Educating Others About Slurred Speech After Brain Injury

Question: 

My 25 year-old son had a brain injury two years ago. He received speech therapy for slurred speech. We now can understand almost everything he says, but people who don’t know him think he is either drunk or mentally handicapped because of his speech. What can we do to help him?

Answer: 

A TBI can weaken the muscles that control your speech and voice, or affect their coordination. The resulting speech problem is called dysarthria. Here are some tips to help him speak at his best:

  • Stressed or tired muscles don’t work very well. Suggest that he take a break when he is doing a lot of talking.
  • If he speaks more slowly, it will help him produce the sounds more clearly. Let him know when he’s talking too fast. Remind him to pause to take a breath.

 People sometimes don’t know how to react to someone who seems different. Ask your son how he would like to handle these situations. Here are some suggestions:

  • He can tell people directly why his speech sounds different: “I was in a car crash and now I have trouble talking.”
  • If you are with him, you can explain why his speech is different, but only if your son is comfortable with this.
  • If he has trouble getting attention from strangers, he can carry a written message: “I have trouble speaking because I was injured in a car crash. It takes me a little extra time to talk to you, but please be patient.”
  • A brain injury or stroke support group might be a good place for him to practice speaking and to get more ideas for handling social situations.

 

Posted on BrainLine May 6, 2009

Janet Brown

Janet Brown, MA, CCC-SLP spent twenty years in practice at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, DC. She is the current director of Health Care Services at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Comments

Hello I would like to know more about the electrical treatment for speech problems for people with TBI. My son had a head trauma this year and is still having speech problems

Although I don't have slurred speech, I found that after a recent 4th TBI I no longer have the ability to read out loud like I was able to do. This came as quite a shock as I'm on a Speakers Bureau going around for the past 6 years reading my story to educate and advocate for TBIs. I'm working with my speech therapist on this now. 

Could the two respondents who have had electrical stimulation either contact me (ldelaittre@mac.com) or tell me where you got treatment ... I had mild dysarthria that has improved over time but no one has ever offered this option (and I live in the land of the Mayo Clinic and all sorts of top notch medical establishments) thanks!

I too suffered a very serious head injury. Its been 12 years for me. Although I have recovered, I still have slurred speech from time to time especially if I am overtired. Also memory problems are a problem and family and friends don't seem to believe it. So frustrating. I don't even bother to explain anymore. It's exhausting ..

I was told by my speech therapist to sing w/radio as much as possible. When I get tired the "drunken-slow-something wrong w/me" voice comes out. But, I am thankful to still be here, no matter what I may sound like at times :)

After my stroke in 2014 I had severely slurred speech, during my rehab I did electrical stimulation on my face and now speak with no slur at all if your son hasn't had any e-stim I would strongly recommend it!

I had a stroke 2 years ago and at first had very slurred speech, during my rehab I did electrical stimulation on my face, it hurt like hell but worked like a charm, I now have no issues at all with my speech if this is something your son hasn't tried I would strongly recommend it!

Many times people have mistaken my son for someone who is intoxicated. His speech slurs, and his gait is very slow and sometimes awkward, especially at the end of the day. This is a great article about not only the "what", but the "how" and they "why." This is what TBI can look like.

I will be sharing this. THANKS again, Brainline. You continue to meet us where we are.

It is not just TBIs that have speech issues. After my Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I had significant aphasia, significant. Not all brain injuries are TBIs!

I thought my mother was writing this about me but she told me it wasn't her. My brain injury happened 11/9/13 when I was 25. It was a (dai) and I scored a 3 on the glasscow coma scale. During this whole process my speech has been the biggest struggle for me. People have no trouble understanding me now (after almost two years). I can pronounce my words very clearly. The oral resonance is where I have trouble. I sound like you said, drunk or mentally handicap. The vibration for voice is not happening in my mouth as it should but deep in my throat.  This makes me feel good that I'm not alone. Best of wishes to your son I hope his speech issue resolves itself. I have faith that in time he will be able to move past all this. 

Mike

My son has voice but it doesn't come often Corey has shearing in the brain stem and he has said mom few times and hi bed few other words but it's sometimes weeks before we get any sound at all .Will this in prove at all?

Brain concussions can impact speech in some persons.  Some persons develop a subtle type of epilepsy (complex partial) which can display itself in speech/halting speech, etc.  Thank you for bringing up this important topic of speech post brain concussion.  Some persons may choose to say little due to these voice challenges and prefer using another method like written email/twitter, etc.

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