A brain injury can be a life-changing event. There are two types of brain injury: traumatic and non-traumatic. Traumatic is caused by an external event such as a car accident or a fall, while non-traumatic brain injuries occur as a result of an event inside your body, like a stroke.
Regardless of the type, when a brain injury occurs, your ability to speak, think, chew or swallow may be affected. Speech therapy is critical in restoring these skills and learning strategies to compensate for any deficits.
What speech disorders occur after a brain injury?
The most common disorders accompanying a brain injury are Dysarthia, Dysphagia, Cognitive-Linguistic Disorder, Aphasia and Apraxia.
Dysarthria occurs when you have difficulty controlling the muscles used for speech. The inability to control these muscles may cause reduced movement of your lips, tongue and soft palate and problems managing the airflow from your lungs when speaking. Symptoms of dysarthria include slurred or slowed speech that is difficult to understand or difficulty producing varied patterns in tone when speaking.
Dysphagia occurs when there is weakness in the muscle used in swallowing and/or when the natural timing and coordination of swallowing is impaired.
Cognition refers to thinking processes that include attention, memory, and executive functioning. A cognitive linguistic disorder may affect your ability to remember important information, reason, or problem solve.
Aphasia is impaired ability to express or understand language. It may also affect your ability to read or write. Aphasia occurs when the left-side portions of your brain responsible for language are damaged.
Apraxia of Speech
Apraxia of Speech is a motor speech disorder caused by the brain’s inability to control the muscles used to speak or the muscles of the lips or tongue. Symptoms of apraxia of speech include an impaired ability to say sounds correctly.
How does speech therapy treat brain injury?
The good news is that speech therapy can treat brain injury and help your recovery in two ways:
1) Restorative therapy: the goal of restoration is to improve the strength of the muscles and coordination needed for speech and swallowing or improve the neuronal connections needed for cognitive linguistic tasks.
2) Compensatory therapy: the goal of compensation is to support speaking, swallowing, and language through implementation of strategies that improve daily life.
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) at Penn Therapy & Fitness will design a therapy program to help improve your abilities impacted by brain injury. We work to help you regain speaking, swallowing, communication, and cognitive skills that will support your goals in your home environment.
Depending on your diagnosis, your SLP may use exercises to:
- Help you speak louder
- Strengthen or coordinate your mouth, tongue, jaw and throat muscles
- Improve your memory
- Improve organization and problem-solving
- Retrain your swallowing function
- Help you say words clearly
- Enhance your word choice and tone
- Integrate augmentative communication like text-to-speech apps
- Incorporate low-tech communication tools like a whiteboard, images or pen and paper