Date of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Type



Communication Sciences and Disorders

Director of Thesis

Dirk-Bart den Ouden

Second Reader

Peter Duffy


Individuals with aphasia, a disorder caused by damage to the brain’s language network, confront a variety of social and emotional struggles. While leaving their cognition largely intact, aphasia tremendously impacts a person’s ability to communicate confidently, fracturing their social network and contributing to feelings of loneliness and frustration. To address this persistent need in the chronic aphasia population, the Play on Words drama club at the University of South Carolina provides a forum for people with aphasia (PWA) to engage in dramatic exercises focused on non-verbal communication of emotions, ideas, and stories, culminating the production of an original devised play. To encapsulate and contextualize the perspectives of the participating “actors with aphasia” in the drama club, semi-structured interviews which included administration of the Communication Confidence Rating Scale for Aphasia were conducted around the time of the group’s second production, “Anything but Cinderella.” In addition, graduate students from the master’s programs in speech language pathology and theatre education were surveyed to assess the impact of co-participation in an interdisciplinary aphasia drama club on future professionals in these fields. Thematic coding of the actors’ interviews revealed the following themes: 1) coping through humor, 2) use of gestural communication, 3) know vs. ability to say, 4) desire to be heard, 5) coping through defensive strategies, 6) use of metaphor, 7) generalizable effects, 8) creating community, and 9) controlling the narrative. In addition, students reported feeling more comfortable working with PWA and using Supported Conversation for Adults with Aphasia after participating in drama club. The students’ survey responses revealed two primary themes: 1) learning through exchange of stories, and 2) building connections through drama club. Ultimately, this thesis adds to the existing literature on the beneficial socioemotional effects of drama participation for PWA while revealing for the first time the transformational impact on the perspectives of students participating in the devised play process.

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