Ask the Expert: Communication and Cognition

Communication is an essential part of who we are as human beings. It’s the ability to express oneself in verbal or written form, to understand verbal or written language, and to interact in appropriate ways. The ability to communicate greatly enhances independence in our daily, personal and professional lives. Cognitive skills such as memory, problem-solving, reasoning, judgment, attention, planning, organization and processing significantly influence our communication skills. If an individual has cognitive difficulties, it will impact their ability to speak, understand, read and write.

Not everyone with a brain tumour experiences communication and cognitive difficulties but when these issues occur, they can be frustrating, not only for the individuals themselves, but for their families and friends. While every case is somewhat unique, there are some cognitive and communication difficulties that tend to cause the most frustration: word finding problems, memory problems and comprehension (understanding) problems.

Here are six tips to assist communication and cognition skills when you are experiencing difficulty:

  • Find another way to say it: When having trouble finding the words that you want to say, use a different word, use gestures, point, describe (size, shape, function, colour etc.), try to write or draw.
  • Keep it simple: Reduce the amount of words you use when talking. Try to aim for the important words to get your point across. The fewer words you use, the less likely you are to experience difficulty.
  • Eliminate the noise: It is much easier to pay attention, understand information and process information effectively in a quiet environment. When having conversations, reading or writing, turn off the TV and the radio and try to carry out these activities in quieter areas.
  • One-on-one: It is easier to understand and process information if one person is speaking at a time, at a slightly slower rate and providing only short pieces of information at a time.
  • Reduce the memory load: Write important things down. Always store things in the same place so you don’t have to remember where they are. Think of funny things or rhymes to associate with people so you can remember their names. Write down questions you want to ask prior to important appointments (doctors, lawyers, bank) and bring someone along with you, if possible, to these appointments.
  • Get lots of rest: Fatigue has a significant negative impact on all aspects of communication and cognition. Try to carry out activities which require a significant amount of communication and cognition earlier in the day when you are well rested. Stop activities before you get tired.

Remember: Consult a member of your health care team, such as a Speech Therapist, for more information about communication challenges and brain tumours.

Download a PDF of this Information Sheet.

Thank you to Michelle Haché MSc. SLP(C) from The Moncton Hospital and Horizon Health Network for providing this article on communication and cognition.

< Back to all Information Sheets

Share This

Featured Story

Courtney’s Story of Stability

Stability. It’s a strange concept when you have what it known to be a progressive, life long illness. You hear the words, “Your tumour growth is stable” and for a moment you think someone is playing the world’s worst prank on you.

Learn more


Stephen's Story: "I have faith that we will meet again"

Stephen and I chatted on what should have been his 32nd Wedding Anniversary. Stephen and Susan were married for 30 years and were best...

Learn more

Tommy's Story: Fellowship recipient

Dr. Tommy Alain, the very first research Fellow funded by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada through the William Donald Nash Brain...

Learn more

Upcoming Events

  • 17/Jan/2018: Windsor Support Group: Meets at the United Way, Unit A1, 300 Giles Blvd. East... Learn more >
  • 17/Jan/2018: Calgary Support Group: Meets at Wellspring Calgary, 1404 Home Road NW, Calgary, Alberta, T3B 1G7... Learn more >
  • 17/Jan/2018: Niagara Region Support Group: Meets at Wellspring Niagara, 3250 Schmon Parkway, Thorold, ON, L2V 4Y6... Learn more >
  • 17/Jan/2018: Winnipeg Support Group: Sturgeon Creek United Church, 207 Thompson Drive, Winnipeg, MB... Learn more >
View All Events >
Thank you to the donors whose contributions make this website and all programs, services and research possible.

Copyright © 2018 Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Charitable Registration #BN118816339RR0001
35 Years