Speech Difficulties After a Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be generally defined as any injury to the head which damages the brain. A TBI can vary in severity and symptoms. If your child has suffered a TBI, you have likely noticed physical symptoms like dizziness and decreased coordination. TBIs also affect cognition and communication. TBIs are best treated by a team of professionals, which will likely include doctors, speech-language pathologists (SLPs), physical therapists, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists.
Types of TBI
There are two main categories of TBIs. A penetrating injury occurs when a foreign object is propelled into the brain. This causes localized damage. The patient will experience various symptoms that are associated with the area of the brain that was damaged.
With a closed head injury, a foreign object does not enter the brain, but the patient may suffer a skull fracture, blood clots, contusions, and lacerations due to the force that struck the head. For example, a child who falls down and hits his head on a stair might suffer a closed head injury. A closed head injury might also lead to secondary brain damage that evolves over time due to complications like increased intracranial pressure and brain swelling.
Some children with a traumatic brain injury have difficulty producing speech. They may have problems with voice production, or phonation, as well as sound production, or articulation. Breathing problems can also occur. Abnormal breathing may affect speech quality, causing the child to produce excessively “breathy” or labored speech.
A child with a TBI may have dysfluent speech, which means that he frequently repeats sounds, syllables, or words. Dysarthria may also occur due to weak oral motor muscles or problems controlling them. Dysarthria results in slowed or slurred speech that may be accompanied by poor articulation.
A child with a traumatic brain injury may experience language difficulties. He could have receptive language difficulties, which refers to his ability to understand spoken and written language. He could also have expressive language difficulties, which refers to his ability to use language to communicate. A child may also have a combination of the two language disorders.
Your child might display problems using the vocabulary he already knows, understanding figurative language, and following directions. He may be unable to take turns in a conversation or maintain a conversation. He might frequently switch topics or add irrelevant information. These issues are difficulties with pragmatic language, which refers to social skills as they apply to language. Speech therapy and other treatments may help your child recover his speech and language skills.