Brain Power

Week Three Rehabilitating Reading Comprehension after Brain Injury

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 By the time week two came to an end, my brain was heading straight for a snooze on the couch . . . or at least there would be no blogging. Even now, it’s tugging at me to go nap. Needless to say week two’s progress report is a bit fuzzy in my memory. But I clearly remember that between hour one and hour two of the last day of week two, the Associate Director dropped the Sentence by Sentence task and changed my routine to Multiple Sentences and Whole Paragraphs after assessing my performance on a Multiple Sentence. Minutes after starting hour two, when my clinician asked me what story we’d read, I had zero memory of it. As the AD explained later, that was probably because she hadn’t taken me through the whole process to the end, which includes main idea and answering higher-order thinking questions. Once the AD mentioned it while going over my report, I remembered it was about crows, and I recalled bits of the images I’d created.

Today, my first clinician — one of the consultants I’d met only briefly in week one — asked me if I noticed any difference. Not really. The thing with me, though, is that any improvement I have I see as having always been like that; only in looking back over the previous day or previous session do I realize there’s been a change. Also, only later did I recall that the clinician on Thursday had noted I’d changed from the previous week. Whereas in week one, I would take a few moments to create imagery after reading a sentence, by the end of week two, I was verbalizing my images right away.

Today, it wasn’t long before I did see another change. Whereas in weeks one and two my main ideas were a tad verbose, today, my main idea was succinct. It was for all the stories in hour one —  for Multiple Sentence and both Whole Paragraphs. Less so in hour two, but as usual, the brain was straining by then. I’m still reading sentences in Whole Paragraphs slowly, pausing either midway or at the end  to allow my images to stabilize, catch up, or be created. There were some sentences I could not either image or understand a detail. But that’s why we have trained clinicians guiding us students. They ask questions based on structure words or go through elements in the story that give clues about why a detail is the way it is until we go, “Ah-ha!”

I’m gradually yet rather quickly going upward through the grade levels. I am, after all, already one-quarter of the way to my goal of reading neuroscience articles and philosophy of mind text in a way that I will follow all the way through and remember them. You can see from the progress report above that they introduced levels 7 and 8 in both Multiple Sentence and Whole Paragraphs even though I’m still partially proficient at level 6; I became proficient at grade level 7 in Sentence by Sentence. This week, they’re upping Multiple Sentence and Whole Paragraph to grade level 9.

I definitely noticed.

I asked a few times how to image an abstract word or concept, like for example, “endangered.” Sometimes they would give me examples of how they would image it. Sometimes I’d mimic that in my own imagery. But I also riffed off of their ideas and was able to develop my own image. I was relying less on my memories of movies I’d seen or news items. Only once did I. When imaging sailfish herding tuna, I recalled a scene of Orcas herding fish until, with promptings and thinking about the details given in the story, I springboarded it into my own image.

From my week two progress report: “When presented multiple sentences or whole paragraphs at a time, she sometimes requires prompting to adjust imagery to match the story as opposed to relying solely on prior experience. Once imagery is established, Shireen can verbalize a complete word summary with relative ease.” I’d agree: the latter is getting easier. I’m also learning that images stabilize and fill out and lead to the next images when I add in action, background, colour, and sound. Today, I was introduced to the idea of adding in emotion. Not so easy after having lost my affect for years and I’m still relearning emotions. Yet I can see that trying to do that may help me in my recovery of a normal emotional landscape.

Brain Power

Introducing Whole Paragraph on the Seventh Day Visualizing and Verbalizing Reading with Lindamood-Bell

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Parthenon Frieze of Lapith and Centaur British MuseumMy consultant popped in during the first hour of my session and read to me a whole paragraph. I ensured I understood the idea before she began reading. The idea: as she reads, I’m to visualize — create images and moving pictures in my mind — of what she’s reading. When she’s finished, I tell her the story based only on the images I’ve created. Then she asks me questions about those images to help me fill them out and, as well, asks me what I picture in those parts of the stories I’d totally forgotten or hadn’t created images for. Once I have a vivid and stable series of images and/or moving pictures of the whole paragraph, like with Sentence by Sentence and Multiple Sentences, I give the main idea.

It is not as easy as the words make it sound. The effort strains my concentration ability; it fatigues so much, I’d like to quit; it’s a series of my mind consciously commanding my brain to create images as I push my brain to keep focused on the words coming into my ears and eyes and my mind once again consciously commanding image creation until the words blur into each other and fall out of my consciousness until I can again pick them up and create out of them an image.

The consultant had done this before with me on the fourth day. This time, some images popped into my head a little more readily than last time. I did well enough that she added Whole Paragraph to my regimen, as we’d discussed she may do during my progress report. I had a small heart attack at the idea of creating images on the fly and the thought of launching right into that and abandoning the comforting regimen of creating images one sentence or two sentences at a time, under the guidance of the clinicians. But never fear, we would retain the core part of the program. Sentence by Sentence followed by Multiple Sentence followed by Whole Paragraph in one hour. I wasn’t sure how we could fit that all in because I didn’t think I’d completed three tasks yet in one hour. But my consultant assured me that as I improved, the Sentence by Sentence wouldn’t take the first half hour but less time. That one takes the most time because we do each sentence individually.

When Lindamood-Bell consultants assess, the lesson plan changes immediately. No dilly dallying here. My second hour tonight included Whole Paragraph, a story on ancient Romans. No giving the brain any choice in the matter. Naturally, it went, WHAT?! You want me to do WHAT?!!!! Then it glared at me, demanded truckloads of sugar, we bargained, then agreed upon the usual ice cream afterwards, this time chocolate with its added benefit of a taste so strong, it belted the tongue and woke up the brain.

Brain Power

Week Two: Polar Bear Club Leads Visualizing In Lindamood-Bell Reading Comprehension

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Ducks in open water patch in icy HarbourfrontTis a strange thing to be wearing a light cotton shirt while one’s clinician (instructor) is wrapped up in a scarf and jacket. We’re still getting used to seeing each other from different time zones, different day of the week, opposite seasons. I noticed right away that the first Sentence by Sentence was tougher than the ones last week. More details; harder to visualize. My consultant had moved me up a level, as we’d discussed during my progress report. My brain immediately felt the effort, yet I’d begun with good energy for me. My clinician asked me more questions about the pictures than she had last week, and she introduced structure words.

I’d been introduced to structure words on the first day. Today I was shown via the document camera rectangular white cards with a structure word on each one, one at a time.

  • What
  • Size
  • Colour
  • Background
  • Where
  • Perspective (where I was seeing it from)
  • Movement
  • Number
  • Shape
  • When

With each card, I had to look at it and fill in my picture accordingly. Some were easy to do. Other words took a little more thought. I find that as I answer the questions — or in this case, look at a structure word and think about how the picture shows it — the picture I visualize becomes clearer, gathers more details, may even become more stable.

When I was given the choice for my second Sentence by Sentence, I chose the Polar Bear Club, for I’d seen many a TV news story on it. It was a bit of a cheat. All I had to do was recall images from those news stories. My brain didn’t feel the effort at all, even though I was reading it. I created vivid images in the instructor’s mind, too. When she began reading to me the first two sentences of the next story — a Multiple Sentence — I immediately felt my neurons straining, like weights being flung onto them and straining their little energy machines. Yeah, the two sentences had abstract details that the Polar Bear Club story had not had, and yeah, it was two sentences instead of one with many details, but the real issue was that I had no remembered images to call upon.

It’s harder to create an image from scratch. It’s harder when creating an image from scratch to shift an image when more details are given to you later in the story that contradict or require changing the initial image. It’s harder to keep stable a from-scratch-image for even a second. The Polar Bear Club images were solid, vibrant, stable. The clothing they wore easily shifted in my visualized image to bathing suits from Santa suits when I was given that detail in the next sentences. In all the other stories I read, colour shifted easily but not location (where) or other structure details.

Brain Power

Week One Lindamood-Bell Reading Comprehension Progress Report

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Visualizing and Verbalizing progress report for week one with Lindamood-Bell All of a sudden, my first week at Lindamood-Bell Australia was done! Never so happy as to hear “we’ll stop there” as time was up in my second hour Thursday night. Yet vying with the fatigue was this alertness, this up state that my neurodoc described as excitement, excitement at starting something new and at the possibility that finally at last my reading will return. It’s a strange feeling, two opposite states co-existing in one brain.

The fatigue comes from pushing damaged circuits in my brain to work. The excitement and alertness arise from the circuits I’ve felt being healed the last year or so through brain biofeedback at the ADD Centre, particularly after we began to inhibit 16-20 Hz at the PZ location.

And now I have a new thing to report progress on!

One thing to note here: the instructors (clinicians) and consultants work as a team. It reminds me of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute where all the health professionals I worked with kept each other informed of my performance, their observations of me, and any issues that came up.

My Lindamood-Bell Double Bay, Australia consultant emailed me my first progress report (see image). I flew through steps one to three, which I blogged on on day one.

Sentence by Sentence Imaging is either the instructor or me reading one sentence from a one-paragraph story and then me describing the picture I see. The instructor will sometimes ask me questions about that picture, details like describe the man or what do the chicks in the box look like or how many people are on the field. When I have a stable picture in my head that through my description creates an image in the instructor’s head, we move on to the next sentence. At the end of the paragraph, I retell each picture I saw for each sentence in sequence. Only once or twice toward the end of the week, did I get details out of order or forgot something. Once I’ve given the “picture summary” for each sentence, I give a word summary based on my pictures — not the same as recalling the actual words in the story, something I can do easily in the short term. Then I give the main idea. A short sentence with three points, leaving out extraneous details but keeping in a key detail(s). Discerning what’s extraneous and what’s key is not always easy! I can get a bit verbose.

Sentence by Sentence Imaging with Higher Order Thinking introduces questions after I give the main idea. These HOT questions are designed to get me to reach conclusions, inferences, make predictions, think about the abstract aspects of what I’ve read.

Multiple Sentence Imaging with Higher Order Thinking is the same as Sentence by Sentence, except instead of reading one sentence at a time, I or they read two sentences at a time. Sometimes the reading finishes with one sentence to reach the end of the story.

The first stories I read in the first three days had concrete things and few details to picture. On Day Four, my consultant interrupted the first hour to have me read one paragraph because the team had noted I was doing well. I read the paragraph, as opposed to her reading it to me, because I find reading harder than them reading to me. So of course I had to do it the most difficult way! She wanted me to recall it using my natural method, ie, recalling the words themselves. I zipped through my recall. No problem-o. Summarized every part of the story. Then she began asking me questions about the images I created. Well, um, not too many. At first, I was able to easily answer, like when I described the restaurant patron. Then it became apparent that other elements, like the chef, I hadn’t created images for or partial ones, like a closeup of a couple of fries, not the plate or bowl or whatever they were of fries. When she asked me for a word summary based on my images, the summary didn’t reflect the story. She noted that the wealth of my background knowledge props up my reading, but I need to generate images from the story, be able to shift the images as I learn more as the story unfolds, and remember the images and story based on those images over time. I need to also not be so hard on myself. They don’t expect me to achieve 100 percent on the first take! Yeah, I know. Others have told me same. I have eased up on myself over the years . . . maybe.

Based on her quick assessment of my paragraph reading, she had the instructors increase the story difficulty by one level. And if there were three sentences left at the end of a Multiple Sentence story, I’d read all three instead of two and then one. And on day five, during the second hour, I was asked to choose the colour of the first square of felt used. Each square is a different colour, and they’re placed in my view prior to reading a sentence or multiple sentences to represent that sentence(s). I’m not sure of the significance of me choosing the colour of the first square (they chose them for the subsequent sentences), but it does introduce a node of decision making, not exactly my forte.

So to sum up the first week: I did steps one to three automatically and easily. Steps four, five, and six were the focus of the first week, and I reached proficiency up to level five and partial proficiency at level 6.

For next week’s goals, I will have push steps added to the core program of Sentence by Sentence and Multiple Sentences. A push step is exactly that — to push my brain. The expectation is that maybe I’ll achieve 40 percent, but the next week, I’ll have gotten up to 70 or so. The push step will be to introduce reading and imaging an entire paragraph at once. My consultant is not yet settled on whether to up the level to 12 for Sentence by Sentence and Multiple Sentences before moving on to Whole Paragraph Imaging with Higher Order Thinking or move to Whole Paragraph first and then up the level. She’s going to try one or the other with me next week. Either way, from Whole Paragraph on, we’ll go up to level >12. Also, it’ll be at least a couple of weeks before they’ll start working on acquiring new vocabulary and more abstract language and week four or five before introducing multiple paragraphs.

My next-step-on-this-brain-injury-journey-related tweets

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/1016133386790952961

https://twitter.com/ShireenJ/status/1017031127440285696

 

Brain Power

Day Three of Lindamood-Bell Reading Comprehension Visualizing and Verbalizing Program

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Swirl of chocolate ribboned meringue.
Swirl of Glucose

Not much to report on day three. Things are settling into a pattern. I’m getting used to them being in winter, with people being sick and dressed in puffy vests or jackets, while I’m slowly burning up in Toronto heat. I’ve met all the people I will work with, I believe. I hope so. Learning new faces and new accents every day, three days in a row, is not easy with a brain injury! Each brings their own angle to the work; I learn something different from each one, although the work is the same. We begin with one or two sentence-by-sentence then finish up with a two-sentence multiple sentence reading of a one-paragraph story. I think I’m fine as we begin. Within seconds, my brain goes, nah, don’t wanna work. The first sentence of the hour or of a harder task kind of fizzles away in my memory. Sometimes I can snag on to all the details in some sort of grasping of vague-feeling words. Other times, I’m prompted or the sentence is reread to me. After that, I can see the words, not images, of the following sentence(s) being read to me or that I read; then I must conjure up pictures representing the sentence or two sentences. But every now and then, image fragments appear as the words are being read to me.

I’m starting to get the hang of the fact that the pictures don’t have to make logical sense, just that they represent in a way that will help me remember the sentence(s). We finish when the clock runs out, wherever we happen to be in the last reading. Today, we stopped after I did a picture summary of a multiple-sentence recall. Thank GOD! I went and bit into an ice cream sandwich. Savoured its coldness and rush of glucose to my starving neurons.

Brain Power

Day Two Visualizing and Verbalizing Reading Comprehension with Lindamood-Bell

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Pan American Games 2015: Three Lasers Standard All in a RowThis isn’t going to be a day-by-day blog about my reading retraining with Lindamood-Bell! But I learnt more about one of the concepts: the main idea. And I learnt about which stories aid recall well.

To recap: the steps in learning reading comprehension are

  • Read a sentence or multiple sentences (I read via the document camera, or the clinician reads to me)
  • Create a picture that represents the sentence or multiple sentences, a picture that can be static, morphing from one image to another, and moving
  • At the end of the one-paragraph story, describe each picture in sequence
  • Then give a word summary based off those pictures
  • Answer high thinking order questions
  • Give the main idea.

The main idea is tough. It’s gotta be one sentence, but not a long, verbose, wordy sentence with lots and lots of conjunctions and subjunctive phrases. It’s gotta be short. My clinician suggested thinking of three main points, in sequence, and creating one short sentence with those three points. Think of the main idea as the first sentence of an essay that summarizes what is to come. My second kick at the main idea of the last full story we did worked better. It was short. I still wasn’t sure about it, but she was satisfied and explained why it worked.

We had seven minutes left in my two-hour time; my clinician decided on a gross jungle spider story. She read the first sentences; that was enough for me. Nightmares! And boy, was the imagery vivid in my mind. The image developed whole new levels of action not in the story, like big, black hairy spiders crawl-running out of the ground, growing huger than tree trunks, and attacking the men coming to dig them up and fry them. In other words, gross stories kickstart the creation of images. Blander stories require more effort to draw pictures in my mind when all I see are the words.

Brain Power

Day One with Lindamood-Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing Reading Comprehension

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Hosta Traffic JamI was tense. I was nervous. Not about the program, but about the tech. Bell, in its imitable way, had decided to move my high-speed upgrade date and, as my ISP had warned, the new date was a maybe, too. I went into a tither over what I was supposed to do. I suddenly had a brainwave: use my iPhone’s LTE Personal Hotspot. I did the speed and tech tests, and it passed muster. Of course, it took awhile to find the best spot to prop my iPhone up for optimal speed because nothing is ever simple. I had tried a different webcam than the one builtin to my PC, but decided after this tech test to stick with my default one. I uninstalled the one that used my iPad as a webcam. This all happened not 48 hours before my reading retraining was set to begin.

I wrote up what to do to prepare tech-wise on Post-Its. Turn WiFi off on all my devices, like, all of them! Put my PC into Priority Only mode. Turn off all the apps I knew about who speak to the internet in the background. And keep Data off on my iPhone to conserve it for my videoconferencing with Lindamood-Bell.

I logged into the website I was given as my online conference room and the webcam I’d uninstalled, poked its head into my webcam space, and said, you can’t get rid of me! Ack!! No picture, and no way to figure out how to get the Lindamood-Bell to use my default webcam. Since it looked like I was the only one in the conference room, I disconnected from the LTE Personal Hotspot, reconnected to my ISP’s basic internet so that I could go googling over how to get Chrome to use the default webcam. Meanwhile, I kept trying to uninstall it; it installed itself back in. I entered this unreal loop of install/uninstall. I tried to delete it manually. Nope. The thing was bound and determined to horn in on webcam territory. Nothing in the reviews ever talked about how difficult it is to uninstall.

Luckily, I don’t get tooooo frazzled over computer snafus and can understand icons on websites pretty quickly. I clicked on the HD icon and discovered that switched the webcam feed to the document camera. I wasn’t sure I wanted an HD feed on the Personal Hotspot network, but it was working fine on my basic ISP one. A lot of time had passed and no sign of anyone on the other side. Turn WiFi back on for my iPad, check my email, see she’s waiting, tell her I am too, and then suddenly she’s there.

Oh, interesting. My basic speed that hadn’t passed the tech test showed her me just fine, and her to me just fine. I think when I require a webcam for me and the document camera for materials I’ll be working on, things won’t be so tickety boo. But hopefully by then Bell will have deigned to upgrade my speed. Now that I’ve decided on forking out for faster speed, I kind of not happy with the slower one.

That was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole two and a half hours.

Instead of spending a half hour getting to know the Associate Director at Double Bay, Australia Lindamood-Bell, and the features, we spent half that time. Was OK. I’d figured out most of the online conference room feature set during the assessment back in June and just futzing around today with pushy webcam software. She wanted to know where the neuroscience articles that was part of my goal were located: online or in print. Oh, hmmm, I think most are online. For those, I’ll have to get the Chrome share extension to be able to share my screen with my instructor, otherwise I would use the document camera for printed materials, like the philosophy textbook. She had read all my emails with the Minnesota centre and my blogs on my experiences there. Cool!

She explained that the first one or two days would be fairly simple. The aim was to familiarize me with the process of connecting words to images. I understood the concept but not how that looked in practical terms. She introduced me to my first instructor — clinician in Lindamood-Bell speak. Instructor. Teacher. Clinician. Person who will guide me back to reading.

I have a different clinician per hour. So today, I saw three people: the associate director and clinicians one and two. My head is spinning!

The first part of the first hour was taken up with him asking me questions about what I do outside of the Lindamood-Bell sessions. It was an interesting way to put the question; then I realized most of the time, students are asked these questions and most of the time, the sessions are four hours long, not two. I’m writing this now because I want to get it down before I forget; I want to cement in my head the process, the terms, to help me get into the groove of it. But no way I could do four hours in a row of this. I have one hell of a concentration headache, which writing is only making worse. Moral: blog not the same night but next day or end of the week!

Anyway, after a few minutes of getting to know me and the kind of books I write, he got into the work. We began with him showing me a picture via their document camera so that I could learn about creating images in my head. I was to describe this picture to him. Then he turned it over, and he described it back to me. He asked me questions about it; turned it back over; and we discussed it some more. The main concept here was structure words.

Structure words to describe an image are (as I wrote down):

  • What
  • Action
  • Size
  • Colour
  • Background
  • Where
  • Mood
  • Sound
  • When

Interestingly, when he mentioned sound, I instantly heard the bubbles of oxygen that I had, up to that point, only seen and recalled visually in my head. I hadn’t heard any sounds at all. My perception of the picture and recall were all visual.

We then began the process of me imaging one word: snowman. I was introduced to a second concept: independence.

Independence is me being able to image and describe the picture in my head using the structure words, or as many of them as were applicable. I showed good independence, so we zoomed onto sentence by sentence.

And here I was introduced to a third concept. Before he read a sentence from my first one-paragraph story — about trap-jaw ants — he placed a coloured square of felt underneath the document camera. Each sentence was represented by a different coloured square. I was to associate the picture I imaged in my head when he read out one sentence with the square he put down for that sentence. The process was:

  • Read a sentence.
  • Image it. The picture must be stable, otherwise it will become difficult to recall. (My images morphed or were vague.)
  • Describe my image to him.
  • Answer any questions he may have to help me fill out that image to both add structure words and represent the entire sentence.
  • Place the next square on top of the previous one, leaving a bit of the previous one showing, and move on to the next sentence.
  • Once the one-paragraph story was done, flip the squares so that the bottom — first sentence one shows up at the top — and ask me what the picture was of that one.
  • Move on to the next square/sentence. I was to recall only my image.
  • Once I had progressed through all the squares, getting hints if I needed them to recall my image, my eye movements showing him that I was recalling my image not words, I was to give a word summary.
  • The word summary had to be based on my pictures. I also had to not add things from my pictures that were not in the original sentences.
  • At the end, I had to give a one-sentence main idea of the one-paragraph story.

I had a five-minute break between clinicians. The new one did another sentence-by-sentence one with me. At the end of the above process, she asked me what she called, “HOTS Questions.” High-order thinking questions. These questions are designed to push inference skills in a logical way. No flights of fancy!

The hardest one for me was when I had to read the one-paragraph story sentence by sentence instead of it being read to me. My first crack at the first sentence ended in immediate amnesia because I’d been so focused on pronouncing the name of the main character correctly. She re-showed it to me, and I remembered to read slowly, word by word, so that my brain could keep up.

My brain had a strange habit of imaging cartoon characters for some of the pictures, like for the paragraph on turducken, my brain insisted the chicken had to appear as a cartoon while the duck was a realistic-looking mallard and the turkey . . . well, it was like a well-drawn illustration.

We ended with imaging multiple sentences. We didn’t have enough time to complete the whole process; I only got as far as creating mental pictures for each set of multiple sentences. But I was quite happy not to have to strain my brain anymore.

As the Associate Director had said, it was fairly simple. Yet the moment my first clinician had asked me to begin to create an image in my head, I could feel my brain work. I could feel the effort even though my mind thought this was dead simple to do and I was showing good independence. He didn’t have to prompt me much.

I would’ve liked to have known who my clinicians are ahead of time. I seem to be OK with the differing accents, American and Australian, but my brain injury insists on knowing what to expect and who to expect ahead of time. Not knowing feels like standing over a chasm, not knowing where my next step will land. Despite that, I did pretty good. And I’m now wayyyy more relaxed about the tech.

*This is unedited because I’m seriously fuzzy headed now.

Brain Health

Reading after Brain Injury: Making the Decision to Try Restoring It Again

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Why creep when feel impulse to soarSo after stressing and dithering and talking and talking with my health care team, I’ve taken the plunge and will soon restart my efforts to take back my reading from my brain injury.I wrote previously about a recent comprehensive reading assessment with Lindamood-Bell, a US company devoted to training/restoring reading and math to students and adults, and I also wrote about my results. They confirmed my experience with trying to read long-form materials or even material as short as tweets when I’m tired. I was introduced to the concepts of dual coding theory and reading comprehension through concept imagery. And I learnt more and more about how they would restore my reading comprehension using their Visualizing and Verbalizing Program that they recommended. To be honest, I’m still absorbing it all. But I cannot wait to start. I need my reading back in time for NaNoWriMo; so in my usual brain-injured way, I’ll just roll with it while my brain learns, forgets, remembers some bits, processes, absorbs more info, struggles to integrate, comprehends a bit more, and finally catches up with my actions.After discussing it with my neurodoc*, I’ve decided to contract for 80 hours. It’s the minimum required. Even though 120 hours was Lindamood-Bell’s recommendation to regain my ability to read philosophy textbooks and comes with a 5% discount, I can’t afford it. Or rather the financial pressure of having a large upfront cost would stress out my brain so much, it would probably fight against the instruction. I can always extend it if I need more than 80 hours, but I’m hoping I won’t have to. (Heck, I can’t even afford 80 hours, don’t know where else I can get the money from once the line of credit runs out, tell myself that’s what credit cards are for, and my teeth grit at the thought of carrying a balance on them. But the soul cost of not pursuing this opportunity to get back a core part of who I am is worse than the financial cost, even though organizing it and managing preparation for starting Visualizing and Verbalizing has shot up my busy brain — ruminations that come with brain injury like a hamster shot full of steroids racing on his wheel.)I’m not going to rely just on hope though to make those 80 hours behave like 120. I’m going to use my audiovisual entrainment device to perk up my brain and enhance relaxed, focused attention so that I can respond as optimally as I can to the instruction. I’m also working with the ADD Centre to see if my brain biofeedback protocols can be tweaked to facilitate the neuronal regrowth we want. We’ll be keeping the gamma brainwave biofeedback for sure since it supports my whole brain and “grounds me.”My neurodoc and I had a brief, candid discussion about my coffee purchases. If I cut down on the treats, I can afford the increased cost of upgrading to faster broadband. My current basic broadband is too slow for online instruction with Lindamood-Bell, especially as I’ll be working with their Australia centre. Wow, geographic distance does make a diff. What was OK during assessment with their Minnesota centre was not so hot with the Australia centre with its many moments of video stuttering and audio distortions. But it did the job of discussing my options and getting all my questions answered at once instead of the painfully frustrating slowness via email, with the 14-hour time zone difference slowing it even further.With faster broadband comes another cost: a VDSL modem. Really, you think all you have to take into account is the hourly instruction rate; the next thing you know, all sorts of costs are raising their hands, going count me in, too! Maybe somehow I’ll pay it all off in a couple or four years. I’ve been down this road before. For the last couple of years, it’s been nice not carrying debt in order to pay for my medical expenses in universal-health-care Canada. But I guess that vacation is over. Sigh. By the way, others with brain injury who require medical care not covered by their provincial health care pay for it by credit card. Imagine being on ODSP, living in social housing, and having to pay hundreds of dollars or over a thousand per month for medical expenses‽ Naturally, credit cards get maxed out. Canada’s universal health care is pathetic and impoverishes desperate people even more than being unable to work does. But I digress. If all goes well, I’ll be starting July 8th. Yes, a Sunday. The only time I’m reliably available five days in a row for two hours per day is at night. Lindamood-Bell centres close at 5:00pm in the summer (North America), so that’s why I’m doing it with Australia (winter hours). Their office hours coincide with my night hours. Try to wrap your head around not only a different time but a different date! The contract shows me starting July 9th, their Monday, while for me it’s July 8th! Needless to say, our emails have been full of “your time” and “my time”s!Now that everything is almost in place to start — fingers crossed no more hiccups — I’m counting down the days. But I should probably rest — and rest some more while I can.


*My neurodoc and I have been working things out for about a month now since I fired him and then discovered my brain injury grief, including for losing my reading and the long soul-destroying struggle to get it back, was more than I could handle on my own. However, I wasn’t about to continue the way we had been with him pushing his wrong goals on to me. I figured out a paradigm shift to force him to pursue my goals and only my goals. Sometimes doctors don’t know best. Since he got the message, things have been slowly improving. It helps that we’re learning that he has to explain things better not just assume I’m following his miles-a-minute thinking. He’s also realizing that given my severe abandonment issues, he needs to be more obviously supportive. I’m crossing my fingers, but I think I can say we’ve turned the corner. Trying to find good, appropriate psychiatric or psychological care for managing brain injury life is not easy. Ontario doesn’t cover psychologists for people with brain injury. And too many psychiatrists, who are covered since they’re physicians, treat it with a medication-only approach. Wholly inappropriate and, I might say, injurious. So I appreciate mine learning to do better.

Brain Power

The Collective Toronto Yawn for Canada’s Brain Injury Awareness Month

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Love bot at CHIRS, a place for people with head injuryDiversity Our Strength — that’s Toronto’s motto — and the words people on the progressive side of the ledger espouse and people on the conservative side support, although progressives mayn’t think so.

During the cricket season of brain injury awareness month this June, I have to ask: who is included in the diversity tent? CBC Radio 1 Metro Morning, the show that boasts how it reflects Toronto to newcomers and long-timers alike has been single-mindedly uninterested in interviewing anyone from any brain injury association about this month, about the challenges of navigating life and the city with a brain injury, and the sheer cussed-mindedness of the medical system that refuses to restore people’s brains, opting for the “right balance of rest” and strategies instead. Worse, Metro Morning is on our public broadcaster, who one would think would include every kind of voice imaginable on their shows — from morning shows to news shows like The Current to topical and lifestyle shows. But nope.

All but one morning shows in Toronto — television and radio — seemed to yawn when the press releases about this awareness month went by. Yes, let’s talk about concussions and hockey or football, when some big star writes a book or is injured, but talking about regular folk, car crashes, falls, PTSD from the cruel indifference towards and the navel-gazing abandonment of people with brain injury? Nah.

Millions are affected in Canada. Every Torontonian probably knows someone who has had a concussion or life-altering brain injury. Still, booorrrrring seems be the almost universal response.

Only one morning television show was right there on day one interviewing the Executive Director of the Brain Injury Society of Toronto and a member who had painted a powerful mask representing his brain injury experience. That was Breakfast Television. I guess, despite Rogers gobbling up Citytv, it’s still the only true voice of diversity in Toronto — like when it first launched, it still honours and includes the most sidelined voices.

And on the radio, it was a night-time show on a conservative talk radio station that hosted the pair and broadcasted their voices to Toronto.

So who really believes in Toronto’s motto? The hip, progressive media or the ones right there in the thick of the city, noticing and broadcasting to the public the voices no one wants to hear?

No wonder both the TTC and the city of Toronto have made cognitive accessibility worse under the noses of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the provincial AODA (accessibility) law. They know no one capable to speaking loudly cares enough to stop them and force them to enact services, policies, infrastructure, purchases that are inclusive of all. So I’ll just be over here in my little corner shouting awareness and knowledge into the void because what else can one do?