Trauma to the brain can have life-long effects. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) defines Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as “an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force.” And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) defines a TBI as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” Falls, assaults, child abuse, and injuries from blasts in the battlefield are leading causes of TBI. Although behavioral symptoms that sometimes present themselves after the trauma often subside, the damage to the brain is permanent. Neurons in the brain do not mend themselves. In many cases, persons with TBI will find themselves unable to perform the everyday cognitive functions they used to.
The good news is that assistive technology can make some of these life activities accessible. Eagle-eyed readers will note that many of these technologies benefit people with diverse disabilities.
- Smartphone apps. The assistive tech we need sometimes can be found right on our smartphones. Donna, a New Jersey resident suffered TBI after an accident. For her, the Reminders app was just what she needed. The Reminders app can help women like Donna her manage her daily schedule and those tasks most parents do every day, such as pick up her children, take her medications, and plan on what to cook for dinner. She can create to-do lists and set audio alerts to remind her. Apple released a brand-new update for the Reminders app this October. Similar applications for Android phones are available.
- Speech-generating devices. With GoTalk, the caretaker records words or phrases into as many as 20 cells, each of which is marked by the word or a pictorial representation.
- Recording devices. The Livescribe Echo SmartPen is certainly a very cool little device. But for a college student with cerebral palsy like Travis, the Livescribe Echo SmartPen is an invaluable companion. Yes, it’s a pen. But inside, it is much, much more. The Livescribe can record an entire lecture and store it. Afterward, one plugs the pen into a computer for replay and storage. Oh yes, you can write with it, too. (When the user uses a specially treated paper, those notes can be
- Writing assistance apps with word-prediction. Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Co:Writer predict words the user is about to type, creating a shortcut. These apps help people with TBI and other disabilities select words they may not otherwise remember or know how to spell.
Indeed, assistive technology can help people with TBI perform everyday tasks, providing them with a greater independence to participate in society.