SpeakEasy Makes Things Musical

Since the start of COVID-19, many people have been forced to get creative in order to continue doing their jobs and serving their communities. Jean Nisenboum, instructor in the Department of Psychological Sciences’ communication sciences program, is one of those people.

For over 25 years, SpeakEasy, a CWRU program, has supported the needs of adults who are living with acquired neurogenic communication disorders (ANCD) by offering education, support, and treatment for free. Led by Nisenboum with the assistance of graduate students working to gain clinical hours, SpeakEasy welcomed nearly 60 people a week at the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center prior to COVID-19.

Right before the shutdown, SpeakEasy was preparing to offer a music focused session called SpeakEasy Choir, bringing together a group of adults with ANCD over a familiar topic that they loved, in a space where they felt safe and could express themselves. In January, Nisenboum was able to take this offering online. Each Friday, members gather together to sing a song. During the beginning of the session they learn health tips and do some warming up, working on words and word production while they read over the song lyrics, and they end the class singing the song all together.

“Everyone looks forward to Fridays,” Nisemboum said. “The team and the members.”

In a time that left people fearful and isolated, a group like SpeakEasy Choir filled an incredibly important need. People with ANCD experienced particularly painful isolation due to their communication challenges, but this program offered them the chance to participate in an environment where they felt safe and that brought them immense joy.

Nisemboum has no doubt that this program will continue when in-person meetings begin again.