Tag Archives: language

What Language Do You Speak?

 

There is an interesting phenomenon often observed in brain injury survivors who were bilingual to the extent of fluency prior to their injuries.  In these survivors who have post-injury language deficits the first (native) languages tend to return more quickly and fully than do their second languages.  This is true even in survivors who were fully fluent in a second language and used that second language extensively in their everyday lives.  As TLC is located in Texas, our staff tends to observe this phenomenon most often in Spanish-English bilingual patients.  Many of these patients now contending with language difficulties who learned English later in life find it far easier to name objects or follow directions when Spanish is used, while prior to their injuries they would have been comfortable using either language.

This return of the first language sooner than a second language can have a number of practical consequences.  Many survivors understandably become frustrated at an inability to speak that second language with the same skill once demonstrated.  Being bilingual is often a point of pride and may have previously allowed the survivor to excel in activities (such as import-export business transactions) that the average person could not.  This sudden significant skill gap may even prevent these survivors from returning to jobs in which a second language was utilized as a vital portion of everyday business life.  Moreover, if the survivor was previously the primary translator for the family this may cause difficulties in the family’s ability to interact with the outside world.  For example, the survivor may have previously served as point person to get information from school regarding a child’s performance as that survivor could easily speak to school officials (and the rest of the family may struggle with casual exchanges in English).  If the survivor is now unable to converse fluently in English, the family may now face significant problems interacting with the school.

There are also practical therapy concerns when a survivor struggles with a second language if that second language is the primary language used in the larger community.  In America, English is obviously the dominant language.  As such, most pre-therapy evaluations are conducted in English.  There are a limited number of health care professionals who are comfortable conducting evaluations in another language.  However, if a survivor’s first language is not English and that survivor is significantly stronger in his or her first language, that first language will need to be the language used in evaluations so as to get the most accurate measurements of the survivor’s skills.  The same is true in therapy.  If a survivor understands therapy directions significantly better in a first language, then therapy should be conducted in the survivor’s first language.    Additionally, therapists should always inquire as to which language is used in the home.  If the survivor’s first language is different than the language used at home (seen when someone who speaks both Spanish and English marries a spouse who only speaks English), then that second language will need extra focus or alternative methods of communication (e.g. pictures or hand signals) may need to be introduced.  At TLC, we have a number of Spanish-English bilingual staff and have a contract with a translation service if other help is needed.  Overall, rehabilitation professionals must be aware of survivors’ language skills and adjust evaluations and therapy accordingly.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center! Visit us at: http://tlcrehab.org/

 

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Hot Off the Press

Vital to the core mission of the Transitional Learning Center is the conducting of research designed to enhance understanding of and improve treatment strategies for brain injury. The result of this research finds its home in publication in a wide range of top professional journals and chapter after chapter in books relied upon by the traumatic brain injury treatment community. Recently, TLC staff neuropsychologists Drs. Dennis Zgaljardic and Matthew Lambert along with staff occupational therapist Rebekah Miller published a paper on the reliability and validity of a newer test to determine naming deficits. Difficulty with the naming of objects (for example: saying “fork” when you mean “pencil”), known as anomia, is not uncommon with patients who have brain injuries (particularly if the injury is to the left hemisphere of the brain). However since most tests of cognitive abilities are developed using members of the healthy population as a testing sample, it is unclear to what degree these tests might be appropriate when applied to other populations (such as patients with brain injuries). Identifying which tests should or should not be used with a brain injured population is an extremely important component of treatment. Using a test that is not appropriate for an individual with a brain injury can lead to misdiagnosis and based on that misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment.
The paper, titled Naming Test of the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery: Reliability and Validity in a Sample of Patients with Acquired Brain Injury, was published this past December in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology.  In the study, the researchers compared the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery (NAB) Naming test with various other neuropsychological tests. The Neuropsychological Assessment Battery is a relatively new group of tests designed to measure a wide range of cognitive skills including memory, attention and of course naming. For the NAB Naming test to be found appropriate for use in a brain injured population, the researchers first looked to see if the test scores correlated with scores on other similar tests that have been shown to be valid with such a population. For instance, a person who scores highly on the NAB Naming test should similarly do well on another naming test. The researchers found this to be true. Next, the researchers looked to see if the NAB Naming test scores were not correlated to unrelated tests. For example, a person’s score on the NAB Naming test should have nothing to do with his or her score on an attention task. This also was found to be true. Thus, the NAB Naming test was found to be an appropriate test to use with individuals who have brain injuries.

Below is a link to the paper abstract:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23714104

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org

Aphasia Advice

Aphasia, the loss of language skills, is relatively common after a brain injury to the left side of the brain.  The video below was created by a stroke survivor in order to give some tips on how best to communicate with someone who has aphasia.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-lot-of-people-find-it-hard-to-talk-to-laura-so-she-put-together-4-easy-tips-cg7-4a?c=ufb1

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org

Frankie Muniz

We usually associate having a stroke as a medical condition of older age.  However, it is possible for a younger person to have a stroke.  Frankie Muniz, the 26 year-old actor best known for starring in the sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, suffered a stroke this past Friday.  The fact that his symptoms involved difficulties in language likely indicate that it was  a left-sided stroke, as language is generally controlled by the left side of the brain.  He appears to be doing better from the initial stroke and hopefully will see a full recovery.

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/12/04/frankie-muniz-suffers-mini-stroke/?intcmp=trending

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org