Brain Power: The Road to Rehabilitation

Writer: Tiffany Whisner, Coles Marketing

What do you know about traumatic brain injuries (TBI)? Did you know 5.3 million Americans live with a long-term disability as a result of TBI?

Device for brain injury therapyTBI is a major cause of death and disability in the U.S., and those who survive a TBI can face effects lasting from a few days to those lasting the rest of their lives. A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

No two brain injuries are alike, so the technology to help treat and rehabilitate individuals with brain injuries needs to be specialized and ever evolving. And that is the focus of the upcoming full-day training hosted by the INDATA Project.


An individualized approach

“Brain Injury and Assistive Technology” takes place Friday, March 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in the fifth floor conference room at Easter Seals Crossroads, 4740 Kingsway Drive in Indianapolis.

Taking the lead on the presentation is Mark Stewart, ATP, CEAS, CBIS, assistive technology specialist at Easter Seals Crossroads, in partnership with a team from the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana (RHI):

  • Dr. Edmund Haskins, RHI neuropsychologist
  • Laura Trexler, OTR, CBIS, program manager of the Department of Resource Facilitation at RHI
  • Wendy Waldman, BSW, CBIS, central Indiana local support network leader in the Department of Resource Facilitation at RHI

The training will start with “Brain Injury 101,” general information on brain injury, including types, leading causes of TBI and what the brain controls. The leading causes of brain injuries are falls, unintentional blunt trauma (being hit by an object), motor vehicle crashes and assaults.

Then there will be topics covering vision and brain injury; best practices in working with brain injury; and behavior and brain injury.

“Every day, 138 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI,” Waldman said. “But seventy-five percent of traumatic brain injuries are classified as mild.” The annual cost of TBI to society exceeds $76.5 billion.

Brain injury therapist working with patientRHI is an acute care rehabilitation hospital for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, specializing in brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke and comprehensive medical rehabilitation for injuries or illnesses resulting in loss of function.

As a certified brain injury specialist (CBIS), Waldman and the other RHI presenters for the INDATA training are part of the resource facilitation program that is funded by vocational rehabilitation.

“The goal of resource facilitation is to prepare a person with a brain injury to return to the workforce,” Waldman said. “Resource facilitation assists with access to services and supports to enhance recovery and to assist an individual to make informed choices to meet their goals.”

And much of the needed services and support to enhance recovery comes from specialized assistive technology.

Equipment for rehabilitation

Ten to fifteen percent of the individuals Mark Stewart works with through Easter Seals Crossroads have a brain injury.

“My focus is working one-on-one with individuals,” Stewart said. “Some of them have mild to moderate brain injuries and are seeking competitive work or school environments.”

Stewart has a Master of Science in kinesiology from Indiana University with a special focus on the neuromuscular learning and control of human movement associated with physical rehabilitation. For more than five years, he played a dedicated role as a certified employment specialist to individuals with disabilities.

Device for brain injury therapyCurrently as senior AT specialist and team lead of the mobility and cognition team at Easter Seals Crossroads, he specializes in onsite computer access and high-tech assistive technology accommodations.

Just last year, he received his certified brain injury specialist certification. Certification from the Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists (ACBIS) is based on a comprehensive training manual that covers the following topics:

  • Incidence and epidemiology of brain injury
  • Continuum of services
  • Brain anatomy and brain-behavior relationships
  • Functional impact of brain injury
  • Effective treatment approaches
  • Children and adolescents with brain injury
  • Health and medical management
  • Family issues
  • Legal and ethical issues

Often times, individuals may work through the programming at RHI and then begin to prepare for reintegration in the community. Stewart travels around the state to evaluate those individuals for assistive technology and help train them on the devices necessary for their specific injury.

“This training is going to give attendees an overview of assistive technology, but it is also going to focus on how people with brain injuries can use that technology to help them in the areas of vision, physical, communication and cognitive limitations.”


Each brain injury is unique

“Assistive technology can make an enormous difference in the lives of people with a brain injury,” Waldman said. “AT for a brain injury can be as simple as a spiral notebook to help with organization and memory, or it can be as sophisticated as a computer-powered vocal assistant to help with communication.”

As stated in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, “The term ‘assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”

BI5And since every brain injury is unique, that requires a piece of technology for each person’s brain injury that is just as unique.

“In general, the right AT product can significantly improve a person’s abilities, depending on their needs and current place in the recovery and rehabilitation process,” Waldman said. “Identifying the specific needs of the person along with the possible interventions and resources are the crucial first steps.”


Capitalize on your capabilities

The schedule for the INDATA training is as follows:


9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Welcome and Introductions

9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Introduction to Brain Injury 101 Panel

11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 

Assistive Technology for Visual Impairments

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

Lunch (Lunch provided)

12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Assistive Technology for Physical Impairments

1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Assistive Technology for Communication Impairments

1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. 

Assistive Technology for Cognitive Impairments

3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. 

Follow up and questions, resource guide handout, and assessment test for anyone who participates onsite and needs CEUs

Device for brain injury therapyThis training is for anyone interested in learning the assistive technology helpful for those who have experienced a brain trauma: vocational rehabilitation counselors, assistive technology specialists, rehabilitation specialists, social workers, parents, educators, students, professionals and healthcare providers.

And Waldman believes it to be a very timely topic.

“Brain injury and assistive technology is a timely topic as there is currently just so much innovation going on and so many areas to explore of how AT can help,” she said. “Every day we hear about revolutionary applications and equipment for various needs, and every day we hear of new AT initiatives for simplifying daily life for those people with a brain injury.”

Stewart said his mission is to help individuals with disabilities uncover and capitalize on their true capabilities. And this will certainly be highlighted at the INDATA training.


The evolution of care

According to Waldman, working with a rehabilitation team and AT specialists is the key. The partnership between Easter Seals Crossroads/INDATA and RHI for this training is the confirmation.

“The complicated nature of brain injuries usually means patients will be dealing with more than one permanent disability,” she said. “Finding a specialist to help with each brain injury complication ensures the person is getting the best treatment as well as the best assistive technology. Another benefit to working with a team is that family members and medical professionals alike can generate more ideas and alternatives for assistive technology and rehabilitation for TBI.”

Register for the full-day training here: Online attendees can also view the training at:

“The attendees will learn the basics of brain injury from the brain injury panel,” Waldman said. “They will then learn how different types of assistive technology can assist with the many various deficits one can have from a brain injury.”

Technology for brain injuryThere will also be some time for training attendees to learn about funding assistance for AT services and resources through INDATA and how both organizations work together to help make the individual successful and improve quality of life.

“While assistive technology for brain injuries can help patients monumentally, it’s important patients get the right type of aid and equipment to help them overcome their specific challenges.”

This training is one the INDATA team has wanted to present for some time. But with Stewart’s recent CBIS certification and the partnership with RHI, everything fell into place. It will be the opportunity for attendees to learn about a topic they may or may not be familiar with — and how when the right assistive technology is chosen, it can successfully make a huge impact on the lives of people with traumatic brain injuries.

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