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Speech Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury: What to Expect

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can occur from a number of different causes including car accidents, slips and falls, sports injuries, and assault. While the effects of TBI can be minor or severe, all cases require some form of treatment. TBI can cause a wide range of impairments from changes in thinking and mood to difficulties with speech and language. If your loved one has suffered a TBI, you may be wondering what kind of help he or she will need for recovery and what to expect. This article will provide an overview of what TBI is, the different types of therapy and what you can expect.


In this article we will discuss:


An elderly suffering a brain traumatic injury

What is Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI)?

TBI is a type of brain injury that occurs when the head is hit by an object or when the head hits an object. This can cause the brain to swell, bleed, or be damaged in other ways.


The brain is made up of different parts that control different functions.

When the brain is injured, these functions can be affected. For instance, if the part of the brain that controls movement may be damaged, it can cause paralysis. Or, if the part of the brain that controls speech may be damaged, it can cause problems with communication.


There are two types of TBI:


Open Head Injury

This occurs when the skull is fractured or when an object penetrates the skull and enters the brain. A common example of open head injury occurs in a car accident when the driver’s head hits the steering wheel or dashboard.


Closed Head Injury

This occurs when the head is hit by an object but the skull is not fractured. Common causes of closed head injury include falls, sports injuries, and assault.


What are some common symptoms of TBI?

People with TBI may have difficulties functioning in their daily lives. Depending on the location of the brain injury, each person will experience unique symptoms. The symptoms can be divided into four categories: physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • headaches

  • dizziness

  • blurred vision

  • fatigue

  • sensitivity to light and sound

Cognitive symptoms may included:

  • difficulty thinking clearly

  • difficulty concentrating

  • difficulty remembering things


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Emotional symptoms may include:

  • irritability

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • mood swings

Sleep problems are common among people with TBI and can include:

  • insomnia

  • sleeping more than usual

What can cause TBI?

There are many causes of TBI. The most common are car accidents, falls, sports injuries, assault, and blast injuries from explosions.


How is TBI diagnosed?

If you think that you or your loved one has suffered a TBI, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. A TBI can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can vary so much from person to person and because some of the symptoms may not appear until days or weeks after the injury.


To diagnose a TBI, the doctor will ask about the circumstances of the injury and will do a physical examination. The doctor may also order some tests such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for signs of brain damage.


Doctors also use the Glasgow Coma Scale to measure the severity of a TBI. It ranges from 3 (severely injured) to 15 (no injury). The scale measures three things:

1. The patient’s level of consciousness, or how awake and alert the patient is

2. The patient’s ability to move his or her arms and legs

3. The patient’s ability to speak


The score is determined by adding up the points for each category. A score of 3 would indicate that the patient is in a coma, while a score of 15 would indicate that the patient has no injury. The Glasgow Coma Scale is used to help doctors determine the best treatment for a TBI.


Measuring the severity of a TBI

TBI is classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Mild TBI

Mild TBI is also called a concussion. Symptoms of mild TBI can last for a few days or weeks and may include headaches, dizziness, and problems with thinking and memory. Most people with mild TBI recover completely.


Moderate TBI

Moderate TBI is more serious than mild TBI and can cause problems that last for months or years. Symptoms of moderate TBI may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, problems with thinking and memory, and mood swings. Some people with moderate TBI make a full recovery, but others may have long-term problems.


Severe TBI

Severe TBI is the most serious type of TBI and can cause permanent brain damage. Symptoms of severe TBI may include coma, paralysis, and problems with thinking, memory, and mood. People with severe TBI often need lifelong care .


A girl inside an MRI

Stages of Recovery

After a TBI, it is common for people to go through different stages of recovery. The severity of the injury will affect how long it takes to recover and what kind of problems the person may have.


The first stage of recovery is called the acute stage. This is the period immediately after the injury when the person is in the hospital. The goal during this stage is to stabilize the person and treat any life-threatening injuries.


The next stage of recovery is called the rehabilitation stage. This is when the person begins to recover function and learn new skills. Rehabilitation may last for months or years and often includes physical, occupational, and speech therapy. This may involve speech therapy in the hospital or even private speech therapy in the home or in a private practice.


The final stage of recovery is called the community reintegration stage. This is when the person goes back to work, school, or other activities and starts to live independently again.


What are the long-term effects of TBI?

The long-term effects of TBI can vary depending on the severity of the injury and how well the person recovers. Some people make a full recovery, but others may have lifelong problems.

Some of the most common long-term effects of TBI include problems with:

  • thinking (cognition)

  • memory

  • attention

  • concentration

  • reasoning

  • judgment

  • decision making

  • emotions

  • mood swings

  • anxiety

  • depression

These problems can make it hard for people to live independently and do everyday activities such as work, school, and taking care of the house. Some people with TBI need lifelong care.

This is why it is important to seek rehabilition treatment right away after a TBI to help maximize recovery and reduce the risk of long-term problems.


Types of Therapy

There are many different types of therapy that can help people with TBI recover. During recovery, people may need physical, occupational, and speech therapy.


Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps people with TBI regain movement and strength. Physical therapists work with patients to help them regain the ability to walk, climb stairs, and perform other daily activities.


Physical therapy may also include exercises to help people with TBI regain balance, coordination, and range of motion.


Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy helps people with TBI learn how to do everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and dressing. Occupational therapists also teach people how to use adaptive equipment that can make daily activities easier.


Occupational therapy works to help people with TBI re-enter their community and resume activities that they enjoy. These activities include hobbies, sports, and social activities.


Speech Therapy

Adult speech therapy helps people with TBI regain the ability to speak clearly and understand what others are saying. Speech therapists also help people who have trouble eating or drinking because of swallowing problems. Swallowing therapy (dysphagia treatment) might be needed in order for an individual to eat or drink safely without aspirating (choking). Swallowing speech therapy can be very beneficial to returning to some semblance of normalcy when eating and drinking with others.


Speech rehabilitation after a traumatic brain injury can be a long and difficult process. However, with the help of a speech therapist, most people can regain their ability to speak clearly and understand others. Group speech therapy also exists, that can assist patients in feeling less alone as well as helping them build relationships while working towards their speech goals.


Communication disorders associated with Traumatic Brain Injury

Usually, those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) will experience some type of communication disorder. These are some of the communication disorders caused by TBI and its corresponding treatment:


Aphasia: Aphasia is a language disorder that affects the ability to comprehend and express language. Common treatment interventions include speech-language therapy, cognitive retraining, and conversation therapy.


Apraxia: Apraxia is difficulty in initiating or coordinating muscle movement necessary for speech production. Treatment interventions include speech-language therapy and intensive practice of articulation, prosody and intonation tasks.


Dysarthria: Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder caused by muscle weakness or paralysis. Treatment interventions include speech-language therapy focusing on articulation, prosody and intonation, cognitive retraining, voice therapy and exercises to improve oral-motor coordination.


Goals of Traumatic Brain Injury Speech Therapy

The goal of speech therapy for those with a traumatic brain injury is to help the patient regain their ability to communicate effectively. This area of therapy often encompasses aspects of both speech and language. Speech therapists work with patients to improve their articulation, language comprehension, and fluency. They also work on strategies for improving communication in social situations.


Speech therapists also help people with TBI develop a vocabulary and use it appropriately. They can also provide guidance on how to use adaptive technology such as computers, tablets and voice recognition software. Additionally, speech therapists may help people with TBI develop strategies for problem solving and decision making so that they can more effectively manage their lives.


A patient with TBI working with a speech therapist

Traumatic Brain Injury Speech Therapy Goals include:

Focusing on basic communication tasks such as talking, listening, and reading aloud.

Since patients suffering from a traumatic brain injury usually have difficulty processing information, it is important to keep communication tasks simple.


Using visual aids such as picture boards or flash cards to help the patient communicate.

Visual aids can be very helpful for patients with TBI, as they can provide a way for the patient to communicate without having to rely on their memory or processing abilities.

Teaching the patient alternative communication methods such as sign language or use of a computer.

If the patient is still having difficulty communicating after trying other methods, teaching them alternative communication methods can be very beneficial.

Working on cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and problem solving.

Cognitive skills are often impaired after a TBI, so working on these skills can help the patient greatly in their overall recovery.


Providing support and encouragement to the patient and their family.

The road to recovery after a TBI can be long and difficult, so it is important to provide support and encouragement to the patient and their family throughout the process.


Prevention is better than cure

There is no sure way to prevent TBI, but there are some things that you can do to lower your risk. For example, you can:

  • wear a seatbelt when you are driving or riding in a car

  • wear a helmet when you are riding a bike, motorcycle, or ATV

  • wear a helmet when you are playing contact sports such as football or hockey

  • use safety equipment such as guardrails when you are working with tools or machinery

  • take steps to prevent falls, such as using a step stool instead of standing on a chair

traumatic brain injury speech therapy activities

Activities you can do at Home

There are several activities that you can do at home to help improve speech and communication after a traumatic brain injury. These activities include:

  • Practicing using simple words and phrases.

  • Working on word-finding exercises such as anagrams or crossword puzzles.

  • Practicing sounds, syllables and sentences.

  • Playing games such as charades to help with conversation skills.

  • Reading aloud or having someone else read to you.

  • Using technology such as voice recognition software or picture boards to help with communication.

With the right support and guidance from a speech-language pathologist, people with TBI can make significant progress in their ability to communicate effectively. Speech and swallow therapy can help a person take back their life after TBI! Taking the time to practice these activities at home can help individuals improve their speech and language abilities even further.


Traumatic brain injury can cause communication challenges that may interfere with daily life activities. Speech therapy is an effective treatment option for those affected by TBI and provides a way for them to regain their ability to communicate and process information more effectively. With the help of speech therapy activities and adaptive technology, those with TBI can make progress in their communication skills and lead a more independent life. It is important to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of acquiring a traumatic brain injury and to provide support to those affected by it. Taking the time to practice speech therapy activities at home can also be beneficial for recovering individuals, as it will help them improve their language abilities further.

 

At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works. We have experts in your needs and assign the right therapist, not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. Having a traumatic brain injury can be difficult, but with the right support, you or your loved one can learn to lead a happy and successful life.


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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