Expressing Emotions following ABI

In our blog earlier this week, the use of a feeling pie chart was described briefly. In most of the groups for ABI that I am currently running, we start with a feeling “check-in”. This is really important in a group setting as it helps for others to know what emotions other members are coming with. This can help establish rapport and cohesion in the group as members can support one another through challenging times and celebrate each other’s’ victories.

Expressing emotions following ABI can be a challenge due to survivors having trouble with word-finding and self-evaluation. These types of difficulties can lead to miscommunications. Sometimes, a survivor may not be able to identify what emotion he or she is feeling. Furthermore, if an idea of what emotion is being experienced is determined, one might have difficulty finding the word to express it.

The Feeling Wheel for Expressing Emotions Following ABI

I have found that use of specific tools that outline general feeling words (i.e. fear, anger, disgust, sadness, happiness and surprise) can help the survivor identify the “area” that his or her feeling lives.  Once the “area” is figured out, the survivor can then use the tool to determine the more specific emotion that is underlying the general one (e.g. happy à proud à confident). I have found that there are many of these sorts of tools available. The one that works best for me is the feeling wheel.  Though intended for writers, I find that clients with word-finding difficulty benefit immensely from using this for expressing emotions following ABI.

Other Applications for the Emotions Check-in Wheel

Our group members love the circular format of this tool at it allows them to move from general words to more specific words. It is simple and easy to use once the members are shown how it works. Feel free to adapt this tool for other uses whether for writing in school or work settings, or for expressing yourself verbally. I think it has applications for social work or psychotherapy as well – particularly if you are working with clients who have trouble connecting with their emotions or expressing themselves.

We offer groups for our own clients as well as those working with SLPs from other agencies. Please click here for more information on our communication groups for people who have survived ABI.

BobiTychynskiShimoda-220Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.

A student’s experience of a group for acquired brain injury

As an intern at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks, I have witnessed the powerful role group treatment can play in a person’s recovery from a brain injury.  The SpeechWorks’ group for acquired brain injury provides opportunities for members to relate to one another, receive feedback from a trusted Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), build communicative confidence, and practice their communication goals in a safe setting. I value the work being done in these groups and I hope the following blog post will provide you with a small glimpse into a typical group therapy session at S.L Hunter SpeechWorks.

All about a Group for Acquired Brain Injury – Checking In

“Let’s begin with our check in,” Bobi, the group’s SLP announces. A circular chart filled with emotion words is passed out. “I’ll begin,” chimes a group member. The group’s attention turns towards this member. She glances at the chart and begins to state the emotions that fit her current circumstances. “I’m upset but also thankful,” she explains. As the member begins to expand on the hardships and joys of her past week, other members smile and nod in agreement as if to say, “I’ve been there too.” As the check in continues, I am struck by the comfort group members are able to bring to each other. When a member expresses concern, others are quick to relate by sharing a personal story that caused them to have the same feelings. This group for acquired brain injury is more than just a source of emotional support – it offered the members a chance to work on goals that could carry over to conversation with others.

As check in continues, another group member begins to express her feelings of frustration. I watch as the SLP listens attentively before asking, “Why do you think your brother reacted that way?” While the member considers the question, I reflect on the SLP’s ability to ask questions that require each member to carefully work through their personal goals such as the ability to take another person’s perspective. After the member responds to the question, the SLP responds with encouragement, “You did a really good job taking your brother’s perspective there.” I notice how the SLP’s encouragement provides this member with feedback specific to her goal of being able to take another person’s perspective. I am amazed by the progress I see occurring in such a natural conversation.

After the check in period concludes, the SLP leads the group through a discussion of non-verbal communications. During this time, group members share their own experience and knowledge regarding this topic. In addition to learning how to interpret non-verbal communication, I notice how each member appears to be building confidence in their communication skills. I watch as members who first appeared to be hesitant in the group begin to participate with greater ease. This group for acquired brain injury appeared to build confidence of its participants before my eyes.

A Safe and Supportive Environment

As the group begins to near an end and members fit in their final stories or discussion points for the day, I reflect on the group’s safe environment. Each member has communication goals and therefore no member needs to feel singled out by the challenges they face. Because of the safe environment, I notice how members are able to receive feedback from both the SLP and each other without any feelings of embarrassment. This group for acquired brain injury definitely offered emotional support!

Although the group has ended, I notice members are staying behind to continue their conversations. I hear laughter echoing through the hallways as I walk further away from the room. After attending just one session, I can already identify a strong sense of community within this group.

We offer groups for our own clients as well as those working with SLPs from other agencies. Please click here for more information on our communication groups for people who have survived ABI.

Grad PictureRebecca is a recent graduate from the Speech-Language Pathology Program at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through her internships, she has gained experience working with toddlers, school aged children, and adults with a variety of communication disorders. While Rebecca enjoys working with kids and adults, she has a special interest in working with kids who have language disorders.

How Music Helps Language and Literacy

There are lots of ways you can enrich your child’s language and literacy skills. Music is one of them. It is hard to deny that children love music. So it will be easy to boost your child’s language and literacy development by engaging them in any kind of music. Here are some ways to promote language and literacy skills through music.

How music helps language skills

Songs introduce new words and concepts to children. For example, basic concepts such as ‘in’ and ‘out’ displayed in the action song, “Hokey Pokey,” (i.e. you put your right hand in and you take your right hand out) are taught by pairing it with the actions. I encourage you to have some fun with the song and sing it when putting on your child’s winter gear. Here are some examples:

  • As you are putting on their jacket you can sing, “You put your right hand in; you put your right hand out; you put your right hand in and you shake it all about; you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around that’s what it’s all about!”
  • As you are putting on snow pants, “you put your left leg in; you put your left leg out….
  • As you are putting on boots, “you put you right foot in and you put your right foot out…

Tip: Always offer your child a turn to participate in the song by saying or pointing to which item to put on next (e.g. “boots or hat”?)

Now that your child understands the concepts, “in” and “out”, you can introduce new vocabulary. One idea is to change the words of the song, ‘Hokey Pokey’ from using body parts to vehicles. For example, “Put the red car in, take the red car out, then a blue truck, yellow airplane, green train etc. Repeat the song and use it again while playing with a toy garage or for the dads in the group, the real thing. Move the car in and out of the garage while singing the song with the new vocabulary. All it takes is a little creativity to a well-rehearsed tune and the opportunity to use music to introduce new vocabulary will provide endless fun for your child.

How music helps literacy skills

Another opportunity to teach language and literacy skills as you children get a bit older is through song books. Song books put the lyrics of the song to text. Using a song book allows children to sing along to their favourite song while using their finger to follow along in the book. You can model this technique to your child first by pointing to the words as they sing than you sing and they point to the words. At first, you can always assist them by guiding their hand. Songs repeat words and create predictability similar to the song books. The repetition of the words will be repeated in print form which allows children the ability to learn new vocabulary. Some song books include, “Wheels on the Bus”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.”

Children can learn rhyming patterns and sound patterns through the songs. Singing provides them with the opportunity to learn how to manipulate word and letter patterns. As research illustrates, it is these rhyming patterns in songs that will help your child develop decoding skills.

Tip: Try singing songs that allow your child to not only listen to the words that rhyme but also to generate words that rhyme. For example, one song which allows for a bunch of giggles while creating rhymes is the song, “Down by the Bay.” Check out this website for a list of more songs that promote the recognition and production of rhymes.

Did you know? We offer a music group aimed at promoting language skills for 2-3 and 3-4 year olds? Click here to find out more about our Speech Melodies program!

TeriLynam-220Teri Lynam is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with ten years of experience working in the field of communication disorders. She has a special interest in early language, literacy development, acquired brain injury, motor speech and resonance disorders. Teri is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment.

How Do I Know if My Baby Has a Concussion?

You’ve put safety gates leading to every room and staircase. You’ve installed cabinet locks. You’ve anchored all the heavy furniture to the wall. You never leave your baby unattended. But still, one day, the unthinkable happens – your baby or toddler hits their head on something or, even worse, takes a tumble off of your lap.

Does my baby have a concussion?

It can be a terrifying thing as a new parent to see your baby or toddler take a fall in the home that you’ve so carefully protected. You may be frightened that they’ve suffered a serious blow that might cause some permanent damage. But how do you know if your baby has a concussion? Symptoms of a more serious injury, like a concussion, can be more difficult to notice in babies and toddlers because they communicate differently than older children and adults. You’ll need to keep a closer eye on babies and toddlers to notice the subtle signs of concussion symptoms they may be showing:

• Continual rubbing of the head (could be a sign of headache)
• Unsteady walking, poor balance and coordination
• Suddenly unable to perform newly learned skills (i.e. talking, self-feeding, potty training)
• Cranky/irritable or hard to console
• Listlessness
• Change in eating/sleeping patterns
• No longer showing interest in their favourite toys
• Nausea and vomiting
• Sensitivity to light and noise

It certainly goes without saying, but if you notice any of the following “red flag” symptoms, take your child to the Emergency Department for immediate medical help:

• Large bumps/bruises/swelling
• Continual vomiting
• Blood/fluid in the ear
• Seizures
• Pupils unequal in size
• Increased sleepiness or child cannot be woken up

What to do if you think your baby has a concussion

If you suspect that your toddler or baby has a concussion call your family doctor or go to your local Emergency Department right away. It is better to be safe than sorry; even if you’re not 100% sure, take your baby/toddler in to get checked. Don’t forget to follow up with your family doctor to have your child’s symptoms monitored over time. Also, avoid any stimulating/active play for at least the first 24-48 hours (e.g. no running, no rough play, no bouncing, no loud toys) as you continue to monitor for symptoms. Remember: extra supervision of your child after a concussion is extremely important!

Be prepared!

CanChild has a great brochure that you can print up and keep on hand that lists all of these subtle and red flag symptoms as well as prevention tips to keep your child safe!

MelissaKiley-220Melissa Kiley is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with a special interest in concussion/acquired brain injury as well as literacy skills development. She has been working with clients for over 10 years and is highly skilled in developing functional and innovative treatments.