Staying on Topic and Having Conversations After Brain Injury

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Staying on Topic After Brain Injury

One of the brain injury issues that many survivors encounter is staying on topic while having a conversation.  There could be several reasons why they have trouble with this and one might be confusion as to what the conversation is about and also maybe they are not interested in the conversation to begin with.  We will give you some examples of survivors staying on topic from our TBI Voices project from some of the traumatic brain injury individuals that we have interviewed.

Our first example of a survivor of staying on topic comes from our interview with Betty. Betty was a college student at the time of her accident that caused her to suffer a brain injury.  The fellow student she was traveling with had been drinking before she came to pick up Betty to travel to the friends parents house for Thanksgiving.  Betty really had her heart set on just staying at the college for the holiday but her friends brother had been in a terrible motorcycle accident and was in pretty bad shape.  She agreed to travel to her friends home for moral support over the break.  The accident left her in a coma and with many brain injury deficits, one being having trouble staying on topic during a conversation.  Betty expresses; ““I seem to jump from topic to topic. I’m sitting with a couple people and they’re talking about how one time that they had gone on a trip and they lost their luggage all of a sudden I’ll click in and I’ll say oh well I went to college in New Orleans and I flew down there a couple times I just   I mean, it has nothing to do with what they started talking about and then they look at each other as if to say okay why did she just do that. Because they had been talking about one thing and I inappropriately at times also change subjects and say things that are not appropriate.”  To read Betty’s entire story click here.

Another example come from our interview with Michael. Michael was also a college student at the time he was in a head-on collision that put him in a coma and caused him to suffer a traumatic brain injury.  He was also on a break from school and returned home to be with his family and friends.  While out socializing with his friends and being the designated driver, a car crossed the center line and hit him head on.  One of the deficits he has trouble with is staying on topic while having a conversation.  Part of his problem will be forgetting what the conversation is about and sometimes even forgetting who he is talking to.  In his own words; ““Memory is much better. It’s kind of funny. Say if you and I were just talking and say outside somewhere, there’s a pretty good chance two things could happen; one would be we would be having a good conversation and all of a sudden I forget what we’re talking about, that one’s not the bad one because I usually just ask. But the other one is rather hard because I’ll forget who you are. I’ll be like okay, what is his name, what is his name, and I feel really embarrassed to ask you. I have no problem asking you what we were talking about but I find it very embarrassing to ask who you are.”  To read Michael’s entire story click here.

It stands to reason that someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury would have trouble staying on topic while having conversations because of the other deficits they suffer from.

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Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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