While traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are certainly nothing new to humans, we’re gaining more understanding about the long-lasting effects these events can have on a person. From ongoing mental health problems to speech issues, TBIs can extend far beyond an excruciating headache.
The team of speech therapists here at Celebrations Speech has an in-depth understanding of the effects that a TBI can have on a person’s ability to communicate and we’re here to help.
To give you an idea about what we’re up against, here’s a look at how a TBI can affect speech and some of the steps we can take to overcome communication deficits.
Traumatic brain injuries explained
When we use the term TBI, this includes a variety of head traumas that range from mild concussions to hemorrhaging in the brain.
Each year in the United States, approximately 1.5 million people of all ages survive a TBI. Most TBIs occur due to falls or motor vehicle accidents and children under the age of 17 account for 7%-9% of all TBI-related hospitalizations.
There’s no TBI checklist when it comes to side effects and complications since it very much depends upon the extent of the trauma and which areas of the brain may have been damaged. That said, we can provide some of the more common long-term complaints after a TBI, which include:
- Ongoing headaches
- Behavioral and mood disorders, including depression
- Balance issues
- Sensory problems
- Cognitive difficulties
- Speech and language problems
- Swallowing disorders
Again, we want to underscore the fact that TBIs don’t always lead to longer-term complications and, when they do, they can vary depending upon the areas of the brain that were impacted.
Traumatic brain injury and speech
Should the TBI affect the areas of the brain that control speech and language skills, the following issues may develop:
- Word-finding difficulty
- Improper sentence formation
- Comprehension issues
- Impaired social skills, including reading social cues
- Difficulty comprehending multiple meanings
- Difficulty saying certain words consistently
- Dysarthria — speech difficulties, including slurring, slow speech, and difficult-to-understand speech
In extreme cases, aphasia can develop, which is the inability to understand or express speech.
One of the frustrations with TBIs is that many of the speech and language issues we describe above may be difficult to spot right away. This is why it’s important that a person with a TBI be assessed as soon as possible by a speech-language pathologist who is trained in recognizing potential problems.
Addressing speech issues early on
Should a TBI-related speech issue be identified, it’s important to seek treatment straight away, even starting in the hospital if there was hospitalization. This early therapy can help lay the basic groundwork for improving communicating moving forward.
It’s impossible to say here what a typical treatment plan may look like as it depends upon how the TBI affected speech. At our practice, we’re well versed in helping people who’ve had a TBI to regain speech and language skills, and we accomplish this through speech therapy protocols that focus on:
- Improving speaking mechanics for clear pronunciation
- Vocabulary building
- Helping people to express thoughts more clearly
- Working on reading comprehension
- Attention- and memory-building exercises
- Building problem-solving skills
We tailor the treatments to each individual so that we can successfully address their most pressing speech and language needs.
If you have more questions about TBI-related speech and language issues, please contact one of our locations in Brentwood, Stockton, and Elk Grove, California, to set up a consultation.