Most people who become disabled as adults are curious about what has happened, as are their families. This is especially true for people who are high functioning and were in demanding jobs at the onset of their disability. I think part of the sense of frustration and anxiety that people experience is based on not knowing what is wrong. If they have ever had an explanation, most don’t recall. I think we can assume that this is not only technically difficult but emotionally difficult for people to understand when it is happening to themselves or loved one.
I routinely use visual aids, erasable markers, and a white board to provide an explanation of the underlying injury or disease process during my intake interview. Providing this education does not take much time and certainly helps to build rapport. I think it is also necessary if we are going to get the most from our clients in terms of compliance with rehabilitation activities that are often boring and show very subtle results, if any are able to be seen.
With regard to brain structure and function, I use plastic coated posters from the Anatomical Chart Company. The Anatomy of the Brain Anatomical Chart is a valuable asset. It includes basic brain anatomy and a simple drawing of a neuron. Find it at amazon.com ($18).
Recently, I began using an iPad 2 with the FINR Brain Atlas, an application from the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation. I am amazed at the detail and functionality that I was able to purchase for $2. It is also available for the iPhone. Information is organized around anatomy as well as around nine different types of common injuries. I found the artwork for diffuse axonal injury to be especially useful in explaining to clients how they can have problems with function that do not appear in traditional CAT scans or MRI scans. The Atlas provides a text narrative describing what is on the screen. I found this information to be accurate and helpful, written for most consumers. Find the FINR Brain Atlas at itunes.apple.com.
I have also purchased a brain model that I found to be less useful and certainly not worth the $300 that I spent. One of the problems is that the brain itself is so unassuming that a model of the brain encapsulates its humility. It would be better to put the $300 towards an iPad 2.