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Cognitive Curriculum for Students with Traumatic Brain Injury: Language -- SHNIC Educators Information

In the oral/aural modality, language can be defined as, "a code whereby ideas about the world are expressed through a conventional system of arbitrary signals for communication" (Lahey, 1988). Language includes a receptive component (comprehension of language) and an expressive component (using language to communicate). For ease of discussion, language is traditionally divided into four components:

  • Phonology: The speech sounds of a language system
  • Semantics: The meaning system of a language
  • Syntax: Sequencing units of meaning to form utterances
  • Pragmatics: Adapting language to communication contexts

The overall goal of speech and language therapy immediately following traumatic brain injury (TBI) is to maximize the child's ability to communicate, rather than to teach a particular skill or structure. Therefore, phonological goals focus on using strategies to increase intelligibility of connected speech (e.g., decreasing rate, using augmentative/alternative communication), or are directed toward reading and written language. Errors that are most disruptive to successful communication typically occur in the semantic and pragmatic components of language.

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