Rehabilitation is difficult.

Particularly after a brain injury.

But it doesn’t always have to be…

With the correct application of a well-researched and technology-led rehabilitation programme, a young person’s rehabilitation journey can be purposeful and enjoyable!

In part one of this blog, I am going to take you through how you can best find a technology that meets your needs.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. There are no shortcuts to recovery; just well applied, bespoke treatment.
  2. Decide your goals and communicate what are your hopes and expectations early in your rehabilitation journey.
  3. Think about which type of technology could be effective for you BUT take advice from a trusted source.

There are no short cuts to recovery, just well applied, bespoke treatment.

The rehabilitation journey for a young person with an acquired brain injury can be the ‘perfect storm’ of crisis, grief, and confusion.

First, there’s the shock of the physical and psychological trauma that comes with having a brain injury.  Confusion can add to this shock: I frequently hear questions like: ‘what will I be able to do again? Will I ever be independent, will I always look and feel different?’ Then comes grief: a young person with a brain injury needs to be allowed to grieve for the life could have been, the one that is lost.

I meet many young people, and their families, who are searching for a ‘cure’ to their brain injury; and many of these young people place a lot of hope in technology.

What I will say is this: I have worked in the field of technology and rehab for more than a decade, and there are no shortcuts. Whatever shape a young person’s rehabilitation journey takes, it will involve grit, determination, and resilience. So here are my tips when you are setting out on your rehab journey:

  • When you are looking at a technology to help you on your rehab journey decided what your goal is, and what you want to achieve from using it.
  • When you are using the technology, try to be aware of whether the technology is enriching your treatment.

Fig 1: CAREN at Basic Charity, Salford

  • … or is it improving your focus on your goals (e.g. a fitness tracker)

Fig 2: fitness tracker and gamification

  • ….or is enhancing the assessment of your condition (e.g. biomechanical assessment)

Fig 3: Measuring brain activation and biomechanics by National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • …. or is simply improving your diagnostics (e.g. visual field diagnostics)

Fig 4: Visual diagnostics

Decide what your goals are and communicate your hopes and expectations.

In my view, there is no point in doing an extended (and let’s face it, expensive) period of technology-orientated rehabilitation if you don’t first have an awareness of what you are trying to achieve.

When I assess a young person with an acquired brain injury, the first aspects I address are:

  • What are your expectations associated with using the technology?
  • Is the technology the right fit for you, your condition, and your goals?
  • Does research suggest that this particular technology matches the goals you are trying to achieve (you might find it helpful to watch my talk on this)
  • As with any other fitness goal, having clear ideas of what you are aiming for and measuring if you are achieving it is important.

During my first assessment with a younger person with a head injury, I will also decide which measurements would be meaningful to gather, to see if the technology is an effective rehabilitation tool for that young person.

Think about which type of technology could be effective for you BUT take advice from a trusted source

When you find a technology that interests you, it is next important to decide if it will be fit for your purpose? There is no point in using a technology that isn’t going to help you to achieve your goals.

If your goal is to improve your balance, your walking speed, your concentration, it is important to check if the technology you have picked has any evidence of improving these parts of physical function.

I work a lot with immersive technology, and I know that if it is applied correctly with the right intensity it can help young people improve their walking speed, but I also know that it can be a bit ‘clunky’ and not as exciting as other types of VR technology that are available out there!

It is important to:

  • Recognise when you are being sold technological ‘snake oil’. Try to get a sense whether the technology is enriching your treatment or improving your focus on your goals or making the assessment of your condition more meaningful or improving your diagnostics.  If it’s not doing any of these things, walk away!
  • Know when you are advancing to achieve new goals, but also recognise when you are simply maintaining what you already have…
  • Know when your choice of technology has achieved what you wanted to achieve, and move on… It is just like when people go to the gym; it is important to change your routine up to make things more interesting and challenging. Keep in mind that there may be a more effective technology (or non-technology) based treatment for the next part of your rehabilitation journey.


Blog by Mike Greaney