Acquired brain injury is a leading cause of disability in North America. In Canada alone, 500 out of 100,000 individuals experience a brain injury every year. Individuals that experience a brain injury often have long-term cognitive, psychological, and physical complications due to their injury. Some of these complications may include executive functioning difficulties, loss of motor skills, and PTSD depending on how the injury was caused. Until recently, much medical practice regarding brain injury was focused on physical difficulties rather than the cognitive and psychosocial problems that still remained. After years of practicing as an occupational therapist and experiencing the lack of a holistic approach for brain injury rehabilitation Heather Condello and her business partner Tracy Milner founded Complex Injury Rehab in Pickering, Ontario, Canada. Their goal wasn’t just to focus on the patient’s physical rehabilitation but also their psycho-social needs and cognitive functions.
Heather Condello, OT
Co-Founder, VP, and OT for Complex Injury Rehab
Tracy Milner and Heather Condello – are classically trained occupational therapists who were aware of the growing need for services for clients living with brain injury. Unable to find a company that did just that, these two friends started Complex Injury Rehab. Knowing that brain injuries impact more than just physical health, Tracy Milner and Heather Condello started their own practice to focus on providing a more holistic care approach. They knew if they wanted to rehab their patients the best they would need to integrate education, technology, functional intervention, and community engagement as part of their clients’ rehabilitation plan.
To help achieve these goals, Complex Injury Rehab’s therapeutic approach uses digital tools for both assessment and rehabilitation. For assessment, Heather and her team use BrainFx to assess their client’s cognitive functioning and then have their clients use HappyNeuron Pro’s exercises to perform the cognitive rehabilitation therapy.
“I’m thankful for the timing when we met [the HappyNeuron Pro team] that we were able to get HappyNeuron Pro up and running because it was an important part of our transition to virtual occupational therapy” – Heather Condello.
Complex Injury Rehab works with both children and adults. Heather and her team had the digital technology infrastructure in place so when the global crisis in March of 2020 hit, their transition to remote occupational therapy was seamless. The ability to provide remote occupational therapy for children and adults with brain injury has helped their patients improve and have greater success with their occupational therapy program.
Heather and her team provide therapy through a variety of methods. They offer group therapy sessions, individual in-clinic and individual in-home. Because of the ongoing battle with COVID-19, Complex Injury Rehab started to provide remote group therapy to practice cognitive skills and provide support.
“Because we cannot do group therapy in person due to [COVID-19] restrictions, we are looking to shift group therapy to virtual.” – Heather Condello.
Group therapy and support groups are important to not only practice cognitive skills, but to help clients adjust to living with brain injury. Clients with brain injury often struggle to adjust to living with their injury, as they acknowledge that their lives are different from before. Working in groups with other clients struggling with the same cognitive, psychological, and physical complications helps clients to learn effective strategies from others and also learn that they are not alone in their struggles. Occupational therapists can help clients with brain injury not only learn how to readjust to living with a brain injury during individual and group therapy sessions, but also to develop compensatory strategies and self-advocacy to help them be independent and access the services that they need.
“For me, a lot of clients I end up seeing for years post-accident… We help them realize along the way there is going to be a new normal with applying certain compensatory strategies. A lot of our goals involve providing education on compensatory strategies for their cognitive functioning and using them in their everyday lives.” – Ayushi Dhingra.
For Ayushi, an occupational therapist at Complex Injury Rehab, she uses HappyNeuron Pro as a warm-up activity to help activate her pediatric clients’ neural connections. The game-like feel of the program allows for her young patients to have fun before they proceed to work on more targeted skills such as practicing handwriting and developing self-advocacy skills. Ayushi also uses the program to help track and provide insight for their progress. The reporting section allows her to see when is the best time for her patients to complete activities and which cognitive skills her patients need to keep working on.
“During therapy, I can see what strategies my clients are using to perform the exercises. I’ll also play around with the parameters such as how much time they have to memorize and recall information to show [my clients] how much progress they made when they just gave themselves [more time] to look at the information.” – Ayushi Dhingra.
Ayushi Dhingra, OT
OT for Complex Injury Rehab
By providing clients with education on how their brains work, occupational therapists like Ayushi, can help their clients understand why they interpret, process, and use the information the way that they do. Her goal is to help her clients develop effective strategies to facilitate the intake, processing, and utilization of verbal, visual, and auditory information.
“I try to describe [occupational therapy] as thinking about the activities that occupy your life: all the activities that you find meaningful, that give you pleasure, that you find productivity in. Think about all those activities that occupy your life. Occupational therapists come in when there is a barrier that is preventing that person from engaging in that activity.” – Ayushi Dhingra.
Brain injuries are complex. The occupational therapists at Complex Injury Rehab take on the complexity of brain injury head-on. By using technology, functional activities, and creative problem solving the experts at Complex Injury Rehab are helping their clients re-enter their communities and participate in activities that are meaningful to them.
To learn more about Complex Injury Rehab or to get in touch, visit their website at www.complexinjury.com.
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Page last updated on Sep 8,2021
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