Assessment of pragmatic communication skills in adolescents after traumatic brain injury
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Deficits in pragmatic communication ability have a significant impact on functional outcome from traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly during adolescence, when sophisticated social communication skills are developing. There are few published tests designed to assess pragmatic skills in this age group. In the present study, four tasks designed to tap various aspects of pragmatic communication ability were administered to three brain-injured adolescents and 36 of their uninjured peers aged 15-18 years. The tasks evaluated the ability to negotiate, hint, describe a simple procedure, and understand sarcasm. The four tasks were found to tap distinct aspects of pragmatic ability in control subjects. Further, within the control group, task performance was related more to non-verbal reasoning ability than vocabulary skills. Scores for two of the three TBI subjects were poorer than those of their peers, while a third mildly injured subject performed within normal limits. Pragmatic task scores were consistent with the results of neuropsychological testing in the three TBI subjects. Implications for clinical management and recommendations for future research are discussed.