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Memory Problems: Where are My Keys?

by | Apr 20, 2017 | Brain Health, Brain Rehabilitation | 1 comment


Cognitive Therapist Amy KarasFeaturing Brain Health Expert: Amy Karas



In my blog, An Integrative Brain Injury Treatment Approach, I presented to you my 5 Prong Approach along with a list of the various Brain Health Experts that are on my integrative team. I also mentioned I would be presenting more in-depth information about each team member in the following weeks.

In my last blog, I presented to you Yvonne Tam.  In this blog, I am presenting to you Amy Karas MS, CCC-SLP our Speech-Language Pathologist, who is specialized in memory problems and improving organization skills.

Amy is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist with over 20 years of experience working with acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities and other social and communication disorders. She specializes in cognitive, social pragmatics and language treatment, with an emphasis on providing functional therapy strategies/systems and restoring skills when able. Amy’s approach emphasizes understanding what someone needs to improve quality of life, task efficiency and effectiveness and maximizing independence. As part of my integrative team of brain health experts, Amy’s focus is to help people with memory issues, life skills, how to organize their home and work life.  Amy first conducts a memory and cognitive evaluation.  This assessment can be done in your home, at school, in our office or remotely on Skype or Facetime.  Then this assessment, Amy develops a treatment plan which could include specific strategies for improving organization skills, and methods to for improving recall and memory. As I mentioned before, and would like to note once again, each of the brain health experts on my integrative team have their own private practices, and yet we work as a unified team. We treat each person as a unique individual with unique symptoms and goals. Thus, we provide for each person a customized program specifically that addresses your needs.  Our customized program is like going to a clothier and having a suit or dress being made specific to your measurements, rather than buying a dress or suit and having to altered to fit you.

Other websites and organizations now claim they provide personalized treatment, however we have successfully been providing this type of program for over 30 years!

Organization Skills and Memory

Initiation, planning, and organization require higher-order thinking.  Higher order thinking skills involve more than memorizing facts or retelling something that was told to you.

To initiate, plan, and organize successfully, a person needs to be able to think ahead, concentrate, remember things, gather and sort information, and set priorities using higher order thinking.

Initiation is the ability to determine what needs to be done, develop a plan about how to start the task, and putting the plan into action. Example: if a person wants to get dressed, first they must be able to identify the need to get dressed, decide what they will wear, and begin choosing the clothing.

Planning is the ability to determine which steps are needed to complete a task, and how long it will take to complete it. Example: if a person wants to prepare a meal they must decide what they will cook, determine which ingredients are required, where they can get the ingredients, how long it will take to cook, and how much to cook.

Organization is the ability to put all the steps of a task in the correct order, and the ability to change the order as needed, to successfully complete the task. The more complex the task, the more brain areas need to be recruited and engaged simultaneously to successfully complete the job. Communication between areas of the brain is critical for coordination of neuronal activity that underlies higher cognitive function and complex decision making. For various reasons, such as brain injury, communication between brain areas can be interrupted to prevent additional stress on the brain which can lead to cognitive impairment.

Having issues initiating, planning, organization and/or memory can be very challenging and quite stressful. Constant difficulties planning and organizing your daily life, starting or finishing tasks, setting up schedules and remembering things like where you left your keys, can result in feeling anxious and overwhelmed. These feelings, which are symptoms of your inability to organize or plan your life in a structured (Linear) way, causes more chaos in your life. The following are some practical suggestions to help you register, store, and recall information more efficiently and to reduce stress and anxiety while completing daily task:

  • Break down tasks and newly presented information into smaller fragments
  • Categorize information into pieces (i.e. work-related, tasks, phone calls to make)
  • Finish one task before beginning another
  • Tools:
    • Use a daily planner, or a comparable phone application
    • Make daily/weekly “to do” lists
    • Make shopping lists
    • Post notes, signs, checklists to remind yourself what to do and when
    • Alarm/Timer: Set a timer or alarm to remind you of when to start tasks, or to remind you of important things that need to be done.
  • Avoid trying to retain information or complete tasks when tired
  • Limit your use of alcohol: Drinking affects memory and cognition
  • Some medications can affect memory, ask your doctor if short-term memory loss is a side effect of your medication(s)
  • Minimize distractions
    • For example, if you are preparing a meal, do not watch TV or have background music on at the same time.
  • De-clutter your environment
    • Get rid of things you don’t use or need
  • Follow a routine/habit and stick to it
    • Example: always put your keys, cell phone, wallet in the same place every day.

What Causes Problems in Organization and Memory Issues

We have two hemispheres


The brain is divided into two hemispheres (see above).  For most people, the left side, or left hemisphere, is the Linear Brain. This is where structure, organizational skills, planning skills, reasoning, analytics skills, logic, language, speech, science, math, and number skills are located,as well as linear memory, including immediate, short-term and long term.

The right side, or right hemisphere, for most people is the Nonlinear Brain. This is where free thoughts, emotions, imagination, creativity, art, music, intuition, and spiritual feelings are located and nonlinear memory, such as recalling music and how to play a guitar.

Differences in the two hemispheres are very noticeable in anyone, especially seniors with severe dementia (injury to the linear brain) who are unable to recall the names of family members, yet can recall music and can sing along to songs they knew years before.

One main reason for having either organizational and/or memory problems is that these skills may never have been taught properly to you.  Some families can set daily activities, schedules, and timelines, which are based on a linear structure.  While another family’s life style maybe more nonlinear (emotional without structure) or dysfunctional.  As a child, you might not have been told how to organize your room or life, or how to recall information.  And depending on the educational system, these life skills, organization and memory recall might not have been taught.  Thus, this could be a case of you learn what you lived.

Additional Causes of Organization and Memory Issues
  • Developmental Brain Injury
  • Trauma
  • Infection and or reaction to medication
  • Concussion
  • Stroke
  • Sleep Problems
  • Side effects of drugs and alcohol

A complete list can be found on our memory page To help with organization skills, Speech-Language Pathologists help to improve the following cognitive (thinking) skills, which are often impaired in some way:

  • Attention – Ability to focus on one specific message or task.
  • Concentration – Ability to maintain attention to the message or task
  • Memory – Storing information in the brain and retrieving it when necessary
  • Organization –  Ability to identify and group all the the things needed to complete a task, and in the right order.
  • Reasoning and Problem Solving – Ability to demonstrate logic and flexibility to drive the appropriate course of action to complete a task.
  • Executive Functions – (of the frontal lobe) including initiating, planning, self-monitoring, and follow through.

Amy Karas has been trained to help assess the cause, and to develop a specific program to optimize linear brain function.

How I Met Amy Karas

Since 1979, my integrative practice has included a Speech and Language Pathologist, who specializes in organizational skills and cognitive planning and strategies.  There was one year that I did not have this specialist and was looking for one to join my team. While leaving a meeting on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I engaged in a conversation with Amy and find out she was a Speech and Language Pathologist. We also discovered she knew me from a mutual patient. We both were shocked. I knew Amy would be a great for for my practice based on her credentials, and her expertise working with individuals with neurological disorders and conditions. Amy has been working as part of my integrative team since then.  I later told the mutual patient and he was just as thrilled as I was to know we would all be working together.

Introducing Amy Karas

Hello, I am Amy Karas, MS, CCC/SLP.  I am a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist.  I am a “traveling” speech, language and cognitive therapist focusing on functional treatment in the home and community, primarily north of Boston.  My expertise is working with children and adults after neurological injuries and illnesses, such as TBI, stroke and anoxia, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis, as well as learning disabilities, ADD/ ADHD, OCD and social communication impairments.  I believe in collaborating and communicating with other treatment providers and family members as well as assisting to compile appropriate resources for long-term use, to maximize skills and carryover strategies into daily life.

How I met Dr. Diane

As mentioned above, I met Dr. Diane at a PTSD conference approximately 12 years ago.  I recognized her name from working with a former client of mine and we instantly connected on the importance of treating each person individually and focusing on the whole person, not just one symptom or problem area.

My passion is for helping people with organization and memory problems, specifically from brain injury. After sustaining a brain injury, individuals are often exhausted, overwhelmed and uncertain of how and when to resume daily living.  I’ve always enjoyed helping individuals identify their goals and use creative and functional solutions to complete daily tasks easier and more effectively.  I’m passionate about helping individuals to do as much for themselves as they can, including (re)learning how to advocate for their medical and personal needs and making safe decisions. If you are looking for some help with any of your speech, language, or cognitive skills, please call Dr. Diane’s practice: 978-352-6530 or email me directly at I take most major insurances and offer a private pay rate as well.

Our Brain Health Experts Can Help Improve Your Memory!

Along with memory problems, our integrative team provides various treatments for brain injury, stroke, MS, ADD, OCD, anxiety, sleep, and chronic pain to mention a few.

Consult Dr. Diane to discover what team member and treatment is best specifically for you. If you live elsewhere in the world, the Brain Health Experts can provide virtual treatment too. If this is not possible, Dr. Diane® and/or the Brain Health team expert will find someone in your locale to help you.


Dr. Diane® Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.
7 Hodges Street
N. Andover, MA 01845
Phone: (800) 500-9971
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Dr. Diane is a catalyst for change

Image Credit Elaine Boucher

Within each person shines an inner light that illuminates our path and is the source of hope. Illness, trauma, suffering and grief can diminish the light and shroud hope. I am a catalyst for hope and change, offering a way to rekindle this inner light.

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