The brain is a complex and vulnerable organ. As you can see, there is nothing mild about an injury to the brain. But by becoming more knowledgeable about mild brain injury, you can become an informed consumer of health services, effective health care provider, supportive family member, caring friend or colleague. It can happen to anyone.
Cognition affects many areas of life after a brain injury because it is the ability to think and learn. Executive skills such as reasoning, problem solving, and judgment can be affected as well as the ability to communicate and read or write. Because cognitive skills can have such wide reaching impact on survivors, these changes can affect not only the ability to work or study, but personal relationships as well.
Concussion and survivor recovery stories told by Bonnie Nish and 19 authors, share personal experiences of support and hope. It has taken me a while to figure out in what context I wanted to frame why it was I wanted to pull this book together. Why in the middle of my own trauma would I start to think that Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Just Another Headline was a good idea at all? Over the last few years I have had many gifts bestowed on me. Yes, some are the kind you can hold in your hand. Others however, are more cerebral and the kind you hold in your heart. Tonight I couldn’t find my keys and for an instant I could feel my stomach turn when I remembered last week having left them in the door for hours. It wasn’t that I was worried someone would walk away with them and use them later, it was that it was so reminiscent of that time in my life when I wouldn’t even have remembered putting them in the door in the first place.
What is the most important thing to the TBI Survivor for improvement? Some would think perseverance and some would think consistency. Both are important, but there may be an even more influential virtue.
I suggest that the most influential virtue is “thought.” It is not what a person thinks, but that there is the ability to think in the first place.
Students with TBI often have injuries to their frontal lobes causing changes in their executive skills after brain injury. This can make it harder for them to initiate activities, plan and prioritize, organize their work, problem solve, and control impulses. Getting through the day at school and completing homework at home can be a struggle. Dr. Janet Tyler explains how specific classroom strategies can help these students learn more effectively and improve their executive skills after brain injury.
Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are separate conditions but many of their symptoms overlap. It can be hard for the person who is living with the dual diagnosis of TBI and PTSD and for family and caregivers to separate them. Just as meteorologists predict “the perfect storm” when unusual and unprecedented conditions move in to create catastrophic atmospheric events, so can the combination of PTSD and TBI be overpowering and destructive for all in its path. The person with TBI and PTSD is living in a state unlike anything previously experienced. For the family, home may no longer the safe haven but an unfamiliar front with unpredictable and sometimes frightening currents and events. This article describes similarities and differences with PTSD and TBI.
On Saturday March 9, I woke up at 6:00am to take the infamous test that would decide my future…the SATs. I have been preparing weekly with a tutor for this test since January and it was a lot of hard and extra work. Going into the test, I felt very prepared and confident in my knowledge and ability. However, unlike someone without a concussion, I had to worry about more than just the test; I also had my symptoms to be concerned about. I also chose not to have extra time or accommodations for this test.
Towards the end of the summer, I started to think about how my first day back at school would be with my brain injury aka the “invisible injury”, and how the year would go in general. Would I be able to make it through my first class? A whole school day? Do homework after school? Have a regular social life? Keep up with my schoolwork? There were so many things to consider and think about upon my return. I had missed a year of school and still had a brain injury. This was going to be a challenge.
As students with traumatic brain injury or TBI move to middle and high school, the executive skills of the brain’s frontal lobe face more complex challenges. These areas are often damaged in moderate or severe brain injuries. Theresa Sacchi Armstrong describes why writing assignments can be especially difficult for these students with TBI in school and how teachers can help.
Students with traumatic brain injury or TBI are often unidentified or underserved in schools as this diagnosis is still mistakenly considered a low incidence disability under special education. Dr. Katherine Kimes looks beyond the individual needs of students with TBI and discusses the “big picture” of why schools need to address this student population more effectively. She explains why parents and teachers must jointly plan and collaborate to provide effective service coordination for a student with a TBI.
That last day of school in June felt liberating. I had the whole summer to recover and possibly a chance to go back to school full time in the fall. However, what I did not realize was that the stress was just beginning. Except for being tutored in two subjects a few days a week at school, I had not done any work at all from October-June. I had basically missed my entire sophomore year (I finished English, though) and I had to make it up somehow in one summer.