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The Speech-Language Pathologist's Role in Concussion Recovery

Updated: Aug 21, 2022




What is a concussion?


A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) that may cause cognitive, emotional, and/or physical changes. The vast majority of brain injuries (70-90%) are considered "mild". Symptoms typically improve within the first few weeks after the injury. However, approximately 15-20% of individuals experience difficulties past 12 weeks. They may be diagnosed with post-concussion symptoms/syndrome.


Post-Concussion Symptoms may include difficulties with the following:

For many, these post-concussion symptoms don't FEEL mild. They may impact their ability to complete daily tasks, return to work or school, or participate in social activities.



What are cognitive-communication deficits?


Changes in underlying cognitive functioning (i.e. attention, memory, reasoning, executive functioning) affect our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently. This includes understanding information, expressing yourself, reading, writing, and even socializing. These difficulties are called cognitive-communication deficits/difficulties.



So, what do these difficulties look like?


AUDITORY COMPREHENSION
  • Difficulty concentrating on what is being said, understanding long or complex statements

  • Trouble following conversation in a group setting

  • Difficulty understanding jokes or implied information

  • May misunderstand conversations


VERBAL EXPRESSION AND DISCOURSE
  • Trouble finding the right word or a good substitute quickly

  • Difficulty generating ideas or topics of conversation

  • Difficulty elaborating or having an in-depth conversation

  • Disorganized conversation, jumping around topics

  • Vague or missing important details


READING
  • Difficulty understanding sentences, paragraphs, or long texts

  • Attending to what is read, need to reread everything twice

  • Retaining read information over time





WRITING
  • Difficulty formulating ideas in writing

  • Spelling problems

  • Trouble organizing thoughts in writing

  • May take substantially longer to write as compared to before




PROBLEM-SOLVING, REASONING AND EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
  • Difficulty identifying important information and irrelevant information

  • Trouble generating alternative solutions

  • Difficulty with planning, organizing, and prioritizing tasks

  • Struggling with weighing options and decision-making

  • Trouble with summarizing or identifying the main point


SOCIAL COMMUNICATION
  • Difficulty perceiving nonverbal cues (gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language)

  • Trouble taking turns, interrupting, or dominating the conversation

  • Long-winded, rambling or verbose conversation

  • Tangential or off topic in conversation

  • Socially inappropriate comments or topics


Are you having difficulty returning to school or work?


Those who experience a concussion or brain injury often report difficulty with returning to work or school.


Studies have shown that 46% report high levels of academic problems after their concussion (Brown et al., 2019; Norman et al., 2019) These difficulties may include paying attention in class, understanding and remembering information from lectures, reading and retaining information from articles and texts, or planning and organizing written work.


After a concussion, 12-30% have difficulties with returning to work (De Koening et al., 2017; Doctor et al., 2005; Bloom et al., 2017).

At work, challenges may include focusing and listening during meetings, reading and editing reports, talking on the phone or during videoconferencing calls, interacting with customers or coworkers, or giving instructions or directions.


How can the Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) at Neuro Connections help?


Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are uniquely qualified to help people with complex communication issues that often arise as a result of changes in cognitive functioning following a concussion or brain injury.


At Neuro Connections, our Speech-Language Pathologists provide tailored assessments and personalized treatment plans that include:

  • Education

  • Collaborative goal-setting

  • Strategy instruction

  • Direct training and practice

  • Ongoing feedback and support

  • Communication partner training

  • Metacognitive strategy instruction

  • Real-life practice

Everyone has different school or work-related duties, relationships, home and family responsibilities, and community and recreational activities.

Therefore, everyone’s treatment plan looks different.

We incorporate the principles of neuroplasticity in order to optimize rehabilitation and recovery to achieve the greatest outcomes.


If you're not sure if you or your loved one is experiencing cognitive or communication difficulties, complete the Cognitive-Communication Checklist for Acquired Brain Injury (CCCABI) here

The CCCABI is a referral tool designed to help flag communication difficulties after brain injury that require a referral to a Speech-Language Pathologist and does not replace a thorough SLP assessment or provide a diagnosis.


Or, take our quick cognitive-communication screener and schedule a 15 minute free consultation with Danielle to discuss your concerns, answer your questions, and advise how we can help.


Contact us today at info@neuroconnections.ca to learn more. Servicing all individuals in Ontario through teletherapy and in person in the Greater Toronto Area.



Resources


For more information on the SLPs role in cognitive-communication, see CASLPO's (College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario) Practice Standards and Guidelines for Acquired Cognitive-Communication Disorders. .http://www.caslpo.com/sites/default/uploads/files/PSG_EN_Acquired_Cognitive_Communication_Disorders.pdf


Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC) describes the role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Concussion Management.

https://www.sac-oac.ca/sites/default/files/SAC_S-LPs_in_Concussion_Management_Position_Statement_EN.pdf


The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) has developed guidelines for the management of persisting symptoms of concussion/mTBI. Speech-Language Pathologists were involved in the development of these guidelines.

https://braininjuryguidelines.org/concussion/


The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) offers concussion support groups as well as a free concussion hotline 1-800-263-5405.

https://obia.ca/

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