Learning and TBI

Learning. Och! How personal that process is. How wondrous we all are, each absorbing and processing information so differently. Yet another example of every brain is different, and thus every brain injury is different also. Here’s what I’ve learned about what I need to absorb, think, write, and draw.

  • Give yourself permission to go “as fast as I can, as slow as I must!” The only way to learn how to do this is to do too much, take time to recover, assess what could be done differently to improve the engagement, and keep moving … as fast as you can, as slow as you must! Grin. This may mean pulling back to just one class, or even auditing just one class.
  • I think in concepts and don’t pay much attention to details, except to confirm that I understand the concepts. I unknowingly made it through college with 5 of my eight concussions with this general strategy: Listen to lectures without writing anything except the key concept for that day. Make sure I could see in my mind the connection between the concept and the details given in the lecture and move from one to the other and confirm new details or even infer the existence of new details. Drove my wife nuts (we married after our freshman year) seeing a whole course of notes fit on one or two pages. I would then take these conceptual notes and review them with the book to be sure I had them correct.
  • The point of the above point is learn how you think. Are you detailed? Or do concepts instantly makes sense, and you struggle with details until you have a concept to plug them into? Once you know your strength, play to it. Use it as your base of operations and build your knowledge from there.
  • Write. Pen or pencil to paper. Learn cursive (seriously, studies show cursive writing improves brain function!). Write your thinking. Draw your thinking. There is a book “Thinking with a pencil” by Henning Nelms that is fantastic for helping with this. Play: write and draw. Paper is not precious, make mistakes, cross them out, leave them, but don’t erase them. Erasing disrupts t he flow of thought. Play with whether you prefer pen or pencil (pens drive me nuts, always doing something to disrupt my flow of thought, I despise mechanical pencils, but I found I love pencils. The quality of the pencil matters greatly. Get ahold of Golden Bear pencils — they write beautifully smooth and are a great value at .20 a pop. Far better than Ticonderoga and its ilk. Grin. If you find you love pencil thinking, try the Blackwing 602. Delicious. Smooth. Velvety to write with. (note, we think of pencil as temporary because it is erasable (except don’t erase!), but pen fades or smudges or bleeds when wet. Pencil is permanent unless you erase it.
  • Mark in your books. Underline the key points, write your thoughts and questions in the margins. Your learning is precious, the printed page is there to serve your learning.
  • Environment matters greatly. Pay attention to if the HVAC or fluorescent lighting, or laundry/perfume scents overload your brain in the classroom. At home, create your “sanctuary” to be as stimulation free as possible.
  • One asset to both writing and reading is a sloping desk. They are hard to find now, but this is the one I use and I love it (I have the large Designer). Hearty, well crafted.

Go for it! Fall. Smack into the wall. (And you will). Every “failure” is an opportunity to learn and improve and become better, more efficient. Give yourself permission to fail and learn from it — do that and you won’t ever fail because the only failure is the one we don’t learn from. Grin.