How to Stop Fumbling for the Right Word After a Brain Injury


Nine months ago, I fell and hit my head on a concrete floor. I was checked out at the ER, diagnosed with a "mild concussion" and sent home. Although my injury was “mild,” I continue to have speech problems — a slight lisp or stutter, loss of finding words, and often a delay in the flow of my speech. Some days are better than others. Where should I go from here?


You should consult a neurologist for a complete assessment of all your symptoms. The neurologist can refer you to a speech-language pathologist for an evaluation of your speech problems. An audiologist can assist in the diagnosis of balance problems and will confer with the neurologist regarding the need for balance rehabilitation. The neurologist may refer you to a physical therapist if you could benefit from balance rehabilitation.

Trying to come up with the right word and worrying about how you sound can contribute to the speaking delays you experience. Here are some tips that may help you feel more successful:

  • Allow yourself extra time before speaking.
  • Talk more slowly.
  • Use shorter sentences.
  • Rehearse what you want to say in advance.

If lack of insurance coverage is preventing you from obtaining an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist, try locating a nearby university that has a speech-language pathology or audiology program. University clinics often provide services at reduced fees or with a sliding scale.


Posted on BrainLine November 9, 2012.

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

Comments (3)

An area that seems to often be overlooked, at least for me after my 'mild' injury is how vision and visual processing can be effected. I had the exact symptoms with balance, delayed or stuttering speech as well as some other issues. I was finally referred to a specialist who tested visual processing. Visual Processing Dysfunctions can also effect speech.

When too tired I can hardly talk and even when aren't I sometimes say wrong word - sometimes I realize and can correct sometimes I don't. When I talk I sound very normal but I can never really say what I want and need to. If I had access to the professionals you describe I doubt they (unless really expert) would hear/see my problems. And it would depend on how tired/stressed I was, usually if I have an appointment I must rest before I go (and sometimes the day before too).

Thank you for the suggestions, my husband has had this issue since his "mild" TBI and finds it most fraustrating! Some things have new names such as a tea towel becoming a "rag" and the dishwashing liquid becoming "bubbles" because he cannot find the words. Breathing helps too...the stuttering and loss of words gets worse with anger or stress so staying calm helps too...

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