Making a Difference #8: Communication

Communication can often be challenging for people with TBI. Learn strategies that help.

[♪mellow music♪] When communicating with a person who has a brain injury, it's important to listen, listen, listen. It's important to be positive and encouraging in your statements, to be empathetic and at times to use humor in a positive and supportive manner. Things to avoid would be to not expect the typical social exchange. At times their delivery of information may be delayed, and at times it may not be exact. It's important to also avoid arguing. [♪♪] When communicating with the survivor, do encourage them to write things down. Keep things simple. Keep at their pace. Emphasize important information. Slow down. And allow time for the response. Try to avoid rushing. When communicating with the survivor, be concrete, clear and direct. Offer to repeat. Encourage questions. Ask the person to repeat back information given to ensure that they have written or can recall information. Limit options from which the person must choose to avoid confusion. [♪♪] Try not to speak for the person or try to fill in what they are trying to say. Try not to talk down to the person. When communicating with the survivor, gently help the person to get back on track if there is a long lull in the conversation. Also, if they ramble off the topic, try to get them back on track. If off track, say, I"m confused" or "I'm getting lost." Occasionally, summarize or restate what the person is saying or asking. Try to avoid interruptions or saying, "You're rambling off topic." [♪♪] When communicating with the survivors on the phone, do set clear boundaries if inappropriate remarks are made. Be firm yet respectful. Respond to inappropriate ideas but maintain focus on discussion. Provide support and reassurance while conversing with them. [♪♪] Try to avoid overreacting. Try not to be offended or react in anger to exaggerated or inappropriate responses. Try not to take inappropriate responses personally. Most importantly, try not to judge. [♪♪] Some survivors may experience frustration and agitation in their life, and there are some reasons why they may exhibit this type of behavior. Some of those reasons may be being told no, when confronting a difficult task, loud and competing noises, too much stimulation, abrupt changes, feeling stupid or, at times, confused may cause them to get agitated or frustrated when conversing with them. [♪♪] Some of the ways of dealing with the agitation or the frustration are changing the subject to something non-threatening, redirect attention, ask if they need to take a break, and to stay calm and supportive. [♪♪]
Posted on BrainLine April 8, 2011.

Produced by Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council.