March 4th marks National Brain Injury Awareness Day. This is a very important day, as more than 5.3 million Americans are living with some kind of permanent disability related to a brain injury. Many of these injuries have been caused by stroke, infectious disease, or brain tumor. However, this figure also includes concussions, which are also referred to as mild traumatic brain injuries.
While most people never anticipate that their lives will be impacted by a brain injury, it is reported that at least 3.6 million individuals suffer a brain injury every year in the United States. Bringing awareness to brain injuries, how they occur, how they can be prevented, and how they can affect an individual’s daily life, is of great importance. Awareness and education surrounding brain injuries can go a long way toward preventing future injuries and reducing the number of instances that result in brain damage of some kind.
Brain injuries can affect people of all ages, ethnicities, and genders, can occur in an instant and can have significant effects on daily life, independence, and speech, language, and communication skills. These effects can last a lifetime in some cases, and can often leave individuals feeling lonely, anxious, depressed, and struggling to cope.
At Great Speech, we are committed to driving change, increasing accessibility, and bringing awareness to help support Americans that have been affected by a brain injury. Speech therapy can be one of the most beneficial resources for anyone who is recovering from a brain injury, and bringing our services to our online platform makes speech therapy more accessible than ever. You can get started with Great Speech by simply scheduling your free introductory call today!
How Do Brain Injuries Affect Speech?
Because our brains control everything that we do, a brain injury can result in a wide variety of problems and challenges. The severity and number of symptoms can vary widely, and depend on the location and seriousness of the injury. It is common for an individual who has suffered a brain injury to experience some or all of the following effects on speech:
Muscle Weakness – Speech can be difficult to understand due to muscle weakness (dysarthria), or an inability to control the muscles responsible for speech production (apraxia of speech.)
Difficulties with Thinking Skills – This can include challenges related to maintaining focus and attention, memory and recall, problem-solving, goal setting, learning new skills and information, and planning and organization.
Comprehension Challenges – This can include difficulties understanding what is being said or what the individual is reading.
Memory, Recall, and Word Retrieval – The individual may have difficulty recalling certain information, remembering information, or retrieving the appropriate word when speaking.
Social Communication Issues – This can include problems related to following conversational and social norms (such as taking turns when speaking,) as well as understanding and interpreting non-verbal cues (such as a nod or a shoulder shrug.)
What Types of Brain Injuries Affect Speech?
Some examples of traumatic brain injuries that affect speech include:
Traumatic Brain Injury: A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a significant change in brain function as a result of an external force. Traumatic impact injuries are classified as closed (also referred to as non-penetrating) or open (penetrating). Some common examples of a TBI include:
- Sports Injuries
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
Non-Traumatic Brain Injury: Frequently referred to as an ABI (acquired brain injury,) a non-traumatic brain injury results in damage to the brain by internal factors, such as a lack of oxygen, toxin exposure, or pressure from a tumor. Some common examples of NTBI or ABI include:
- Brain Aneurysm
- Brain Tumor
- An Infectious Disease Affecting the Brain (meningitis, for example)
- Lack of Oxygen to the Brain (heart attack, for example)
Both of these types of brain injuries can have serious effects on speech, language, and communication. How severely these skills are affected depends on the location and seriousness of the injury. If you or a loved one is struggling to communicate due to a brain injury, get started with speech therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Speech Therapy for Brain Injury Recovery
Speech therapy is an essential part of the brain injury recovery process. In the early stages of treatment, shortly after the injury occurred, speech therapy will focus on regaining and strengthening basic skills. This can include working with the individual to improve their attention and focus, as well as working to reduce instances of confusion and disorientation. The speech therapist will also help the individual to improve speech and voice production at this stage of recovery.
As the individual continues to heal and recover, speech therapy will move on to focus on other areas. This stage of recovery often includes working on problem-solving strategies, as well as memory and reasoning skills. This is also a good time to facilitate opportunities for the individual to practice conversing with others, and strengthening conversation and listening skills.
As speech therapy continues into the later stages of brain injury recovery, the speech and language pathologist may work on further improving communication skills and boosting confidence by encouraging the individual to practice communicating in group settings or public places, where distractions and stimulation are more frequent. They will also continue to work with the individual to further improve their memory and recall, speech and language production, and increase their confidence and independence.
The Bottom Line
Communication problems related to brain injuries are incredibly common and can have long-lasting and profound effects on daily life and the individuals’ ability to succeed in professional, social, and academic situations. With March 4th being National Brain Injury Awareness Day, bringing education and awareness to this medical condition can go a long way towards improving accessibility and reducing the instances of these injuries. At Great Speech, we are proud to offer highly accessible virtual speech therapy services and are always working to support the communities we serve. If you or a loved one is struggling with communication as a result of a brain injury, help is available. Get started with one of our specialized speech and language pathologists by scheduling your free introductory call today!