The needs of people with brain injuries are slipping through the cracks! Gray Matters Mentoring will personally attend to issues that are not addressed in the traditional system of care. In the Gray Matters Mentoring Program, we will professionally funnel rehab goals through the personal care of long term brain injury survivors (i.e. Mentors). Each brain injury takes individual care and survivors can best do this for each other!
Gray Matters Survivor Outreach extends support in the form of montly groups in San Diego and North County. We raise awareness the public about having a personal experience with a brain injury and better educate survivors about theirs, aiming to help in coping and rehabilitation.
The Gray Matters Mentoring program will train individuals to provide one on one peer support to those who have sustained mild to moderate Traumatic or Acquired Brain Injuries. Successful mentors will be patient, flexible, non-assertive and will collaborate with mentees in figuring solutions to problems.
Mentorships will be monitored to assure they stay proactive, free of problems and that they reach their potential to rebuild skills & improve attitudes. This will lead mentees to increase their confidence and have a greater degree of independence.
Gray Matters’ Program Director, Heidi Lerner has her Masters in Transitional Special Education for people who have sustained Acquired or Traumatic Brain Injuries. She is qualified to work with people of all ages, ranging from children to senior citizens. She has published a book about brain injury titled Gray Matters, Brain Injury: The Inside Perspective www.graymatters4u.org.
Heidi Lerner has been a Peer Support Specialist and has facilitated support groups for brain injury survivors for over 12 years. She previously ran a mentoring program for people with disabilities, when working at Access to Independence, an Independent Living Organization in San Diego.
Heidi is instinctive in her work and has an intimate understanding of the needs of brain injury survivors. In her studies, Ms. Lerner conducted research on the inner workings of personal motivation in the rehabilitation from brain injury. The results of her study inspires her work. Heidi works to bring survivors out of their shell and encourages them to be interactive; participants are appreciated and are then more willing to participate. Individually, Heidi encourages strengths, edifies clients (makes people feel valued) and encourages them to advocate for themselves.
Statement of Need
Sustaining a brain injury is a life-altering experience. It effects many different aspects of who we are as people. We are affected cognitively, psychologically, socially, emotionally, neurologically & it affects our behavior. A person may come to from a coma and not even know who s/he is. Even a person’s very core sense of self is shaken. A brain injury is far-reaching and comprehensive.
n the acute phase of recovery, a survivor may have to relearn speaking, dressing, eating and many other daily living skills. In the post-acute phases, survivors are left dealing with problems in:
• Memory (events, people, where things are, names, etc.)
• Attention and concentration
• Interacting socially
• Making decisions
• Inhibiting behaviors
• New Learning
• Anger management
• Coping skills
• Mood swings/Emotional control
• A whole list of Psychosocial issues
Listed above are some of the basic symptoms; there are many other possible symptoms of brain injury. Please note that survivors are not just dealing with these individual symptoms, they deal with many of them at the same time and it can be quite overwhelming! No two brain injuries are the same; they take individualized care. People with all of these complications are continually trying to better understand themselves and they have a strong need to be understood by others. Mentoring helps to satisfy this overpowering need.
The aftermath of a brain injury is devastating. Peer support and mentoring can be a core part of the recovery process. Peer support encourages survivors to feel OK with themselves (i.e. significantly improves a survivor’s coping skills) and their recovery. Personal support can be the motivating force that propels a person through rehab. successfully.
People who have sustained brain injuries intimately understand one another. Mentors & mentees bond because basically, they know what one another are going through. This support or bonding alone can be healing in and of itself. Mentees benefit from mentors in many ways (see list below). For a survivor, just knowing that his or her mentor cares can be soothing. Mentors also benefit. Brain Injury survivors, after years and years of personal rehabilitation, have a need to give back. A mentor-mentee relationship can bring fulfillment, healing and satisfaction for all involved; it is a win-win relationship!
For a mentee to have a trained mentor will significantly increase his/her learning curve in the rehabilitative process and will reduce the frustration of dealing with his or her great loss of skills. This program will dramatically increase the quality of life for brain injury survivors.
Peer support is vitally important to a brain injury survivor. Everyone needs to be understood, especially brain injury survivors, who are always trying to understand their new self. A peer or friend (i.e. Mentor) offers a receptive ear and presents a mirror for a survivor to better look into him or herself.
A mentor helps fill up that empty, isolated space inside that a survivor usually blocks out the world with and they help a survivor know they’re not in this alone! Additionally, they can help to avoid depression. A trained mentor provides a more experienced guide in dealing with the complications of brain injury; she or he helps the Mentee cope by aiding the survivor in coming to terms with personal issues.
In their relationship with a survivor or mentee, a successful and supportive mentor will:
• Build a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the survivor,
• Affectively communicate in a way that is clear and easily understood by the mentee,
• Promote positive social inclinations and behaviors,
• Coach the survivor regarding interpersonal or relationship skills,
• Allow the survivor to practice in interpersonal relationship skills such as effective verbal and written communications, and provide feedback,
• Provide insights & suggest techniques to help the survivor minimize stress and better cope with their injury based on the mentor’s own life experiences,
• Help survivors avoid isolation & depression,
• Improve the survivor’s attitude about dealing with personal challenges,
• Enhance the willingness of the mentee to seek out all opportunities for rehabilitation and personal growth,
• Inspire the mentees to take the initiative to perform interventions for themselves and to assume responsibility for their actions and outcomes,
• Help mentees rebuild their skill sets and attitudes, promoting self-confidence and independence.
• Act as a positive role model at all times,
• Exhibit a level of personal responsibility & empathy that will help ensure the relationship with the mentee will be sustained & encouraged to develop.
• Process of becoming a mentor starts with the Program Director training the mentor.
• She then matches up the mentee with a mentor, based on condition, needs, location, and gender (mentors are usually the same gender).
• The mentor, mentee and Program Director gather together for an Individualized Mentor Planning session. There they will discuss the areas that the mentee needs to work on. They will write an Individualized Mentoring Plan (IMP), which consists of goals and objectives, both short term and long term. The IMP will then serve as the roadmap for the mentor.
• The mentor and mentee from there, meet at places of their own preference. This includes communicating via email, phone calls and personal get-togethers. They are encouraged not to meet in their homes unless there is a specific purpose for that.
• The mentor is welcomed to call to consult with the PSS at any time regarding mentoring. He or she sends Heidi Lerner a monthly report of the progress of the mentee. Mentors will have regular meetings with the mentees, ideally, twice a month.
Section I. Some Common Psychosocial Problems Following Brain Injury
Gets frustrated easily
Has limited insight into own abilities and behaviors
Gets tired easily
Changes mood rapidly
Has inappropriate manners and mannerisms
Cannot understand humor and “size up” situations
Cannot inhibit inappropriate behaviors (disinhibition)
Is inappropriately affectionate toward others
Cannot see others’ viewpoint (egocentricity)
Cannot correct behavior after feedback
Gets stuck on one thought or behavior
Appears apathetic or poorly motivated
Takes too many risks or acts impulsively
Acts immature for age
Gets angry out of proportion to cause
Is verbally and/or physically aggressive
Appears anxious or depressed
Laughs or cries for no apparent reason
Seeks attention, even with negative behaviors
Seems unmotivated and passive.