Introducing Memory Strategies
The literature on the effectiveness of memory training in acquired brain injury is mixed, but there is some evidence that training memory strategies in people with mild impairments can improve functional outcomes. Search the App Store for "memory" and you'll find an assortment of apps that recreate the children's matching card game "Memory." So with a focus on strategies, of what use are these memory game apps in neurological rehabilitation?
One use for a game app that recreates a familiar game or task is to get clients comfortable with using the iPad. Before you train them to enter events into an electronic calendar or introduce more complicated tasks, simple games help build rapport in therapy between the client and both the clinician and the device. Playing a memory matching game such as Awesome Memory (free for iPad) is easy for technophobes - a simple touch turns over the card to reveal beautiful artwork of various fruits (expansion packs available). This particular app is useful for the multi-player mode, allowing clients to compete against clinicians (who may or may not try as hard they can) and the range of 12-30 cards per game.
The primary use for these memory game apps is to train compensatory strategies. Starting with a simple grid of 12 cards or fewer, clinicians can guide clients to make a "memory map," writing in the names of the pictures revealed with each card flip on a grid. Learning to look at the grid before flipping again is a critical skill, exercising inhibition, scanning, attention, and executive functioning. Clients can easily see the benefit of using writing to supplement their memory when they play one round of a game with one score (note number of turns, not time), then dramatically improve that score using the strategy. It's much harder to show such instant and tangible results within one session when using appointment times or to-do lists as therapy targets. Once the client buys into using strategies, then the clinician can introduce the functional targets.