Photograph as Language Showcases the Power of Service Learning

May 06, 2009


The Photograph as Language exhibition, which was on display at Rollins through May 11, showcased photographs from a collaborative workshop with students from Rollins and the University of Central Florida (UCF) and stroke survivors.

The exhibition featured photographs taken by stroke survivors attending the UCF Communication Disorders Clinic and the Rollins photography students who worked with them. Throughout the spring semester, Assistant Professor of Art Dawn Roe and Rollins students worked alongside the clients, who suffer from the acquired language disorder aphasia (generally the result of a stroke), in an effort to facilitate communication through the use of photographic image. Persons with asphasia (PWA) may have difficulty speaking, understanding, reading and writing. One objective of therapy is to help the PWA improve and maintain good quality of life through new outlets in communication.

In collaboration with UCF's Communication Disorders Clinic and under the direction of Clinical Instructor Janet Whiteside, psychology students and communication sciences and disorder students from UCF worked with the stroke survivors to help them communicate their intent. The students taught clients how to remember specific events, language and life stories through photography. One Rollins undergraduate student was paired with one UCF graduate student (speech pathologists) and they worked together with one client. The stroke survivors were given cameras and encouraged to express themselves by taking photos of what was important to them.

"The photograph allows them to depict home, what is meaningful to them, truly communicate via the photograph and how the photo depicts who they are," said Whiteside. "They can't communicate verbally and this allowed them an outlet to communicate feelings and purpose of life. This is powerful and enriching."

Some of the Rollins students who participated are studio art majors, while others, like Bailey MacLeod (Class of 2009), are psychology majors who didn't know anything about art or photography.

"This provided a hands-on view of people with a physical neurological disorder who can't speak, but still have thoughts," said MacLeod. "I now have a better idea of how to communicate with them."

Rachel Hessling (Class of 2012), a studio art major who plans on being a photo journalist, said the class opened her eyes to collaborate work.

"This project shows the power of service learning," said Rollins' Director of Community Engagement Micki Meyer.

On May 12, Central Florida News 13 aired a "Generation to Generation" feature story on the project. The success of the project also resulted in a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South for 2009-10 and The Photograph as Language will be conducted again in Spring 2010.

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