Posted on June 6, 2012 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 16 of 36 in the series Michael

Learning with Brain Injury: Michael Part Sixteen

Michael elaborates on  how learning with brain injury is different than before his traumatic brain injury.

Let‘s focus on the process of learning with brain injury. You have 202 credits and the majority of those would have been after you got hurt, correct?

I’d say about even.

Those were passing grades?

One thing I’m very proud, when I started UWO I had a 1.66 grade point average.  When I graduated I had a 2.65.

So you were getting better than a B plus average from the time you got hurt. 


So the theory that a brain injured brain can’t learn is simply wrong?

It’s simply wrong.

Speed a Factor in Learning with Brain Injury

Learning with brain injury, do you learn at the same speed you could learn before your brain injury?

No. I was very lucky to have teachers within my human service major who could slow down things.   They were very good at their office hours.   They were very good after class to re-explain things to me and answer my questions.  And that was really helpful, especially when I got into those.

Other than slowing it down are there certain types of repetition that makes it easier for you to remember, certain types of memory queues, certain types of reinforcements that make it easier to learn? 

Actually with me I try to take in all my, use all my senses. I know the biggest one is eyesight.  I try to use my hearing a lot but I do have problems.

Actually in Project Success there were two things they taught you; one, how to use the dictionary which a lot of people had no clue how to use.  And they would also teach you rote learning and the skill that you could diakinetically mark and you use, basically all your senses except one, which was smell.  And that could help you, when you would go back to do it, help you to remember it a lot easier.

Explain what you mean to use all your senses except smell.

Well, say like first thing you would do, say like you had a word that you, the first thing you’d do is, you’ll look in the dictionary and they have the dark printer which is the word and then right next to it they have a diakinetically marked so you could sound it out phonetically.  Well I would take that word and I would mark it up and sound it up phonetically and I would be talking to myself so I would hear it.

You’d actually audibly say it, loud enough to actually hear it?

Actually loud enough to hear it.

Not to your mind, but say so your ear could hear it?

Ears.  And then I would use my kinetic feeling when I was writing it out and putting it down and I have my eyesight.  The only ones, like I said, I wasn’t using was sense of smell.

Talk to me about this whole concept of kinetic thinking and its benefit to learning with brain injury. We’ve talked about that in a number of different interviews, learning with brain injury to play the guitar for example.  Or learning with brain injury to play the piano or things where you have to remember and use your fingers at the same time.  Is that sort of the same concept?

That was the same concept.  While you’ve got the pencil in your hand and you said the word and you filled it out, you were seeing the letters, you were hearing yourself say the letters and then you were seeing yourself writing the letters.

Why do you think that works?

I believe Dr. Nash explained it – when you’re using most of your senses to writing and understanding you have more of a remembrance of say the word or what you’re doing.

So in essence what the doctor is saying is that it’s sort of like you’re overlaying the same memory?

Overlaying it to where I wouldn’t just remember it by just like… I can remember it with all my senses so the memory of that would be more permanent.


Next in Part Seventeen – Fatigue Escalates Attentional Issues

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447