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Cognitive Communication Deficit: What Is It And How Can You Help?

Cognitive communication deficits can be extremely challenging for children, adults, and their families. It is important to understand what cognitive communication is and how you can help your loved ones. This blog post will provide an overview of cognitive communication deficits, including causes and treatment options. Parents will learn how they can work collaboratively with speech therapists to help their loved ones improve their communication skills.

In this article we will discuss:

Cognitive Communication Deficit can affect anyone.

What is cognitive communication deficit (CCD)?

When we communicate, we use both verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication is the words that we say out loud. Nonverbal communication is everything else that we do when we communicate, like using our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Most people use a combination of both verbal and nonverbal communication when they talk to others. But sometimes, people have trouble with one or both types of communication.

Meanwhile, cognition is the mental process that we use to think, learn, and remember information. It includes things like attention, memory, and problem-solving. Since communication is the process of exchanging information between two people, a cognitive communication deficit occurs when someone has trouble with one or more cognitive processes involved in communication.

Why does cognition play a great role in communication?

Cognition is a key part of communication. In fact, many experts believe that cognition plays an even bigger role in communication than language ability. That’s because we use cognitive skills to understand and remember information as well as to plan and organize our thoughts before we speak.

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There are several potential areas where deficits may occur:

  • Pragmatics: Rules of verbal and non-verbal social communication (pragmatics) are difficult to follow for some people. This includes understanding jokes, gauging changes in tone, or knowing when it is appropriate to speak.

  • Reasoning: Inability to think of and implement solutions to challenges. It's also possible that you can't come up with many answers or indicate which option is best.

  • Attention: It's difficult for them to focus or concentrate on a task, especially when it's noisy or when multiple things are happening at the same time, such as talking on the phone while watching TV.

  • Memory: Forgetting someone's name after meeting them, or an important date, may be caused by forgetfulness. It might also include difficulties in absorbing new information such as names, locations, situations, and commands.

  • Organization/Planning: Having trouble with organization, thinking through a sequence of events, or telling a story in the right order.

  • Insight/Awareness: It's difficult to recognize when something is amiss in the environment or with oneself. Even after education, the client may not realize they have thought disorders, for example.

Who can be affected by CCD?

If you think children are the only group of people that can suffer from cognitive-communication deficits, then you are wrong. In fact, even adults can have trouble with cognition and communication. For example, research shows that adults with schizophrenia often have trouble with cognitive processes involved in communication, such as attention and memory. And adults who have had a stroke often have trouble with cognition and communication, too.

What causes cognitive-communication deficits?

There are many different causes of cognitive communication deficits. Some common causes include:

  • Autism spectrum disorder: Autism is a brain development disorder that affects communication and social interaction. People with autism often have difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication. They may also have difficulty understanding social cues or picking up on the emotions of others.

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a condition that causes problems with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention to conversations, or following along if there is more than one person talking. They may also have trouble staying on task or keeping their thoughts organized.

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): A TBI is a type of brain injury that can occur after a blow to the head. TBI can cause a wide range of cognitive and communication problems, depending on the severity of the injury.

  • Brain tumor: Brain tumors can cause cognitive and communication problems depending on the location of the tumor. If it is in an area of the brain that controls language, a person may have difficulty understanding or producing speech.

  • Dementia: Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability. It can cause problems with memory, thinking, and communication over time.

  • Stroke: A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. This can cause problems with movement, speech, and thinking.

Types of cognitive communication deficit

There are many different types of cognitive communication deficits. Some common examples include:

Difficulty functioning independently due to:

  • uninterested or unaware of others around them

  • no speech that conveys meaning

  • can only open eyes, suck, and/or yawn in response to stimuli

  • attention and memory problems along with impulsive behavior

  • difficulty saying their name or responding when someone else says it

  • having trouble expressing needs using basic words and gestures (for example, yes/no, head nod)

  • Limited social skills, such as greeting others or using facial expressions.

  • Trouble counting to ten and expressing needs effectively.

  • Easily agitated when goals are not met.

  • Lack of eye contact or very limited communication abilities

  • difficulty paying attention while speaking (i.e., does not complete sentences or take turns speaking during conversation)

  • can't react appropriately to the other person's message (i.e., delayed, perseverative, or off-topic replies, with inappropriate words)

Difficulty functioning independently due to:

  • inability to anticipate the results of one's own actions

  • lack of organizational skills

  • limited problem-solving and judgment abilities

  • poor awareness of the scale of issues

  • socially inappropriate behavior demonstrated

  • difficulty with word selection and recollection of names

  • forgetful or uninformed about current events and/or personal history

  • talks too much repeat themselves or goes off-topic

  • elaborates provided information in conversation

  • struggle to switch gears, start a new topic, or end the discussion

  • missing or misunderstanding humor

  • difficulty understanding nonverbal communication (i.e., facial expressions and/or body language)

  • difficulty understanding abstract information

Difficulty managing home or maintaining a job or business due to:

  • difficulties in planning and executing basic daily activities difficulties

  • following instructions problems

  • interpreting or applying abstract written material difficulties

  • comprehending or applying abstract written information difficulties

  • recognizing and implementing solutions to personal and/or business issues that are difficult to process, assess, and resolve

  • Having difficulty managing several things at once

  • Struggling to keep emotions (especially anxiety, frustration, or anger) under control when faced with performance issues

  • Having trouble making, following through on, and/or changing plans as necessary

  • Difficulty comprehending and taking care of personal legal or financial affairs (i.e., taxes file management property law etc.)

  • difficulty effectively communicating with colleagues and/or customers, especially initiating effective responses, interpreting combined verbal and nonverbal responses during conversations to determine strategic communication action; modifying responses when feedback indicates it has not been successful

How are cognitive-communication deficits diagnosed?

If you suspect that your child has a cognitive communication deficit, the first step is to talk to your child’s doctor. Your doctor will likely ask about your child’s medical history and any development concerns that you have. They may also recommend that your child see a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for an evaluation.

An SLP is a healthcare professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating communication disorders. During an evaluation, the SLP will likely ask you questions about your child’s communication skills and development. They may also observe your child’s communication in different situations. The SLP will use this information to make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

How are cognitive-communication deficits treated?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating cognitive-communication deficits. Cognitive speech therapy can look different for everyone. Treatment will depend on the specific diagnosis, as well as the severity of the deficit. In some cases, medication may be recommended to treat underlying conditions, such as ADHD or dementia. However, speech and language therapy is often the main form of treatment for cognitive-communication deficits.

Cognitive communication deficit in speech therapy

Speech therapy can help people with cognitive communication deficits improve their ability to communicate effectively. It can also help them develop strategies to compensate for any difficulties they have. For example, an SLP may teach a person with ADHD how to use a notebook to keep track of conversations. This can help the person stay focused and remember what was said.

What can Speech Therapy do?

During treatment, speech therapists will often:

Assess the individual’s strengths and weaknesses

When you suspect a person with a cognitive communication deficit, the first step is always to consult with a medical doctor. After that, the speech therapist will assess the individual’s strengths and weaknesses to get a better understanding of the problem. An assessment may consist of multiple components, including:

  • Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)

  • Scales of Cognitive Ability for Traumatic Brain Injury (SCATBI)

  • Cognitive Linguistic Quick Test (CLQT)

  • Functional Assessment of Verbal Reasoning and Executive Strategies (FAVRES)

  • Assessment of Language-Related Functional Activities (ALFA)

These tests will help identify the areas of cognitive communication that are most affected. From there, the therapist can develop a treatment plan that targets those specific areas.

Design a treatment plan

After the assessment, the speech therapist will work with the individual to design a treatment plan. The treatment plan will be based on the individual’s specific needs and goals.

Provide therapy

The speech therapist will provide therapy to help the individual improve their communication skills. Therapy may be provided in a group or individual setting, depending on the needs of the individual. In speech therapy, the three primary objectives are to restore function, make up for deficits, and teach the client and their family about the disorder and its management.

Monitor progress

The speech therapist will monitor the individual’s progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. They will also provide support and guidance to the individual and their family members.

The goal of speech therapy is to help the individual develop the skills they need to communicate effectively. With time and practice, most people with cognitive-communication deficits can make significant improvements in their ability to communicate.

Cognitive-communication deficits can have a big impact on a person’s life. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, many people are able to live fulfilling lives. If you think your child may have a cognitive-communication deficit, talk to their doctor. An evaluation by an SLP can help confirm the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

Tips you can do at home to support

If you think your child receiving speech therapy is enough, you are sadly mistaken. Just like anything else, if you don’t practice, you will not improve. It is important that you provide opportunities at home for your child to practice their skills. Here are some things you can do:

Read books together

This is a great way to work on many different skills at once. Reading books can help with vocabulary, understanding complex sentences, and following a story. It also improves their attention span and listening skills. Thus, it improves both their cognitive and communication skills.

In adults, reading the newspaper or articles about their pastime hobbies can also keep them engaged and updated on the world around them. Even if they are no longer able to participate in that activity, it is important to keep their mental state active.

Have conversations

Talk about your day, tell stories, discuss current events, ask questions… just chat! The more opportunities your child has to practice communication, the better. You can also model proper communication skills for them to imitate.

For adult patients, it is important to always ask them how they are and what is new with them. A lot of times, they may not want to talk because they feel like no one cares. Showing that you care and want to know what is going on in their life will help them feel supported and may encourage them to communicate more.

Play games

Games are not only fun, but they are also great for learning. There are many games that work on communication skills, such as charades, guess the word, and story cubes. These games can help with turn-taking, following directions, and vocabulary, to name a few.

Playing a memory game with adults can also help sharpen their cognitive skills. This will help with mental stimulation and keep their mind active.

Social gatherings can help people with cognitive communication deficits.

Encourage them to be social

Invite friends and family over, go to the park, join a sports team… Just get out there and interact with others! Social activities are essential for communication development. They provide opportunities to practice skills in a natural setting.

Going to support groups or social gatherings specifically for people with cognitive-communication deficits can also be beneficial. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where people can interact with others who understand their challenges.

Give them ample time to respond

It can take a person with a cognitive-communication deficit longer to process information and formulate a response. It is important to be patient and give them the time they need. Rushing them will only make the situation worse.

If you are talking to an adult patient, it is important to not finish their sentences for them. This can be frustrating and will only discourage them from communicating. It is better to let them take their time and finish their thoughts at their own pace.

Speak slowly and clearly

When you are talking to your child, slow down and enunciate your words. This will help them process the information more easily. It is also important to use simple sentences and vocabulary.

With adults, it is important to not talk down to them or use baby talk. This will only make them feel patronized and less likely to communicate. Instead, speak to them in a normal tone and use words they will understand.

Be positive and encourage effort

Children with cognitive-communication deficits can get frustrated easily. It is important to be patient and encourage their efforts. Remember, progress is often slow but it is possible with time and practice.

Adults may also get discouraged, especially if they are having difficulty communicating. It is important to be supportive and let them know that you are there for them. A positive attitude can go a long way.

Provide visual aids

Visual aids can be very helpful for children with cognitive-communication deficits. Use pictures, diagrams, charts, or any other type of visual aid to help explain things. You can also write down key points to help them remember.

Adults may also benefit from visual aids. For example, you can provide them with a list of topics to choose from if they are having trouble coming up with something to say. You can also use pictures or other visual aids to help jog their memory if they are having trouble recalling a certain word or event.

Cognitive-communication deficits can be challenging, but with the right support, you or your child can make significant progress. Just remember to be patient, encourage their efforts, and provide opportunities for practice. With time and effort, your child will develop the skills they need to communicate effectively.

At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.

I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.



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