BRAIN BOOK® leads to independence, employment

“Many times, I’ve been on the interstate or going down a street and suddenly I have no idea where I’m going or maybe where I’m at,” says Kathleen Hinman of Omaha, who sustained a brain injury in 1996. To keep from panicking, Hinman turns to her BRAIN BOOK® to get back on track.

The BRAIN BOOK® looks like a planner, but is customized to help people with brain injuries manage memory loss, organization, emotional control and a variety of other issues that come with having a brain injury.

Before her injury, Hinman was president of a large social service organization, involved with her children’s many activities, office manager for her husband’s business, and taught and judged baton twirling at a national level.

To stay organized (before her injury), Hinman used a Franklin planner, but after the accident, it fell short. “I kept trying to come up with something I could handle, and it would just be another failure. Then, when I learned about the BRAIN BOOK® System, I thought this was he perfect thing for me. It’s made it seem like I can live a normal, useful life.”

Kathy Moeller of Oregon developed the BRAIN BOOK® Life Management System during her struggles after sustaining a brain injury in 1990. She now travels the country to teach others how to use it. In 1997, Keri Bennett of Vocational Rehabilitation in Kearney started a pilot program to offer BRAIN BOOK® training in Nebraska. So far, eight participants have started, including Hinman. Four are receiving one-on-one training in Kearney and four are learning via the Internet, with telephone support from Moeller and Bennett.

“People think you have no memory left at all,” says Deena Anderson, a nursing student and BRAIN BOOK® trainee. “But the memory is there – the problem is in retrieving it.” To accommodate this, the BRAIN BOOK® opens in the middle to expose all the color-coded sections for an instant visual reminder of what you need to do for the day. For example, a “TALK TO” section with yellow tabs has room for names ranging from your family to co-workers, where you write down whatever you need to tell them. “Sometimes, I know it’s been discussed and I have forgotten,” says Hinman. “You have that flash when it comes to you . . . and within a second it’s literally gone again. If you’re using the BOOK well, you grab it and write it down right then.”

Hinman uses the “ROUTINES” section a lot, which is divided by day, week and month, with a planning system and visual reminders for each step. “It has made it possible to put my 10-year-old back in lessons . . . and actually get her there. For a long time, I had to pull her out of things because I couldn’t be counted on.” Hinman says each time she goes over her schedule it’s like looking at new material, but with the training, she’s learning to compensate. Anderson agrees, “It rebuilds your confidence. When you start forgetting things you feel like you can’t trust yourself. That’s terrifying. I can look in my BRAIN BOOK® and see what I have checked off so I know I’ve done it.”

With assistance, Hinman developed a personalized “lost” section so when she’s driving and forgets where she’s going, she has a system to figure it out. “I would get so confused I would just panic. Now I have a card in there that says, “If you can’t think where you are, look at your SCHEDULE and see if you can figure out where you’re going. It goes through all the steps of what I can do.”

Ultimately, Voc Rehab wants the BRAIN BOOK® to help people meet employment goals, and plans to expand training statewide. “Solid strategies are essential for people with brain injury to succeed at work, says BRAIN BOOK® System developer, Kathy Moeller. “Many of my peers could be working too, if they were given the opportunity to learn how to compensate.” Anderson already uses her BRAIN BOOK® at work by writing down duties for each shift. She’s familiar with the routine, but checks off completed tasks to be sure they’re finished.

Hinman has a teaching degree and an expired teaching certificate that she may renew. As her BRAIN BOOK® proficiency improves, Hinman wants to work again, maybe tutoring or at her husband’s office part-time. “The only way I’m going to get there is with good compensation skills, and the BRAIN BOOK® is my compensation skill.”

You can contact Kathy Hinman via e-mail at .

For information about the BRAIN BOOK® Life Management System, contact Kathy Moeller at 541-779-5646 or toll free at 1-888-272-4666.

Reprinted with permission from the State of Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation Division.