Traumatic brain injury refers to damage to the brain not due to disease, toxins or malformation. These injuries tend to involve a brain injury which either penetrates the skull (such as a gunshot wound) or fails to penetrate the skull (such as hitting the head against a car windscreen). Depending on what parts of the brain were injured physical problems like headaches, nausea and seizures may be common. Early symptoms may resolve quickly while other symptoms may appear only at late stages of recovery and subtly persist.
Cognitive symptoms (problems with thinking and memory) are often present, affecting concentration levels, memory, organization and problem solving processes. These impairments can lead to increased difficulties with social or practical aspects of everyday communication. People with Traumatic Brain Injury may struggle to maintain a topic during conversation, inappropriately speak out of turn, or have difficulty appreciating the use of humor or metaphor. Depending on which part of the brain is damaged speech or swallowing may also be impaired due to underlying weakness or incoordination in the activation signals running from the brain to the muscles used for speech and swallowing.
A speech-language pathologist will assess people with Traumatic Brain Injury to determine whether communication, or the muscles used for speech, swallowing and voicing are affected. Typically this assessment will include oral examination, patient interview, standardized testing and instrumental testing (e.g. Nasoendoscopy or Spirometry). Treatments include a range of behavioral interventions and software programs developed to re-train impaired aspects of cognition (memory and thinking) to support effective communication and to maximize opportunities for social, occupational and community participation. Other approaches include developing strategies to accommodate impairment or the use of assistive or augmentative devices to facilitate communication and to meet the patients individualized communication goals.
The Speech-Language Institute at Midwestern University offers assessment and treatment of impairments associated with Traumatic Brain Injury in children, adolescents, and adults. Professors with expertise in Traumatic Brain Injury work with graduate student clinicians to assess and remediate communication and swallowing disorders.
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