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Finding Your Voice Again

Having a stroke or a traumatic brain injury can make you feel like a foreigner in a strange land. Your cognition may still be fully intact, but sometimes you just can't speak the language.

After a stroke, most individuals need speech therapy, something that is offered free at Missouri State University's Speech-Language and Hearing Clinic, and they often recoup much of their language. If you haven't recouped it all, you may become your own worse critic. This makes it difficult to engage in everyday social situations. You may feel embarrassed and become isolated.

Jennifer Pratt, clinical associate professor of communication sciences and disorders at Missouri State, shares about an exciting collaboration between her department, the department of art and design, and clients at the Speech- Language and Hearing Clinic.

"Art students came and actually instructed our clients in our clinic, who all have had either a head injury or have had a stroke, resulting in an acquired communication disorder," Pratt said. "They instructed them in painting, drawing, different means of self-expression through art, with a big focus on self-identity and expressing who they were through this visual medium."

The year long collaboration, which was funded through the office of public affairs, the CSD department, the office of assessment, and supported by faculty and students from both departments,  provided a new socialization opportunity for the clients. This is a skill they work on regularly, and it gave them a chance to experience new art forms, as well.

"There was some resistance at first. They were kind of like, 'Oh, I'm not an artist. I don't want to do this or I'm not going to be good at it,'" Pratt said. "It also represented an opportunity to try something new out of their comfort zone. It was empowering to see them express themselves in a different way and to feel capable with something new, which is not an opportunity that they often get."

While working on developing these new forms of expression has been therapeutic for most, Pratt stresses that it was not art therapy.

"I really wanted to focus on them having a new interest or hobby and socially engaging in a different way," she said. "But I do think it's still therapeutic."

The work has culminated into an art exhibit at Brick City, entitled "Language and Art: Facilitating Expression and Social Participation Through Visual Media." It is on display March 11-27. The artists' reception will be held 2-3:15 p.m. March 21. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Brick City Gallery is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.
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