs at creativespeechlab.com, which provides resources that incorporate experiential learning into speech-language services. creativespeechlab@gmail.com
    Claudia Doan, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinician with Therapy for Language and Communication in Wallingford, Connecticut, and has worked in public and private schools. She created and blogs at creativespeechlab.com, which provides resources that incorporate experiential learning into speech-language services. creativespeechlab@gmail.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   June 01, 2016
Realizing the Power of Communication
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.21062016.72
The ASHA Leader, June 2016, Vol. 21, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.21062016.72
One Sunday afternoon when I was 17, I met a special group of people. They made such an impression on me that I returned to meet with them as a volunteer at a Veterans Administration Hospital each week for the next three years.
Post-traumatic stress disorder haunted their dreams. It separated them from their loved ones and their former selves. Listening to their stories about nightmares, combat, grief and estrangement filled me with sorrow. But helping them find their inner voices and bring their stories to life through drama therapy filled me with hope.
Our discussions always began with the thoughts and memories circling their minds: the broken relationships, the emptiness, the what-ifs. Next, we listed the relationships we had discussed that day (brothers, parent/child, spouses) on a simple blank page. We crafted a scene that captured the themes from our earlier discussion, and the drama therapist expertly cast the vets in roles that helped them to grow and gave them safe spaces in which to unleash emotion.

The power of the shared experiences dispelled feelings of isolation and bound us together. We didn’t have to spend anything but time to have this powerful experience. We simply had to be present and trusting of one another.

After the improvised performances, there were palpable changes in the room. Strained faces appeared relaxed. Flat-sounding voices became animated. The power of the shared experiences dispelled feelings of isolation and bound us together.
We didn’t have to spend anything but time to have this powerful experience. We simply had to be present and trusting of one another. The scenes we created were imaginary—but the emotional truths and the impact of our shared experience were very real.
The power of communication—what attracted me to theater—is what also drew me into the field of speech-language pathology. Communication is what makes us feel human. It’s what breathes meaning into our connections with one another.
As I help a nonverbal child with autism use communication aids to tell his family about his day at school or ease the frustration of a severely unintelligible student trying to articulate what she wants, I am reminded of my experiences with drama therapy. As speech-language pathologists, we play a critical role in the lives of those we serve. We help unlock the gates to communication. We foster real human storytelling. We provide the tools needed for people to connect in a meaningful way.
We need food and water to live, but we need communication and human connections to feel alive. This is what makes our work invaluable. This is why I do what I do.
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June 2016
Volume 21, Issue 6