Language: Common Brain Injury Deficits

Understanding and using language is another common problem that brain injury survivors might face after their injury. One kind of problem might be finding the right words. Another kind of problem may occur when the patient has trouble following conversations. A third kind of problem might come with anticipating the end of a sentence.


Relearning how to use and understand language can be as difficult as doing so with a foreign language to brain injury survivors. Rehabilitation must take language problems into account. (Flickr / Creative Commons / jurek d.)

One may start to say a sentence and then trail off. Traumatic brain injury can also cause slurred or delayed speech. Aphasia is difficulty understanding or producing speech, while dysarthria is slurred speech consequent to weak muscles. Apraxia is the term for difficulty in programming oral muscles for speech production.

It may be harder for TBI patients to comprehend written and spoken languages. It may seem like a foreign language to them. They may have to relearn some of the things that they knew before the injury.

Spelling, writing, and reading may pose problems, making it difficult for TBI patients to sometimes return to school or some kinds of work. Social conversation might also pose a problem, like taking turns in conversation or maintaining a topic of discussion. It may also be hard for the patient his or herself to notice that they are having such difficulties.

This is where a speech-language pathologist may help. Lori claims that she learned what she didn’t know when she was in her speech pathologist’s care. She admired the intelligence of her speech pathologist and wanted to be as intelligent as her. Lori even claimed to read the dictionary and thesaurus, ideas that stemmed from going to speech pathology. Although not everyone will go to the extreme of reading the dictionary, the value of speech pathology is quite apparent in Lori’s testimony.

The problems with using and understanding language may come from difficulty with information processing. It can also occur due to localized damage to the frontal or temporal areas, but many times it is associated with that information processing deficiency. Read our blog about information processing deficits here. Memory is another issue that depends on the capacity to process information. The ability to use and understand language improves as attention improves over time. Focused attention starts to be regained, and distractions can start to be ignored.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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