March is Brain Injury Awareness Month: Recognizing the Value of Speech Therapy in Addressing and Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month: Recognizing the Value of Speech Therapy in Addressing and Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries

Did you know?

  • 5.3 million people in the U.S. are currently living with a permanent brain-related disability and individuals cope daily with the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Serious TBI rates are higher for men than for women. 
  • TBI causes damage to the brain that can result in communication problems — virtual speech therapy can help.

Causes and Impact of TBI on Communication Skills

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a chronic neurological condition that is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, and everyone’s experience is different. TBI is defined as an alteration in brain function or other evidence of brain pathology.

Most commonly, people get a TBI from a fall, firearm-related injury, motor vehicle accident or an assault. Some accidents such as explosions, natural disasters or other extreme events can also cause TBI. In fact, falls are the leading cause of TBI for older adults. Many people associate the term concussion with a type of mild TBI that may be considered a temporary injury to the brain but could take as long as several months to heal. 

Of the estimated 1.7 to 3.8 million traumatic brain injuries each year in the United States, the CDC reports that 10 percent arise due to sports and recreational activities. According to a 2016 study, more than 40% of retired NFL players demonstrated signs of traumatic brain injury based on MRI scans.

Regardless of the cause, TBI can affect speech, language and thinking abilities. Common communication issues can include new challenges to making oneself understood, often the result of weakened speech muscles or less control when forming words. Individuals may also develop issues in finding the right words to communicate what they feel or need.  

Role of Speech-Language Pathologists

A team of professionals, including a speech-language pathologist (SLP) also called a speech therapist, will be involved in ongoing care following a TBI, working alongside other professionals, like rehabilitation counselors, to help people get back to school or work. 

Speech therapy starts from the early stages of recovery to assess the neurological damage and changes that have occurred. SLPs create an individualized treatment plan based upon goals and needs that enable each person to:

  • express thoughts more effectively
  • better understand what they read
  • improve attention during daily tasks and activities
  • improve memory using tools like memory books, picture boards, calendars or computers.  
  • improve problem-solving, planning, and organization skills
  • work on social skills, including reading social cues and taking turns in conversation.

Value of Virtual Speech Therapy

Virtual speech therapy treatment plans enable patients to access care in the comfort of their own home.  This eliminates many of the common issues that TBI patients and families encounter, including navigating social situations and transportation concerns.

Licensed speech therapists are trained to meet patients where they are in their recovery process. This includes children who may sustain TBI after falling off a bicycle or other injury. Many children are still developing their communication skills and might be unable to let others know that they feel different following a blow to the head. Older adults who may be experiencing TBI after a fall could have diseases or conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s that further exacerbate the speech problems related to TBI.

Unique to the Great Speech approach are capabilities for patient-matching utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology: pairing patients with a speech therapist within their network who is most qualified to address a specific condition, such as TBI. The program also features a hybrid care plan model of synchronous live 1:1 sessions with a therapist and asynchronous access to the Company’s practice portal where patients can complete “homework” assignments that help extend the value of their live sessions and more rapidly attain their speech goals.

Insurance Coverage for Virtual Speech Therapy

The good news is that select programs for virtual speech therapy, such as Great Speech, are now offering access to care and in-network coverage for services. This includes commercial plans and Medicare Advantage, with Great Speech the only exclusive virtual speech therapy company that has been approved for participation with Medicare.

Become an Advocate!

We encourage individuals with TBI to seek support by working with a licensed speech therapist. This is a great way to be an advocate during Brain Injury Awareness Month.

If you or your loved one is experiencing difficulties with communication skills following a traumatic brain injury, schedule a free introductory call today to learn how Great Speech can help.