Speech & Language Therapy

Sometimes after a traumatic brain injury, people 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 traumatic brain injury, especially if the injury is more severe, the person may have trouble with more basic skills like swallowing, chewing, or forming basic word sounds.

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The Role of the Speech-Language Therapist

Katherine Sullivan: The Role of the Speech-Language Therapist
One way things have changed over the last 10 years, along with our conflicts in the brain injury patient population we're working with is that technology has also advanced. So, before when we were working with a patient who was trying to remember their appointments, we'd work on a memory book or an appointment book. Now, we'll take their Smartphone and try to incorporate that into their daily living. So, as much as we use technology, we make sure it is not replacing the therapists. So, let me give you an example. Technology and computers are very good at drill repetitive practice. So, once again, you might not need that physical therapist or someone at the gym when you're just doing your reps back and forth. But, when you go to apply the new strength you have, whether it be in your leg or in the memory part of your brain, you need to apply that to real-life functional outcomes, and that's really where the therapists can do their best work. So, we can use technology to help us maximize the time the patient is with us and give as many reps as possible, but then to be able to help that patient apply that to real-life is really where we combine our work in the Brain Fitness Center and the computer with the speech pathology department, the occupational therapy department, and physical therapy as well.

Advice for Speech-Language Pathologists "Keep It Simple"

Inbal Eshel: Advice for Speech-Language Pathologists — Keep It Simple
As far as advice to speech/language pathologists out in various places in the country who are treating these patients with mild traumatic brain injury, I would say the biggest lesson is life is full of cognitive and language challenges. And as long as we don't worry too much about having all the bells and whistles, there is so much that we can do with just helping the patient with their day-to-day life as far as introducing strategies--basic strategies, simple strategies that are really effective. For example, I've had a lot of patients who have benefited from just something as simple as a whiteboard on the inside of their front door, where they keep track of what they need to bring with them when they leave the house. It doesn't have to be magic; it doesn't have to be fancy; as long as you're paying really close attention to that patient's-- that traumatic brain injury patient's functional complaints, there is so much that you can do even without having access to all the resources.

How Speech-Language Therapists Work with People with Brain Injury

Inbal Eshel: How Speech-Language Therapists Work with People with Brain Injury
If somebody came into my office with a mild TBI, the very first thing I focus on is both formal and informal assessment. And so by formal assessment, I mean we have a number of standardized tests that we can pull from, and they help us kind of narrow down. Okay, what are some of the areas that this person seems to be having trouble with? We also do an extensive interview with that person because, really, the most important thing is what difficulties are they having and they experiencing in their own day-to-day life, and how can we help them with that. So we really need to understand, and we ask them, "Talk me through a typical day. Where are things breaking down? What's going on with you?" And we really need to get to know our patients very well in order to kind of find some of that information out. As well as we do informal observation with our-- You know, kind of just watching, noticing those little things that clinicians pick up on after having done this for a while. So, for example, you know, does the person remember your name by the end of the session? Or do they, you know, remember how to get back out to the lobby from your office? You know, all these little things that you kind of pay attention to that may be indicative of some difficulty. So, every patient that we have, we start out with that type of foundation, and from that, we build.

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