Editor’s note: While we normally publish reviews of current titles, this review considers a book that was published in 2006, but which may not have come to the attention of educators as a potentially valuable resource. That is the focus of this review.
In 2006, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey was published to great acclaim. In the 12 years since, it continues to be a “go to” guide for those touched by brain injury and for their supportive caregivers. The value of the book to the average reader is as an optimistic memoir of recovery written by a stroke survivor who is also a Harvard brain scientist or neuroanatomist. Within an expansive field of study, Bolte Taylor’s book is elevated due to two valuable appendices that are excellent references for individuals supporting an individual with a brain injury. Appendix A is “Ten Assessment Questions,” while Appendix B is “Forty Things I Needed Most.”
Beyond the obvious audience, Bolte Taylor’s book is relevant to teachers, educational assistants, and all education workers who support neurologically diverse students. Her ability to articulate what was happening during her stroke is relevant for the coach who may be the first adult to attend to a student after they have sustained a concussion; or an office assistant communicating with a returning student newly diagnosed with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI); or a classroom teacher trying to determine why their IEPd student requires specific academic, environmental, and assessment accommodations. Bolte Taylor delineates how the right and left cerebral hemispheres operate, how the microcircuitry of brain cells and chemicals communicate, and the implications for an individual recovering from a brain injury. She describes the intensity with which the neurotypical operate and how lights, sounds, movements, and intense verbal input can drain a person who is healing from a brain injury for years post injury.
Among many suggestions, Bolte Taylor’s lists strategies highly relevant within the educational context. For instance, use multiple choice questions versus yes/no, break actions and tasks into smaller steps, clarify the next step, introduce concepts kinesthetically, make soft eye contact before engaging the individual verbally, and flex your tone, volume, and pace when speaking with a student with a brain injury, in order to make your communication clear and digestible.
Overall, Dr. Bolte Taylor shares a compelling experience without getting bogged down in too much neuroscience, but her ability to connect the experiences of someone recovering to the learning journey is still relevant 12 years after her initial publication, while also being a valuable read for anyone needing to understand stroke recovery too.