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July 28, 2011

Facilitator Elizabeth Bihn and Photographer Richy Arsenault

Student Facilitator Elizabeth Bihn and Photographer Richy Arsenault with his work

The Aphasia Center Photography Group opened a show on July 28 entitled, "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Photography as Communication for People with Aphasia." See Photo Gallery.

Eight clients, all of whom are recovering from aphasia – a language difficulty that can be exhibited after a stroke – attended a photography workshop for several weeks this summer, according to Elizabeth Bihn, the second-year speech-language pathology student who organized the workshop and show.

“Photography historically has been used as a non-verbal method to record and disseminate information,” said Bihn, noting that working a camera involves fine motor skills that also helps clients with their physical rehabilitation. “Therefore, I saw photography as an effective alternative to verbal communication.”

Bihn developed the idea after listening to researchers at an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) conference. She thought it would benefit the aphasia clients at the Institute. How much was another matter.

“Before my stroke, I never took photos,” said Richy Arsenault of Malden, who was the first client to be helped in the Aphasia Center more than 10 years ago. His favorite composition is that of a rhubarb plant in his neighbor’s yard, a close-up shot that includes photographic elements of distinctive lines and shape. “I plan to keep taking photos because I like it.”

“Elizabeth effectively taught  photography to clients who, because of their communication difficulty, may not have had the opportunity to be exposed to this art medium,” said Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders Clinical Instructor Eileen Hunsaker, MS, CCC-SLP, who coordinates the Aphasia Center. "This fantastic show is a result of her efforts and the client's talents."

Added Provost and Academic Vice President Alex F. Johnson, PhD, CCC-SLP, “This is one of the most exciting community-oriented activities that have been done at the Institute.”

For her part, Bihn envisions expanding this to include other health science disciplines like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing to name a few.

The Aphasia Center is part of the Boston graduate school’s Speech, Language and Literacy Center. Students, supervised by faculty, conduct more than 150 free or greatly reduced client visits each week to people in and around the Charlestown community.

The exhibit will remain until August 11. See Photo Gallery.

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