Compensatory Strategies for Studying
The strategies that I use to help me get through my school work-- like I said, I did talk with the Office of Disabilities, but I didn't connect with them as much at the school. The program wasn't as formalized at my school. But I grabbed a little bit of information from them, and then I basically kind of developed my own strategies. And what worked for me is that, one, I had to come to the realization that the things that I used to be able to do easily, I could no longer do easily. Sorry, I could no longer cram for that test at the last minute and actually pass. I actually had--if I wanted to understand this--I had to start working 2 or 3 weeks ahead of time. I basically used a lot of repetition, a lot of repetition. I read my chapters over and over again. What would have taken me a day to know, or 2 days to know, it took me 2 weeks to know. I studied; I lived in the library. I would read a chapter. I would outline a chapter, write it down. I used all of my senses. I knew I could no longer just crash and just read it and retain the information and go. I knew I had to read it; I had to write it. I took tape recorders, and I recorded myself reading the material. So with all of those, it was a plethora of things, that's how I learned. It was a lot longer, a lot more work, a lot more intensive, but still the same result happened. I actually passed the class. That was, I think, the primary strategy for me was that I knew I had to work harder and use more repetition in my studies. A lot of-- my occupational therapy program did a lot of group work. For me, groups didn't work for me. I had to, basically, kind of shield myself from noise, from a lot of stimuli and go somewhere and sit back in a really quiet environment. I just couldn't give to the group that way. So once I discovered that that was what I had to do, I had to communicate. I used a lot of communication. I communicated with the faculty. Of course, a lot of them were OTs so they did have some idea of the things that were wrong with me. They were familiar. I communicated with the students that I worked with and said, "I will get this part done, but I can't do it in a group. I have to do it on my own, and then I'll bring it back to you. Then maybe we can talk about it then." And so I did a couple other strategies. I had problems concentrating. I had problems focusing. I had problems with abstract thinking and all of those things. So one of the main things I would do before I would study is I had a recliner chair in my living room, and I would turn on classical music and turn the lights down and just lean back in the recliner chair for about 30 minutes. It would calm my system down and allow me to prepare to study. And these are things I discovered just on my own. Just like, "Okay, this is not working," and I'm like, all over the place. But then I was like, "Oh, wait. This is working. This music is working." I was never into classical music, but it worked for me. Or I would find a study room in the library, turn the light off, and just do meditation for about 30 minutes, and then turn the light on and I was a little bit more prepared to study. But I knew I couldn't be in a loud environment, I knew I couldn't be around a lot of people, and I knew that I just couldn't do it on the fly.
Kelli Gary talks about the compensatory strategies that she found through her own experience worked for her — like recording herself reading her text books to better prepare for class and tests.
Posted on BrainLine December 2, 2009.
Kelli Williams Gary, PhD, MPH, OTR/L is an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University. She sustained a severe traumatic brain injury in 1991.
Produced by Vicky Youcha and Brian King, BrainLine.