What is cognitive communication disorder?

A cognitive communication disorder occurs as a result of damage to parts of the brain that control language and cognitive skills, such as memory and the processing of information. If any of these skills are impaired, it can affect the ability to communicate successfully. A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) and Occupational Therapist can assist with the diagnosis and treatment of this type of disorder.

What are the signs of cognitive communication disorder?

The effects of a cognitive communication disorder depend on the type of brain injury and how severely the brain has been damaged.

Some people have difficulty with paying attention, processing what they see or hear and remembering new information.  This can make it difficult to:

  • Understand what people are saying.
  • Express their feelings and concerns and find the right words to speak.
  • Interpret other people’s communication, including facial expressions or gestures.
  • Talk about one topic at a time, or allow the other person to speak.
  • Reading and/or writing.

People with changes to their cognitive communication skills may:

  • Be less sociable and/or have a short temper.
  • Be more impulsive and not follow instructions consistently.
  • Have difficulty following conversations in large groups of people or in noisy environments.
  • Say inappropriate or insensitive things.
  • Become very tired quickly and/or appear generally confused.

How can I help someone who has a cognitive communication disorder?

  • Be patient and gain the person’s attention before speaking to them.
  • Use clear, simple language and focus on one topic at a time.
  • If needed, repeat key information and provide reassurance.
  • Take a break if the conversation is ‘going around in circles’.
  • Help establish a consistent routine and talk about familiar topics.
  • Facilitate choice-making by asking simple yes or no questions.
  • Minimize distractions, such as a loud radio or TV, whenever possible.
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