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Spoken communication with an ABI fact sheet

Spoken communication in students with an acquired brain injury

Following a brain injury, students may have difficulty speaking or their speech may be difficult to understand. These difficulties often result from motor speech disorders. They are known as ‘motor speech disorders’ because it is the muscles involved in speech that have been affected.

How do I know if my student is having difficulties with their spoken communication?

Signs include:

  • Slurring of speech.
  • Increased or decreased volume.
  • Impaired voice quality ie, hoarse, nasal, strained or breathy quality.
  • Slow or rapid speech rate.
  • Abnormal intonation patterns due to decreased pitch variation ie. sound ‘monotone’.

What can I do to help my student overcome difficulties with spoken communication?

Speech difficulties can be extremely frustrating for students so it is important that they do not become discouraged and stop trying to communicate.

  • Ask the student to slow down their rate of speech.
  • Give praise when a student is able make themselves sound clearer.
  • Sometimes smaller sentences are easier for the listener to understand. Encourage the student to break information into smaller chunks such as who or what it is about, when it happened, why it happened and what happened next.
  • Tell the student what information you have understood and what you need repeated or clarified so they do not have to give all the information again. For example, “I think you’re talking about ……. Is that right?……. I’m not sure about….can you tell me again.”
  • Ask the student to show you what it is that they want.

Contact us

Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service
Queensland Children’s Hospital
Level 6, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane 4101
t: 07 3068 2950
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
f: 07 3068 3909

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Developed by the Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, Children’s Health Queensland. Updated: October 2017. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.