A brain injury can have a wide range of effects on a person’s communication just as it can have a person’s physical abilities. The area of the brain affected will give some indication of the effects of the injury on communication. For example, Broca’s area in the brain is responsible for language production and Wernicke’s area is responsible for language comprehension therefore impact on these areas will affect language. The left hemisphere of the brain tends to be responsible for production of the words and sentences while impact on the right hemisphere often affects other components of language such as story planning and social language components like greetings and facial expressions. This article aims to promote brain injury awareness by exploring some of the ways brain injury can affect the ability to communicate through speech and language.
Common communication problems post injury
Dysarthria of Speech is a motor disorder that affects an individual’s ability to action the set of motor movements required to produce a sound word or sentence in order to communicate due to muscular weakness. Speech is often slurred however apart from the sounds, the individual’s communication is coherent and they are able to understand what their communication partner is telling them if there is no other commorbid diagnosis.
Dyspraxia or Apraxia
Apraxia of speech is a motor planning disorder that affects an individual’s ability to plan the motor movements required to produce a sounds or multiple sounds within a word. They are unable to coordinate their lips, tongue and palate in an accurate and timely manner to create the correct sounds and chain the sounds together in order to produce a word. They may produce a word correctly in on one trail then will produce a different sounding word on the next trial. If there is no other commorbid diagnosis, their muscular strength is often normal.
Dysphasia or Aphasia
Dysphasia or Aphasia can affect either a person’s understanding (receptive) or their ability to produce a word or coherent sentence (expressive). If the person has receptive form of aphasia, they may have difficulty following instructions such as ‘point to the table’ or comprehending questions such as ‘Do you need to go to the bathroom’. If the person has an expressive form of aphasia they may have difficulty recalling a word or stringing together a sentence and instead produce a word that has a similar meaning or sound to the word intended. They may also produce telegraphic speech that only has key words such as ‘go car’ which is common in Broca’s aphasia or nonsense sentences such as ‘may car bright of cure’ which is common in Wernicke’s aphasia due to difficulties comprehending and monitoring their own verbal speech output.
Cognitive communication disorders due to right hemisphere damage
Individuals that have sustained damage to the right hemisphere of their brain will present with communication disorders liked to difficulties with attention, reasoning and problem solving, memory recall and orientation of time and place. They also have with social/pragmatic communication such as interpreting abstract language such as metaphors, making inferences, and understanding jokes; and problems understanding nonverbal cues and following the rules of communication (e.g., saying inappropriate things, not using facial expressions, talking at the wrong time). These individuals may also experience difficulties systematically arranging information and planning such as trouble telling a story with events in the right order, giving directions, or maintaining a topic during conversation.
Many people experience these language difficulties and with the help of a speech pathologist to diagnose and provide appropriate treatment, they are able to overcome their communication barriers. The majority of recovery happens in the first 6 months post injury however further improvements are still possible after this period.
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have questions about language activities, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.