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Alumni profile: Setting the stage for kids' success

Kristen B. Morales

May 29, 2019

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Working with a speech-language pathologist, you practice skills you plan to put out into the world.

Kelsey Brown would say the same thing is true in the theater.

Brown (B.S.Ed. '17), who is pursuing her master's in speech-language pathology at Emerson College in Boston, is happy to navigate a world where these two interests overlap. "I think speech therapy and theater are both mediums for learning and growth, especially in communication and interacting with people around you, and I see that every day with my clients," she says. "We are working together to practice the skills that we're going to put out in to the world, and it's very similar in theater, where we are taking those life skills and putting them on stage."

After graduating from the College of Education, Brown deferred her graduate program for a year to work at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Maryland. The theater company hosts inclusive performances—for example, sensory friendly shows or including ASL interpreters—and also incorporates inclusivity into its theater education program. These aspects are crucial to Brown, who found she could blend her professional calling with her love of theater as an undergraduate student at UGA. Her time at Imagination Stage further reinforced this.

"My job was to call parents ahead of time and talk to them about their child's strengths and ways we can support them so they were a fully participating member," says Brown. Her experiences at Imagination Stage also inspired her to write a book, which was released this spring.

"In the classroom, a lot of our kiddos just needed a break—that was their main accommodation. So, we try to find a good, positive break to get them back into their best selves and be refreshed and engaged," she says. "I was like, 'Surely there has to be a book that we can give to these kids.'"

When she realized there wasn't, she set out to make one. The result is "Come on, Calm," an illustrated story guide for younger children using characters to teach calming techniques. For example, one lands in a desert and makes lemonade with a camel by gently squeezing her hands. "The idea is, we share it as a classroom and then you have that vocabulary for the different techniques to use," says Brown. "So, when a teacher or caregiver notices their friends getting 'squiggly,' they can say, 'Oh, I think we need to make some lemonade.'"

Graduation is still a year away, but Brown hopes to return to her native Lexington, Kentucky, area and use the bridge she's built between speech therapy and theater to open doors in other areas. "I want to use my position as a speech therapist to really galvanize the Lexington community to see how we can be inclusive in all areas of our life."