Posted on October 26, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 11 of 20 in the series Steven

Learning After Severe Brain Injury: Steven Part Eleven


I took some time with Steven to focus on the process of learning after severe brain injury to fix a car and the process of actually fixing a car.  The goal was to learn something about what it’s like learning after severe brain injury, as well as to helps us understand how deficits interfere with productivity.

 So you’re taking classes to fix a car.  Where do you feel you’re falling behind the other people in your class in terms of what you’re able to learn because of learning after severe brain injury?

My retention rate was a lot worse than everybody else’s.  I retain whatever information I needed long enough to take whatever test, I need as long as I repeatedly drilled it into my head before the test. Then took the test and I would pass it.  But if I had to take that same test, say, the next week, I’d probably fail it.

Then as far as the actual physical labor of doing it.  When fixing a car you’re paid per job not actually the time that you put into it as to whether they’ll say you’re going get paid two hours to do this. If somebody can fix it in an hour, they get paid two hours regardless.  But more than likely I’m going be closer to the end of six to seven hours to fix that same two-hour job so I wouldn’t make enough to really support myself.

Now, is your problem with pace partially a cognitive problem, a problem of learning after severe brain injury and – or partially a physical problem?

I’d say it is probably 50/50 because I over think myself a lot.

You have problems with your left side when you’re working the car?

Yes, sir, especially if the car’s up on the rack, I really only put my right arm up there.

You’re very limited in any work over your head.


Do you have problems with your neck as well?

Uh, a little bit.

But mostly it’s your inability to raise your left arm above your shoulder?  


Do you also have problems with learning after severe brain injury in terms of the sequencing of how to fix a car – that you have to plan it, you have to diagnose it and then you have to plan the process of fixing it.

Organizational and multi-tasking skills are so non-existent for something like that.  It kind of messes me up.

Do you have a problem where you get something taken apart and can’t put it back together?

Yes, sir.  I just don’t remember if I have like these – if I have any more – exactly what these are and where they go.  I might not remember if they go there I can get in there and then find out out I have got this put up but I still got this stuff here that should have went somewhere.

We all have nightmares about putting something back together and having some parts left over.  But a keeping a job as a mechanic requires far more precision that “some assembly required” on Christmas morning.  Thus, Steven’s initial goal in going to vocational school to support himself has yet to materialize. Fortunately, while at the Technology Center, he met Bill, the advocate he needed.

Next In Part Twelve – School Administrator Advocated for Severely Brain Injured

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