adaptive living tools, brain injury, color coding, cricketdiane, cricketdiane visual languages, disabilities, head injury, independent living, more about my disabilities, visual identifiers, visual organization tools
After the head injury in 1984, I learned differently and had to relearn a lot of things. I was also more visual rather than verbal in my thinking and functioning abilities. The good part of that is being able to draw anything I see. The more difficult part of that was to relearn verbal thinking skills and it is much easier to do language and communication visually for me since then. A lot of the tools that I developed to help myself in daily living and for many complex tasks of communication and language, as well as remembering to myself things of one kind and another – are visual identifiers and visual tools based on color, shape and form.
Some things are obvious – red meaning stop and things like that. Some are less obvious to others because they developed out of necessity. For the days of the week to make sense to me, I color coded calendars and used post it notes in a specific set of colors with each color meaning something in my own visual language. For the days of the week, at one point they were nicely color coded with each day having a corresponding color as the rainbow would with the same combination following the spectrum. That made a very pretty calendar but turned out to not be very useful.
After a series of trying different combinations, it turned out that for me – having a highly contrasting color on days next to each other on the calendar worked better, though not as pretty as the spectrum rainbow ones. Therefore, Monday became hot pink, Tuesday is denoted by spring green, Wednesday for bright yellow, Thursday in a deep sky blue, Friday in strong basic orange, Saturday in red (more because I meant to tell myself to stop and take a look at the whole week that had past to regroup and go forward from there), and for Sunday, it is a nice violet purple (which also reminds me that it is a spiritual day and a time to take some rest and do some special nourishing things within that day.)
(above is a coffee mug that I made on the zazzle store with the days of the week color chart – created last year on the store. There are probably some of my old calendars with the colors on each day of the week that I had been using but I don’t have them in New York with me right now because they are in storage in Georgia still. Otherwise, I would take a photo of them and post it here. I also have a chart describing what each of the colors mean that I created when one of my friends asked me to do that for them some years ago – but it is in my notes somewhere too, although now that I think about it – there may be a photograph of it somewhere in my computer.)
These colors worked better for me and although the colors as post it notes were also used for other things – they rather fit together – like pink for making phone calls which invariably needed to happen on Mondays anyway (from the old memo books of who called that are used in offices – making it refer back to something I had once known and that other people commonly used.) Green denotes going and money-making things, places to go and things like that or where I needed to go and talk with someone in person or do something by going there in person rather than by phone or computer or email. The yellow on post it notes meant something that was known and occasionally caution, but less so since the what is known category generally written on a post it note didn’t need caution about it in a traditional sense but more for me to give special care and attention to the fact that I did know that about something and should take note of it.
Regardless, each of the colors ended up meaning things in my everyday living to help me do things and to know things as well as using them on the calendar. Then I was able to use post it notes, colorful and clear push tacks, magnets of color, sorting trays in various colors and even legos within the buildings that I created from them – as well as various toys, and painted things to tell me what I either want to remember to myself, or to tell myself later – sort of a visual note. Some things of course, work better than others for this – and although I’ve relearned to read and write many times over since the injury – it is still more likely that I will “read” the color rather than the note with words on it. A series of folds explains a lot more to me than the written words on a thing and often, my post it notes would have folds across them to tell me nearly as much as the words I may have taken the time to write on the thing. In fact, to keep from accidentally giving people the wrong denomination of money or inadvertently throwing it away not realizing it was money at all, a set of folds in the ten dollar bill or twenty dollar bill helps me even today.
Head injury of any kind, strokes and other physiological differences in brain function changes a number of things that most people take for granted every day. Some things are simple – I will never have the luxury of putting my keys just wherever they land as many people do. For me, they will have to go in the same place every time after intensely working to make that habit to do it this time, every time. That is one of the tools that can help me to not be wandering about lost within my own house or living environment for three months totally lost unable to leave knowing that I can’t find my keys and don’t have them to lock my door when I go out it. I would actually hate to admit how often that happened to me before figuring out that putting my keys in my shoes every single time worked to find them again and later, as I do now – they always go back in my purse after unlocking the door right that very minute.
It is obvious to most neurologists, psychologists, physical and cognitive therapists, and others helping people with brain injury including their caregivers that it seems we don’t deal with frustration well. But, as far as I’m concerned and others have repeated it to me as well who have brain injury – they just don’t know the multitude of frustrations we’ve been successfully managing in thousands of ways every minute until finally something is just one too many and can’t be resolved. Since someone sitting beside me probably doesn’t know how much effort it took for me to tie my shoes even this week, and doesn’t know I had to trick one of my granddaughters into tying their shoes so I could see it done one more time to remember how and to follow it – that person probably wouldn’t understand why I would be frustrated and feeling humiliated in general before ever leaving my house. If they also knew that I had lost the front door for about twenty minutes before leaving because somebody moved the purple push tack I had on the wall right next to the door that would tell me where to find the door (and the wall for that matter) – maybe that person wouldn’t be quite so intolerant that I’m already at my outer range of patience once I’ve finally found the door and gotten outside. But, then that only describes two of the multitude of others that all happened as I was getting ready to go somewhere and all happened at the same time.
One of the things I hate about brain injury’s changes to me is that it is almost impossible to prioritize – all of it is important and all of it requiring me to fix it, do it, manage it or get it done seems to have the same level of priority. That means, I have to really think about whether socks go on first or shoes and then socks unless I make the process into a specifically learned habit (which always requires re-learning and re-establishing that habit in order to keep it available to me – but it is a really good tool.)
There is something to be said about one very valuable tool for me – that I truly believe almost anyone can use if they think about it a bit – even caregivers would be able to use it for their family members with brain injury, stroke and other similar disabilities – but that said, I haven’t much faith in family members, caregivers, nurses, visiting nurses or even occupational therapists to help anyone with a brain injury to actually do this one because they seem to have a lot of difficulty with it. That tool is to set things, put things like visual identifiers, mnemonics and other things for adaptive living in a place where, by nature – I already look. It is a really simple tool but takes a lot of working with it over several days or weeks to get it right – sort of making a best guess based on observation, placing a thing there and then if it doesn’t work – figuring out where it does – until it does.
The person with a head injury, probably just like anyone else will almost always come into a room’s space seeing certain places and things first and more dominantly, no matter what else is happening in that room. Distraction is a real disaster for me and for many people with brain injury. So, the best place to put something I’m supposed to remember is to put it where I will automagically look by the fact I already do always look there at that spot. In a very real sense, unless I’m stuck on looking down at my shoes – it probably won’t tell me there is a door in a wall if I put the push tack near the floor, though for some things, the floor is the best place to indicate some things – like a change of room by having a small throw carpet with non-skid backing in the doorway to tell my feet and therefore to alert me to that fact that I’m transversing into a different room.
and color only sets of products, many of which can be used as visual identifiers are here –
I started making another store that will have only the adaptive living tools on it through Zazzle – but most of the ones I’ve made so far are actually on the page above where I had made them on the cricketdiane zazzle store. It obviously isn’t necessary to use these – although the magnets and stickers are very handy. In my world, I use many things with color including post it notes, small color only stickers, calendars hand colored for the days of the week (which isn’t something I need to do as much anymore, but still helps me to remember the relationships of time and sequence between days of the week that is one of the hardest concepts for me to keep hold of), and by having various color markers and paints to use – I can color things to use as specific visual identifiers when I need them.
But here is the other store address that I’m building with just the adaptive living tools on it – As I said, there are only a few things on it so far. Last night I was putting what I thought was a number of visual identifiers on it and accidentally posted them to the other store at cricketdiane – oh well, I’ll get it fixed.