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review 2017-03-25 22:06
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation - Barbara Arrowsmith-Young,Norman Doidge

A truly interesting story and program that I had never heard of. It makes me wish this kind of testing and solutions were more prolific.

This is the kind of title that really catches my attention, especially in non-fiction. I'm a huge fan of non-fiction. The whole concept of the Arrowsmith school amazes me. This book not only does a great job of recounting the life of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, in her own words, but also many of the categories of deficits that people can have and that hinder their potential. I found myself thinking about some bright underachievers I know and wondering if the program would suit them.

The idea that you can simply train your brain past learning disorders by finding a way to trigger that part of the brain into action is exciting. The possibilities then seem endless for everyone. I know that there are implementation issues, especially since it doesn't seem feasible that this can be done online for now and because not many schools have this program yet, but I'm hopeful, given the growth the program has had and the countless success stories. Maybe we'll look back one day at all the research and programs done by the Arrowsmith team and see an entirely different world for children and their potential than we do now.

While her own story and the formation of the school were interesting, I was particularly drawn to the stories of the students and the cognitive exercises created to help them past their learning disorders. I was surprised that it sometimes took years after starting a set of exercises to really see progress in normal life, but that students persisted through them. I know far too many people that would have given up in a few weeks if they weren't seeing improvement. I was also impressed with the parents who sent their children to be evaluated and who enrolled them into the school later. I looked up the school and just the evaluation is $2000. But in the words of one person, "You pay it now or you pay it later."

I can't remember if that was a student or a parent, but it remains a good point. The people who benefit from this program are people who are intelligent but have learning disorders that hinder their ability to get a rounded education and then later hinder their ability to get or keep a good job. Many of the adult students had been labeled "bright but lazy" or as underachievers because a deficit, as the book actually calls it, kept them from learning a skill that they needed.

I really did appreciated using "deficit" instead of "disorder". It was a great substitution because deficit implies that a person doesn't have something rather the way disorder makes it seem like something is wrong with that person.  Maybe it's just semantics but I feel like picking up a skill that's hard to get is a lot better of a way to frame it than trying to "fix" someone.

This was a fascinating read, well listen. I listened to the audiobook while I was cleaning the house I was moving out of and then while doing some prep work on the one that I moved into. I would just let it run, set up on a chair, and my husband wandered in after a while to comment on how interesting he was finding it too. It amused me because normally he couldn't care less about whatever book I'm playing. It caught his attention too because of the way it takes great care to describe each deficit, tie it to a personal experience of some student, give a way to relate to it or experience a small part of the decifit and then elaborate on what was done to attain the skill that it blocked. It also went into the coping or compensation methods that the students had prior to being treated, which were fascinating to listen to. We all compensate for things we aren't so good at with things we are good at, but the level of compensations necessary were astounding.

My husband also recently had a concussion and his resulting troubles added a new level of interest for me to the work that had originally drawn Young to her work, Alexander Luria's work with brain trauma. That was an interesting story that I'd like to read one day too.

I did find it a little disappointing that the book didn't go into deeper detail on the exercises that were created to address some of the deficits, but I get the risk that could be imposed in doing so. I wouldn't want any sort of medical book to be detailed enough for someone with half an inclination to try to fix themselves or those around them. It should be left to professionals.

Personally, I think it would be great if everyone who works with children had read the book and if there were many more programs in schools. I am not proposing the system subscribe to this one method but I feel like it could be a good augment to many existing programs that address learning disorders. Schools could potentially do an assessment on students at the beginning of giving them compensations so that they could both get by with what they can do now, but also attain the missing skill when possible. It seems like that would be a win for everyone. But I'm no professional and wouldn't know the reasons for not incorporating something like this in a school system other than cost. I do get how costs of things can be prohibitive in public school systems and, as stated above, the assessment is quite expensive.

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text 2017-03-17 11:38
Nonfiction Library Book Haul
The Nurses: A Year of Secrets, Drama, and Miracles with the Heroes of the Hospital - Alexandra Robbins
George Lucas: A Life - Brian Jay Jones
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir - Felicia Day
Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior - Richard O'Connor
J.J. Abrams vs. Joss Whedon: Duel for Media Master of the Universe - Wendy Sterba

Been enjoying my foray into non-fiction. So I hit up the library and took out some nonfiction books I found interesting.  

 

J.J. Abrams vs Joss Whedon could be interesting. Fan of both.

 

Looking forward to all of these!

 

Still deciding on my Friday reads. I will probably post them later today. Decisions, decisions...

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review 2017-03-11 14:22
Brain on Fire
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness - Susannah Cahalan,Heather Henderson

 

 

Susannah Cahalan was a healthy 24-year-old working as a reporter for the New York Post when she began to have seemingly unrelated and inexplicable symptoms, such as memory problems, sensitivity to light, anxiety, mood swings, food aversions, and insomnia.  Tests revealed nothing unusual, and her neurologist was convinced she was a heavy drinker who just needed to lay off the sauce.  After a seizure and a psychotic break, Cahalan woke up at NYU Hospital with gaping holes in her memory.  Tests continued to yield no clues until neurosurgeon Souhel Najjar asked her to draw a clockface and write in all the numbers, 1-12.  In her drawing, Cahalan crammed all of the numbers into the right half of the sphere she had drawn.  This caused Dr. Najjar to suspect that the right hemisphere of her brain was inflamed.  Once that was confirmed, the medical team was able to home in on a diagnosis.  Cahalan's condition was a  rare auto-immune disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.  This condition was causing her body to attack her brain.  Once identified, the anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis could be treated, and a slow but steady recovery made possible.

 

This true-life medical mystery makes for an interesting--and harrowing--narrative.  The fear and frustration that Cahalan, her family, and her boyfriend experienced during the process are palpable.  I recommend this book with just a small caveat that for me, the ending fell a bit flat for me.  I guess I wanted just a bit more.

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review 2017-03-09 18:36
She Made Me Laugh and Cry
Make 'Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of L... Make 'Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends - Debbie Reynolds;Dorian Hannaway,Debbie Reynolds

Audiobook- excellent narration
Debbie Reynolds just passed away just hours after her daughter left this world. The two of them had a strong bond, beyond blood. I was named after Debbie, she was my mother's idol when she was young, everything she wanted to be. I wanted to know this person who inspired my mother so I grabbed this for a peek of who this woman was.
Debbie Reynolds was a strong independent woman who alway held her head high, and never forgot she was just a human. She was funny, with an off center sense of humor. She traveled with the royalty of Hollywood and is honest about her feelings about them. I was surprised by many of these famous personalities, it was nice to see the person see got to know not the publicized version. Most were better than expected a couple were complete jerks, but that's the way it goes.
I laughed, chuckled, and felt sorrow as she told some of her most memorable moments. It was so bittersweet, knowing this was just 2 years ago and she was so alive. I recommend this to anyone who wants to remember the days of old and an interesting lady.

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review 2017-03-08 01:00
An excellent read for a very important part of history.
Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement - John Robert Lewis,Michael D'Orso

Rep. John Lewis has been in the news more and more recently, especially with the election and the new president. With the end of Black History month it seemed like a good time to read his book. 

 

Most of the book chronicles his work in the Civil Rights Movement. We get introduced to his early life and growing up and we gradually see him move into working with the CRM. These early parts were really interesting to me. It really hit home that it was (and remains) a body of work that required a lot of time, energy, labor, bodies (literally), emotional effort, etc. The participants spent years, decades putting work into the movement.

 

It hit home for me that movements like CRM isn't something that can appear out of nowhere but requires a large chunk of people in ways that are sometimes intangible. And even though we live in an age of people getting messages instantly and want things done right now, something like the CRM couldn't be accomplished in that way. It was definitely a book that has given me a lot of food for thought in light of current and recent events.

 

That said, I agree with a lot of the reviews that said it could have been edited more. As a chronicle it is a book that will probably remain critical and important for historians. But as a layperson who had read his graphic novel trilogy ("March") and had read some civil rights history very recently (and therefore it is relatively fresh in my mind), this was still easy to get lost in the myriad of names, group acronyms, etc. 

 

However, of course I don't mind regret reading it or buying it. It was an enjoyable read and I learned a lot. There are quite a few people who could really benefit from reading this. That said, it might be helpful if you've read his graphic novel trilogy as mentioned above and have at least a grounding in the CRM. The movie 'Selma' might also be a good compliment to this book as well. Already having that foundation made it easier for me to be able to put down the book when life got in the way yet still understand at what of history I had dropped off. Great if you need a long book, non-fiction read or want to read up on the Civil Rights Movement.

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