What Disabilities Can Result From a TBI, and How Can LearningRx Help?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause a variety of physical, behavioral, sensory, and cognitive disabilities, which can vary depending on the severity and location of the injury as well as the health of the patient prior to injury. While many of these disabilities can be long-lasting, others can see significant improvement over time with the right rehabilitation program.
For the purposes of this article we’ll highlight what cognitive disabilities can result from a TBI, some techniques that can help manage them, and how LearningRx brain injury training programs can bring about improvement.
Attention and Concentration Problems
Someone with a TBI may be unable to focus, pay attention, or attend to more than one thing at a time. This can result in restlessness, distraction, difficulty working on more than one task at a time, trouble finishing a project, struggling to carry on long conversations, and difficulty sitting still for long periods of time.
Attention skills are building blocks for higher level skills such as memory and reasoning, so difficulty with attention and concentration can affect these other areas of cognition as well.
Some ways to improve attention and concentration:
- Remove distractions including extraneous noise
Work on one task at a time
Practice attention skills on simple, practical tasks, such as adding numbers or reading a paragraph, gradually increasing the difficulty of these tasks or adding in distractions (working in a noisier room, for instance)
Take breaks and get plenty of rest — fatigue can make attention and concentration problems worse
Difficulty Processing and Understanding Information
A TBI can cause a person’s ability to process and understand information to slow down. For someone with a TBI, it can take longer to grasp what others are saying or to understand and follow directions. It can be difficult to follow TV shows or movies, or to read and understand written information, such as books, newspapers, and magazines.
A person with a TBI may also react more slowly or take longer to carry out physical tasks, including routine activities like getting dressed.
Improve processing and understanding information by:
Paying full attention to what you’re trying to understand or do
Giving yourself more time to think about the information before moving on
Re-reading information, taking notes, and summarizing in your own words
Asking people to repeat themselves, say something in a different way, or speak more slowly, then repeating back to them what you heard to make sure you understood correctly
Language and Communication Problems
For a person with a TBI, problems with language and communication are common. A brain injury can make it difficult to understand and express information. This can present as finding it difficult to start or follow conversations, having trouble thinking of the correct word, being unable to understand what others are saying, and rambling or branching off on tangents easily.
A TBI can also cause difficulty with more complex language skills such as expressing thoughts in an organized way, trouble with nonverbal communication (such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language), misunderstanding sarcasm or jokes, and difficulty reading others’ emotions or the social situation.
Working with a speech therapist can be a big help here. A speech therapist can identify the specific areas that need improvement and help chart a route to recovery.
Friends and family can help manage language and communication problems by:
Using kind words and a gentle tone of voice
Asking if the injured person understands what you’re saying, or asking follow-up questions to determine that they understand
Speaking more slowly and simply (but be careful not to talk down to the person)
Limiting conversations to one person at a time
Helping the injured person notice when they’ve gotten off topic in a conversation by using a predetermined signal
Memory Issues: Learning and Remembering New Information
A brain injury can affect parts of the brain that are used to take in, store, and retrieve information. A person with a TBI may have difficulty remembering events that happened several weeks or months before the injury; on the other hand, they can also have trouble remembering future events like appointments. They may forget specific types of information or things they need to do during the day.
A person with a brain injury can have trouble remembering entire events or conversations. When this happens, their mind may fill in the gaps of missing information. Bits and pieces from several conversations or events can be erroneously blended together, so they recall things that didn’t actually happen.
Lack of sleep, poor physical or mental health, stress, strong emotions, and side effects from some medications can make memory problems worse.
Some ways to improve memory problems:
Make daily and weekly plans to remember important tasks: appointments, grocery shopping, taking medication, and so on. Create a structured routine of tasks
Use memory aids like calendars, daily task lists, computer or cell phone reminders, and cue cards
Have set locations for keeping belongings — especially those used often, like keys
Keep a cheat sheet of important information in a wallet or purse
Use checklists to remember steps to a task or a list of items
Spend time reviewing and practicing new information often, breaking it down into smaller parts and learning one part at a time
Automate as many tasks as possible, such as setting up automated bill pay
Ask a family member or friend to take notes during doctor appointments
Get plenty of rest and try to reduce stress and anxiety as much as possible
Discuss potential effects of medications on memory with your doctor
Problems With Planning and Organization
In the previous section we mentioned that a person with a TBI can have trouble remembering future events. Similarly, someone with a brain injury can also have difficulty with planning and organizational thinking. It can be difficult to plan their day and schedule appointments; it can also be challenging to complete tasks that require multiple steps done in a particular order, such as laundry or cooking.
A few ways to make planning and organization easier:
Use lists to stay organized. Make lists of things that need to be done in order of what needs to be done first
Break activities down into smaller, more manageable steps
Think of the end goal of each activity and work backwards to determine what steps need to be done and in which order
Trouble With Reasoning, Problem Solving, and Judgement
The first step in problem solving is recognizing that there is a problem — something that can be difficult for people with a TBI.
Someone with a brain injury can have trouble analyzing information and being flexible in their thinking. They can have difficulty determining the best solution to a problem; or they can get stuck on one solution without considering other options. In other cases, they may make quick decisions without thinking of the consequences.
To improve reasoning, problem solving, and judgement skills, try:
Cognitive rehabilitation with a speech therapist or psychologist to learn an organized approach to daily problem solving
Working through problem solving strategy in writing, step by step: first, define the problem; then brainstorm solutions; then list the pros and cons of each solution; finally, pick a solution to try. Then, evaluate the success of that solution and try another if the first didn’t work.
LearningRx Programs Help Strengthen Skills Weakened By a TBI
Though many disabilities can result from a TBI, there is hope for improvement.
While we don’t diagnose or treat TBI at LearningRx, our brain training center has helped many clients with TBIs enhance their cognitive abilities with our one-on-one programs. At LearningRx we help you strengthen the skills that are crucial for learning and performance.
Our programs are a product of over three decades of research, development, testing, and refinement. We have over 20 completed and ongoing studies that are continually improving and enhancing our brain training for TBIs.
We are proud to have worked with hundreds of clients with the difficulties listed in this article, many of whom didn’t believe there were options available to them that could enhance their lives in such a way. To date, over 100,000 clients have experienced the benefits of our cognitive skills training!
To get started with a LearningRx brain training program, the first step is to take our brain skills assessment so we can get a thorough understanding of where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Then we’ll pair you up with your own personal brain trainer who will work through challenging yet rewarding mental exercises with you.Ready to get started? Reach out to us today to schedule your brain skills assessment and discuss how brain training with LearningRx can benefit you.