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  • Janice Buziak

Habilitation: Quieting the Cognitive-Communication Noise

Take a look at this image: How does it make you feel?

Stressed? Panicked? Overwhelmed? Just plain NO?

Now imagine you don't have the ability to process this situation, let alone convey how it makes you feel. Unfortunately, adults with neurologic injuries and cognitive-communication difficulties due to a stroke, dementia, or a progressive neurologic disease process may experience these same feelings in regular, routine, or daily activities. So how do we quiet the noise so we can process, focus, think, and express our needs?


Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs, also commonly called Speech Therapists) understand this balance and can be instrumental in an individual navigating their lives during these changes. An SLP is trained to identify the cognitive and communication strengths and preserved functions of an individual, and then utilizes linguistic-based strategies and techniques to help the individual overcome their cognitive-communication difficulties.


Communication comes in many forms. It can be verbal or non-verbal, written, or visual. Language is typically characterized as either being expressive, where we conveying what we want and need, how we feel, or what we want to do, or receptive, where we understand what others are communicating to us so we can respond to them appropriately. Receptive language skills include basic communication ability, like answering yes and no questions or following directions. Chans and deficits in communication and language abilities are often frustrating and embarrassing to the individual, and can lead to anger, adverse behaviors, or withdrawal, all of which can exacerbate deficits.

Habilitation is a skilled treatment technique aimed at maximizing the individual's preserved skills in order to improve daily functioning. In older adults where cognitive-communication changes are noted, identification of areas of strength is the key first step, and a standardized assessment should be utilized. Once evaluated, treatment may include one-on-one training, group activities, incorporation of multi-modal communication options, such as communication devices, visual aids, familiar techinqology, and/or sensory stimulation. Environmental adjustments are often recommended and usually involve focusing on quiet, intentional tasks one at a time, eliminating distractions during conversational or social exchanges, and allowing the individual to be fully immersed in the task they are completing.

Habilitation therapy techniques are skilled services that can greatly improve your quality of life. They can improve the function of the preserved cognitive-communication skills and gains can actually be made. Most importantly, it can slow the rate of deficit progression and lead to a longer, more satisfying life. So reach out and help to quiet the noise - you'll be glad you did.

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