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?
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.
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 former director of Health Care Services at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.