Learning in Style   

    By Betsy Kane

After a traumatic head injury, much time may be required to relearn old skills and/or learn new strategies. Learning may be more difficult. The manner, or style, in which a person learns may have changed or be diminished. Devices and strategies may be necessary to achieve a learning style that will work for the individual. The good news is that with proper evaluation, the individual’s strengths and weaknesses for learning will be known. These issues then can be addressed and learning solutions can be incorporated into the academic endeavor.

The learning process of the TBI impaired individual may require more effective strategies, better organization, better planning, more time, increased structure and support. Know your best style of learning and facilitate that process.

A cognitive evaluation can help you define your learning style and can help you develop educational strategies and realistic goals. If you learn best by listening: a therapist may suggest reading outloud, using a tape recorder or joining a study group.If you process information in a visual manner, a therapist may recommend using charts, maps, symbols or icons to represent concepts.

If you learn by doing, a therapist may suggest an educational environment that fosters a “hands on” approach such as extensive lab study, on site courses, or apprenticeship.

Reduce complicated ideas to a simpler format and learn these first. Remember that most learning is done by repetition. For TBI individual, it may take many “repeats” to learn. After you have identified your best learning style, your strength and weaknesses, and have put strategies in place and become skilled at using these strategies and devices, it’s time to select a course. Start Simple. Take a class that you have some knowledge of the material (some colleges offer orientation courses for students returning to school). By not having to concentrate all your energy on difficult class material, you can test your strategies and see how well they work.

See how long you can stay focused and attentive without fatigue. Make sure you are able to perform in a classroom where distractions and stimuli maybe quite high.

Don’t forget community opportunities where adult education may afford you the opportunity to test your strategies.

Now you have signed up for the course. It’s time to get organized. Spend extra time before the class begins to practice skills you may need on any adaptive devices you may require and make sure they are in working order. Get all materials for the course well before class begins and have a special place (“study area”) designated to keep all these items. Organize all books and notebooks and always return the material to your “study area”. Have a calendar to mark all class
sessions, study groups, deadlines or anything pertinent to your schedule.

Finally make sure you have investigated all you resources, employed whatever additional support you may need, and that your study structure is in place. Now go learn something!

Revised: Saturday, February 23, 2002