These TBI occupational therapy activities will help improve your independence after brain injury.
All of these activities can be easily done at home, and are focused on improving fine motor skills, attention, and memory.
Before we dig into the list, we’ll breifly discuss why OT activities are important for recovery after traumatic brain injury.
The Importance of TBI Occupational Therapy Activities
TBI occupational therapy is all about retraining your brain to perform activities of daily living after brain injury.
Some examples of activities of daily living are dressing, bathing, cooking, and eating. After a TBI, these basic activities can be difficult, if not impossible, to perform.
There are usually two reasons why a person cannot perform activities of daily living after a brain injury.
Either they have lost the physical strength to carry out these tasks, or they no longer have the cognitive abilities needed to perform them.
The good news is, you can regain both these things by activating your brain’s neuroplasticity. As you practice an action, your brain forms new neural pathways in response. Repetition of that action reinforces those pathways, until the action almost becomes second nature.
This is where occupational therapy activities come in. These exercises are designed to help you regain the physical or cognitive ability needed to perform certain activities of daily living.
The more you practice these activities, the easier they will become, and the more independence you will regain.
TBI Occupational Therapy Activities for Apraxia
The first group of TBI occupational therapy activities we’ll look at are focused on treating apraxia. This is a motor disorder that causes difficulty with motor planning.
TBI patients with apraxia often have trouble planning out the right movements in the right order needed to perform a task.
The following occupational therapy exercises can help improve motor planning and make activities of daily living go much smoother.
1. Maze Drawings
This activity is great for improving movement planning, attention and processing.
The goal is just to draw a line and find the way out of the maze.
You can find printable mazes, with varying levels of difficulties, online.
2. Dressing a Doll
This occupational therapy activity focuses on improving ideational praxis.
This fancy term refers to “the ability to manipulate objects in a sequence of actions involving knowledge of object function, knowledge of action and serial order.” To put this in simpler words, it’s how you know how to use things like a microwave, for example.
For this activity, you’ll need a doll that comes with several outfits.
The goal of the activity is to dress the doll appropriately. You’ll have to take in to account both the parts of the body that each item goes on and the order that you put them on.
This activity will also improve your memory and planning skills.
3. Complete the Drawing
In this activity, one person will draw half of a symmetrical object, and the person with the brain injury must draw the other half.
This helps improve visual-spatial function.
TBI Occupational Therapy Activities for Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills refer to the ability to make intentional, directed movements with your hands, wrists, and fingers. They are crucial for regaining activities of daily living.
Below are a few occupational therapy activities that improve fine motor skills:
4. Board Games
Not all TBI occupational therapy activities have to feel like work.
If you want to improve your fine motor skills, one of the best ways to do that is to play games!
Board games like checkers and chess let you practice your fine motor skills, while also engaging cognitive skills like planning and problem solving.
This makes them great occupational exercises to improve activities of daily living skills.
5. Finger Curl
First, bring the tip of your index finger down to the tip of your thumb. Pinch and release.
Then do the same movement on all four fingers.
If this exercise gets tedious, Flint Rehab’s MusicGlove is a fun, effective alternative that improves fine motor skills in as little as two weeks.
6. Stacking Coins
For this activity, grab a handful of coins and scatter them all over a table.
Next, start stacking the coins on top of each other. Make sure you only stack pennies on top of pennies, dimes on top of dimes etc.
This will not only improve your fine motor skills, it will also improve your organization and categorization skills.
TBI Occupational Therapy Activities for Memory
Memory plays a huge part in activities of daily living.
Here are some TBI occupational therapy activities that will improve your memory skills.
7. Card Recall
For this activity, select four playing cards in sequence (3 of clubs, 4 of clubs, 5 of clubs) and place in random order face up. After five seconds turn the cards face down.
After this, turn the cards over in sequence (3, then 4, then 5).
As you improve increase the number of cards in the sequence, allowing one more second of view time for each card added, to a maximum of 7 cards.
8. Sketch from Memory
First, look at a picture or a scene for one minute.
Now, turn around and try to draw the scene from memory. If drawing is too difficult make a list of everything you can remember from the scene. (two dogs, a taxi, a bicycle, etc..)
Once you’re finished, compare what you’ve put down to the original and see how much you observed.
You can make this easier by starting with simple line drawings and working your way up to more complex pictures.
9. Cognitive Training Apps
Sometimes it can be hard to remember to do these memory activities daily.
That’s where apps like the CT Speech and Cognitive Therapy App come in handy.
It contains thousands of exercises that can help you improve things like memory and concentration, skills that are crucial for relearning activities of daily living after brain injury.
Finally, it can also send you reminders on your phone. This means you’ll never accidentally forget to do your therapy again.
Traumatic Brain Injury Occupational Therapy Treatment Ideas
If you’re an occupational therapist, we hope these ideas help you find creative ways to help your TBI patients recover.
Or if you’re a patient yourself, we hope these exercises help you stay active at home in between visits with your OT.
As long as you stay moving and keep your brain stimulated with therapeutic activities, you’ll be on the road to recovery.