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Traumatic Brain Injury and First Responders

Improving Interactions with People with Traumatic Brain Injuries

By Vincent M. DelGiudice, M.S.CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Vegas Voice Institute

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is when a person has a physical injury to their head or neck resulting in a disruption of normal function. This can be caused by a blow to the head, penetrating injuries, assault or motor vehicle accidents. The injury to the head may affect cognition, attention, memory, a person’s movements, and their emotions. With these deficits, any high stress situation can escalate quickly. So, it is important to understand what the signs of a TBI are and how to best interact with a person to decrease the chance of escalating the situation.

Being aware of these signs or symptoms is an important first step to interacting with someone with a TBI. TBI survivors sometimes have difficulty with controlling emotions and/or overreacting. Identifying these signs or knowing that someone had a TBI can be the difference between a safe interaction and a crisis. These tools can help de-escalate situations to make it safer for the first responders and law enforcement.

Communication is key when encountering anyone who may have poor short-term recall. Try to include family in the conversation when obtaining details or information as they can help fill in gaps if memory is an issue. Try to give the person breaks if they are looking fatigued from trying to remember information. Try to avoid patronizing or asking them to “calm down.” Suggest using deep breaths to help them calm down if they are becoming frustrated or aggravated. Allow more time than usual for the person to respond. Processing time for information can be slower and they may need more time to think about the question.

If you or someone you know has recently suffered from a traumatic brain injury and you think they may need help, we, at Vegas Voice Institute, are here to help. Speech/Language Pathology can be a way for you to improve some cognitive and processing deficits as well as learn how to cope with new deficits. Vegas Voice Institute can work with you and your family to help develop strategies specific to the problems you or a loved one may have. Don’t hesitate to call to find out how speech pathology can help you.