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Telling Stories: Angela Grice


Telling Stories

Minority Post Doctoral Fellow Angela Grice


BACKGROUND: B.A. in Speech Pathology from George Washington University in 1991 and an M.S./Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology from Howard University in 2004.

DISSERTATION STUDY: Grice's dissertation, "The Effect of Executive Functioning on the Narratives of African American Adolescents and Emerging Adults with Mild Closed Head Injury," looks at young African Americans ages 14 to 25 who have experienced mild closed head injuries (MCHI), or a hit on the head that resulted in a brief (30 minutes or less) or no loss of consciousness and did not penetrate the skull, to determine their use of language in conversation and their ability to stay on topic.

RATIONALE: She was fascinated by studies showing that abused women who have suffered head injuries displayed deficits previously identified as a "learned helplessness syndrome," while abused women without head injuries do not respond in the same way. "The women with head injuries had poor planning abilities, they could not find a job, and could not organize themselves to get one or to find a place to live," Grice says. The population most at risk for MCHI is between ages 15 and 24. While those who have experienced MCHI tend to do fine on standardized tests, their cognitive processes-thought, organization and sequencing, the skills that enable one to tell a story-are affected negatively. "Adolescents are usually ignored in the literature," Grice said.  "And no studies were done solely on African-American adolescents, even though they are a population that it [MCHI] occurs in at a higher rate.

METHODOLOGY: Grice studied African-American participants who were asked, first, to relate the happiest day of their lives; second, to create a story from a still picture; and third, to tell a story about a comic strip shown to them.

FINDINGS: Grice compared the head-injury group to a non-MCHI group. While the MCHI group could tell the first two stories without many noticeable difficulties, they had problems in putting together a cohesive, sequential story about the comic strip. Another finding was that the standard method of analyzing narratives was problematic. It is important to use a culturally sensitive method when working with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

HER WORK AT TC: At Teachers College, Grice will do a similar study on individuals between the ages of 14 and 30, and will then compare the two studies. She will also teach a class in the spring in the Speech and Language Pathology program.

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