I know what you’re thinking: don’t people with a traumatic brain injury have enough to relearn without training in new technology for their smart phone? Short answer: yes and no. Yes, which is why the twelve apps I have suggested below are meant to complement existing therapies and programming. No, because the more often someone with a TBI is able to exercise his mind, the more functional it will be for in the future. Learning is a lifelong process – with or without a TBI.
There are literally dozens of apps available for people with a brain injury and hundreds for people with similar problems. I have selected the following apps because they provide an augmented solution to the three primary deficit categories common to many people with a brain injury:
Specifically, these apps help clients/patients work on the following: short-term memory loss, communication/socialization problems, anxiety, behavioral and organization issues:
Free w/$1.99 Upgrade Available (iOS)
(Android counterpart: Lists Alarmed!)
This is short-term memory at your fingertips. A productivity app for the masses, people with traumatic brain injuries can use Alarmed to create multiple reminders with unique, memorable tones for each task. Reminders can be customized in tandem with a To Do list and send duplicate emails. This app also comes with a timer to assist in programming.
Free (iOS + Android)
For anyone who could use a time out to relax, Breath2Relax has been proven to help mood stabilization, anger control and anxiety. Simply indicate your level of stress and follow the audio instructions to breathe your way back to serenity. Essentially, this app provides on-site audio diaphragmatic breathing exercises.
Clear Record Premium
Price ranges from .99 - $1.99 (iOS) depending on upgrades
(Android counterpart: AndRecord, Free)
This audio recording app allows the user to record conversations in practically any environment and play it back at the speed and volume of their choosing. Unlike many other voice-recording apps, Clear Record Premium filters out ambient sound to ensures correct pitch and clear voices.
$1.99 (iOS + Android)
For non-verbal clients, this app utilizes two large, color-coded buttons. A recognizable green for “Yes” and red for “No.” When either button is pressed, the app vocalizes the users decision. This is a wonderful tool to help those with a brain injury or speech problem communicate without a struggle.
Cozi Family Organizer
Free with a paid version featuring advanced functionality (iOS + Android)
Families can stay in sync on multiple platforms using this app that combines a shared calendar, shopping and to do lists. With everyone on the same “page,” organizational skills can be greatly enhanced and frustration diminished.
Free (iOS + Android)
Speak and this app will recognize your voice and transcribe what you say into text messages, emails and even update social media. Perfect mass media communication tool for anyone with a physical limitation.
In Case of Emergency
$1.99 (iOS + Android)
This app allows people to store their medical information in a single location that is convenient for medical personnel in the event of any urgent situation. You can also use this app to find the nearest hospital.
Social Skills Sampler
(Android Counterpart: Habit Browser – Free)
This “Sampler” app includes 62 of the most common topics in the functional social skills system for people with brain injuries to model for appropriateness. Topics include: meeting/greeting people, taking responsibility, being polite, joining others in groups, apologizing/excusing self, following directions and handling criticism. Users watch a brief video of a person performing the correct behavior for the social situation and can then pattern their own behavior accordingly.
Keep It Green Habit Maker
Keep It Green Habit Maker helps clients/patients develop positive habits in their lives by keeping them organized, tracking their progress and maintaining motivation. The app allows you to set the habits you want to develop and receive reminders when they’re due. Users can color code habits based on the urgency or priority of the habit they want to develop. Or, the app provides automatic prioritization of tasks/habits based on recognizable color codes. This is a great app, but best launched with a therapist/caregiver to help set priority levels for each task/habit.
Free (iOS, Android, web)
EverNote helps improve memory, organizational skills and even creativity by syncing ideas on multiple devices. Users can take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders. The searchability function can be a tremendous boon for those with short-term memory loss.
Spaced Retrieval TherAppy
Spaced Retrieval is a scientifically-proven way of improving recall of names, facts, other selections (user’s choice) and even the routines of several people. People with brain injuries can rehearse memory skills by recalling an answer over expanding intervals of time (1,2,4 and 8 minutes) and helps to cement the information in memory. Please note: this app is not intended for use without therapy.
Note: No direct Android counterpart, but Complete Memory Training Games for Android is a good free substitute, but without all of the training features as Spaced Retrieval Therappy.
Brainscape – Smart Flashcards
Free - $9.99 for In-app Purchases (iOS + Android)
Pick a subject from geography to vocabulary building to driver’s education and Brainscape has a set of smart digital flashcards. What makes these flashcards so smart? Besides being color-coded to aid recall, users are asked to indicate their prior knowledge of the answers. Those questions the user did not understand or answer correctly are repeated more frequently than those the user answers correctly. Subject matter is repeated until the user has gained mastery over the subject matter.
All apps labeled iOS can be found at the Apple App Store. Apps for Android can be found at either Google Play or the Amazon Appstore for Android.
Since this is by no means an exhaustive list, I would love to hear from people with traumatic brain injuries, physicians and caregivers about the apps they think work best.
Next Blog: Top Apps for Caregivers of People with TBI
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.