First Presbyterian Church in Asheville opens there fellowship hall on Saturday afternoons for what they call “Saturday Sanctuary.” During the winter months no homelessness services are provided so this program offers a place to come out of the cold. The program began in a small building behind the main chruch but it grew making that room too small so now they open their fellowship hall. This space is much larger which makes it easier for me. Clean-up of the smaller space took much less time but in spite of the added time for clean-up, I think it is much more hospitable.

However, it is not a good environment for someone with a brain injury. It was especially difficult for me in the smaller room since all the noise provided several challenges for me: dividing attention, cognitive overload, over stimulation: to name a few. However I have a real interest in issues around homelessness so I decided since the shifts were only two hours, I would try it.

There have been times when it is boring. I try to talk with folks but often no one wanted to converse so I just stood around until it was time for clean-up. This past Saturday, I made a point to try and play a game with some folks. I wanted to play Jenga but I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play. Instead, folks wanted to play dominoes which I have never played so I thought I’d learn.

I forgot about all the challenges of trying to learn in this environment. Our table was close to the television where people watched a movie. Since I’m not able to divide my attention, trying to block it out was impossible. I thought about asking if the other folks wanted to move away from the sound but I wasn’t sure I could get the hang of dominoes and didn’t want them to go to all that trouble.

I learned that dominoes involves adding. I did not excel at math prior to my brain injury but now trying to add anything is just plain embarrassing. I have to use an Android application to help me figure out a tip for restaurant meals and my restaurant tabs are usually pretty low. I use compensatory strategies such as a calculator or my Android app but I thought it would look pretty silly for me to pull out a calculator to play dominoes!

I think dominoes is a fairly simple game and if I was in a quiet place with lots of explanation, I’m sure I could learn . Learning new information is very difficult for someone with a brain injury. The best way to learn new information is called “errorless learning.” For example, if I’m trying to learn how to do something on this blog, I’ll write down the directions and then follow them over and over again. After several times, I might try to do part of it without the directions.

“Trial and error” learning does not work for brain injury survivors. Errors confuse the learning process and only frustrates the person. “Errorless learning” may seem odd but it really does work. I will quit trying after only a few times which is why “trial and error” does not work. . In fact, I posted the rainbow at the top of the page without using my directions at all. I’m working at trying to find the directions for posting pictures somewhere else in the blog but for now they will all be at the top.

If you have a brain injury, do you use “errorless learning” to learn new information? See top right for commenting instructions. I tried to see if I could post a comment and I was able to do so. My problem now is, I don’t know how to delete my comment!