Compensatory strategies is a term I first heard at the beginning of my rehab at Shepherd Pathways which is where Shepherd Center conducts the outpatient acquired brain injury program. I had no idea what the term meant. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what a lot of things meant. I eventually learned they were ways to help us survivors work around or “compensate” for our deficits. I learned some strategies in speech therapy that were meant to help me deal with my memory loss issues or as we call it, things falling out or not sticking in the first place. Those strategies would have been far more effective if I had not had the bullheaded idea that I had never needed strategies before so why should I need them now. That was just one of the obstacles that made these fantastic tools my insurance company paid a lot of money for me to learn not as effective as they should have or could have been.
The effectiveness of compensatory strategies depends on how the survivor and their support system look at them. My memory was one of my greatest assets all through life prior to my injury. My head was and when it comes to long term memory, still is full of what Bonnie calls useless information. I like to think of it as a collection of Jeopardy answers. I knew all our family birthdays and anniversaries. I knew all the vital statistics about our children’s births; date, time, weight and length. Lots of things stuck and not all of them were useless.
On a serious note, one of the above mentioned memories was the one that made me first actually realize I had a problem. Bonnie and everyone else had been aware for weeks but this one hit me like a brick. We were at Grady Memorial for a follow up exam on the braces that held my jaw together. After the exam, I was at a desk where they were scheduling my next appointment and the date selected was August 14th. I knew there was something special about that date but could not remember. I looked at Bonnie with what must have been a lost puppy expression and asked what happened on that day. She said “It’s Bryan’s birthday”. I had a sick feeling and when we got to the elevator to leave, I completely lost it and cried like a baby for several minutes. How could I forget my own child’s birthday?
Enough rambling about me, I’m supposed to be rambling about compensatory strategies. Using compensatory strategies requires a level of discipline and consistency. Discipline is not always a strong suit of tbi survivors; at least I know it isn’t for me. Sometimes that discipline comes from other people. My wife, Bonnie, helps a lot but she sometimes gets tired of telling me the same thing over and over. The doctors and therapists emphasize it but they are not with us 24/7. At some point, if we survivors want to live functional and useful lives, we have to make the effort to take charge of our future. This has to be done daily since, like Bonnie says, I and most other tbi survivors wake up in a new world every day.
We live in a time when technology can be used to implement compensatory strategies. Smart phones, computers and gadgets like timers can be used to keep us in touch, up to date and on time if we implement them properly.
Here is a list of Compensatory strategies my Speech pathologist at Shepherd Pathways gave me when I finished Rehab. Like I said earlier, these are only effective if you use them consistently so read them and use them. By the way, the strategies are not just good for brain injury survivors but anyone who wants to be more organized and efficient.