Communicating with an Adult after brain injury

Communicating with an Adult after brain injury

Roberta DePompei, Ph.D. and Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

An acquired brain injury can affect a personís speech and language. Communication impairments can range from difficulty speaking, understanding language, reading and writing. Changes can be obvious or subtle. They can affect not only communication, but personal relationships, employment, and community participation. This tip card describes common communication impairments and disorders after brain trauma.

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Full Description

This tip card explains how reading, writing, speaking, conversing or gesturing can change after a head injury. It describes how speech can be affected as well as changes in expressive and receptive skills. Communication difficulties often appear in daily life rather than in formal tests. Detailed checklists help survivors and families identify communication challenges. There are practical tips for families on improving communication and finding help.

Pages 8
Year 2007, second printing


Roberta DePompei, Ph.D.

Dr. DePompei is Department Chairman, Professor and Clinical Supervisor at the Speech and Hearing Center at the University of Akron in Ohio.

An advocate of the needs of youths with brain injuries and their families, she is on numerous national task forces and committees. Widely published and a national and international presenter, Dr. DePompei specializes in the impact of brain injury upon speech, language and communication. She is especially interested in developing transitional opportunities for youth as they progress through school and prepare for adulthood.

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Ms Lash uses her social work experience and research in pediatric rehabilitation to develop sensitive and practical guides for families, educators, and professionals. Her specialty is helping families cope with the emotional impact of brain injury and developing strategies for negotiating the complex service system. Now President and Senior Editor of Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, she focuses on developing user friendly publications for families, educators, and clinicians.


This tip card helps families and professionals...

  • understand changes in communication
  • improve communication with a person†


Important Definitions

  • Communication
  • Speech
  • Language
  • Cognitive-Communication†
How Does a Brain Injury Affect Communication?
How Can Speech Be Affected?

Characteristics of Unclear Speech

What Are Language Problems?

  • Receptive skills
  • Expressive skills†

Are There Tests to Find Problems With Language?

What Types of Cognitive Communication Problems Can Exist?

Who Can Treat These Problems?

What Can Families and Friends Do to Help?

  • Tips for Improving Communication†
  • Ask yourself
  • Tips for what to do if you suspect problems with communication...



Sample excerpt. Preview only Ė please do not copy.


Reading, writing, speaking, conversing, gesturing Ė any of these can be affected when a person has a brain injury. Changes in a personís speech, language, or thinking can make it harder for a person with a brain injury to learn, have conversations and join social outings. This can result in a communication disorder.

How Does a Brain Injury Affect Communication?

An injury can affect areas of the brain that control producing speech, understanding what is said, or using words to make sentences and express ideas. This affects communication. Changes can lead to loss of friends, misunderstandings, or poor performance in school or on the job. The person with a communication disorder may feel frustrated, lonely, angry or depressed.

How Can Speech Be Affected?

Most individuals regain the ability to produce the sounds of speech and words after a brain injury. These skills usually improve as the person physically recovers. But it is more complex when the person has difficulties with paralysis, swallowing, or other types of motor incoordination.

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