Sharon Johnston graduated from the University of Toronto in 1966 as a physical and occupational therapist, and subsequently worked in the area of child psychiatry. When the Johnston family moved to Montréal, she completed her master’s and doctorate degrees in rehabilitation science. At the master’s level, she studied a more effective way of clearing the small airways of cystic fibrosis sufferers. Her doctoral thesis examined the coordination of respiratory muscles during normal speech, stuttered speech and singing. Her thesis resulted in the publication of scientific articles on respiratory mechanics.