August 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Brain Health with Paul Hyman

BY: JULIA RENAUD

Brain Health

As a brain injury survivor, these two enchanting words instantly grab my attention and get me craving to learn more. Lucky for me, this was the topic of BIST’s August Community Meeting, and guest speaker, Paul Hyman, had my full attention. Paul is a wonderfully accomplished champion for the brain injury community and he comes with a very impressive resume (check out his website if you don’t believe me). Among all of his accomplishments, he is most well known for being the president and founder of Brain Fitness International, an organization that helps those living with a brain injury to maximize their potential and live better lives.

Picture of Paul Hyman
Paul Hyman, Creator and CEO of Brain Fitness International

Paul began the evening with a quick one liner to explain what ‘brain health’ means to him: movement-based, multi-sensory brain stimulation. Put simply, this means that through movement and engaging your senses you are actually helping your brain. To elaborate upon this concept, Paul used the example of a student who was taking a class and, to the professor’s dismay, knitted throughout every lecture rather than taking notes. To the professor’s astonishment, this student ended up far exceeding the professor’s expectations come the completion of the course. Because knitting utilizes both sides of the body, and therefore, both hemispheres of the brain, the student was able to better absorb the information. For this reason, a pipe cleaner (the craft supply) was handed out to each community meeting attendee to fiddle with, using both hands, throughout the presentation. I have been using this pipe cleaner trick for about a week now and, when I do, I feel like I’m better at absorbing and recalling information; so, if it tickles your fancy give it a try!

PipeCleaners
PHOTO VIA RAINBOW CREATIONS

The point that Paul chose to emphasize was that movement stimulates the brain. If you don’t believe me, lift your arms high in the air and shake your hands around. Just by moving, you are improving your capacity to learn, memorize, and recall information. If you’re currently struggling with brain injury and some sticky symptoms, this may be exhausting; but, as Paul says, movement is great for the brain – try it out and see how you feel.

Further to movement being a brain stimulant, a principle that has been known for many years now was also highlighted, ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ This speaks to the neuroplasticity of the brain,  how the brain is capable of forming new connections.

Using both body and breath to stimulate the brain is a fantastic way to facilitate recovery and also leaves you feeling great. We went through several activities over the course of the evening, and below I will share some of my favourites. I’ve included some fun names for each exercise to hopefully make them easier to recall.

Activities

Paul used to be a professional trombone player, to which he credits learning the importance of the breath. This first exercise is intended to help you become accustomed to taking slower and deeper breaths. All you need is a tissue! I call this one, the tissue trap:

The Tissue Trap:

  • Take a tissue and hold it up against a wall.
  • Exhale slowly and deeply onto the tissue so that it stays stuck to the wall without you needing to hold it in place. Do this as slowly as possible.
  • For added fun, you can time yourself or challenge others to see who can hold it the longest. (New party trick, maybe?)
  • Vary this exercise by blowing puffs of air instead of a steady stream. If you don’t have a wall handy, use another surface like a book, or hold the tissue between your fingers and watch the tissue fly as you control it using your breath.

This next exercise utilizes both hemispheres of the brain and helps them to work together. It is commonly referred to as eye tracking or lazy 8’s. For a more detailed explanation, click here, otherwise follow the steps below:

Eye Tracking Lazy 8

Eye Tracking/Lazy 8’s:

  • Outstretch your arm in front of you so it’s perpendicular to the floor.
  • Make the thumbs up sign with the hand of your outstretched arm.
  • Move your arm to draw a big, imaginary infinity sign (an 8 on its side, see above). Continue to do this motion.
  • While keeping your head still and facing forward, move your eyes to keep your gaze on your thumb as it moves around.
  • Try this out with your other arm and/or with your fingers interlaced.
  • Vary the direction of your figure 8. For example, instead of going up the middle every time, try going down the middle.

If you prefer, you may like to draw your lazy 8 on a piece of paper or white board. This can be particularly handy if you get dizzy from drawing them in the air.

Brain Gym PACE

PACE is a Brain Gym mnemonic for Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic, which together, form a technique for warming up both your brain and your body to maximize your capacity to learn. Now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe this practice using only words for a while, but lucky for me, and let’s be honest, you too, I stumbled on this handy video that captures PACE in a straightforward way.

pace brain Gympace brain Gym

The BIST community meeting attendees really enjoyed Paul’s presentation as he was an excellent speaker with a very engaging presentation. I’ve been told that he will likely return for more presentations in the future so stay tuned!

In the mean time, don’t forget to check out the BIST calendar or all types of events.

October Community Meeting: Join us for our Halloween Party on October 31st!

November Community Meeting: Essential Oils & & ABI with Rose-Ann Partridge – November 28th, 6 – 8 pm 

 

 

2018 BIST Summer Picnic!

BY: JULIA RENAUD

On the evening of July 25th I had the pleasure of attending a BIST Community Meeting unlike any I’ve been to before, the BIST Summer Picnic! This meeting was very special for many reasons: it only comes around once a year, it’s held in a park (this year, Dufferin Grove Park), and it brings together many BIST staff, volunteers, members, and sponsors for a celebration of our strength as a community.

PHOTOS: ABBY SCHNURR MONGKONROB

The evening began with a fun team quiz with facts about Dufferin Grove Park. It seemed like many BIST members knew a lot about the park and its history, and it’s safe to say that I learned a lot! After the quiz, dinner was served: pizza, veggies, fruit, pop, and cake – you can’t go wrong with that!

After dinner, awards were handed out and sponsors recognized. Everyone deserves recognition for their hard work and kindness so below I will list the award recipients and sponsors who contribute so much to BIST and its programs.

I definitely cannot forget to mention that Spiderman was in attendance too! He spent a lot of the night swooping people off their feet; I suspect he was training for the BIST 5km Run, Walk and Roll! Don’t forget, it’s coming up on Sunday, September 30th and you can register by clicking, HERE.


Volunteer of the Year Winners:

Survivor/Thriver Category: Abby Schnurr Mongkonrob

Caregiver Category: Kevin Redmond O’Keefe

Ambassador Category: Tonya Flaming

Sponsors:

Platinum:  PIA Law 

Silver:  Singer Kwinter & Shekter Dychtenberg 


I also want to acknowledge all of the wonderful staff at BIST who bring all of these fantastic programs to fruition!

Once all of the awards had been handed out, we split into groups to do various activities: bocce, ping pong, basketball, and a reflexology walk. There was also a nice blanketed rest area under a tree for those who wanted to have some quiet time in the beautiful park.

I opted for the reflexology walk which was very relaxing and quite honestly a fantastic foot massage! Before taking part in this activity, I didn’t really know what a reflexology walk was, which is why I wanted to try it. The basis of reflexology is that there are areas on the bottoms of the feet that correspond to different parts of the body. Applying gentle pressure or manipulating these various points can help to relieve stress and pain. I must say, I did feel more relaxed after walking the footpath a few times.

Julia enjoying the reflexology path at Dufferin Grove
Julia enjoying the reflexology footpath in Dufferin Grove Park.             PHOTO via JULIA RENAUD

My favourite part of the evening was getting to meet all of the inspiring BIST members as well as the wonderful staff who keep the BIST programs running. I was so happy to see that there were even some people who had never attended a BIST event before, but they came out to see what it was all about.

I love community meetings for this very reason, they provide an excellent opportunity to connect with others within the brain injury community, and everyone is always welcome. Not only does BIST have programs for those who have sustained an injury, but they also have programs to support caregivers. If you would like to learn more about the many programs offered, check out BIST at www.bist.ca or, if you don’t live in the Toronto area, visit the Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA): http://obia.ca.

This year’s Summer Picnic was a huge success and a wonderful celebration of the strength of the BIST community. I’m excited to see the programs to come and to meet the members who are part of our community as well as those who will be joining in the future!


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

Next Community Meeting: Wednesday, September 29th, 6-8p.m.

Deer Park Library, RM 204, 40 St. Clair Ave East

TOPIC: BIST’s Annual General Meeting – Everyone is welcome!

 

June 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Face Mapping with Amee Le

BY: JULIA RENAUD

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking right about now:  what on earth is face mapping? Those were my thoughts exactly, and to put this question at bay, Amee Le, occupational therapist and founder of Mindful Occupational Therapy Services came to this month’s BIST community meeting to explain what face mapping is all about.

Face mapping with Amee Le
Amee Le

Amee shared that she first learned about the enjoyable and artistic activity from seeing a face map made by information designer, Anna Vital. Amee liked the way that the visual representation, encompassing a picture and short bits of text, enabled her clients to reflect on their experiences. She also thought it was a great way for her to learn about her clients and the experiences that helped to shape them.

Face map of Anna Vital, co-founder of Adioma.
Face map of Anna Vital, co-founder of Adioma.
Source: http://anna.vc/post/89097409207/life-surfaced

Making a face map is simple enough to do, and also fun. If you couldn’t make it to the community meeting, I encourage you to give face mapping a try on your own. I’ll do my best to take you through the process so you too can make a face map of your own.

What you’ll need:

  • A blank piece of paper
  • A picture of your face (bigger is better in this case)
  • Glue or tape (or if you’re tech savvy, like the fine employees at BIST, you can print the picture directly onto the sheet of paper)
  • Plenty of colourful writing utensils (pens, pencil crayons, markers, etc.)

Four easy steps for making your face map:

  • Glue or tape the picture of your face onto the middle the blank piece of paper.
  • Above your picture, write the year that you were born and/or a goal that you have for your future.
  • Starting at whatever age you’d like, chronologically write down some milestones in your life around the picture with your corresponding age for each.
  • Draw a line from each milestone to a point on your face that you feel represents that milestone.

For example, I was very happy about buying my first car, so I linked that milestone up with the corner of my smile.

The milestones that you choose to highlight can all be related or have no theme whatsoever, it’s entirely up to you. Maybe you need to do a rough draft like I did to get your events in order – picking out milestones is a lot harder than I thought! Be creative and have fun with it.

Julia's face map

Above, you’ll find a picture of my own face map that I made at the community meeting. I decided that my goal is to find a new hobby, so I wrote that at the top. My milestones don’t have any particular theme although I tried to include a variety of big moments, starting from age 12 through to 28. For me these big moments mostly revolved around my numerous concussions, as well as my academic and career achievements. Since my most recent concussion, my milestones revolve around perseverance, and celebrating the small victories that come with brain injury recovery. I also chose to write each milestone in a different colour to make my face map more visually interesting.

Amee was absolutely right in saying that face maps are an excellent way to get to know others. As much fun as I had making my face map, my absolute favourite part was meeting and learning about other members of the BIST community. Those sitting alongside me making their own face maps had a breadth of life experiences, some of which we had in common, others that we didn’t. I had the opportunity to learn about many of the triumphs and tribulations that shaped the present of those sitting around me. Most of all, I took with me the compassion that everyone shared with one another while putting our stories down on paper. We are all so fortunate to have such a wonderful community and support network through BIST, its staff, and its members.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that our face mapping meeting leader, Amee, is also blogger and creative mastermind! You can check out her wonderful blog here for more art project ideas.

Next Community Meeting: Wednesday, August 29th, 6-8 p.m.

TOPIC: Brain Fitness with Paul Hyman of Brain Fitness International 


 Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

 

 

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April 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Alternative Treatments to Heal a Brain Injury

BY: JULIA RENAUD

Spring has finally sprung which has hopefully brought you some pep in your step or zeal in your wheels to feel better during this chilly year! Bringing some extra encouragement to April’s BIST Community Meeting and to shed some light on alternative treatments that he used to heal his brain and body, was teacher, author, motivational speaker, and brain injury survivor, Anthony Aquan-Assee.

Anthony Aquan-Assee holds his book Rethink, Redo, Rewired in front of the BIST Office

Anthony’s Story

Anthony began by telling the harrowing story of his first brain injury. In 1997, Anthony was a middle school teacher and coach of the school football team. He was excited about his team qualifying for the city finals and was anxious to get to football practice to prepare them for their upcoming big game. On his ride to practice, Anthony, an avid motorcycle rider, was struck by a car, sending him and his motorcycle flying. This landed Anthony at the beginning of a long road to recovery.

The paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident to find Anthony unconscious and in a very grave state. He was then airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he would require numerous extensive surgeries, including: neurosurgery, heart, lung, general, vascular, knee, throat, and plastic surgery.

It was an emotional and trying time for his family and friends who were uncertain if Anthony would ever wake up from the coma that had kept him unresponsive for two weeks, and if he did, what his quality of life would be post-injury. His doctors were worried that Anthony could remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

 Start doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
Quote included in Anthony’s latest book, Rethink Redo Rewired

He started with opening his eyelids, and progressed from there, giving himself and his family hope with every gain, no matter how small. Anthony graduated to a rehabilitation centre where he worked tirelessly to regain control of his body and mind. Eventually, Anthony was able to return to work as a school teacher, but his brush with brain injury didn’t end there.

Sixteen years later, Anthony was struck in the head by a malfunctioning automatic gate which left him with a concussion. Fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, memory loss, and sleep problems were only a few of the symptoms that he dealt with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these symptoms persisted bringing with them anxiety and frustration. When his doctors prescribed “drugs, drugs, and more drugs” to help, Anthony began to question whether there was a better method to spur his recovery.

Alternative Treatments Anthony Found Effective

*From the top, Anthony stressed that while these treatments worked for him, each person is different; therefore, everyone’s experience is different. Prior to trying any of the following alternative modalities, he encourages you to discuss any treatments that you are considering with your doctor.*

These techniques are described in more detail in Anthony’s fourth book, Rethink, Redo, Rewired: Using Alternative Treatments to Heal a Brain Injury

Anthony realized over the course of his recovery that, for him, the prescribed medications were only acting as a bandage solution rather than getting to the root cause of the problem. He disliked being on the same medications as he had been on previously, after his first brain injury, and felt that there must be a better way.

This is when he turned his attention to alternative strategies and treatments, which, as he would learn, had the power to get to the root cause of the problem rather than masking it. Furthermore, alternative strategies “provided the necessary conditions for the body to heal itself”, and, as an added bonus, they came with no side effects!

The following is a list of techniques that Anthony found effective in his recovery that he thought might be helpful to share:

  • Neurofeedback
  • Laser Therapy
  • Kangen Water

Fun, Brain-Training Resources

For those of you dealing with a brain injury and looking for a way to train your brain, Anthony has included links to a bunch of online activities and games ranging from math, to art, to optical illusions on his website.

Next Community Meeting:
Wednesday, May 30th 6 – 8 p.m.
TOPIC: Chair Yoga with Occupational Therapist & Yoga Instructor, Kristina Borho 

Everyone is welcome!


 Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!