There are many work options for people with brain injury depending on their skills and abilities. Matching the right job to the person's strengths is key for a successful work experience.
By definition, working is the activity involving mental or physical effort in order to achieve a purpose or result. While working in exchange of wages may be a goal for some people with brain injury, for others, volunteering may be a more productive and less stressful alternative. Finding what works best for you and what specific skills and levels of support you may need for work transition is paramount to your job placement success.
After a brain injury, a person's ability to work on the same tasks he/she used to do prior to the injury event may be compromised. Understanding your strengths (what you can do vs. what you cannot do) and actively working to improve in our areas of weakness can prepare us for a successful transition to work. However, for someone with a brain injury this is not a simple process.
People with brain injury often lack and/or have a diminished level of awareness. Therefore, they have difficulty assessing their own ability to work and discerning what jobs are more suitable to their needs. Evidence shows that when our level of awareness is compromised due to a brain injury, the perception of what we can do may not be in line with what we can actually accomplish. Hence, individuals who are unaware of their limitations tend to choose activities beyond their capabilities and do not readily recognize when they need help.
The first step towards work begins with finding a supportive person and/or network that can help you navigate during the time of transition to work — a person that can inform you and/or connect you with supportive services in your community. A spouse, parent, or trusted family member may help bridge the gap. Also, contacting your local Brain Injury Association may help provide some valuable contacts for transition to work.
Performing functional activities of daily living (ADL's) can help develop and strengthen your ability to engage in more complex tasks. The goal is to become as independent as possible. This field of occupational therapy services is a valuable resource for post-injury recovery.
Occupational therapists are trained to evaluate, monitor and support individual skills/abilities during the process of recovery. The can also offer a supportive plan beyond therapy and make work recommendations. Here are some things you could request your occupational therapist in preparation to return to work:
- a home plan in writing that includes resources as well as specific activities to support your strengths and improve areas of weakness.
- an employer-friendly letter that highlights your strengths as well as challenges.
- a simple fact sheet about brain injury that you can share with others.
Over the course of brain injury recovery, it is possible that areas of weakness may become strengths, or that people may develop compensatory skills for those that are missing. Overwhelming research in brain neuroplasticity indicates that behavioral experience can enhance behavioral performance and optimize restorative brain plasticity after brain damage.
Whether your injury is recent or it happened years ago, it is never too late to consult your doctor regarding referral to seek occupational therapy evaluation/treatment.
Occupational therapists can also refer you to local agencies that may help you reintegrate to your community, such as the Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. The main role of vocational rehabilitation is to to help people with disabilities find and maintain employment and enhance their independence.
Vocational rehabilitation counselors may refer you to a job coach that can efficiently assess your skills and will leverage your strengths with potential work opportunities. Job coaches can also help you prepare a resume, role-play an interview, and even go to work with you during the initial transition phase. The best part is that these services can be fully funded by your local vocational rehabilitation agency!
Kleim, Jeffrey A., and Theresa A. Jones. "Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implications for rehabilitation after brain damage." Journal of speech, language, and hearing research 51.1 (2008): S225-S239.
Toglia, Joan, and Ursula Kirk. "Understanding awareness deficits following brain injury." NeuroRehabilitation 15.1 (2000): 57-70.
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program: Individualized Path to Employment-VETERANS
Cheryl M. Ace, CBIS, CIRS, Resource Facilitation Coordinator for Central Florida, Brain Injury Association of Florida, Inc.
Phone: (813) 910-3287
Fax: (866) 593-1741
Address: P.O. Box 17561 Tampa, FL 33612
Helpline: 1 (800) 992-3442
Resources at: www.byyourside.org
Vocational Rehabilitation - Largo Unit 14A
11351 Ulmerton Rd.
Suite 123 Largo, FL 33778-1627
Phone: (727) 518-3454
Fax: (727) 518-3467
Vocational Rehabilitation - St. Petersburg Units 14B and 14C
701 94th Ave. N, Suite 107
St. Petersburg, FL 33702-2448
Phone: (727) 217-7930
Fax: (727) 217-7956
Vocational Rehabilitation - St. Petersburg Unit 14D
525 Mirror Lake Drive North, Suite 100
St. Petersburg, FL 33701-3215
Phone: (727) 552-1589
Fax: (727) 552-1590
Vocational Rehabilitation - Tampa Units 15B and 15D
1313 North Tampa Street, Suite 801
Tampa, FL 33602-3330
Phone: (813) 233-3600
Fax: (813) 233-3648
Vocational Rehabilitation - Tampa Unit 15C
9215 N Florida Ave., Suite 106
Tampa, FL 33612-7916
Phone: (813) 559-6456
Fax: (813) 936-0889
Vocational Rehabilitation - Brandon Unit 15E
510 Vonderburg Dr., Suite 307
Brandon, FL 33511
Phone: (813) 653-7080
Fax: (813) 653-7094
Vocational Rehabilitation - Plant City Unit 15EA
1702 South Alexander St., Suite 2
Plant City, FL 33563
Phone: (813) 359-2600
Fax: (813) 707-7547
Vocational Rehabilitation - Spring Hill Unit 16A
7361 Forest Oaks Blvd.
Spring Hill, FL 34606-2404
Phone: (352) 610-5212
Fax: (352) 666-5715
Vocational Rehabilitation - New Port Richey Unit 16B
4440 Grand Blvd.
New Port Richey, FL 34652-5402
Phone: (727) 484-1430
Fax: (727) 484-3454