A moderate to severe brain injury can change the course of someone’s life in mere seconds.
Car crashes are one of the most common sources of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Other causes can include falls, blows to the head, oxygen deprivation (as in drowning), and even shockwaves from military devices.
Depending on the specifics of the injury, a person may have to re-learn how to speak, accomplish tasks, and live safely. Brain injury recovery is a long and often difficult road, but having a qualified speech therapist by your side can make all the difference.
Speech therapists can help patients overcome the slurred speech that often comes with a brain injury. There are many other ways they can help as well. Read on to learn about the benefits of speech therapy in brain injury recovery.
Addressing Physical Speech Difficulties
What causes slurred speech after a car accident? Often, it’s due to damage in Broca’s area, the part of the brain that tells your mouth how to move when you talk. This condition is known as Broca’s aphasia. It causes people to forget how to physically say words even though they understand speech.
There are countless other slurred speech causes as well. It isn’t always possible to pinpoint the exact reason for speech difficulties after a brain injury.
Some injuries can result in dysarthria (slurred, quiet, mumbled, or unintelligible speech). Others lead to apraxia (inability to sequence words or sounds correctly). People with these conditions may also have trouble eating and swallowing.
Speech therapists can address this issue with physical mouth exercises. They’ll work to strengthen and re-train the tongue, lip, jaw, and throat muscles. Then, they’ll practice saying words slowly, one sound at a time, until it becomes easier.
If the affected person is still unable to speak, a therapist may teach them how to use a letter board, picture board, or digital system to communicate.
Addressing Social Communication
If a person is having trouble reading, following conversations, or understanding language expressions, speech therapy can help with that, too. After a brain injury, this kind of problem is often due to damage in Wernicke’s area. This is the main part of the brain responsible for language comprehension.
People with this type of injury can feel isolated from the world around them. They know that people are trying to communicate with them, but they may have trouble understanding words or figuring out how to respond.
Speech therapy treatment for Wernicke’s aphasia focuses a lot on context clues. They may point to objects or practice using gestures to communicate a concept. Pictures are also helpful for building word associations.
For less severe impairments, the focus will be on learning how to use and interpret nonverbal communication. One-on-one or small group settings allow patients to practice their tone of voice, eye contact, and facial expressions.
Problem-Solving and Organizational Skills
Some brain injuries damage the areas that control executive function. When this happens, a person can begin to have trouble with problem-solving and organization. Here are some things they may have difficulty with, followed by examples.
- Time management: missing appointments, not taking meds on time
- Memory: forgetting important tasks or things people say
- Concentration: inability to focus, even on fun things
- Attention: getting distracted and leaving the stove on or the door open
- Planning: unable to organize priorities or anticipate future needs
- Emotional regulation: rapid mood swings and lack of emotional awareness
- Impulsivity: jumping into action on a whim without considering consequences
- Processing: taking much longer than normal to learn or understand concepts
Treatment for these issues starts by helping the affected person recognize their deficits. Being aware of and accepting your new shortcomings is the first step to overcoming them.
Then, they’ll teach the person a combination of cognitive exercises and coping strategies.
If the patient has trouble thinking ahead, they may play games that require you to strategize one turn ahead. If time management is a problem, they may practice with setting timers throughout the day. For those who struggle with memory, a therapist may teach them how to use sticky notes as reminders around the house.
Improving Awareness and Safety in Unfamiliar Environments
After a brain injury, an insurance company may decide that it’s safe for someone to go home after they can walk a certain distance and speak clearly. Unfortunately, even if it looks like it on paper, meeting these requirements doesn’t mean someone can live safely on their own.
Many times, TBIs can result in a person having decreased awareness of what’s going on around them. This can prove especially tragic when they’re alone, as a person out on a walk could stroll right into traffic without realizing the danger. Looking both ways before crossing the street is second nature to most of us, but after a brain injury, it’s easy to forget.
A speech therapist will give cognitive exercises to a patient with decreased awareness. Paying attention is a skill many of us take for granted, but it’s vital to practice.
Sessions may focus on remembering to look around and talking through how to navigate unfamiliar places. They might also roleplay through “what if” scenarios. This allows a person to practice their safety skills without the threat of real danger.
Using Speech Therapy in Brain Injury Recovery
Nothing about brain injury recovery is simple, but working with an experienced speech therapy team will help.
If you’re looking for a way to get involved with speech therapy, take a look at our online services. Our virtual appointments offer the same treatments you’d get at an in-person session. That means you’ll get all the healing benefits without having to worry about leaving the house.
Schedule an introductory call with us today to get started with a free consultation. We can’t wait to join you on the road to recovery.