How can any story begin without a birthday? Lets digress to my chronological birthday or to January 17,1947. For my parents this was a happy occasion. Little did they know that in eight years our lives would be inexorably changed by a catastrophic event? The event was Traumatic Brain Injury. I was struck by an eighteen-wheel truck and rendered unconscious for nine weeks. You might say that the old me died that day and a new Bruce was born; therefore you might call January 10, 1955as my rebirth day.
From the moment that I regained consciousness, I knew that something was different but I wasnt sure what it was. I knew that my left side now shook uncontrollably; that I was now on medication; and that many tasks that once came easily were now hard or impossible for me to comprehend. Much later I learned the reason; my compressed head fracture had short-circuited my short-term memory so that it didnt work properly. I had to learn how to compensate for this deficit. Somehow I learned how to transfer learning directly into my long-term memory. My compensation meant that I would have to rely almost exclusively upon my long-term memory.
Having to rely upon long- term memory presents one with a new set of obstacles that they must overcome. To use ones long-term memory, as I learned to do, requires immediate transference of information. If only parts are transferred then that task is not comprehendible until all the parts are transferred. For some tasks this process will be easy but for others it may take years. Tasks that only transfer partially will cause substantial problems and these will usually manifest themselves either in the job search or on the job itself.
Besides memory, another indication of my difference came from those who were once friends. Some completely avoided me while others chose to ridicule me or to make me the brunt of malicious jokes. I also discovered that teachers were now treating me differently. If I needed help then most likely I would not receive it while others would. In class I was seldom given an opportunity to answer. When I did answer and it was wrong, then my answer was turned into ridicule. I, therefore, learned to open his mouth only if I knew that I was correct. This self defense mechanism caused problems because it made others believe that I was outspoken, boisterous and that my point of view was the only one that counted. It also caused others to believe that I was argumentative by nature.
No one saw the underlying reason for all these problems. It was my desire to be viewed as being normal. This desire made me turn negative input into positive output. If someone told me that I was incapable of doing something then I would resolve to prove him or her to be wrong.
My parents didnt see any of this happening. They were consumed with making me back to what I had been before the accident. They believed that since I looked normal than I was normal. They believed that all that was needed was for me to return to school and continue my education. To this end they sought help from all agencies who could have made the educational experience more beneficial. At every turn they were denied help and the denial was always the same. Your son wasnt born with these deficiencies therefore we cant help. With no help in site they decided to raise me as if nothing were wrong. They had me tutored that summer hoping that I could enter the Third Grade the fall of 1956. Their son finished the tutoring and was allowed to return to school that fall.
In 1956 there was no such thing as mainstreaming, therefore you might say I was a pioneer in this uncharted area. Unfortunately my reentering the educational system only documented my deficits that could have been made easier had I been afforded help. This lack of help may have convinced some teachers that I was not capable of learning. High School and College were therefore out of my reach. I did graduate from elementary school and then went on to graduate from High School and eventually from college. So even here I managed to transfer negative input into positive output.
Surely my graduation from college in 1971 would raise me to the level of normalcy. Not so I found that I was now considered disabled not because of TBI but because of a residual which may have caused employers to be leery of hiring me because of the risk factor involved.