“I don’t like hearing the sound of my own voice anymore. I constantly lose my train of thought, stumble, and forget basic words. I usually know what I’m trying to say, I just can’t remember the expressions, so I speak in circles, disguising my poor memory with filler words like um, and, whatever, anyway,” says Jennifer Mosher who sustained a brain injury in a car crash.
Sometimes after a traumatic brain injury (TBI), people like Jennifer, can have cognitive problems as well as communication problems, which can impair their ability to live independently. They may not be able to organize their thoughts; they may have a hard time processing new information; or they may have trouble finding the “right” words — words they need to express their thoughts and share their feelings. And early on after a TBI, especially if the injury is more severe, the person may have trouble with more basic skills like swallowing, chewing, or forming basic word sounds.
The role of the speech-language pathologist
Speech-language pathologists direct, diagnose, and conduct programs to improve communicative skills related to speech and language problems. They are involved in evaluating and teaching speech, writing, reading, and expression skills aimed at both comprehension and communication. For a person with brain injury, the speech-language pathologist may work on attention, organization, planning, and sequencing. They also specialize in teaching memory strategies — a classic problem in traumatic brain injury.
Speech-language pathologists: tests and treatments
A speech-language evaluation can include assessments for:
The speech-language pathologist in action
Once the person with TBI is fully evaluated, the interdisciplinary team — which can include doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, neuropsychologists , and of course, spech-language pathologists — will create an individualized treatment plan. The plan will depend on the stage of the individual’s recovery, but it will always focus on increasing independence in daily life. A treatment plan can range from stimulating the patient’s sensory systems if he is still in a coma to helping him learn strategies to combat slurred speech.
Strategies for better communication after a TBI.