The word jumble is the most recognizable scrambled word game in the world, but for survivors of brain injuries, it helps them recognize a lot more than letters on a page.
Word puzzles are an oft-used therapy for residents of Mary Cridge Manor, a live-in support centre in Victoria for those working to regain their independence after recovering from injuries that have impacted their cognitive skills.
On May 8, readers of 600 newspapers across North America will challenge themselves to a word jumble designed by the group, thanks to wordmaster David L. Hoyt. The nationally syndicated “mastermind” and inventor of the word jumble reached out to Greg Goldberg, activity co-ordinator at Mary Cridge.
“I am always looking for ways to re-stock their library of lost words,” Goldberg says. “It’s my job to get them involved in social work, interactivity with the community and giving back.”
“Everyone is really excited,” he says of the residents, who also received a copy of the Giant Word Winder from Hoyt who created the 9×9 floor game. The group takes the puzzle around the city to play with seniors in retirement homes and elementary school students.
“Brain injury survivors need a place to be social,” Goldberg explains. “They always think outside the box, because they don’t think rationally. They’re very uninhibited – one of the results of brain injury.”
The self created word jumbles have vastly improved their abilities to use language again, says Goldberg, who explains the exercise is all about formulating different strategies on how to come up with different words.
The group meets over coffee to talk politics and everyday life, brainstorming fun puns. “The answer [to a word jumble] is always a pun, and so we come up with the answer first,” he says. “It’s a different way to think about words and humour is a really big part of it.”
Twenty years ago, Goldberg was in Ontario, driving to his job teaching high school English when he was struck by a gravel truck. The accident left him in a coma, and took him the better part of a decade to recover from.
Seven years into his position at Mary Cridge, he says it’s incredibly rewarding to watch the progress of the centre’s residents.
“I lost so much and I just know how fragile life is,” he says. “For me, it’s giving back.”