So as it turns out – and you might have gleaned from the title of this entry – the test I took on Tuesday was not the Halstead-Reitan test. After doing all the get-to-know-you parts of the interview before the test, my psychologist asked me if I had any questions about the test. So I took the opportunity to ask him if that was, in fact, what was going on. He laughed a little bit. I think I caught him off guard with the question as he responding by asking whether I had done research on the subject or something. I admitted that I had, and that was the name that kept coming up and seemed to fit the description I had been given by my therapists.
He set me straight. It turns out that the Halstead-Reitan test was developed almost fifty years ago with the goal of determining where in the brain injury or disease damage might have occurred. At the time, this was a useful thing to know and there were few non-intrusive ways to determine it. Now most neurologists rely on CT and MRI scans to do that work for them – more quickly and more accurately. There are still psychologists who see the Halstead-Reitan test as ‘the one true test’ (his words, not mine), but most psychologists have moved away from it to concern themselves with working on behaviors and skills rather than focusing on what is basically a medical diagnosis. What these psychologists find important is determining problems with cognition or memory, recognition or attention. My psychologist understandably found himself firmly in that latter camp: I don’t need to know where the injury is; what I need to know is how it affects his life. My life, as it turns out.
In the end, he conceded that some of the tests I was to take had been derived from the Halstead-Reitan battery. Of course, he did not tell me which ones.
Anyway, I went along with the exam for its six hours. I am convinced that this was the most difficult set of tests I have ever taken. I think it was difficult for a number of reasons. The tests themselves were designed to scale in difficulty from quite easy to impossible. There is always a point on every test when a person reaches his limit. No one receives a perfect score. A perfect score are not something that is achievable – by design.
Secondly, the tests were difficult for me because all of the usual crutches that I find when taking tests were missing. The test was verbal, rather than written. This eliminates the ability to take a moment and think about what you want to say. In lots of written tests I get the opportunity to go back and review what I’ve written and revise it. Not so with speech. My answers were much more extemporaneous.
Many of the tests were scored (at least partially) with time as a factor. Do this task as quickly as you can. Complete this series as quickly as you can. Listen to these words and repeat them in reverse order as quickly as you can. I generally perform more poorly in situations like that. I’m alright if I have a finite amount of time. Complete this task in this amount of time. Even if I only have a short period of time, I know how much I do have and can plan accordingly. But with just a running clock – and no idea of what a good score is and what isn’t – it is just frustrating.
The tests were highly specialized. Those dealing with memory dealt with it exclusively. There was no room or opportunity to develop logical mnemonic devices. For example, one part of the test required me to memorize a series of pairs of words and then answer questions about them immediately, and then again later at two other times. I’m thinking these pairs may be something like “fruit … apple” “tool … hammer” and the like. In that example you have a general category and then a more specific example. Even if I am not exactly sure of the pair, I have a chance of reasoning it out, based on the logical relations established in the pairs. No dice. The pairs were things like, “star … ladder” “insect … clown” and “elephant … glass.” It is testing just memory. Nothing else is even a question.
Now it is over. I go back to the psychologist in a month to go over my results. At the moment I am ambivalent about that prospect. I feel pretty good. I am noticing some things dealing with cognition, memory, language and attention that seem to have changed since before the injury, but none of them seem to be detrimental to my life generally – not to me, anyway. Maybe I am just getting used to what has happened to me.
The curious part of me wants to see how I did. – That part gets to wait.
In other news, I have put in close to a full week’s work, now. (I did not go to work on Tuesday, as I had the neuropsych test, but the rest of the week I went into the office and worked a full day. And Tuesday was no picnic. I was exhausted when it was all over.) Work has gone well. I have solved some critical problems that were left open while I was away. I have picked up where I left off in terms of projects and responsibilities. My co-workers have been amazingly kind and considerate. I am happy to be back. It’s returned a much-needed element of normalcy to what has been an extremely bizarre experience all around.
I still cannot remember the ten days.