“Clarify and Verify”

“Clarify and Verify” is perhaps one of the most POWERFUL compensatory skills (habits) an individual with cognitive inconveniences can practice.  It’s a common communication technique, but for anyone who is challenged with “mis-hearing,” “mis-remembering,” or other mis’s brain injury can cause this simple phrase often saves the day:

“Let me see if I heard you correctly.  You said (or asked me to) ___________________.  Is that right?”

Then write down the results (or speak the results into you iPad or other recording device). Not only is this good for you (the person asking for verification), it’s good for the person you are talking to.  It’s good for the relationship too.  The two-way communication “street” will be clear of clutter and misunderstanding.  And when others see you writing down the results, they will start to gain confidence that they are heard and you will know, if not remember, what was said and agreed upon. Employers are especially appreciative of this communication practice.  Don’t be surprised if they start using it, and asking others they work with to use it too!

Thank you Francis, for this valuable phrase.

Communication – Remembering what I want to say

Remembering  we want to say — when we need to have this information — can be challenging in the hustle and bustle of the workplace.  Remembering what was said, and by whom can be equally difficult.  In my experience, the solution is often to stop trying to remember these things. 

Instead, writing main points down is far more effective for KNOWING, if not remembering conversations with others.   I’d suggest recording conversations, but people don’t always like being recorded (some won’t permit it) and the retrieval process is cumbersome to boot.  I selectively record conversations these days.

In days gone past, I used “TALK TO” pages.  These were a staple in the BRAIN BOOK System, and they worked well.  A key person’s name would be written on the top of the page, and conversations would be tracked (hand written) as they happened.  This made for a lot of paper, writing was slow and retrieval was cumbersome.  But the “shell” was there with visual cues for making sure all the necessary bits could be retrieved. This strategy was better than not remembering or ascribing conversations to the wrong person. The image below is from the BRAIN BOOK System’s s”TALK TO” Section:

TALK TO image from BBS Work Manager

Subscribers to the blog who wish to use a master to make copies for these pages, are welcome to do so from the following:  TALK TO MASTER for printing

Fast forward to 2014:  Voice-to-text capability of the iPad, coupled with electronic “TALK TO” pages that are specially designed for individuals with memory challenges, make it possible to speak our notes and organize our thoughts by topics, or even exact wording for what we want to say (especially helpful if word-finding is an issue).  When results of conversations are entered (or SPOKEN), they are tracked, by person “talked to” and the software even writes a Reference Note that is key word searchable in the future.  The image below is from the My Bionic Brain “TALK TO” Section.  VALUABLE ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR THE WORKPLACE!

TALK TO Screen from MyBionicBrain

Focus and Attention

Staying focused and having strategies for paying attention and alternating attention are important for many kinds of work situations. “Attention training” only goes so far.  We often gain more functional capacity for maintaing and alternating attention when we use visual cues — some can be simple, low-tech tactics like using “Focus (cue) Cards” (below left and/or background cues an individual keeps in sight (below right).  These items qualify as “assistive technology,” despite not being electronic.

      focus clip on desk                                Orientation work MBB screen

My work requires a great deal of alternating attention and “switching gears” — what with managing multiple projects, answering e-mails, teaching and answering the phone.  Multiple computer monitors save the day for me and many others I teach and coach, even if their jobs are not as complicated as mine.  Most people do not use this many monitors.  One extra monitor is often helpful and two extra monitors are generally sufficient.   The reason all these tools work is because they make needed information visually available.

Focus with multiple monitors

In days past, one of my most powerful visual resource was my BRAIN BOOK, which was always open to the central “TODAY page, with tabs that organized all my BRAIN BOOK sections, flaring out left and right (see below left).  Now my personal My Bionic Brain does the same thing, but in electronic form on an iPad.  By keeping My Bionic Brain open to the main “TODAY” screen, I have my primary visual cues (markers) in full view.   TO DO Lists and schedules tasks and appointments re never lost or “spaced.” All my Reference Notes are key word searchable.  Documents are all in one spot. . . I call it my “BRAIN BOOK on steroids.”

BBS Tabs as visual cues                     PIC LIB MBB Unscheduled TO DO List


From the BRAIN BOOK® System

From the BRAIN BOOK® System

Managing recurring tasks and appointments is often challenging for individuals with brain injury — especially if things change.  You know, a routine staff meeting gets moved to a different day or time, or a standing appointment or meeting gets changed.  Not only can we forget routine tasks and appointments when we least expect it, we can easily become calcified in comfortable routines we have taken great pains to memorize.

A handy strategy is to use “green ROUTINES” cue cards (this rhyming supports memory). the idea is to keep track of routines and changes to then, in one place — on the card, but schedule FROM them once a week.

The following masters are for the use of subscribers to the Blog on the condition that they are copied only for your personal, non-commercial use. A green card stock is recommended.  After printing, trim them so they stack front-to-back, as illustrated above.

GREEN ROUTINES masters with instructionf for printing

My Bionic Brain® users have a much easier time of it in some respects, because there’s no more printing and writing.  That said, learning to schedule “green ROUTINES’ from the buttons on your iPad could take some getting used-to.  Drop me an e-mail if you need a quick GoToMeeting “refresher.”



Compensatory Strategies and Employment

NIH banner    Most of my functional gains are because I learned early that I got the most bang for my buck cognitively, by compensating for the gaps and glitches my brain injury caused.  See this article from 1999. See the attached with highlighting added where I was quoted (page 7): “Many of my peers would be working too, if they had been given the opportunity to learn how to compensate.”   NIH article quoting Moeller from 1994 – emphasis added

The entire article is still on the internet at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/TBI_1999/Pages/Appendix_A.aspx

Fast forward to 2014:

If I were being quoted today, instead of saying “learn how to compensate” (which is difficult without the kind of cognitive rehabilitation I was fortunate to have), I would say it this way:

“Many of my peers would be working too if they had the specialized tools and work-focused skills training they need to be able to compensate.”

For those of us with cognitive disabilities, our strengths often lie in being visually cueable.  This, coupled with the residual strength of muscle memory (AKA “procedural memory”), as long as we have accessible visual cues we can reach for, we can level the playing field at home, at work and in our involvement in the community.

After working with hundreds of individuals over 20 years’ time, my research and experience has resulted in a commitment to producing a state-of-the art compensatory system — a cognitive prosthetic, if you will — complete with self-help skills training support and 24/7 support. “Knowing how to compensate” continues to be the key, in my view, to empowerment, cognitive mobility, and sustainable, long-term functional recovery from brain injury and other “cognitive inconveniences.” For a printable copy of the image below: TRI-FOLD brochure

Everything in One Place


Newsletter – Cognitive Breaks

Newsletter Cognitive Breaks  Many of us have learned to take one-minute cognitive breaks during our work shift — perhaps one every hour.  If done throughout the work day — before we are so exhausted that we “crash and burn” — many of us can extend our productive hours at work longer and longer every day.  These breaks are in the category of “reasonable accommodations.”  For anyone who wants or needs to be able to work full-time, this strategy can be invaluable.

For details on how this works, download the newsletter from this link:  Newsletter – Cognitive Breaks

Executive Function with the Magic 1-3-2 Method

Tan Worksheet from BRAIN BOOK System

I seem to be getting a lot of requests for the Tan Worksheets from my BRAIN BOOK®.  I’ll start with this one. It is intended to be used for prioritization after brainstorming a list of options in support of the executive functions of decision-making, problem-solving and judgment.

E-mail me if you want to know more about the Magic 1-3-2 Method (TM). I may have to dig around my archives for a PowerPoint on this topic.

The Magic 1-3-2 Method is based on the fact that those of us with brain injury are often binary thinkers, meaning we need a little extra help to get to the “grey area.”  And we all need visual cues — in this case, a brainstormed list — in order to manage more than a few bits of information.

If you want a master to print from, just copy the master from the link that follows, onto tan paper, and you will have your Tan Worksheet. Subscribers to my Blog are granted permission to use this copyrighted material for their personal, non-commercial use.  Tan Worksheet for Magic 1-3-2 list – print on tan stock