Many years ago, people with disabilities were thought to be a lost cause. Many were banished to institutions where only their basic needs were met. Others were cared for at home by family.
Due to old beliefs, some families thought having a child with a disability was punishment for past sins. It was the same for people with acquired brain injuries. Therefore, countless individuals were hidden away. The support required to stimulate the brain and develop alternatives was in most cases, non-existent.
The importance of rehabilitation
Today things are different. As scientists continue to study the flexibility of brain function, they are also realising the importance of rehabilitation. And to enable rehabilitation, one needs appropriate support.
The significance of such encouragement, and the plasticity of the brain, is made very clear in the book 'The Mind's Eye'.
Neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks says:
One's first thought is often, 'is life worth living in circumstances like these?' and, 'what sort of a life can these people have?'
Sacks goes on to say:
Then one may start to see the other side even if no cure, or only limited improvement, is possible for most of these patients. Many of them can nonetheless be helped to reconstruct their lives, to develop other ways of doing things, capitalising on their strengths, finding compensations and accommodations of every sort.
Sacks also stipulates that such rehabilitation is also dependant on
the inner and outer resources of the individual patient.
A collection of stories
The Mind's Eye is a collection of stories of people with acquired brain injuries. The book is about the support and encouragement that each person was able to draw on. Not only does every story cover the individual barriers each one had to overcome, but also their success in finding alternatives.
The book similarly shows the importance of persistence in finding these alternatives.
After a stroke, author Howard Engal had his reading ability reduced to that of a child learning the ABC . Engal writes,
the whole process was exhausting beyond belief.
But eventually, he was able to effectively adapt and continue his writing through auditory means. On this he says,
the problems never went away, but I became cleverer at solving them.
Sacks says of Engal,
that he was able to do so is a testament to many things: the dedication and skill of his therapists, his own determination, and the adaptability of the human brain.
Charles Scribner Jnr was a book publisher who also developed visual alexia. He too reconstructed his whole literacy life into an auditory system.
Perhaps, he writes within his particular story,
it's another instance of a handicap honing a skill.
Sacks says of Scribner:
it worked so well that it allowed him to complete more than eighty newspaper columns and two book length memoirs of his life.
Today, it's important that people with disabilities are given every opportunity to adapt and adjust to their situation. As The Mind's Eye illustrates, it is proven that with the right support anyone can rebuild their life.
Perhaps with the introduction of the new National Disability Insurance Scheme, named DisabilityCare Australia, we can all expect not just another system of care, but a structure that allows us to be all that we can be, and more.
If you would like to read more about The Mind's Eye, by Oliver Sacks, click here to visit the authors website.