TBI: Recognizing Cognitive Deficits

By John Hatten, Rehabilitation Counselor, TBI Survivor

 

It seems, at first glance, that recognizing our deficits, or problem areas, would seem to be the easiest thing to do: after all, we know ourselves better than anyone, so it must be simple to see where we aren’t quite the same anymore. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things, and I’ll tell you some of the reasons why.

 

First, people get used to things easily. I’ve told you about this before: I walked into a pickup truck mirror about 4-5 months after my injury and ‘discovered’ that I couldn’t see out my right side. Half my visual world was gone and it took me months to notice it! I never “saw” that I didn’t see the right side of my world. As I’ve been “discovering” problem areas for 40 years now, I now see this as something to be expected, part of the normal path to recovery.

 

Second, there is a common problem with us Survivors called neglect. This is where we “don’t notice what we don’t notice”. I can walk around for a long time looking for something that is in open view, right where I left it (although I couldn’t recall where I put it). It’s right there, but I just didn’t recognize it as what I was looking for; by eyes went right over it.

 

Third, with a condition as widespread and all-consuming as brain injury, it’s normal that we’re going to miss some things (a lot) at first, because we’re just too busy being overwhelmed by the differences in our lives. We simply don’t have the time/attention to focus on everything around us when it’s all we can do to just ‘be’ in this strange new personality.

 

Last, there can be a problem, usually after a stroke, called Spatial Neglect, where on can fail to be aware of items to one side of space. As this does not directly relate to TBI, I’ll leave it as that.

 

 

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