Has your child been diagnosed with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)? Here is some basic information about TBI and Language.

What is TBI?

  • Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is any injury to the brain caused by a blow to the head. Depending on the size and location of the injury, TBI can cause many different physical, psychological, and cognitive difficulties. These can lead to difficulties with communication and language.
  • Some TBIs result from penetrating injuries, in which an object enters the brain and causes damage at a specific location.

  • Other TBIs are caused by closed head injuries, such as hitting the head during a car accident or a fall.


How will TBI affect my child's communication?

Different parts of language and communication are stored in different parts of the brain. This means that different kinds and amounts of damage to the brain affect communication very differently. However, there are some common patterns of communication difficulties that you might see:

  • Physical: Our brain manages and helps maintain the strength of all our muscles. This means that brain injuries can cause muscle weakness, paralysis or lack of coordination, including for the muscles we use for speech. When this happens, the injured person may have trouble speaking loudly or clearly enough to be understood.
  • Word finding: Sometimes the injured person has trouble finding the words they need to say what they want to say. This doesn't necessarily mean they don't know what they want to say, or that they don't know the words. Usually vocabulary is not affected by TBI. The problem is in recalling the words when they are needed. A person with a TBI may also have trouble with other kinds of expression, such as spelling and writing.
  • Comprehension (understanding): Sometimes the injured person has trouble understanding what is said to them. Especially if information is being exchanged quickly, the injured person might not be able to keep up. A person with TBI may also have trouble understanding written language.
  • Social Language (Pragmatics): "Pragmatics" refers to our use of language in social situations, and our understanding of the rules of what to say and what not to say, how and when to say it. People with TBI often have trouble with this part of communication. They may interrupt, use inappropriate tones of voice, or say rude things without understanding that they are doing anything wrong. Because they are sometimes unable to understand how things like tone of voice, body language or facial expression add meaning to the words we say, people with TBI may not understand figures of speech, humor or important emotional messages.
  • Emotion in Communication: Sometimes a TBI can effect the way the injured person feels and expresses emotions. Depending on the injury, the individual may seem to have no emotion, or may have intense emotions that change quickly. For friends and family of people with TBI, these dramatic mood swings can sometimes be alarming and upsetting.


Will my child recover?

Brain injuries vary widely and may be mild or very severe. Your child's team of medical professionals will be able to tell you more about what to expect.

Speech-Language Pathaologists (Speech therapists) have many techniques that can improve your child's ability to communicate. Speech Language Therapy should also provide support, training and information to family and other caregivers.



Where can I find more information about TBI?

Follow the links below to find more in-depth information about TBI.

(this page has an FAQ section translated into many languages)