Drama Therapy helps those with Aphasia Communicate

Aphasia is the loss of ability to understand or express speech due to brain damage, whether through stroke, accident or other injury.  ITA regularly works with people coping with Aphasia and has partnered with The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s Center for Aphasia Research.  ITA Drama Therapist Keith Whipple recently co-authored and published a paper with speech therapists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago entitled, “Waiting on the Words”:  Procedures and Outcomes of a Drama Class for Individuals with Aphasia.  The paper is dedicated to the ITA’s late Clinical Director,  Dr. Ted Rubenstein.


The paper chronicles work done with a group of 14 outpatient adults who used playwriting to help them communicate to their caregivers and the community about what it feels like to have aphasia and to raise awareness about the language disorder.  The session were co-facilitated by a speech-language pathologist and a drama therapist. 


Often those with aphasia experience social isolation, loneliness, loss of autonomy, restricted activities, role changes and stigmatization.  As this case study shows, drama therapy is able to help people with aphasia improve their communication skills and positively effect mood.  An improvisational style of playwriting was employed that allowed patients to talk about the experiences and those experiences were transcribed into individual performance pieces.  The framework of the show was to depict before and after whatever event took place that resulted in the aphasia.  Media, script, and sound were incorporated into the culminating play, entitled “Waiting on the Words” which was presented at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Dempster Street Theater in Evanston for an audience of 140 caregivers, family members and providers.  The piece was also performed at the RIC Grand Rounds and Speech and Audiologists Conference.