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My Tech Tools for TBI

 

By Alexander Rostron, August 25, 2020

 
After my traumatic brain injury (TBI), I suffered from a large drop in mental capacity.  I could not remain focused for even moderate lengths of time and forgot the majority of the content that I had just consumed.  

Not only that, whenever I attempted focused work, I was so mentally and physically tired after doing something as simple as reading that I needed to take a nap.  The limited runs of mental stamina prompted me to explore different tools and systems for assistance.

Below are three apps I find useful:

Notability App (iOS, Mac)

I use Notability to write notes (handwritten and typed), take photos and record audio from class and during medical appointments.  My favorite feature is the ability to capture audio while handwriting notes and highlighting key terms with the Apple Pencil.  

While reviewing my class notes to study for a test, I realized that the audio recorded more information than I was able to put down during the lecture.  For example, a professor gives an example of the definition they had just explained.  I was only able to write out the definition, before the professor started on a different part of the lesson.  The audio recording left me more information than my writing speed could handle.

Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar to track the scheduled appointments I have.  My favorite part of that utility is the option of adding details to each event, such as the address, a notification to remind me an hour before, and a space for a custom description.  Here is where I list important details about what needs to be brought and prepared for the appointment.  I have used it to track things I need to bring and do before each appointment.

Forest Pomodoro Timer (iOS, Mac)

I use Forest to practice the Pomodoro technique for working on tasks that take intense focus, while giving scheduled breaks for a mental recovery.  It is a timer that stops if you use your phone.  This is to practice only studying for a set amount of time, with an alert after as a reminder to physically get up from where I’m studying and take a very short break.  Studies have shown that after 25 minutes of intense mental focus, human ability to retain information gets severely diminished.  This is a tool I consistently use when I am completing a task with a lot of paperwork and takes a lot of time and mental energy, such as writing essays or personal record-keeping.

These 3 tools act as such a critical part of my life post-TBI.  The Notability app catches all of the information that I cannot record at the time of, and helps support my memories with the tools it gives to type, write, and emphasize certain information.  The Google Calendar system helps give me a clear layout of the events in the week ahead of me and contains a place for each small and important detail.  The Forest app helps me pace myself through large blocks of work with small checkpoint breaks to ensure that I don’t drain my mental battery and a chance to reflect about what info I had just absorbed.

These are the systems that assist me with the mental stamina and memory recall struggles specific to my traumatic brain injury. If you have tools that you would like to add to this list, I would love to hear about what you have used to support your life post-TBI. If you would like to hear more about one of these tools please let me know.  If you have any comments, questions, or feedback please feel free to reach out to me at arroston@gmail.com.

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