Speech and Language Pathologists and TBI

We’ve long established that we received terrible doctor’s care early in Jason’s journey with TBI. We did our best to ask for some referrals from our doctor but because Jason’s symptoms were so “mild” we never thought of asking for a speech and language pathologist assessment and even then it was for some swallowing issues and not at all related to the cognitive symptoms we noticed. We were blessed with two SLP’s who were each kind and wise and opened our eyes to their importance. Even if you haven’t noticed specific speech issues please take a moment to read about our experiences and consider your situation.

Treatment type: Speech and Language Pathology

How to find: https://www.osla.on.ca/

Price: in a hospital setting covered by OHIP, private often $100-150.00 an hour. There are some funding options available here.

Credentials: Look for someone that is registered with the College of Augiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario

What is it? From the OSLA

Often taken for granted, the ability to communicate effectively is essential to achieve and maintain quality of life. Speech, language and associated cognitive disorders can adversely affect academic performance, workforce integration, and social interaction. Treatments that speech-language pathologists are uniquely qualified to provide can help individuals with expressive and receptive language, articulation, fluency, voice, resonance and cognitive communication disorders (e.g., memory, organization, problem solving) reach their full communicative potential.

Also of concern, individuals with untreated swallowing disorders can find themselves at risk of dehydration, malnutrition, and pulmonary compromise. Speech-language pathologists are trained to provide therapies that lead to improved swallowing safety, function, and independence.

As a result, referral to speech-language pathology services ensures early identification and management of both communication and swallowing disorders, which in turn enables maximal social, academic, and vocational integration.”

Their website also has a section specifically about SLP and acquired brain injury – please take some time to read it and understand their massively underestimated skill set!

Notes from our assessment:

The first SLP Jason had the chance to meet was focused on swallowing issues he was having. He would often have trouble swallowing dense foods and occasionally vomited in his sleep which finally convinced his doctor to refer out.

This first SLP was flabbergasted that Jason had not been referred earlier in his recovery as most TBI cases with as much damage as he had are offered 2 sessions a week with a speech language pathologist for at least the first 6 months of recovery. She completed a long and thorough assessment to determine if further testing was needed. Given it was only a few foods that seemed to cause problems she elected to spend the rest of her session counselling Jason on appropriate self care post TBI.

Shortly after Jason was accepted to Toronto Rehab and had the chance to work with an SLP once a week. We were delighted to learn that even though we hadn’t noticed any issues with pronouncing words there was still work to be done. Jason spent most of his sessions working on strategies for word recall (an issue he often struggled with but no one cared about until then). He was given work sheets to complete at home for grammar and focusing on words. He and his SLP and a student practiced carrying on “meetings” and worked on strategies to help him make notes while also participating in the meeting. Have you ever thought about how glorious our brains are that they can take in information, create our own opinion, voice that opinion and still remember what was said before we spoke? It’s amazing and takes work and practice and this SLP allowed him time to work on these skills without the pressure of being fired at work.

Jason was tasked with creating a power point presentation similar to something he would create at work and then presented to his team. His SLP provided feedback on the experience, word choice, how to find his place in a presentation if he got off track.

I’m still in awe of these professionals that have so many skills and solutions to help their clients reestablish their communication skills. I’m grateful for the time Jason spent with them and the many bits of knowledge they shared with us.