Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs because of a violent blow to the head. TBI can range from a mild injury to a severe one depending on the extent of damage to the brain cells. Temporary damage to brain cells causes milder trauma. Severe damage to the brain may lead to extensive bleeding, torn tissues, damage to the brain, etc. These severe injuries can cause long-term complications that can lead to death or permanent deformation.
Effect of brain injury on communication
In case of severe brain injury, if the area of the brain responsible for communication is affected, then there are chances the patient might lose his/her ability to communicate. These effects may be temporary, and the patient may recover from such effects over time. Sometimes, when the damage is extremely severe, the communication defect may be permanent.
The communication defects that a patient can experience include language impairment, difficulty in speech, or cognitive difficulties like losing the conversation thread, forgetting words, non-coordinated talks, etc. These issues depend on the part of the brain that is affected. Damage to the frontal lobe affects language production. The temporal lobe affects language understanding.
Importance of speech-language treatment for TBI patients
In traumatic brain injury, depending on the affected part of the brain, the patient tends to lose some of their regular body function. The speech-language therapist performs tests to evaluate the TBI patient. This helps them to understand the patient’s condition and accordingly work with them to develop their abilities. They help the patients learn to communicate with the world in different ways if their language skills are affected.
Treatment plan by a speech-language pathologist for TBI patients
The treatment plan for the patient depends on his/her condition and the extent of brain tissue damage. The treatment plan may include the following.
- Early recovery stage: In this stage, the patient is in a coma. The main focus of the treatment is to obtain the patient’s general response to the sensory stimulations. The speech-language pathologist also educates the patient’s family members on how to interact with their recovering member.
- Aware stage: In this stage, the pathologist helps patients in reducing their confusion. They orient them to the situation by making them understand what happened to them and where they are.
- Recovery stage: In this stage, the therapist finds different methods to improve the patient’s memory. They plan out small group activities that help in developing social skills.
- Continued treatment: Depending on the patient’s condition, the therapist can continue with the speech-language therapy by helping the patient improve their language, speech, swallowing skills, etc.
Speech therapy as part of brain injury recovery
There are different ways speech-language therapy can help a patient with traumatic brain injury for their recovery. These include:
- Therapy for Dysarthria: Brain nerve damage leads to impairment of speech. This therapy for dysarthria helps the patient coordinate the tongue and lip movements, improve breath support, and strengthen muscles of the mouth, tongue, jaw, and throat.
- Therapy for Apraxia: The patients struggling with syllables and their sounds cannot form the words. This therapy helps the patient in improving their speech and pronunciation. In severe cases, they train the patient to use an augmentative communication device.
- Improve memory: This therapy helps patients with calendars, memory logs, and other tools to improve their memory.
- Improve social language: Traumatic brain injury patients may have to learn skills to compensate for facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact to improve their communications.
- Improve cognitive-communication skills: TBI patients may suffer from short-term memory loss of attention. As part of the recovery process, speech therapists help them learn strategies to improve their cognitive process, recall names and numbers, recall proper sequence, safety precautions, maintain attention, problem-solving strategy, etc.
- Compensatory strategy training: This training helps focus on the patient’s remaining skills and improve or maximize those. The compensatory strategy training aids the patients to gain confidence and to connect to the people.
Depending on the type of brain injury, some of the essential functions of the patient might be affected. As patients start the recovery process, the speech-language therapist helps them enhance their thinking, memory, and other skills. Developing these skills helps patients gain their confidence and leads to improvement in their functioning.