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

Childhood Brain Tumour Signs & Symptoms

Earlier this year, you gave us your feedback in a survey on brain tumour signs and symptoms. One of the things we did with that survey was to compile a list of the most common signs & symptoms for children. Now, as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are sharing compelling quotes from that survey and urging you to share them with this link to see the symptoms: Thank you!

Learn more


Anthony's Story is Our Story

I would like to take the opportunity to share "our" story. It’s actually my best friend Anthony's story, but I use the term "our"...

Learn more

Kate's Mum's Story

"May 2006 is a month I will never forget. That was the moment that everything became before the cancer, and after the cancer. It was a...

Learn more

Upcoming Events

  • 18/Oct/2018: Rock Your Locks 2018: Abbey Park High School, Oakville, ON... Learn more >
  • 18/Oct/2018: Burlington and Hamilton Support Group: Meets at Aldershot Public Library (550 Plains Road East), Burlington, ON... Learn more >
  • 19/Oct/2018: National Conference - Evening Celebration: Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Centre, Toronto, ON... Learn more >
  • 20/Oct/2018: National Conference - Toronto: Toronto ON, and via live streaming across Canada... 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