Helpline 03455 211 300
General Enquiries 03455 211 811


In this page …

What is self-expression?

We need to be able to express many things in life.

For example:

  • The way we feel.
  • That we need or want something.
  • That we understand.
  • That we agree/disagree.
  • That we are able and willing to do something.

We usually express the above things (and more) by saying or doing something: through words or actions and behaviour. As children grow they find different ways of expressing themselves. This has a lot to do with learning to speak and how to use more and more complex language. This is associated with changes that happen in the brain (see Learning for more details).

Back to top

How self-expression can be changed by hydrocephalus

Sometimes what we want to say or do is limited by our ability. Ability could be limited because of age and stage (eg a three year old may not have the language to explain something) or because of mental and physical capability. Limitations of any kind can be frustrating and upsetting and can often be the cause of irritable or ‘tantrum’ type behaviour, or may just make someone confused or unhappy.

Physical limitations are often related to conditions associated with hydrocephalus (eg spina bifida, cerebral palsy). Also, hydrocephalus can change how the brain works. Appropriate ‘self-expression’ in language or behaviour needs lots of the brain’s processes to work together. This can be disrupted by hydrocephalus. You can find links to some of the key processes involved below.

Back to top

Key processes involved in ‘self-expression’

Expression needs lots of the brain’s processes to work together. If any of these processes have been affected by hydrocephalus, a person may have a problem with self-expression.

The key processes involved in self-expression include:

  • Comprehension: understanding what needs to be responded to.
  • Problem solving: working out how to respond.
  • Planning, sequencing and monitoring: planning the steps needed to respond and the order they need to be done in; checking that the response is doing what it is supposed to as the plan is put into action; changing the plan if it isn’t.
  • Executive functioning: the ability to involve the right processes at the right time so that we can think and act appropriately and in good time.
  • Processing speed: the speed at which signals move around the brain to involve the areas and functions that are needed.

Back to top

Possible problems

Difficulties in self-expression may contribute to problems in:

  • Providing answers to questions e.g. no reply or faltering/struggling to find words.
  • Talking too much or conversation seems misplaced/irrelevant. See Getting on with others for more detail and discussion about the ‘Cocktail party syndrome’.
  • The person may not know how to answer or get involved in a conversation but want to or think they should. As a result the person may answer incorrectly and possibly at length. (eg answering a teacher’s question; wanting to be involved in a chat with friends).
  • The person getting ‘stuck’ in the ‘wrong’ idea. Click here to find out more about Flexibility in thinking and doing.
  • Generally making mistakes in what needs done and when. This may relate closely to issues with problem solving and planning (see links above).
  • Behaving inappropriately like being ‘bossy’ or ‘pushy’ or ‘over-familiar’. See Getting on with others for more detail.

People are unique anyway but every individual will be slightly different in the way their thoughts and actions are affected by hydrocephalus (and associated conditions). While this site aims to give something to suit everyone, it is important to think about each individual’s pattern of strengths and difficulties. Patience, determination and trial and error are likely to be needed to find solutions that suit your child’s unique needs. Dip into the Living with Hydrocephalus section to find hints and tips on how to deal with different issues and difficulties.

Back to top