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Section 5 - Cognitive Language Impairment

Cognitive Language Impairment

Cognition is the word given to how our mind plans and organises.

We use speech and language as tools to express our thoughts, therefore changes to cognition can affect communication.

Cognitive processes include:

  • attention
  • memory
  • organization
  • problem solving/reasoning
  • executive functions
  • perception, judgement
  • orientation
  • reasoning

Cognitive impairment affects communication because cognition is the first step in the process of communication.

For example; we use skills such as:

  • attention to focus on and filter information
  • memory to retain, store and recall information
  • judgement to determine what is appropriate to say, how much information to give


Cognitive impairments result from damage to the areas of the brain involved in cognition. Causes include: dementia, stroke, head injury, brain tumour, Alzheimer's.

Cognitive impairments nearly always affect communication. They sometime co-occur with language and/ or speech difficulties.


There are lots of ways to help reduce the impact of cognitive impairments on language. The strategies that will help you will depend on the nature of the cognitive impairment. Your Speech and Language Therapist will give you advice personalised to you.

Some Tips

  • Reduce distractions - such as noise - turn off the TV
  • Use focus getting devices; such as touch or saying name
  • Position yourself for good eye contact
  • Use short sentences
  • Write down key words
  • For memory difficulties consider keeping a diary, or use reminder features on smart phones
  • If sequencing/ organising is challenging, make plans/ check lists
  • Double check understanding

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