After a brain injury, life can change in an instant. Activities once taken for granted, such as having a simple conversation or talking to a group, may suddenly feel awkward and challenging. In 2017, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas launched a new program to address the communication challenges of stroke and brain injury survivors. Founded by
Scripps volunteer Lanai Staley, a graduate of Scripps’ brain injury day treatment program, Brainmasters is an improvisational speaking group for adults coping with acquired brain injury. This fun, supportive and interactive group helps brain injury patients improve communication skills, think more quickly on their feet, and build self-confidence in a friendly, encouraging environment.
Lanai designed Brainmasters as part of her outpatient follow-up with her speech therapist after suffering a brain injury. Though the group was originally a Toastmasters group, Lanai believed that a different model was needed. Every week, she leads group members through a series of improvisational games that are modified for people coping with a brain injury. The scenarios that Lanai facilitates are not reality-based; rather, they are silly and funny. Brainmasters is all in fun, so participants can’t fail at it.
“Because I am brain-injured, I know that if it works for me it will likely work for them,” she says. “Everyone is engaged the entire time and laughing. We are all in the same boat and here to support each other.”
Brainmasters participants consistently report feeling more socially connected and more confident overall.
“Brainmasters has helped me become truly confident in who I am as an individual that has survived a stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). It has brought fun and joy to my life. It has helped my brain handle hard situations way better. It has helped me to think faster on my feet even with my deficits.”
“In Brainmasters, we exercise our ability to process information on the spot. As a result of these interactive exercises, I see great improvement in my relationships with others. I blamed myself for all of my TBI symptoms for the last 40-plus years, because I didn’t know there was such a thing. Through this group I am beginning to forgive myself for a lifetime of destroying my relationships.”
“Lanai gives so much! Without Brainmasters, I begin retreating into a shell, the outer world is too hard, and I avoid everything and won’t go out for days. Being engaged (in Brainmasters) makes it easy to say active.”
Offered as a community benefit through the rehabilitation center at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, Brainmasters is free and open to the community.