Easy to Misunderstand the Behavior of a Person with Traumatic Brain Injury

You ask about how the behavior of a person who may experience disability following a brain injury, may be misinterpreted. It can be misinterpreted many ways. We talk about problems of awareness for people who experience disability following brain injuries, and I see awareness as a person can't perceive, understand, and react to a situation like other people in that situation do. It doesn't take a brain injury to have a lack of awareness. You walk into the wrong party, you walk into the wrong situation, and you're not going to know all the factors and you're going to be sort of the odd person out. But we also have to talk about people and programs who are trying to work with that individual about their lack of awareness. And what I mean by that, they don't understand how the person of focus is understanding the situation. And much as we talk about the person who may experience disability following a brain injury not getting it because they don't understand the context of the situation or the goals and everything, those of us who are trying to help that person, we have to understand the world as that person sees it. They're not acting insane. They're not acting delusional. They're acting according to the information that they're receiving and understanding. So if a person has problems with attention, or they have problems with memory, they don't have the same information that somebody else may have, and so we need to understand that and we need to understand the capacities of the individual and to work within those capacities. For example, if you and I spoke two different languages, we couldn't have this discussion right now, so we would need a support, which would be an interpreter. So one of the things we can talk about is being able to interpret for a person, helping to provide information to the person. We call those 'Cues' or 'Setups', and things like that, that make sense to the individual. And we do that with everybody. It's not just with brain injury. When we get on an airplane we get cues and guides of what to do to have a nice, safe flight, but just in case it isn't, this is what's going to happen and this is what you have to do. That's actually called preteaching. We find out the person's strengths, and we work with those strengths. And again, that's no different than anybody else.

Interpreting the behavior of someone with TBI can be like trying to interpret the words of someone speaking a foreign language. Learn more.

Harvey Jacobs

Harvey Jacobs, PHD has a long history of serving people seeking opportunity who are challenged by disability following neurologic, psychiatric, developmental, medical or physical impairments. He is a partner in Lash and Associates Publishing/Training.

Posted on BrainLine November 12, 2010

Produced by Vicky Youcha and Brian King.

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