Traumatic brain injury: Ricardo

Ricardo was 15 when he fell down a flight of stairs on holiday, resulting in a traumatic brain injury. He has since been undergoing speech and language therapy with The Children's Trust Community Rehabilitation Service to enable him to communicate.

Now aged 18, Ricardo shares with us how far he has come.

Ricardo was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and lived in Mauritius for some time before moving to the UK six years ago. He was on holiday in France in August 2020 when he sustained a traumatic brain injury and had to receive emergency neurosurgery. As part of his recovery, Ricardo had a twelve-week residential rehabilitation placement at The Children’s Trust specialist centre in Surrey.

Three years on from his accident, Ricardo is now receiving speech and language therapy through The Children's Trust Community Rehabilitation Service.

Jessica, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist at The Children's Trust, tells us of some of the challenges he faced: “Ricardo came to us with significant speech, language and communication needs as a result of aphasia and apraxia of speech. Aphasia is a language disorder which impacts on how an individual is able to understand and use both verbal and written language. Apraxia of speech refers to difficulties planning and co-ordinating the movements needed to produce speech. 

"This combination of difficulties meant that Ricardo was not able to understand verbal or written information and did not have a method to express himself."

Individualised therapy sessions

The focus of the sessions initially was to develop a method for Ricardo to be able to express himself. This included setting up a high-tech Alternative and Augmentative Communication System (a voice output app on an iPad) for him to be communicate his wants, needs and opinions etc. Alongside this, Ricardo was also supported to develop his use of verbal speech.

iPad with Snap Core First app

Ricardo says: “Jess visited me at home and college. She helped me with using my iPad, phone and voice to communicate. Jess is so funny, I’m laughing but I’m working hard at the same time.”

Jessica adds: “Ricardo worked incredibly hard during his speech and language therapy sessions, demonstrating self-motivation and perseverance. He also displayed strengths in his non-verbal social communication skills, including sense of humour, which supported his ability to get his message across when having difficulty using verbal language.”

Making progress

Ricardo is now able to verbally communicate using sentences. He is able to use his verbal language to express his opinions and feelings, describe events, tell jokes, ask questions and engage in conversations. 

He has opted to phase out use of his iPad now that his verbal language has progressed, but continues to make use of Assistive Technology available to him e.g. a pen reader, text to speech apps on his phone. 

Recent support from the Community Rehabilitation Team has been around supporting Ricardo to access his college course. This has included working closely with his course teacher and teaching assistant, advocating for the access arrangements he requires in his exams, supporting him in and out of college lessons and embedding strategies into day-to-day college life.

college classroom desk with books and iPad

A brighter future

Ricardo’s progress with his speech, language and communication has enabled him to take part in his daily life independently. He enjoys many social events with friends, has a job as a barista (and is a self-proclaimed coffee snob!), and attends college whilst developing his video-editing skills in his spare time. 

I’ve amazed myself, my friends and my family. At first I couldn’t speak, had no words, and needed iPad but now I can talk in sentences.

And the effects on his day-to-day life are clear: “I love the gym, video-editing, have lots of friends, go to college and work as a barista.”

barista holding a coffee

When asked about the support from the Community Rehabilitation Service, Ricardo tells us it has been: “amazing and incredible, so fun. Jess helped with my speaking and being able to tell people what I’ve been doing, what I’ve been thinking, get a job. She helped me to talk to my friends and family.”

Ricardo has high hopes for the future; he would love to be video editor and own a car.