A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by trauma to the brain. There are 3 common forces which can result in damage to brain cells:
- Direct blow to the head (e.g., getting cross-checked into the boards in a hockey game; falling and hitting your head on the stairs)
- Sudden stop or deceleration (e.g., a car accident where the seatbelt prevents your forehead from hitting the steering wheel, but your skull still stops suddenly and your brain, which floats loosely, hits the inside of your skull)
- Rapid spinning motion (e.g., a rollover or spin in a higher speed accident)
What are the symptoms of a brain injury?
The symptoms of a brain injury vary because of the complexity of the brain. The brain controls every single thing our bodies do, so there is a potential impact on every one of our functions! There could be physical impairments (e.g., poor balance, poor hand control, dizziness, double vision, etc.). There could be cognitive and communication impairments (e.g., poor attention, poor memory, word finding difficulty, poor organization, impulsivity, etc.) and emotional changes (e.g., difficulty controlling anger). In fact, 80-100% of individuals with a brain injury have cognitive-communication difficulties. Many of these difficulties can be subtle and go unnoticed for weeks or months.
How can a speech-language pathologist help?
Speech-language pathologists have a unique knowledge base of how cognitive and language skills interact. They can help retrain many skills and/or teach compensatory strategies (see reverse) to get around the problem areas:
- Attention and concentration
- Following directions; understanding jokes/sarcasm; remembering information; following the plot in movies
- Understanding and remembering information in books and articles
- Expressing thoughts clearly and concisely; thinking of the right words
- Writing effectively
- Understanding and using facial expressions appropriately; taking turns and changing topics appropriately
- Reasoning (i.e., determining relevant versus irrelevant information, comparing and contrasting options, predicting consequences, generating solutions, etc.)
Is there anything I can try myself?
Brain injuries usually result in complicated and sometimes subtle cognitive-communication impairments, so professional help is usually required. For memory, try using checklists and dayplanners – and be very diligent in checking them all the time! For reading comprehension, try highlighting key information and writing brief summaries after each page. For reasoning, try grouping your ideas into different categories on a piece of paper so you can more easily compare and make decisions. Contact a speech-language pathologist for more specific guidance to target your particular areas of need.
HOW TO FIND A SPEECH-LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST:
Call 877-388-3819 or email email@example.com for more information on assessment and treatment at Lear Communication.
You can also contact the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at www.osla.on.ca or 800-718-6752. There may be government funded services available at your local school, hospital or Community Care Access Centre.