ABI Student Blog

Coastline’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Program Student Blog

ABI Student Blog


Why Blog?
Brain constructed with Legos

Imagine your skill set is some sort of elaborate Lego structure you use daily. Suddenly, something completely unforeseen happens and your structure crumbles. Some pieces have even gone missing. But you need the structure in order to function in your everyday life. So, you start to rebuild. You find you need to make adjustments since there are missing pieces, and aim for a structure that isn't like the first one since it can't be, but still durable. This is what your skills might look like after a brain injury. Now, picture sitting in a circle with a group of other people and trying to put some project together, but your Lego skill structure isn't complete. You are still rebuilding while working in this group, and sometimes you can clearly see the gaps in your new structure.

Coastline's Acquired Brain Injury Program allows us to do just this. In groups, we learn what it is like post-brain injury to work with others and then compensate for our deficits. Some of us will be returning to school or work, but even the people who don't will probably have to work with others in some capacity, like working on a family activity. This blog is one of those projects. We're working as a group to create something to give ourselves a voice and spread the word about a program that we really believe in, while also working on our own recoveries. It allows us to grow as individuals, know how to work with different kinds of people, and gain confidence in our abilities. Most of all, we love this program and what it has given us back, like our hope, confidence, and independence. We can't wait to be able to share our experiences, stories and knowledge with people who it might help and with anyone interested.

By Celeste Johnson



What I Like About the ABI Program

ABI friends; group photo

After my car accident in February of 2010 I wasn't really sure what the rest of my life was going to look like. I had sustained global brain injuries and lost all of my cognitive skills such as organization and planning; along with a dramatic drop in my processing speed. I heard about Coastline through the many therapists I have had the last three years of my life and they felt it would benefit me tremendously. The program at Coastline is for people who have sustained brain injuries just as I had.

The thing I like most about Coastline is the friendships that are built. The friends I've made here will be life long friends. It's really nice because we can all relate to what each one of us is going through. Although no two brain injuries are exactly the same, we all share many of the same deficits. This relieves us when we have a question or are having issues with something. We don't feel alone or looked at differently for asking a "stupid" question because there are definitely others who are having that same issue or have dealt with a similar issue.

Another thing I like about Coastline is the understanding us students have with one another. When you think about it, in our everyday lives, we usually do not come across another individual who has a brain injury, so when we come to Coastline, it almost feels like we are coming home. Everyone gets us and we don't have to worry about others judging us because of our disabilities. I think coming to Coastline was the best decision I've made in my life; because not only did I learn more about myself and the deficits that resulted from this car accident, but I made friendships that will last a life time.

By Brent Sirignano

Doing Things Differently So You Can Do Them The Same

 Electronic Personal Data Assistant

Why would anyone want to spend the money and effort to be stuck in a classroom for a year? Why not just spend a year doing Luminosity or Brain Age from the safety and comfort of home? Then you wouldn't even need to brush your teeth or hair and could still improve your cognitive functions. Coastline's Program is more than just brain games, and it is not as boring or scary as the descriptions "demanding," "structured," and "educational program" make it sound. Yes, the program challenges students, but it also offers individualized levels of support to promote each student's success and interests. In a nutshell, Coastline's ABI cognitive retraining program is about learning how to do things differently so you can do things the same.

Cognitive retraining is a therapeutic method to help people with cognitive deficits overcome common problems like memory, concentrating, and reasoning by either restoring previous cognitive abilities or compensating for these deficits. Coastline's ABI program emphasizes the compensation approach to cognitive retraining more than restorative. The program's faculty has kept abreast of the latest research on cognitive retraining. So, they structured the program to reflect current data showing that compensation methods are more effective for successful cognitive retraining than restorative methods. Students are taught to use technology as cognitive prosthetics, for example using a time management phone app and setting multiple alarms to help them stay on task. Also, they are shown internal compensation strategies for tackling organization, memory and initiation problems. Coastline's cognitive retraining is not a cognitive rehabilitation program in the sense that the program's scope is to medically or therapeutically restore students' previous cognitive abilities. Rather it's an educational program aimed to help them learn new methods in order to return them to their previous lives as much as possible or embark on a completely new future.

By My Doan

"You don't know how it feels to be me."

Tom Petty – You Don't Know How It Feels

This Tom Petty song describes the way I have felt since the mid-1990s, after I crashed my bicycle and lost consciousness one Friday evening. Being young and foolish, I didn't see a doctor and went back to my transportation planning job Monday.

But things have changed. In the years since, I have lost several jobs, read dozens of psychology books, and seen many therapists. In 2011 I saw a neurologist who ordered the MRI that revealed I had a brain injury blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. The neurologist said I needed surgery in order to install a shunt that would unplug the backup of fluid or else I would soon have a stroke. I had the surgery that spring. I was 49.

In early 2012, I was still struggling, and went to a presentation about "Learning and Remembering" given by an instructor of/at Coastline's ABI program. At last, someone who knew "how it feels to be me." Finding out about the Coastline ABI program was one of the best things to happen to me in a long time, especially since the only cost is for community college registration. There are a few similar programs across the country, but they cost thousands of dollars.

The caring ABI instructors at Coastline are all experts in their field. I'm only in the second quarter of a yearlong program, but already they have taught me ways to keep track of important details and improve interpersonal relationships with the people I care about and need in my life. We are learning about setting goals, including returning to work, while also using technology to help achieve those goals. The students give each other tremendous support and encouragement every day. It may be called "cognitive and psychosocial retraining," but to me, it's "how to get your life back on track."

By Howard Roll

ATTORNEYS – DID YOU KNOW?

Attorney with clients

Attorneys of Orange County, did you know there is a premier cognitive retraining program right here in Orange County? Coastline Community College is the home of the Acquired Brain Injury Program for your clients suffering from an acquired traumatic brain injury following a car accident, slip and fall, or perhaps, caused by medical negligence.

Why is this important to you? After your client sustains a mild traumatic brain injury, he or she can lose their employment because they can no longer focus or complete tasks necessary to complete their job. The defense will say that your client is malingering and being lazy.

I am an attorney who suffered a traumatic brain injury following a car accident. When I returned to work, I could not focus and could not complete the tasks assigned to me. I was frustrated and angry because I did not know what was wrong with me. I did not understand why I could no longer write a simple brief, keep on task with my deadlines, or focus while talking on the telephone.

Since entering the program, I have learned how to address these deficits and how to use the technology available in the world around me to help me. I have learned how to approach projects and break them down into smaller tasks to make them easier for me to complete.

The cognitive rehabilitation program lasts from 1-2 years and classes are four hours a day, four days a week – Monday through Thursday. The cost of the program is the cost of taking classes at Coastline Community College. In comparison, private cognitive programs can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The ABI program can help your clients to mitigate their damages and return to the work.

By Robyn Coyle

Lessons Learned

Cognitive deficits caused by acquired brain injuries (ABI) are as diverse as the students who attend Coastline's ABI Program. Every student has his or her own story of how they acquired their brain injury, whether it was from a stroke, a car accident, brain tumor, concussion, or another cause. From attending the ABI Program, we learn that although our struggles are unique to each individual, there are commonalities we face. Each of us has to deal with varying degrees of memory problems, attention issues, slowed processing speed, and fatigue. Coastline's ABI Program covers a variety of topics to help students become more independent and better equipped to engage with the community, while also showing them strategies to compensate for their deficits. A few of these topics are:

Anatomy and Function of the Brain – This involves knowing what areas of the brain control which functions within the brain and helps student to better understand his or her injury. This allows them identify their problems so they can find ways to compensate.

Communication – When we learn how to communicate with others effectively, we can advocate for ourselves. It is important to be able to voice our concerns, and equally important to be able to listen to others, especially our loved ones and/or medical team.

Technology – We learn how to use publicly available smart phones/devices and apps as compensation for our memory and attention deficits. Technology can also help with time management.

These are only a few things we learn at Coastline's ABI Program. Applying these lessons has given me the confidence to pursue a volunteer job. The most important thing I have taken away from the program so far is that I have friends who understand what I'm going through, my classmates.

ABI friends; group photo

By Tina Bui

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