I got to the point of being able to read an entire chapter of The Screwtape Letters about 2 months ago but not in one go. Instead, I read for 5 minutes at a time or paragraph by paragraph or a page at a time. I finally got up to reading chapter 1.5 pages by 1.5 pages on July 1, 2019. But I didn’t progress to reading 2 pages until July 20th. That was just one page off from reading an entire chapter in one go.
What I mean by one go is: Start reading the text, create concept imagery as I read, redo concept imagery if I’m “seeing” text in my head instead of a still image or mini movie, keep going like that until I get to the final word of the chapter, not pausing once.
Then do word summary for entire chapter: tell myself out loud what I just read by seeing the imagery in my mind and recall it from the images.
Then describe out loud to myself the main idea. I always stumble on this one. Today, I remembered the three-key-points method on my second try and got it!
Then ask myself: what do you conclude, infer, predict? Those questions, as always, help me see ideas or inferences I hadn’t seen when creating imagery and summarizing.
Fucking amazing. Yeah, it’s a short chapter. Yeah, it’s taken me till Chapter 23 of the third book I’ve read since I relearnt to read, to accomplish this. But like all the chapters of The Screwtape Letters, it’s dense with ideas, visuals, sounds, tastes, smells and, in this chapter, long strings of adjectives — I had to create an image for each adjective to help me remember what Screwtape thinks of this latest person in the patient’s life.
Lindamood-Bell instructed me that when I advance to the next level — whether from sentence to sentence by sentence or from paragraph by paragraph to page by page — I would not recall 100 percent. Sixty would be awesome. So during the word summary, having to check back to the text three times to remind myself of details or an entire argument and see imagery pop back up into consciousness so that I could close the book and recall it in word summary, didn’t faze me.
I can’t believe that with my brain injury, the huge setback from the Shingrix vaccine, and current rise of major stress, I finally read with comprehension from start to finish, without loss of focus, one whole chapter. Wow. Sweet.
And the professionals who specialize in brain injury who told me I had to accept I couldn’t read anymore and had to use strategies to make do with language going in and immediately exiting my memory and comprehension, were wrong wrong wrong. That’s why I wrote Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me and am updating its companion web pages with my newly acquired knowledge on how to restore reading. Medical professionals are sweet people, but they’re WRONG, and you need to stop listening to them, go out, and find a way to get your book reading back — because you deserve to feel this awesomeness.
As a NaNoWriMo winner last year, I received a sweet deal on a subscription to Great Courses Plus. I signed up for it because it had a series on Philosophy of Mind. My thinking was that if I couldn’t read my Philosophy of Mind texts and course work from 2012 well enough to remember, maybe I could watch a series of short video lectures and learn that way. It sort of worked. I couldn’t watch a 30-minute lecture in one go, and I didn’t remember much better. Actually, I don’t recall any of what I watched.
As regular readers know, I spent the summer relearning how to read with comprehension and began reading Philosophy of Mind again, this time being able to understand, remember, and extrapolate. Still, it’s tough. I can read only a few or two paragraphs at a time. So before my subscription ran out, I thought I’d re-watch the 30-minute lecture on Descartes and dualism to augment my reading.
Well. That was different!
I created imagery as I watched, just like I do when reading. It was kind of automatic, which is a really good sign that my brain has changed as a result of my reading rehab ie Visualizing and Verbalizing with Lindamood-Bell. I used a lot of the imagery I had created while reading Descartes’s meditations and some of the related course work.
The most astounding part: I understood the lecture at a much deeper level than I had prior to my summer of learning how to visualize and verbalize what I read. This week, I remembered bits he mentioned in his lecture that I hadn’t known or remembered from when I first watched his lecture or took the Philosophy of Mind course back in 2012 (what I’ve reread of the course so far didn’t mention the bits I learnt from the video lecture). I was able to connect the dots, almost seamlessly. I also watched the entire lecture.
I’m actually watching shows and movies with fewer stoppages, too.
As a result, it was far more enjoyable — the mental work paid off. Just like with reading. The only thing I didn’t do properly was verbalize what I’d watched: speak out loud a word summary, tell myself the main idea, ask myself higher-order thinking questions. I should do that next time.
When you can watch or read with comprehension, it’s not a chore, it’s not disheartening, it’s rewarding.
So since I was again a NaNoWriMo winner and Great Courses Plus again offered a discount and this time in Canadian dollars, too, I re-subscribed so I could start watching the lectures all over again. And this year finish the series.
It’s over! Hard to believe that it was only four months ago, I was starting to learn how to visualize and verbalize and on my way to regaining my reading comprehension. And now it’s over. I plunged in with Lindamood-Bell on the basis of their decades of experience, their thorough reading assessment, my brain Clinic Director’s endorsement. Even though they were fully confident they could give me back my reading, I was uncertain. After eighteen years of not much progress, how could I achieve reading books again in only two months?
Well, I did it. I ended the original 81 hours back in September and had five refresher sessions one week then two weeks apart. I’m still reading The Lions of Al-Rassan (on page 183 as of today, more than a third of the way through it), and I’m rereading the course material from the Philosophy of Mind course I took six years ago and did well in on the strength of my writing, my short-term memory, my intensive use of the iPad for notes and repeated calling up of word definitions (no vocabulary retention), audiovisual entrainment, and serious napping. Even so, I never acquired vocabulary. I never understood some concepts like Descartes’ extension. And I didn’t retain much of it. But now I’m reading it with comprehension. I’m acquiring vocabulary. The only thing I need to is read and work the visualizing and verbalizing process.
It was sad to say good-bye, but today, I was ready. I’ll still be checking in as checking in helps the student to retain and prevent drifting away from the process. I have to say that because I’ve been intensively writing a novel for NaNoWriMo, I have been drifting away. And some stressful events have seriously interfered with my memory of what I’d read. Having the last of the extra five free refresher sessions today gave them an opportunity to pull me back in and for me to ask for tips.
Read every day. And even if it’s only five minutes during this intensive writing period, read daily to keep the connection to creating imagery. Work the whole process if can read for 10 minutes.
Funny, before my brain injury, no one ever had to convince me to read daily. Not reading a book was a chore. After my brain injury, reading a book became a slog of quicksand-sucking proportion. Now reading daily is difficult yet returning me to the joy of books.
Today was re-evaluation results day! It seems like another lifetime ago yet only yesterday that I received my initial reading assessment results from the Minnesota Lindamood-Bell centre. I’ve completed eighty-one hours of visualizing and verbalizing instruction with Lindamood-Bell’s Double Bay, Australia centre (which because of the time zone difference allowed me to do it two hours per night, five nights per week). I had my re-evaluation this past Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights. The time was broken up because of my fatigue — I don’t have a lot of stamina — and because they wanted to use new-to-me stories in addition to the same ones I had been tested on the first time around for the reading comprehension section.
Like before, all the results were normed to my age and gender. And those tests that haven’t been normed in awhile, were used for diagnostic purposes.
What I wrote about my June results is in italics; my re-evaluation results underneath each point:
“My reading rate is too slow. I’m in the 16th percentile. That means 84 percent of women my age read faster than me.”
My reading rate has not increased. I remain in the 16th percentile.
“My foundations are solid. These are the ability to hear phonemes, the sound parts that make up words. The ability to recognize and pronounce high-frequency words. The ability to figure out an unknown word within the context of known words.”
My foundations remain solid. I can still sound out multi-syllabic words, as they’ve heard and seen during my sessions while reading complex material like philosophy of mind.
Although a couple of my scores dropped in this category, they remained in the above grade 12 level. The word attack — decoding nonsense words, which is about sounding words out — also has only 26 possible points. So going from 26 out of 26 last time to missing 2 of the 26 this time equals a big drop in percentile; if there had been more points, the drop would not have been as large. The symbol to sound one (things like sound out “ou” or “oa”), I like to think dropped because Canadian accent versus Australian accent. Heh. But to be honest, I didn’t put a lot of effort into that one test because in the real world, I can pronounce words okay. It’s my reading comprehension, reading rate, and amount of text I can read that are the issue.
“I rely on my vast knowledge bank and familiarity with language to prop up my comprehension. When I cannot see a word but only hear it and I have to pick out an illustration that best represents the word, I cannot rely on my ability to decode a word from its roots to figure out what it means. And so I don’t do so well. Based on results from standard vocabulary tests, I drop about ten percentile points, maybe a bit more, when given the same vocabulary test when heard, not seen, and using pictures instead of words to “define” the word spoken to me.”
Well! I’m so chuffed. My Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test result shot up.
There was actually a greater than 10-point discrepancy between a regular vocabulary test and my initial Picture Vocabulary test result.
I went from 82nd percentile to 95th! That’s more like it!
This test measures receptive vocabulary, that is, vocabulary that’s spoken to me. The improvement reflected my improved ability to image words.
“My accuracy in reading words is very high.”
This remained the same.
“Fluency is rate plus accuracy. So my fluency is not at the level that my reading foundations indicate it should be. (Slow reader.)”
This has not changed.
My reading rate remains in the 16th percentile.
My accuracy remains very high in the 95th percentile.
Fluency remains in the 63rd percentile. The only way for me to increase it is to read faster.
“When I can rely on my knowledge bank and ability to decode words, my comprehension is good. When I read new or lengthy material even text at grade six level, where I can’t rely on my knowledge of content and language, my comprehension drops a lot.“
“Concept imagery is the ability to conceive a word, sentence, or idea as a whole in a kind of picture. I don’t have it. It’s sort of, uh, depressing . . . more than that . . . grievous and devastating to see one rated as having a mental age of 14.5 or 13.5 years in these tests after eighteen years of rehab, active treatments, and passive home treatments. On the other hand, they confirm I’m not imagining my reading problems. I have real difficulty despite the fact that I’m “articulate” and can read words no problem.“
In relation to points 6 and 7: big change! Happy Snoopy dance!!
Lindamood-Bell’s visualizing and verbalizing instruction is aimed at improving one’s ability to conceive a word, sentence, or idea as a whole in image form. Being able to conceive a word or sentence or paragraph or idea as an image both improves comprehension and recall. My re-evaluation objectively measured whether I’d learnt how to do this and improved in these two areas. In the words of the Double Bay Associate Director, I “knocked it out of the park.”
As I’ve detailed in previous posts, Lindamood-Bell Australia began teaching me how to visualize with a single word. We moved on pretty quickly to a single sentence. Once I learnt what is meant by picturing a word then picturing a sentence, I had to learn how to verbalize it. I didn’t really understand “visualizing and verbalizing” until about August even though I was doing it.
It isn’t enough to create a mental image in your mind, that is visualize an entire sentence then a whole paragraph then an entire page; you need to be able to describe that image and also summarize the sentence or paragraph or page in words clearly — that is, verbalize it to your clinician.
In the Gray Oral Reading Test, Form A, which is one of the tests used for diagnostic purposes, I improved hugely. This test measures straight recall. You read a paragraph. They take the text away, and you have to answer four open-ended questions posed to you by the assessor. I had inconsistent and kind of depressing results the first time. This time — 100% all around, well, except for one pesky grade level. But I improved there too! At the grade 6 level, I improved from 75% to 100. Eighth grade I remained at 100%. Tenth grade, I improved from 88% to 100%. Grade 12 I went from 50% to 88%. College level, I went from 75% to 100%. And adult level I remained at 100%.
I’d noticed my recall had shot up. I was able to not only remember but have confidence in what I was remembering because it felt solid in my memory banks. I remembered what I read — whether pages from the novel The Lions of Al-Rassan or sections in Philosophy of Mind text — because I could see the images in my head. For the first time since my brain injury, I was also able to build up the big picture of what I was reading — this requires recall. If you can’t recall what you read previously, you can’t build up the big picture. But you also need comprehension.
The Gray Oral Reading Tests 4, Forms A/B comprise stories you read out loud then they take the story away and put in front of you five multiple-choice questions. You read along with them as they read out loud the first question and its four possible answers. After you choose A, B, C, or D, they read the next question, and so on. This time I recognized within those questions, concepts such as main idea, higher-order thinking questions, questions about feeling and expression, things I still struggle with but are way, way, WAY, better than back in June. They saw I was stressing over reading stories I recognized from my original assessment, wanting to do better, still not happy at how back in June I’d struggled over answering some of the multiple-choice questions. I was definitely not struggling as much. But was that a practice effect or comprehension? It felt like comprehension to me. They decided to test me again using new-to-me stories without telling me why they were giving me additional stories to read; they scored me on those stories. I was less stressed as I read the new stories, the questions, the multiple choices, and answered the questions. I actually scored better on the new ones than on the ones I knew from the June assessment! That’s what stress does to you!!
As I mentioned earlier, my reading Rate results from this test remained abysmally slow: 16th percentile. Accuracy remained at 95th percentile. Fluency remained at 63rd percentile. But — drum roll –my Comprehension score went from 63rd percentile to 84th! This is actually the top percentile for adults. The best part: I scored 70 out of 70. *Pumping fists*
They don’t test for volume of language, that is, how much text I can read in a sitting. But we know experientially that I’ve been increasing week after week the volume I’m reading. We began with a sentence. I’m now up to four pages, reading them Page by Page. My next goal is a chapter. I don’t know how I’ll get there, though. I’ll be working on goals next week.
Reading rate is the same. Volume and Comprehension are up. My reading rate hasn’t changed, but I’m understanding much better what I read and I’m reading much more text with comprehension and good recall.
It is possible to restore reading comprehension after brain injury! No strategies needed anymore!! (Well, except for covering off the text . . . for now.)
I haven’t tested my long-term recall in the real world. But every time I summarize what I’ve read so far in the novel, starting from the Prologue, I remember it. The Philosophy of Mind is not as solid with just me reading it, probably because it takes more mental energy and effort. I fatigue quicker with it; fatigue plus huge effort equals not being as disciplined in creating images. I also am not good at creating higher-order thinking questions (HOTs). I’m going to go back to my course modules and use those questions as my HOTs. But I think this day calls for cake!!
It’s surreal. It seemed like the whole summer stretched ahead of me, five nights a week spent in intensively retraining my brain to read with comprehension, two nights recovering my energy before once again being immersed in Visualizing and Verbalizing the Lindamood-Bell way. I met and worked with six, seven different clinicians. Suddenly, tonight, it’s over. After not seeing her for awhile, the clinician I began my training with, I ended with. It was a full circle moment! At the end of my last hour, I received my final progress report from my Lindamood-Bell Australia consultant (also the Associate Director of the Double Bay resource centre) and a lovely send-off, complete with a signed certificate that they’ll mail me.
“When you say I’ll be able to read a book like I used to (before my brain injury), do you mean a book at the level of an Agatha Christie? A PD James? Neuroscience article? And/or philosophy of mind textbook?”
“In creating your recommendations for instruction, the goal I had in mind was your ability to read and process literature at the level of your potential, and at the level that would support research and continued learning for your writing. Especially with the full recommendation of 120 hours, I picture your ability to access all of the examples you provided in your original question. Our instruction may start at a lower level, but over the daily and weekly sessions, you’ll see an increase in the amount of language (text) you are processing as well as the complexity.”
That’s exactly what they did, except the Associate Director of the Double Bay, Australia resource centre knew I could afford only 80 hours of instruction; she set goals for me to achieve what I asked within that ambitious timeframe. I remained skeptical even while meeting all the goals on time as I progressed through the summer. But I didn’t just cross my fingers and wait for them to prove their assertion. I worked with the ADD Centre to ensure my brain biofeedback training would complement my reading comprehension retraining. My brain trainer told me what was most important was for my weekly brain biofeedback to ground me. I also used my Mind Aliveaudiovisual entrainment device a couple of hours before each nightly session to entrain my brainwaves into SMR and Beta frequencies, the ones that show a relaxing effect in people with brain injury and enhance the thinking brainwaves (beta frequencies of around 18Hz). I replenished my brain with glucose aka ice cream during the five-minute break between hour one and hour two of the reading retraining, as well as afterwards. Brain cells use glucose for energy; this past summer was steamingly hot, so ice cream was a must. I parked my brain more and more during my two days off. Other things got a little behind. My priority was reading. My energy needed to go all to reading. This was a last-ditch shot at getting my reading comprehension back; it was a rather expensive debt-exploding shot, too.
Lindamood-Bell Minnesota also said: “Since our vision for instruction will include increasing the volume of information you are processing, our goal is to decrease your fatigue, by systematically and consistently reinforcing independence with visualization for increasing lengths of language. Just like any foundational skill (ex: learning a new language, learning a new instrument) practice and continuous exercising of the skill, makes it more automatic. Instruction will stimulate and strengthen this process for you, but practice outside of sessions and beyond instruction, will also be key. You may still need to take breaks, but I anticipate the length of breaks and the frequency of breaks will diminish as you, on a daily basis, start reteaching your brain this visualization process.”
That is exactly what happened. When I began back in July, a sentence seemed super long to visualize and reading a whole paragraph all at once seemed impossible. As of tonight, I can read — that is, visualize and verbalize, denote and comprehend — four pages of a book, one page at a time in sequence, with less fatigue than when I was visualizing and verbalizing a sentence way back in July.
Even as I experienced progress, I remained concerned about being able to practice daily on my own. I worried about all this effort and money I really didn’t have wasted if I was unable to practice and lost any gains I made. People with brain injury have both motivation and initiation deficits. If someone tells me to read a page, and I’m able to do it, I will. But that kind of responsiveness is not the same as me being able to motivate myself to read a page and to initiate the action of reading a page. Too many health care professionals equate the two as being the same. They’re not. Responsiveness is not motivation. Responsiveness is not self-initiation.
Well am pretty chuffed. Picked Lions of Al-Rassan to read tonight (Sat will read Philosophy). Set self goal of 3 pages using Page by Page process. So engaged (whoa!) with scene, wanted to finish #reading it. Read 4 pgs. My main idea: too long. Only 3 HOT questions. #braininjury
I use a variety of technologies to initiate me. But nothing beats a fellow human being. When we speak, my neurodoc is now asking me to give me the main idea and a couple of pictures from my novel reading and my philosophy reading. My mother has bought the novel I’m reading, The Lions of Al-Rassan, and we discuss the plot, the characters, the action every so often. Accountability is so important.
But so is reward.
One paragraph philosophy takes about same time as #reading one page of a novel, when just timing how long eyes take to read. Brain takes an additional double time for novel but triple for philosophy. But when done both I CAN SEE THE BIG PICTURE!!! #braininjury@LindamoodBell
I was out and about with my CNIB orientation and mobility trainer and found myself near Soma Chocolate. I needed more of their kick-the-brain-awake hot chocolate; as I picked some up, I spied their chocolate covered dried cherries. Ooohhh. The perfect reward. One chocolate-covered cherry per page of novel read or per two paragraphs of philosophy read. That’s how I managed to read four paragraphs of philosophy this past weekend, not sweat through only two paragraphs and call it a day. I rewarded myself with two chocolate-covered cherries — soooo good — but the better reward was unexpected.
I connected what I read with what came before. I saw the big picture unfolding. I comprehended how each of the writer’s points connected. I saw his philosophical argument beginning to unfold.
I have not been able to do that before, seeing the big picture like a carpet unrolling, showing me its beautiful, intricate pattern. It wasn’t just that I comprehended it, I saw it. This is what visualizing means. Create imagery, and you’ll remember and understand.
For the first time this weekend, I felt confident that I will continue to progress on my own.
Lindamood-Bell Australia told me I have partial proficiency in the application part of instruction because I need prompting with my higher-order thinking questions — yeah, I find it tough to ask myself these kinds of questions, a definite side effect of my brain injury — and to be more precise in my main idea. I’d achieved succinctness in my main ideas with Lindamood-Bell texts, but it’s not so easy with The Lions of Al-Rassan or Philosophy of Mind texts! They also noted that with the novel and philosophy, it takes some discussion between me and the clinician to make my images clear. I find creating imagery for concrete details far, far easier than for thoughts, flashbacks, concepts, abstract ideas, which are abundant in my application text. They did note that even neurotypicals need to pause when reading philosophy, reflect, go back, review vocabulary. It is not light reading for anybody.
I am absolutely amazed and stoked that I can finally — FINALLY — acquire and retain new vocabulary using Visualizing and Verbalizing!!!
They said that they don’t know what my reading will look like in the future. Will I be able to read a chapter and not be exhausted? They do know that, given how I have responded, I will continue to respond (as long as I practice). But is there a ceiling? They don’t know what the ceiling is or if my brain injury means there’s a limit to how much I can respond. The challenge for me will be how much language I can process as well as my reading speed. It takes longer to read when I have to break up a page into paragraphs and need hours to recover afterwards, like with my philosophy text. This limits me, there’s no doubt, because I still cannot keep up with others who can consume pages and/or chapters of a textbook or novel at one sitting, something I need to do if I take a course again. Maybe if I’d been able to afford 120 hours, I could have progressed to reading a whole chapter under their guidance before being out on my own . . .
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I will be re-evaluated in a week. But whatever the results, I know experientially, and my health care professionals have observed, I have improved dramatically. I have regained in eight weeks what I was unable to in 18 years using standard medical care or electrophysiological care for brain injury.
Eliminativism is one of those Philosophy of Mind pseudo-intellectual theories that makes no sense and was part of the Oxford short course I took back in 2012 when experimental gamma-brainwave enhancement had lead to a sudden intellectual uptick in me. The reading for the course slayed me, demanding naps after 20-minute sessions with the material. I used the reading session of my audiovisual entrainment device to concentrate my mind and so help me learn and remember better. I used reading rehab strategies like covering off the text I wasn’t reading and writing notes in my iPad. Yet the concepts I could discuss well enough in the short term with continual rereading vamoosed quickly and new vocabulary eluded me, demanding I keep on pressing Select/Look Up on my iPad to refresh my memory every few seconds while reading or writing for the course.
Philosophy of Mind floated my boat but reading and learning it drowned my neurons. I had to give it up.
I spent about half of the last 20 hours of Visualizing and Verbalizing instruction with Lindamood-Bell Australia on reading a novel I gave up reading over 15 years ago or so and the other half on some of that Philosophy of Mind course material. I did so well in learning, understanding, and remembering the word and concept “qualia” in the mind-body intro we began with that I forged into the unit on Eliminativism with its convoluted concepts and brain-breaking vocabulary. I spent a lot of the session time developing imagery — not easy for abstract ideas nor ideas that make no sense. Being able to discuss imagery ideas helped enormously. As we read, I improved on or outright changed the imagery for concepts like “folk psychology” that had simply pinged off my brain in 2012.
That was about one week ago although it felt like two weeks!
Yesterday my neurodoc tested my recall of Eliminativism. (I mistakenly told him it had been two weeks since I’d read it. Better correct that!)
I got nothing. No picture. No ideas. No memory.
Great, all that work and zero recall. My heart beat faster. I landed in a funk for about a second.
Then the edge of an image crept in: Thoughts are language. Another fuller image: A thought is a statement. A third: Churchland, the philosopher who espoused the theory of Eliminativism. More and more pictures stumbled into my consciousness. Suddenly my picture for “folk psychology” was front and centre. That phrase that my 2012 brain could not grasp, that I had at last truly understood last week, was still solid once the picture for it returned to my mind. I described the picture, explained Churchland’s idea of folk psychology.
Holy cow, I remembered Eliminativism! I remembered a good chunk of this ridiculous theory because I remembered the imagery I’d created using Lindamood-Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing process!!
My neurodoc said my retention was very good. Yes, it had been hard pulling those pictures up, but he continued to be amazed at how well I’m reading and remembering what I’ve read and learnt, the novel and philosophy both. This is validation I made the right decision. Phew.
Today, I read one page of a novel on my own for the first time in eons, using Lindamood-Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing method. It’s a bit strange asking yourself to give yourself a word summary of the novel page you just read, then tell yourself, “Now give the main idea and a couple of your strongest pictures, too, please.” But the latter especially helped me develop my mental imagery, for I was not as disciplined in creating imagery as I am during my sessions.
The pages of the trade paperback I’m reading are fairly long, so it astounds me that reading a page out loud while trying to create imagery took me only two minutes. And another six to do the word summary, main idea, and pictures. It’s difficult to ascertain if I captured the main idea OK; in session I usually can tell if I’m being a bit wordy, not so much if I miss key points.
Unlike previous Sundays, there wasn’t a huge jump in my abilities. Instead, subtle changes like remembering the plethora of foreign-sounding names in The Lions of Al-Rassan easier; creating imagery for philosophical concepts in real time instead of through extensive discussion; being able to recap the novel to date more succinctly. It’s amazing to me that in my recap all the confusing flashbacks and internal observations and memories that Jehane peppers her narration with turned into an easily articulated picture of the society she lives in and the lessons she learned.
Since my brain injury over eighteen years ago, I’ve been unable to read books. Building up the big picture, remembering character names, keeping track of plot points, predicting what will come next in a novel, all eluded me. When Lindamood-Bell told me that they can restore my book reading, I was hopeful yet skeptical as to how that was possible in only 80 hours of instruction. After reading twenty-five pages of The Lions of Al-Rassan, I am doing all of that. I am beginning to engage with the story. I can hardly grasp this change!
Six years ago, I exerted great effort to comprehend the Philosophy of Mind course notes as I read them. I was unable to acquire new vocabulary. Last week and today, using Lindamood-Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing techniques, I am acquiring new vocabulary with effort but retaining the new words and phrases. I am not struggling to understand the concepts; I’m grasping them fairly quickly.
Reading comprehension matters. It matters to enjoyment of books. It matters to understanding new concepts and ideas. No “cognitive therapy” strategy improves reading comprehension after brain injury, no matter what the medical experts claim. In seven weeks, Visualizing and Verbalizing has done more to improve my reading comprehension than anything and everything else I’ve done. The question is: will I retain this new skill? Only time will tell.
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!
The Director of the Double Bay Lindamood-Bell Centre in Australia popped in to test my reading level, first with me reading a Whole Paragraph on something science-y and then me reading a Whole Page on Fermat’s Last Theorem. Although I had a bit of trouble with words at one point turning into gibberish, somehow when he asked me about that part, “What was that all about?” I saw the answer and stated what I had been unable to absorb consciously. The Director noted the issue I had was because I was overwhelmed by not processing that passage quickly enough. When that happens, I’m to give myself a moment, let my brain process the words, perhaps ask myself, “What was that all about?” to trigger the emergence of imagery from my sub-conscious into my conscious mind. Then continue on reading and creating mental pictures.
My main ideas are definitely there. It shows imagery is happening automatically; I’m able to review my pictures and analyse them in order to give the main idea. During my two training sessions, I also recalled two stories from the previous day with no prompting whatsoever and quicker than I have before! When my second trainer asked me to recall a second story from yesterday, I drew the usual blank and expected nada. Suddenly, a picture emerged into my consciousness and slowly, slowly dragged the other pictures in until I saw the first picture of the story and recalled it from there. Sweet.
The upshot of all this is that I’m being pushed up a few levels to grade level 12. I will also be reading only Whole Pages from now on. We began at the new level in my second training hour. I’m excited, amazed, fatigued!