ATU361 – BITES with Brian, Mike, and Sara | Brain Injury, Technology and Education Supports


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361-04-27-18 – Brain Injury Technology Education and Support (BITES) with Brian Norton, Director, Assistive Technology/INDATA

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Brain Injury Technology Education and Support



BRIAN NORTON:  Hi, my name is Brian Norton, Director of Assistive Technology, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 361 of Assistive Technology Update.  It’s scheduled to be released on April 27, 2018.

Today we are going to talk with Brian Norton and a couple guests of our B.I.T.E.S program, brain injury technology education and support, which is a great partnership between Easter Seals and Comcast.  We hope will check out our website at, give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124, or send us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project.



[1:09] Interview with Brian Norton



So today is going to be fun.  It’s not often I get to talk about something new and interesting we are doing right here at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indianapolis.  Today it B.I.T.E.S.  Joining me in our studio is Brian Norton who is our director of assistive technology, and my dear friend.  B.I.T.E.S is in a program that we have just kicked off here in the last few months.  We thought it made sense to get on the show and have Brian talk a little bit about what’s happening with B.I.T.E.S and what it is and some other details.

First and foremost, hi Brian, welcome.

BRIAN NORTON:  Hey.  How are you? Glad to be here.

WADE WINGLER:  I’m okay.  We are recording early in the morning and are both having a rough start our day.  The fact that we are both here and talking and smiling, I think it’s a good thing.

So we’re going to talk a little bit about B.I.T.E.S. B-I-T-E-S? B-Y-T-E-S?


WADE WINGLER:  What is that?

BRIAN NORTON:  B.I.T.E.S is a support group that we started.  It stands for Brain Injury Technology and Educational Supports.  It’s a specific support group for folks with brain injury.  They came about through a generous grant through the Comcast Foundation.  They gave us the seed money to get this thing started.  We have some really interesting collaborations with a couple of other groups here in our city who work with folks who have brain injuries.  Specifically the rehab hospital of Indiana and their neural rehab center.  They do what’s called resources facilitation for folks who have brain injuries.  That is really just a way to help connect folks with that specific issue with resources that would be helpful for them in a variety of different ways.  We’ve reached out to them, partnered with them, and we’ve been meeting for now six months or so.  It happens once a month.  We get together and talk about technology and how, in the world of brain injury, where things like memory, attention, focus, and other kinds of things become paramount and rise to the top level of some issues that folks to deal with, we talk about how technology can make a difference for folks.  We do a lot of hands-on, a lot of peer support.  As folks are gathering up, we talk about the issues they are dealing with and look at what technology can do to help benefit folks.

WADE WINGLER:  We are going to break some of that down because there is a whole lot going on there.  It’s a pretty busy group and I think it has an amazing potential.  Talk to me about the genesis of the idea.  Where did the idea come from that we need a group for people with brain injury and technology? Is that a unique need? Is that something that bubbled up here?

BRIAN NORTON:  I don’t know.  We talked about it as obviously there is a lot of emphasis on brain injuries these days.  You have service-connected disabilities coming back from war and those types of things.  It’s something that has been getting a lot of attention recently.  Without what a great way to be able to reach out to those folks and maybe connect that technology world with them.

WADE WINGLER:  We reached out to Comcast for the funding, and that’s been a little over a year or so ago.

BRIAN NORTON:  We started talking to them right about a year ago, was when we initially got the funding for it.  Comcast is a national partner with Easter Seals, so Easter Seals on the national level does a lot with Comcast.  Every once in a while, they come out with grants that you can apply for.  We decided what a great opportunity to be able to start a group like this to maybe use that grant money as some seed money to get things started and figure out exactly what makes sense for that group and how we should go about reaching out to those folks.

WADE WINGLER:  So when does the group meet?

BRIAN NORTON:  We would love to meet more, but we meet right now based on time and need.  We meet once a month, the third Wednesday of every month, from six to 7:30 PM.  It’s here at Easter Seals Crossroads.  We don’t stream it.  We really want to create community amongst our participants.  We do want them to come and be a part of it here.  Once a month, six or 730, about an hour and a half.

WADE WINGLER:  What happened during the meeting?

BRIAN NORTON:  The general format for the meeting, obviously when folks get in, they are either early or coming in a few minutes late.  We spent the first couple of minutes talking back and forth, having conversation, mingling, mixing it up a little bit with folks that are coming in and having a good time.

WADE WINGLER:  Kind of checking in with each other?

BRIAN NORTON:  Yeah, hanging out a little bit.  We bring snacks, so everybody is grabbing food.

WADE WINGLER:  Snacks are good.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s an important thing to a support group, having the right kind of snacks.  Then at every meeting we have a 20 to 30 minute presentation.  Some of the topics we’ve covered so far, we’ve talk about tools for attention and focus, so different types of apps, different types of devices that help with that particular need.  We talked about using our mobile devices and using the calendars and setting appointments and taking notes effectively with those devices. Again, just a variety of topics centered on those types of things.  It’s been really fun.  At 20 to 30 minute recitation around that.

Then we go around and just talk about what we’ve presented on.  We did realize there is a unique need with our individuals.  Some folks have Apple devices, and some bring Android devices.  We decided now to split those up.  Those are hard topics to cover together.  When you talk about calendars on your mobile device, you really can’t hone in on Apple, which is what I use. I have an iPhone. Some people have Android and it’s completely different.  We split the group up, and they spend some time together working with each other within their technology.  Group, if you will.

WADE WINGLER:  That we people can be very specific about the steps and processes and what the screens look like.  If I think about it, calendar, you can make your calendar look several different ways within one app, within one of you.  You can go into the iOS calendar app and make you look for five different weights.  I can see why having people broken down into groups where everything looks and behaves the same is going to work better.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.  We also spent a lot of time handing out.  We bring handouts for everything.  Our presentations are formatted into a handout that folks can take with them.  Often times we are walking through the handout with them, making sure they understand what is there and how to use it.  I think it’s really important with this particular group to be able to then provide something that they can take with them.  Who knows, the next day or day after, they are probably not going to remember a lot of what was covered.  I do that.  We want to make sure they have a take home with them as well.

WADE WINGLER:  What kind of content are you thinking about in the future? What’s on the agenda for future training topics? Do you have some of those nailed down yet? Or are you letting the group drive that based on what they are struggling with?

BRIAN NORTON:  We are.  We can bring it up every meeting.  We talk about what is happening and what we think we would like to do down the road and get people to vote on those things. We have a list of topics that we’ve come up with.  Obviously we want to drill at home with them to make sure that they are getting what they want from the group.  I think our future topics that we have listed right now, this month is going to be really fun.  It’s a “you bring it, we fix it” deal. We are just asking them to bring in their mobile devices.  If they have a computer, laptop, or whatever, and they are struggling with something, we have a pretty good team.  We do a lot of reuse here with our program.  Recycling computers and other kinds of things.  We can handle a lot of issues and we want folks to bring the technology and then give a few minutes with us one on one.  We will see what we can do to fix it.  You bring it, we fix it.

Down the road, we are going to be talking about brain games, different types of games on your mobile devices that can help you narrow down what you may struggle with and provide you some activities to sharpen your skills in those areas.  Again, continuing with things for memory, things for attention and focus, Internet of things, mobile devices, wearable devices, those types of things we will be talking about as well.

WADE WINGLER:  One of the things I’ve experience in the past with support groups is a can’t only be professionals who participate.  There needs to be a peer to peer component.  Are you starting to see that?

BRIAN NORTON:  Yeah.  During our last meeting, we really started — I guess for me, it takes time for folks to gel and get comfortable around each other.  We are starting to see that.  Is probably our six or seven months doing this.  We have new folks come in all the time, try it out, see what it’s like.  Our group is growing consistently.  It takes time for those folks to gel.  We are starting to see that.  They are starting — instead of looking at us when they walk in the room, they are looking for the folks they know and are starting to spend time conversing with each other, talking about what their favor app is or what they use for a particular piece of technology.  They are a very open group and a lot of talking.  Now we are starting to see, instead of just talking to us, they are talking to everybody is as well.  It’s been great.

WADE WINGLER:  You mentioned the meetings are happening once a month for an hour and half or so.  Is there any communication between the meetings?

BRIAN NORTON:  Yeah.  We use a platform called Slack.

WADE WINGLER:  Love Slack.

BRIAN NORTON:  It’s a bit like an instant messaging system but is more sophisticated and allows for a little bit more conversational pieces to it.  You can do a lot of fun stuff with it.  We use Slack as our in between the meeting to keep up with folks.  We encourage folks to post questions they have throughout the week, they are struggling.  from our perspective as the leaders and facilitators, we go in and want to week post a question.  Tell us what is going on this week or getting them to try to engage a little bit and have them provide some feedback.  It’s gone pretty well.  It’s a new group, and we are still wanting more participation in between meetings.  But we are starting to see that a little bit as well.

WADE WINGLER:  I keep an eye on that slack channel.  I use Slack all the time, and that is when I’m subscribed to.  I sort of lurk in the background. I don’t participate.  I see some silliness in the slack channel.

BRIAN NORTON:  They have this Giphy things where you can express your emotion through a picture or a little video snippet.  Folks have a lot of fun with that.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s fun.

BRIAN NORTON:  We do have guidelines.  We did put guidelines in place and have some set up with folks so that we make sure things are appropriate and we reserve the right to moderate that as much as possible.

WADE WINGLER:  As our agency Slack administrator, I also have the parental controls for that set down to a pretty low level so that people can’t put in things that are naughty.  Five years from now, when we are talking about how great B.I.T.E.S has gone, what will we have said was a success? What does the future look like for the group? What is a win?

BRIAN NORTON:  My hope for the group is that it continues to grow and that we can expand it to other places as well, whether that is our providing that service or having other Easter Seals affiliates or other places that are interested in a group like ours.  We would love to have it expand.  I think it’s a really useful topic.  There are a lot of support groups for brain injury out there, but they focus more on the medical nature of brain injury and helping people understand brain injury and how it affects them.  I don’t think there are a lot of groups.  I think ours is unique in the fact that we focus on different types of technology and educational opportunities for folks to be able to then overcome some of the challenges they face.  I really want to see it expand.

WADE WINGLER:  This is clearly, because of the face-to-face component and the fact that you’re trying to build community, it is a central Indiana only thing.  I don’t think the formula is so complicated that it could be replicated elsewhere, right?

BRIAN NORTON:  I think it’s really simple to replicate.

WADE WINGLER:  If somebody hears this and says we want to do a B.I.T.E.S group, can they reach out to you? Will you talk to them about it? Don’t say no.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  We would love to talk to folks about how to be able to start that.  We started a year ago planning.  It took about six months of planning to come up with what we think a group should look like and how it would operate.  We have a lot of those foundational pieces for folks if they are interested in want to get started.

WADE WINGLER:  If people did want to reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

BRIAN NORTON:  The best way to go to our website.  We set up a micro site for the B.I.T.E.S group.  If you go to, you will see a little video from some of our participants talking about the group and what it means to them, but also information about upcoming meetings and other information to be able to contact me.




[15:34] Interviews with guest Mike Vaughn



WADE WINGLER:  Brian, I think one of the most helpful things we could do is hear from some of the folks themselves.  You got to people here lined up who can tell us what their experience has been like.  I’m going to hand you the mic, and you take it from here for a while.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m so excited to sit here with Mike Vaughn.  You want to say hey to folks?

MIKE VAUGHN:  Hello.  It’s good to be here.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  Mike is one of our participants in our B.I.T.E.S program which is the Brain Injury Technology and Educational Supports group.  It’s a support group that we have.  I’m so glad that you are here.  Why don’t you tell folks a little bit about you, what your experience has been like with B.I.T.E.S.

MIKE VAUGHN:  Excellent for starters.  I’ve learned a lot.  Back in 2016, I had a traumatic brain injury.  I was hit by a semi in my very small Volkswagen.  I’ve been in recovery ever since.  B.I.T.E.S is wonderful.  It lets make it out of the house, which I don’t do very often, as you might imagine.  When I do leave, it’s to doctors appointments.

BRIAN NORTON:  You’ve had some experience.  I know it is technology and educational supports, but you’ve had a lot of experience with technology in the past as well before your brain injury, but also after.  Is that right?

MIKE VAUGHN:  Many before, I did software development for Creative Concepts here in Indianapolis.  In high school, I did computer programming and engineering.  I am no stranger to technology, that’s for sure.

BRIAN NORTON:  You’ve been one of those folks in our group — I talked a little bit about how the group works.  Is it more of a professional to participants, or a peer to peer environment.  You’ve chimed in, I know from experience in the group as well, with your own ideas about technology, things that you are using and find helpful for you.  That’s been cool.

MIKE VAUGHN:  One of my favorite things to do — you don’t often hear this from people who know a lot about IT — but I like to help people with technology, even though sometimes it is excruciating.

BRIAN NORTON:  Because you expect them to know something.  Becomes second nature to you.  Is that right?

MIKE VAUGHN:  Yes.  We talk a lot about mobile devices, mobile operating systems.  As you know, I’m a big Android nerd.  It’s frustrating when I know exactly how to do something because I’ve done it 100 times, and somebody else doesn’t even know that that’s what needs to be done.

BRIAN NORTON:  Patience is a virtue, right?

MIKE VAUGHN:  Yes, especially when you’re dealing with people who, in this case, have good reason to not understand, or people have — I find the older generation, they have an unwillingness to learn.

BRIAN NORTON:  What do you like most about B.I.T.E.S?

MIKE VAUGHN:  Like I said, I really like the fact that I can get out of the house and go somewhere with people who have similar interests and setbacks as I do.  I am learning stuff about technology, which is rare for me.

BRIAN NORTON:  What do you hope to gain from B.I.T.E.S?

MIKE VAUGHN:  You guys introduced me to elevate.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s an app, right?

MIKE VAUGHN:  That’s an app where you do memory and speech exercises every day, which reminds me I need to do mine for the day.  They are fun, they help with memory retention, like name recall, and they are actually helpful.  I would like to find more things like that.

BRIAN NORTON:  One of the things we hope to do is continue to gain momentum with the group that we have here.  I cannot wait to see this potentially grow to other groups around the state, around the country.  Thanks, Mike, for chiming in today.  I appreciate your feedback and willingness to jump on the show with us.

MIKE VAUGHN:  No problem.




[20:56] Interview with guest Sara



BRIAN NORTON:  I’m here with Sara.  Thank you for joining us today.

WADE WINGLER:  Good morning.  Happy Tuesday.

BRIAN NORTON:  Sara is one of our participants in our B.I.T.E.S program, which is Brain Injury Technology and Educational Supports.  I wanted to invite you in here to talk a little bit about B.I.T.E.S.  Tell us what your experiences been so far.

SARA:  B.I.T.E.S has been wonderful for me because I’m able to get out of the house and interact with other brain injured survivors and learn about technology and a lot of great things and meet great people.

BRIAN NORTON:  It is a bunch of great people.  It’s a fun, interactive group, isn’t it?

SARA:  Yes, it is.  We have a lot of fun.

BRIAN NORTON:  If you are okay with it, can you tell us a little bit about you and your brain injury?

SARA:  Sure.  I was driving to work, nothing fun.  Sometimes people have brain injuries from waterskiing or doing something fun.  I was just going to work at 9:30 in the morning.  I drove off the side of I-65 and ended up on MLK, upside down. I woke up in the hospital, and I had no idea what happened to me.  They were like, you have a brain injury.  I was like, no.  I thought they were joking with me.  I try to get out of bed and I fell over.  It was a complete reset of my life.  I had to learn how to swallow.  I had to learn how to walk and talk.  I had really bad aphasia.  I still kind of word fish.  People say you can’t tell you had a brain injury, which is amazing to me.

BRIAN NORTON:  Thinking about that, the stuff you had to go through back then, just for learning the basics of life, why is a program like B.I.T.E.S really important for folks?

SARA:  It keeps you updated with the newest things.  I learned about a lot of great apps with it and technology.  I’m still 2012 in my thinking, and it’s 2018.  You guys are 2018, see you guys are updating me to 2018.

BRIAN NORTON:  Is there a particular thing like an app or piece of technology that you found to be really interesting so far in all the things we’ve covered in the group?

SARA:  I don’t have my iPad with me, but they installed brain games for me.  They have memory games, which is great.  I’m sorry.  I blinked on it.  It’s like a matching game.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think it’s called MemMatch.

SARA:  Yeah.  That helps a lot with my memory, because I can’t remember anything past a second.

BRIAN NORTON:  What do you hope to gain from B.I.T.E.S in the future?

SARA:  Being as awesome as you.  I’m just kidding — no, I’m not kidding.  Making achievements.

BRIAN NORTON:  Kind of continuing to improve in those areas?

SARA:  Yeah.  I’m outdated and need to update.  One thing that really struck me was, 2012, I was worried about the memory in my iPad and downloading too many apps, because you didn’t want to crowd your memory allocation.  Now you don’t have to worry about that anymore.  You can download a lot of apps.  It was like, so you can download? That was one thing.  I’m outdated that way.  You don’t have to worry about having 20 apps.  You can have 40 apps because there is enough memory.  You guys keep me updated so I don’t have to worry about how many apps or pictures you can have on this device.

BRIAN NORTON:  We spend a lot of time on apps because they are inexpensive, affordable for folks to purchase.  A lot of folks have a phone or an iPad, those kinds of things.

SARA:  It’s great because you don’t have to forget about them.  They are right there.  What was that thing I downloaded? What was the website? You can just push the button.  That’s really great.

BRIAN NORTON:  Thank you for taking time for me today.  I appreciate it.

SARA:  Thank you, Mr. Norton, for interviewing me.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  You have a great rest of your day.

SARA:  You too.




[26:00] Conclusion



WADE WINGLER:  Cool. Brian, thanks for doing that.  If people wanted to reach out to you to learn more about the B.I.T.E.S group, I would they do that?

BRIAN NORTON:  Go to our website.  It’s

WADE WINGLER:  Brian Norton is the director of assistive technology here at Easter Seals Crossroads and the INDATA Project.  Thanks for being on the show today.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  Thank you.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find other shows like this, plus much more, at The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners.  That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

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