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Application of Visualizing and Verbalizing Begins to Improve Reading Comprehension After Brain Injury

Visualizing and Verbalizing progress report for 17 August 2018We’ve reached the application stage! The goal when I began the Visualizing and Verbalizing program with Lindamood-Bell was to get to the point where I could read novels, neuroscience, and Philosophy of Mind.

Novels because my entire life prior to my brain injury I’d read fiction, novels since I was a child. I carried a book with me everywhere I went. It’s been eighteen years sans a book in my hand, and I’m not sure if I’m that kind of reader anymore. I’d pursued getting back my books for so long, though, I’d put novels as one of my goals.

Neuroscience because to keep the web pages for Concussion Is Brain Injury up to date with research in the brain and treatments for brain injury, I need to be able to read it without a huge amount of brain-breaking effort. I need to be able to understand it and retain what I’ve learnt so that I can write on it and continue to integrate accumulating knowledge with what I’ve written before without having to reread and reread and reread . . .

Philosophy of Mind because I took a course in it back in 2012, and the reading just about killed me. (Luckily, my writing saved me.) I retained none of the new vocabulary from the course, and almost everything I read slipped out of my consciousness, not from lack of understanding but because that’s what words do in my brain. They slip out. I never was able to do any of the extra reading, though I really wanted to. My brain caved in from the fatigue and effort. I gave up on pursuing it.

Tonight, we read samples of each; then I discussed with the Associate Director how to proceed.

We began the first hour reading the Mind-Body intro notes from my Philosophy of Mind class. But before we could even begin reading it, we had to develop a picture for qualia. We perused the dictionary definition. Broke that definition down into pictures for each part. Only then was I able to create a picture for qualia. That whole process seemed to take forever. But it may have taken five minutes. My clinician read first — receptive language. I created hardly any pictures. A complete zero except for one part where there were a couple of concrete details. I also didn’t expect her to ask me for a word summary, but of course, that’s part of the Visualizing and Verbalizing process. After read a whole page or passage, give a word summary! In the effort and confusion of tackling such complex, abstract language, I’d forgotten. I had barely any summary as I’d created little imagery. But slowly, slowly as she asked me questions about one sentence and then another, starting from the concrete detail and expanding out to the more and more abstract parts, I built up strong, stable images. My picture for “qualia” also filled in more. Then I read a shorter section — expressive language. Uh . . . ?? But it was rather amazing that in six minutes I read a short passage, attempted a word summary, created images under the guidance of my clinician, and gave a better word summary than in my first try.

Next, she read the first page of the Prologue of The Lions of Al-Rassan, a novel by Guy Gavriel Kay I’d been given by a friend in the early years after my brain injury and had had to give up. My brain had simply been unable to read it. This was easier in that there were concrete details, but I was unable to absorb the first few words. My old nemesis of the first sentences being like a car not wanting to start then finally roaring to life. I created moving pictures, not just a series of still images. Sweet. But, again, my pictures had holes in them as my first attempt at a word summary revealed. She asked me questions; I figured out ways to remember his name, added in expressions, and by the time she’d finished guiding me in creating more stable, vivid imagery, I was able to give the main idea.

Fatigue dragged me down. A break was like sinking one’s face in cold water on a hot day. And, yeah, it is hot today, too.

Hour two of the application process began with me reading the second page of the Prologue. I had an easier time of creating imagery because I knew better how to engage with the novel’s language. I gave a word summary, we discussed my pictures, and we talked about perspective. Did I see the action through Ammar’s eyes, from inside him, or from outside him? For me, my perspective was all external as if I was seeing him from behind . . . or at least it seemed that way at the time I answered the question. I’ll have to consider that question more closely next time. I didn’t give a main idea. Instead, we moved on to my third material, the neuroscience.

My clinician divided up the abstract of an article on using tDCS for fibromyalgia into sections because it was so dense. I had less trouble with vocabulary because I was familiar with all the terms. The one or two I wasn’t quite sure of I googled. I was able to explain them to my clinician. She read most of the abstract — receptive language. We went through the Visualizing and Verbalizing process for each, except for the main idea. I suppose the last part that I read was the main idea for the whole abstract, and my word summary became, in effect, the main idea.

The Associate Director joined us, and we decided that we’ll begin with reading the novel as a kind of warm up. Also, spending half the time on the novel will allow me to learn about themes and other aspects of reading comprehension when reading a work of fiction. The other half of my session, we’ll read Philosophy of Mind.

I’d better find a good way to energize my brain because I’m fatigued fatigued fatigued in a way I haven’t been in a couple of weeks! It’s worth it!

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