Reading Rehab After Brain Injury: More Observing and First Homework Assignment

Published Categorised as Brain Health, Brain Power, Health, Personal

Reading observations continued this week. I’m getting used to this being-watched-as-I-read thing.

First up was a page from the Toronto Sun. Busy busy, visually speaking. Ugh. But as my eye caught the byline “Don Peat,” I exclaimed: I follow him on Twitter! That’s OK, my neurodoc replied; he still wanted me to read the article.

Using the strategy of milking the title? I asked. Yes. I milked the title (damn if I could remember it even a couple of hours later).

I paused. I told him I’d followed Peat’s tweets on this topic. He indicated he still wanted me to read it. I asked him: Using the strategy of folding the paper or leaving it unfolded? My neurodoc was all for folding the page to show one thin, thin column at a time. I grumbled at how much folding it took to show only one column of print at a time. I got so impatient, I didn’t finish the origami-like fold fold fold, but let the rest of the page hang down trying to keep it out of my line of sight with my hands as I read out loud.

I got to the end, although it didn’t sound like it because of the Toronto Sun‘s habit of ending an article where inch columns end not at the end of an actual sentence. Weird.

My neurodoc figured I repeated about ten times.

He asked me what I felt when I repeated, when I reread words or sentences. I said it was like the words slipping away, out of me, as if they not only refused to be remembered, but also to be comprehended. It was difficult trying to explain it; that was the best I could do.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

He handed me a page from the Wall Street Journal. I was to milk the title as usual. But this time, he wanted me to read just the first paragraph slowly.

No, slower, he said, as I began. And no giggling. Gah!


Get sober.

I read s…l…o…w…e…r. It felt like being 6 years old again and sounding out words, except I could pronounce the words fine, it was my brain trying to wrap its neurons around each word, each chunk of meaning and sucking on them like unknown sweets, learning how they felt, what they meant.

I hated it.

I repeated only once.

I understood it easier.

I still hated reading that slowly.

My neurodoc compassionately but matter-of-factly noted that reading that slowly meant my brain could take in and process what I was reading so that I didn’t have to repeat. He noted that fewer repeats meant less frustration.

He was right, dammit. And I had told him I knew a lot of my trouble was I read faster than my brain can keep up. But I don’t want to slow down! I want to stick to my natural rhythm.

Illogical, I know, for I know I cannot. At this moment, anyway.

He then took that page from me and handed me a print-out from the Poetry Foundation: Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

This page was the calmest of all the pages he handed me. Lovely expanses of white space. No ads or photos or multiple columns of text. Just one column of print. I didn’t mention how wonderful the visual cleanliness of the page felt to my brain. I should. Anyway, I told him I read this poem years ago. He didn’t care. He asked me to read it as if I was reading it to an audience. I can do that! I said with confidence. But I doubted I would get meaning from it. And I didn’t think reading to an audience would be as slow as reading that WSJ paragraph had been, but I knew I would enjoy it, as much as I can enjoy reading.

I did. And I felt myself connecting emotionally to the poem too.

He was thrilled. Perfect, he said.

I totally understood the poem.


As he noted, it could be because I’d read it before. But I also noted that emotion helped me understand the meaning. Emotion also drew me into the text. Emotion did two things to enhance my reading that intellect cannot do alone, or as well alone.

He then gave me homework: to read the WSJ article. S…l…o…w…l…y. I am to try using my finger, a ruler, or folding the paper. And see what happens.

Do which method I will like best, he encouraged me. I don’t think it’s which I like best; I think it’s hate the least. Sigh.

Anyway, I obeyed orders after doing an audiovisual entrainment session of high alpha then telling myself it’s a research project so that I wouldn’t walk away. He had told me anxiety contributes to fatigue; it will be a gradual desensitization process over months to rid myself of anxiety when reading difficult-to-me materials and getting back to being like a person with a well-oiled reading machine in their heads. My machine is not well oiled. It’s damaged. So unsurprisingly, it creaked, groaned, coughed in protest, then quit as I did my homework.

Here are the results:

Para 1. Reread. Finger. 89 words. 3.5 min. 6 repeats. 1 repeat to recall who. 2.4 seconds/word

Para 2. New. Ruler. 82 words. 3.5 min. 10 repeats. 2.6 seconds/word

Para 3. New. Finger. 58 words. 2 min. 3 repeats. 2.1 second/word

Para 4. New. Folding. 66 words 1.75 min. 5 repeats. 1 repeat to recall what. 1.6 seconds/word

And then I tanked. Could. Not. Read. One. More. Word.

It was like a physical sensation of hanging onto the meanings of the words as I read. It would be like physically holding onto a trolley that is trying to pull away as more and more weighty objects I need to identify are piled onto it to create a furnished room. If I read quicker with more repeats as with folding, no headache — but I wasn’t making an effort to hang on to the words either, to see the room being created in my view as it was being furnished, so to speak.

I read for 13 minutes total; then after I briefly made notes and ate toast with honey to refuel my brain, I napped for 2 hours, cycling in and out of dozy sleep.

Thirteen minutes of real, proper reading, and I had to nap 2 hours. I am so not finishing the article! Homework done!!

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