Monthly Archives: December 2015

Using Unique Characteristics to Help Memory

Following a brain injury many survivors face great struggles in the realm of memory.  This can be especially embarrassing when a brain injury survivor has difficulty remembering the name of a person with whom he or she is already well acquainted.  Utilizing techniques that make use of unique characteristics can make it far easier for survivors to remember important names in their lives.

Each person possesses many different characteristics.  These can include height, weight, eye color, tone of voice, expressed clothing preferences, etc.  Trying to remember a person’s name while matching it with all these disparate features can be a daunting task.  When meeting someone for the first time, it is often easier to find the one unique characteristic of the person that stands out most and pair that with the person’s name (e.g. “Paul is the tall guy” or “Susie has a rainbow tattoo on her neck”).  In this way the survivor only has to remember one characteristic in order to recall a person’s name rather than contend with the confusion that would accompany recalling many characteristics.  Unique characteristics can include aspects of physical appearance, dress, voice and behavior.  Let’s give a few examples in each category, using celebrities as examples, to demonstrate how one might execute this technique.

Physical appearance can include height, hair, size/shape of facial features, scars and tattoos.  For instance, former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal has brown eyes, a shaved head and a bright smile.  None of these features necessarily make him stand out.  However, if you were to meet him on the street and were picking one unique characteristic to match with his name, you would likely pick that he is over seven feet tall.  The pairing between height and name would clearly provide a more memorable association than anything involving those other  mentioned characteristics, and would make it far easier to recall Shaq’s name at a later time.  Similarly, comedian Carrot Top is of medium height with fair skin.  Again, these common features would not be useful to pair with his name as an aid to memory.  However, his striking red hair is quite unique and by pairing this unique characteristic with Carrot Top’s name, a survivor would be more likely to later recall his name.

Some people dress in a manner that is simply different from everyone else.  These differences in dress can also be paired with a person’s name in order to make it easier to recall that name.  Michael Jackson was known for wearing one white glove.  No one else was known for effecting that particular fashion choice.  If a survivor would have met Michael and wanted to remember his name, he or she could have paired Michael’s name with the one white glove.  Another example of this can be found in former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  Albright always wore pins on the upper left shoulders of her jackets.  A survivor could pair the pin with her name in order to better recall her name, rather than attempt to utilize any number of additional characteristics she possesses.

Just like a unique physical characteristic or a unique manner of dress, a unique voice can be paired with a person’s name to help remember him or her.  A voice might be recognized as unique due to a distinct tone, a particular accent or use of a singular delivery.  Actor James Earl Jones has a baritone voice which makes him a favorite choice for voice-over work in commercials and the like.  By pairing his deep voice with his name, a survivor could more easily identify him by name at a future meeting.  Similarly, actress Fran Drescher has an unmistakable New York accent which she played up in the television show “The Nanny.”  If a survivor was to meet her for the first time, the survivor could pair her accent with her name to help remember her at a later time rather than trying to remember any other likely more common of her features.

Sometimes, a new acquaintance may demonstrate a behavior that is so different from that of others that it can be used as one of these unique characteristics to aid in memory.  This can sometimes prove a little harder to use for memory unless the person in question demonstrates the identified behavior all of the time.  For instance, Elvis Presley often had a lip twitch/snarl when speaking which other people do not have.   In a different vein, John Wayne walked with his legs spread in a wide gait.  Both a constant lip twitch/snarl and idiosyncratic pattern of walking can be paired to names to more easily remember a person at a later time.

Survivors should not worry about whether the characteristic being used is complimentary to the other person.  If pairing the name “Julie” with “giant nose” helps the survivor remember Julie later, then this is fine.  There is no need to share with the other person that this technique is being used to aid memory.  The key is whether the characteristic is so memorable to the survivor that pairing the characteristic with the name will make it easier for the survivor to remember.  Further, this technique does not prevent the survivor from adding other, more mundane characteristics to his or her memory of the other person.  This technique is primarily designed for when a survivor is first trying to learn the other person’s name.

Hopefully this method will help survivors remember others’ names and be spared the embarrassment of forgetting!

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: http://tlcrehab.org/

 

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Return to Play is Important But Return to Learn is Vital

With a rise in awareness in the world of sports regarding the strikingly prevalent danger of brain injury and its deleterious effects, there has been a corresponding increase in the development of various concussion protocols for returning to active participation in sports following an injury.  These protocols are now the norm in the major sports leagues such as the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA.  These “Return to Play” protocols are important for ensuring that athletes do not suffer a second concussion that can compound the damage of a not yet fully healed first one, causing an even more serious injury.  Schools around the country are following suit, pushing for more training on concussions.  In many school districts, concussion training for school athletic trainers and/or coaches is mandatory.  There is also a considerable amount of discussion in the media about return to play policies at the school-age level.  Just as professional athletes do, student athletes need to avoid the effects of compounding brain injuries.  However, there is a subject that seems to be garnering less public conversation but is even more important than when a student may be “ready to play”.  There is far too little discussion about an immensely more important topic, namely when a student is “ready to learn”.

School-age youth universally have one primary “job” in their lives, and that is to perform at their best in school classes.  Though sports are enjoyable and often quite meaningful to students, only a tiny few will go on to earn a sports scholarship to college and just a small fraction of those will ever play professional sports.  And even of this small fraction, only a handful will play more than a few years in professional sports.  Sports are not likely to be any particular student’s full time future job.  However, almost every single student’s future is tied in some way to his or her ability to learn information in a school setting. Most every job, and adult life in general, will require extensive dependence upon skills learned in the classroom such as writing and math.

School is similar to an adult’s full-time job as it encompasses the majority of daytime activities and requires a significant expenditure of cognitive energies on a daily basis to ensure performance at optimal levels.  Pushing a child back to school too quickly post-injury can engender an inability to learn effectively which can lead to a downward spiral of emotional distress and academic failure.  Schools need to work with parents and health professionals in order to create a plan for return to school after a brain injury, whether that injury be suffered on the playing field, in a car accident or by any other means.  Not every child will be able to return quickly or to a full load of classes.  Adjustments may be necessary to the schedule, format or setting of classes and school material.  The child may require special assistance from aids, tutors and note-takers.  The child may also benefit from breaks in the day to when he or she has crossed a threshold of cognitive overload.  If injuries are particularly serious and long-lasting, a Section 504 plan may be necessary.  The Brain Injury Association of Vermont has a sample return to learn protocol that can help guide parents, educators and health professionals as to when a child would likely be ready to healthily engage in different school tasks.

 

http://biavt.org/concussion-kit-documents/Section%207%20-%20RTL%20Protocol-pub%20final_5-9-13.pdf

http://biavt.org/concussion-kit-documents/Section%207%20-%20RTL%20Protocol-pub%20final_5-9-13.pdf

A healthy return to play protocol following a brain injury is important, but we need to remember that a child ultimately does not need to play a sport.  However, every child most assuredly does need to learn in school. So let’s increase the discussion on “ready to learn” plans and needs!

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: http://tlcrehab.org/