One of the major challenges that can accompany a brain injury like a stroke or TBI is difficulty with communication. The person affected often knows exactly what they want to say but has trouble getting the proper words and/or sounds out. Understandably, this change can create feelings of frustration and anxiety.
However, there is good news for those looking to improve their communication skills! We often see some degree of spontaneous recovery of brain function after a stroke or brain injury, and the brain has amazing abilities to heal and compensate for damage over time. This means that some communication abilities may improve on their own, with speech-language therapy, and with consistent at-home practice. Further, just like your speech and language abilities can change over time, so can the way you communicate. With this in mind, it is important to remain patient, open-minded, and flexible to different communication approaches that may work for you. In fact, consider redefining what “normal” communication means.
When it is still difficult to get the words out, remember that the main goal of communication is to get your message across. Fortunately, speaking is not the only way to do this. In fact, most people use a range of communication approaches every day—we talk, change our tone of voice, point, wave, and use facial expressions. Practicing with different communication tools and techniques can allow you to adapt and actively participate in conversations throughout different stages of your recovery. Consider some of the following options. While changing your means of communication can be frustrating, there are strategies and tools that you can put into action to overcome the communication challenges that may come after stroke or brain injury.
Being a flexible communicator can be the key to maintaining relationships and an active social life after a stroke or brain injury. Once you have found strategies and tools that work for you, it may be helpful to educate your loved ones on how they can best help you implement this new means of communication. Check out our communication strategies handout to learn more! For even more information, explore the resources below.
Marissa Russell is a practicing speech-language pathologist clinical fellow serving English and Spanish-speaking patients at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital. She is also a Clinical and Scientific Consultant for Constant Therapy Health, where she is involved in content development, advisement on product features, and other app-related clinical support.