Tag Archives: information

Processing Speed

One area of difficulty that many brain injury survivors experience is a decline in processing speed.  Processing speed is the length of time it takes for a person to understand, access or utilize information.  For instance, if someone asks me which restaurant I would like to go to, there’s a distinct internal protocol followed.  My brain has to understand the question that is being asked, review the relevant information and then generate an answer.  In this example, I first need to ensure that I understand the question.  Next, I may have to think about issues such as what my favorite types of foods might be, how recent restaurant experiences may come into play, where given restaurants are located, affordability of the restaurants under consideration and which restaurants that others involved may enjoy.  Finally, after reviewing this information I need to generate an answer.  As you can see from the example, even a simple question can involve a great deal of processing.  Most people take for granted that their brains can process all of this information quickly and efficiently.  However, after a brain injury many survivors find that this is a much slower, much more difficult enterprise in which to engage.

 
Difficulty with processing speed has the potential to negatively impact almost any situation.  A survivor may take more time to answer seemingly simple questions such as in the example given above.  The survivor may take more time to react to all manner of situations.  For instance, a survivor may have difficulty avoiding cars in a parking lot because he or she is unable to react quickly to the stimulus provided by arriving and departing vehicles.  The survivor may also have more difficulty following conversations.  Each word, each statement, each exchange in a conversation needs to be processed.  As a result,  the survivor may struggle to keep up with the other participant in a conversation (especially if that other person is speaking rapidly).  This often becomes most problematic in heated, emotional discussions.  When we are in these types of conversations, we tend to speak faster.  Many survivors complain that they are not given enough time to process and respond in conversations.  A survivor will all too often leave such a situation feeling frustrated, ignored or even bullied.
Additionally, many survivors with processing speed difficulties struggle with or are completely unable to engage in multi-tasking.  Each individual task requires so much processing effort that attempting to add even a single concurrent extra task becomes a huge burden.

 
Here are a few ways to help a survivor with processing speed difficulties:
1.  Allow the survivor extra time to think, act and respond
2.  Only give the survivor one task at a time to complete
3.  Allot extra time for tasks, so the survivor does not feel rushed
4.  Remember to ask often if the survivor needs more time to think, respond or act
5.  Stay on one topic at a time during conversation and be careful not to talk more quickly than the survivor can process
6.  If the survivor seems unable to process information at a given moment, if possible put the current conversation or activity on hold until a later time when the survivor might feel better equipped
7.  Ask the survivor if he or she has any new ideas or thoughts that may have been generated after the initial iteration of a conversation or activity was completed.  For instance, many times a survivor will report that he or she thought of a great response a few minutes after a conversation was over and would appreciate an opportunity to share that response with others.

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

 

 

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Who Needs To Know

Brain injuries do not solely affect the brain injury survivor but will also impact the survivor’s family life, circle of friends and workplace environment.  Moreover, post-injury changes may influence areas of life as diverse as church involvement and health care treatment.  It is important for the survivor and his or her loved ones to identify exactly who needs to know about the survivor’s injury and what specifically those individuals need to know.  Not every person will need to know the same amount of information regarding the injury.  For instance, a spouse will generally need to know all details involved in the injury, subsequent deficits suffered and resultant treatments engaged.  A co-worker would not need nearly as much information.  The co-worker would only need to be privy to any information about changes relevant to the job or workplace interactions.  Each brain injury survivor will differ as to which people in his or her life will need to know about the injury suffered and the types of information to which those individuals should have access.

It is often useful to make a list of all the people that might need to know about the survivor’s brain injury and what information each person should need.  Let us take a look at the theoretical case of Ronny, a 22 year-old brain injury survivor who is living with his parents and planning to return to college.  Here is a brief list of some of the people who may need to know about his brain injury and what they may need to know:

Parents:  Need to know everything about Ronny’s injury, subsequent deficits and treatment

Extended Relatives: Need to know the cause of the injury and how the injury will affect their future interactions with Ronny.

College Professors:  Need to know how the injury affects Ronny in the classroom and any accommodations he might require be made.

Personal Physician: Similar to parents due to the physician’s necessary role in long-term care.

Friends: Need to know how the injury might affect Ronny in their personal interactions and any lifestyle changes due to the injury that should be respected.  For example, Ronny’s friends need to know that he can no longer consume alcohol at a party.

Clerk at the Store: If the injury affects Ronny’s ability to make a purchase, the clerk may need to know that Ronny has difficulties but not necessarily the cause of those difficulties.  For example, if Ronny struggles with speech he may hand the clerk a card from his speech therapist indicating that he needs extra time in order to pronounce his words accurately.

Obviously, this is an abbreviated list of people that may need to know about Ronny’s injury as there are many other people that may be affected by interactions with him after his injury.  It is important that brain injury survivors and their families take the time to identify who needs to know about the survivor’s injury and what those individuals need to know in order to ensure that survivors are able to attain the smoothest transition possible into post-injury life.

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