Communicating after a traumatic brain injury

Tammy Kalp describes her husband, Paul Kalp, as a walking, talking miracle,” and most people would agree. On Sept. 15, 2012, Kalp, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, now 48, was on a motorcycle approaching a stoplight in Dover when a teen driver pulled in front of him.

While the Dover-area resident survived the crash, he lost the use of his right side as well as his speech and language skills, and since July 2013, he has continued outpatient therapy for aphasia at Bayhealth.

Aphasia is a communication disorder commonly associate with stroke patients in which in which people have difficulty processing and producing language, which often includes reading comprehension and written communication.

“It’s usually a combination of expressive and receptive skills. It’s not a loss of intelligence,” said Ashley Jones, MS, CCC-SLP, Kalp’s Bayhealth speech language pathologist.

Kalp, who was employed as a civilian police officer at Dover Air Force Base, “wants to work hard,” says Tammy, but he is unable to return to the job he held so proudly.

Therapy starts with a thorough assessment of strengths and weaknesses in order to establish goals. “There’s no real cookbook,” Jones explains, noting that progress is sometimes followed by regression. “Each person with aphasia is so different, and it is important to tailor their treatment plan to their specific needs and keep in mind the goals of the patient and their families.”

In Kalp’s case, about a year and a half after the accident, his wife learned that he also suffered a hearing loss. Hearing aids helped in his progress.

Jones said that the patient’s family and/or caregivers become involved as well, with the therapist offering education as to how to phrase questions. “Communication can be very frustrating for both the patients and the family,” she added.

Patients are also expected to complete home carryover activities to practice the skills targeted during therapy sessions.

Kalp carries a somewhat battered folder with homework papers and now, thanks to the Veterans Administration, an iPad loaded with specific speech and language apps. Tammy emails Jones the results of his electronic quizzes.

“He has lots of resources,” says Jones. “Paul is very, very motivated, and he has good support at home.”

Despite the challenges of the traumatic brain injury, Jones and the Kalps remain optimistic. “He amazes us all the time, and it’s fun to see improvement.”

Bayhealth offers a Speech Pathology Communications Group in the Bayhealth Kent General Outpatient Rehabilitation Building, 560 S. Governors Avenue, Dover. For more information, contact E. Ashley Jones at 302-744-6371 or email Elizabeth_Jones@bayhealth.org.