Friday, December 9, 2011

Testing, Testing

OKay, I think those silly verses in my previous post have been up there for quite long enough. I'm afraid this post will be another stroke-based one, because yesterday I had my neuro-psychological test at Caulfield Rehab and I think I might have done quite badly.

The idea of the test is to determine just how much damage has been done to my brain. It's very like an IQ test and those who have read my book Tumble TUrn will know exactly what I think of IQ tests. 

Anyway, I was having a good old time responding to one of the questions by naming as many animals I could that begin with 'C' and I think I made my psychologist a bit angry when I mentioned 'caleocanth' before 'cat'. I wasn't being a smart-arse, it just happens that Caelocanth is my Youutube name and I'm rather proud of it bcause it's one of the few single noun-names left. Also, for those who don't know, a caelocanth is an incredible   beast that was meant to be extinct, along with all the dinosaurs, which it resembles, even though it's a fish. But rather wonderfully, the animal refused to be extinct and fishermen off Cape Town caught one in 1938. I know I'm not the only one to be ever-so-slightly fixated on Caelocanths. From memory, they rate a mention in Sonya Hartnett's beautiful book, Of a Boy. But I'm afraid my copy has gone AWOL so I can't check this for sure.

So the 'Caelocanth' answer for 'Name as many animals as you can that begin with C' wasn't just a spectacular piece of posing, but a genuine automatic response. And I chose Caelocanth as my YouTube name because I put myself in the same category - 'a dinosaur that came back' - though it's probably just a little self-important and way too premature because I haven't really 'come back' yet in my role as a writer for kids and teens. Anyway, I don't believe that the psychologist even wrote down the word. Maybe she wrote down the standard code word for 'smart-arse answer'. I should add at this point that my psychologist was not in the least stentorian. She was gentle and resssuring and told me that there were no right or wrong answers to her questions. This, of course, was to put me at my ease though manifestly untrue. I'm fairly sure that if I'd mentioned 'pangolin' as an animal beginning with 'C', my psychologist would have most definitely regarded it as a wrong answer. (At least, I hope so.)

The next part of the test is where I really dug my own grave. The psychologist handed me a box of very elegant little building blocks. Each had six sides which were either red or white, or a combination of the two bisected diagonally. What I had to do with these blocks was make various shapes and patterns that were presented to me, like so:. 

The puzzles started easy but got harder, in fact, the last one was so terribly hard that I made a point of asking my psychologist twice if it was a 'trick question' since it didn't obey the rules of the game thus far. But my tester assured me it wasn't a trick and that I would be able to make the shape if I placed the elegant little red and white cubes in the appropriate order. But reader, it was a trick question- and I think that if someone who is worried about impaired brain function is not told the truth when he asks if a question is bogus, then he should bloody well be given the correct answer. Surely part of the test is about knowing where there are limitations? But no, I made the pattern as best I could, though it didn't exactly resemble the pattern in the test book, and my psychologist accepted it. But I continued to whine that I had been tricked. (And I had!) Maybe the psychologist was cranky with me because of the 'caelocanth' answer Anyway, we stopped the test shortly afterwards because my psychologist thought I was becoming 'tired' which might have been a euphemism for 'cranky'. Although she was right. I was tired. I'm tired right now. I'm tired for sixteen hours of the day as my brain tries to find new neural pathways to get various parts of the left side of my body to work.
There is a pathetic part of me that wants to score points - I'm like the TV show Qi instilled into a person. I'm like authors who post their good reviews on Facebook. Horrible. I was so cross about my psychologist not admitting that I had been presented with a puzzle that had no adequate solution, that I was itching for revenge. I looked around her office and noticed a rather lovely photo of some marshland somewhere with a young kid playing with a group of waterbirds. And since so many of my tests had been about memory (which I was apparently quite good at, even if not so good at grammar) I asked the psychologist if, without looking, she could tell me how many ducks were in the picture on her office wall. I so desperately wanted her to have a stab at it. I'd have been rapt if she'd told me 'five' (seemingly the correct answer) because then I could have corrected her and told her that there were in fact no ducks in the picture at all, since they were all geese and ganders. But she wasn't playing that game. She knew I was obstreperous and that any answer she gave would be wrong, at least in my view. (Actually, I'm pretty sure they were swans, although leaving a kid alone with a groop of swans is a recipe for disaster. How many times have we heard that a swan can break a man's nose with a blow of its wing? (We've certainly heard it quite a lot if we've read Sue Townsend's clever but underrated Adrian Mole and The Weapons of Mass Destruction.) I myself was attacked by geese when I was younger , and incorporate this terrifying experience into a very bizarre sex education lesson in The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher. Anyway, while I am on the subject of child safety, let me report on the psychological testing that I first received when Iarrived in rehab. There were but two questions

1. You are walking along a beach when you spy a baby playing at the end of a pier, the water below is deep and if the baby falls in he will drown. What do you do?

2. You arrive at Sydney airport by some strange series of accidents. (You shouldn't be there.) You have nothing but a dollar. What do you do?

Now, both these questions do not have a 'Right or wrong' answer, as the psychologist previously but incorrectly mentioned. You'll be pleased to know that I did well on both of these questions. But I was fascinated by questions that seemed to have such simple answers. (Seek help.) Why ask them at all? I was told that some stroke patients are so disassociated from reality, that their answer to the second question could well be (and this is a genuine offering): 'Convince a pilot to sell the plane to you for a dollar. Learn how to fly the plane, then pilot it to wherever it is that you want to go.'

And people like this could be out there driving cars or, possibly, aeroplanes.

Speaking of which, my sister went to the Ballarat Base Hospital recently and noticed a group of elderly people who all had the word 'world' written on their arms. The reason for this? My sister had to ask and duly learned something very interesting. As part of a forthcoming test as to whether they should be deemed astute enough to retain their driving licences, these elderly souls had to speak out the letters that spell 'world', only backwards. (This is actually quite tricky even if you aren't ninety and ga-ga.) Anyway, somehow the word got out that this was one of the tests they had to pass, so the nonagenarians conspired to outwit the testers by having the word 'world' discreetly penned on their wrists. Is that really cheating? After all, they don't have the actual answer 'dlrow' written on their arms. I would argue that it is cheating, just as it is cheating not to reveal that a neuro-psych block test is an impossibility, especially when the testee has asked twice if it's a trick question.


Cathy H said...

Haha! McMurphy would have been proud of you son!

Anonymous said...

Hahaha I like it when you're cranky haha, stay angry mate, it's much funnier hahahaha.... oddly I witnessed a disturbing ninja-like attack by a black swan on a unsuspecting family of Chinese tourists the other day on my daily walk in the botanical gardens.... I don't trust them. But I did giggle to myself ;)

Keep up the good work mate.


Dmetri Kakmi said...

Doug, there is an allusion to a Caelocanth in Of a Boy. Far as I know it is not actually named. You will find it on page 13.

DougMacLeod said...

McMurphy isn't actually a hero of mine.
Neither is Kesey. Sorry, but thanks for commenting.

DougMacLeod said...

Dmetri, thanks for your comment and the gentle reassurance that my memory may be in reasonable shape.

DougMacLeod said...

Dmetri, thanks for your comment and the gentle reassurance that my memory may be in reasonable shape.

DougMacLeod said...

metri, thanksfor your response and your gentle reminder that my memory might bei reasonable shape. Though since it's a Sonya Hartnett book I would have read it twice.

DougMacLeod said...

Did you see what I dud then?

Jen said...

Doug - I think said psycholgist is rather fortunate that you didn't throw the blocks right at her head and then claim an involuntary stroke-induced spasm.

it must be hard to keep plugging away at times - you are inspiring.

DougMacLeod said...

Go easy Jen,
My psychologist is the one who decides whether it's safe for me to go out of the house or not.
Like I'm goin to throw blocks at her! I'll wait till I get the all clear, then I'll throw blocks.

Jen said...

good point - best be nice, but I do wonder about the ethics of telling someone that a test is not a trick when it actually is... I assume one of her jobs is to allay your anxiety.

Jo-Ann said...

I enjoy your work Doug, and have been quietly lurking on your blog for some time now.
I come out now and as a psychologist, respectfully ask that you remove the photo of testing material, ie, the blocks and target pattern, from the post. Testing material is restricted, in order to maintain integrity of the process and results.
I wish you all the best for your recovery.

DougMacLeod said...

Jo Ann

Sorry, no. I didn't take the photo myself (I do have some integrity) I found it quite easily on the Internet. I also don't buy that a mundane photo like this compromises the test. And since you are obviosly aware of he test, perhaps you could explain to me why the final test in this series is bogus.

Jo-Ann said...

Cheers, Doug.
It's a worry that testing items are being reproduced on the net, I'd be really interested to know which site you sourced it from.

One picture may not compromise the test, but if everybody thought that way, then pretty soon the test will be useless. Which is why in Victoria the test is legally restricted, and I have a responsibility to ask that non-psychologists respect this.

As for the final item... well, if you left me alone with that problem for ten years, I know that I wouldn't be able to solve it. That's because I'm not much of a visual thinker (maps are useless to me).
I have, however, had a small percentage of clients who were able to (including teenagers!). It requires some pretty sophisticated lateral visual thinking. It isn't bogus at all. Have you ever come across tangram puzzles? The harder ones involve the same sort of logic. It is designed to identify highly developed geometric problem solving skills.

The first person I ever tested was an engineer who breezed through it. He struggled with the verbal items and probably thought the harder ones were bogus.

The Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Butterfly Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Effect said...

What is that test with the red and white blocks? I've been looking all over, trying to figure out what it is so I can tell my disability attorney, and your picture is the only one I have found through many searches! I bombed that test miserably. Along with verbal word problems and written math problems. This is very unsettling to me, as I used to be an accountant. I had not realized how much my skills and problem solving had degraded until this appointment. In made me feel downright stupid.

DougMacLeod said...


There are no further pictures of the test. And I'd be disinclined to send them to you if your mention attorneys. I'm sorry you had some mental trauma, but they would have given you other tests to gyage whether nor not you are fit to return to work. Can I ask what happened? Did you have a stroke, like me?

The Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Butterfly Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Effect said...

I have had a stroke, but in addition to that I have fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, narcolepsy, diabetes, and other health issues. I was just trying to explain all the tests the disability doctor had me do at their appointment to my disability attorney. We have been battling for over two years in which time I have had multiple joint surgeries, increased health issues and become more disabled. All three of their doctors they have sent me to have said there is no doubt that I have multiple disabilities. I dont understand the hold up.

Thanks for the response.

Les Olcott said...

I just had that test done to me today. I too could not do the last 2 using all 12 blocks. I'm testing to get the DBS(Deep Brain Stimulation) for parkinson's disease.