Social functioning after pTBI: Efficient assessment

As public awareness of pediatric traumatic brain injury (pTBI) increases, you might be finding more of these kids on your caseload before you know exactly what to do with them. (Never fear! That’s why TISLP is here!) SLPs and other professionals (school psychologists, teachers, and physicians) are often prepared to address issues such as fatigue, impulsiveness, and attentional deficits, but are you on the lookout for social communication deficits as well? For pTBI, these might show up in areas such as topic maintenance, figurative language, discourse organization, and non-verbal cues. (Check out this systematic review to get an even deeper understanding of how much pTBI can impact social communication.)

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Many parent-report measures for social communication are impractical (either because they are very lengthy or very age-specific), so Genova et al. tested out a tool you might already be using for autistic kids: Social Communication Disorder Checklist (SCDC). The SCDC is an efficient 12 item parent report tool, where parents rate how often various social, communication, and behavioral difficulties occur. The researchers paired the SCDC with two lengthier but valid assessments for pTBI: the Behavioral Assessment System for Children (BASC-2) and a Theory of Mind task that assesses a child’s ability to recognize a speaker’s beliefs (what does the speaker think about this situation?) and intentions (what does the speaker want the listener to think?).

And great news: the results were promising!

  • As expected, parents of kids with TBI reported significantly higher social communication issues than the parents of healthy controls on the SCDC. (Not to mention more difficulty with the BASC-2 and Theory of Mind task, as expected.)

  • The SCDC was correlated with the BASC-2 measures and all but one of the Theory of Mind measures, giving researchers more confidence that the SCDC carries over well to children with TBI!

Admittedly, this is the first study examining the use of the SCDC in the pTBI population and, as such, should be considered with caution. AND a (valid) 12-item parent report measure does not a full formal assessment make…but it sure makes it a heck of a lot easier!

Genova, H. M., Haight, A., Natsheh, J. Y., Deluca, J., & Lengenfelder, J. (2019). The Relationship Between Social Communication and Social Functioning in Pediatric TBI: A Pilot Study. Frontiers in Neurology. doi:10.3389/fneur.2019.00850