Yet Another Exam

Today, December 15, 2008, I went to yet another neurological exam. Actually, it was a psychological exam, supposedly screening for seizure disorders (complex partial seizures). However, it was simply another bad experience with that vague semi-science we call psychology.

I think about 20 to 30 percent of psychology / psychiatry is valid and useful. Certainly I don't doubt the existence of clinical depression, mental retardation, or even sociopathy. The brain is incredibly complex, though, and I think a dozen psychologists would offer a dozen "evaluations" of a given individual. (Honestly, I would prune the DSM -- not expand it. Too may things are now considered medical or mental health "conditions" needing treatment.)

Today's exam relied heavily on the speed and accuracy with which I could use my right hand. The pain was excruciating during the exam, eventually becoming too unbearable to continue testing. As I mentioned before the testing, my right arm and shoulder are usually in some pain. I never write longhand for more than a few minutes, usually limiting myself to one or two notebook pages at any sitting.

I was told, "Motor skills are a part of intellectual development." Since my motor skills are horrible, I must be incomplete. Yep, I must be only partially acceptable, never capable of achieving full development. Do professionals think about their words?

Any test timing my writing speed or accuracy is not only worthless, but highly objectionable. As I told the examiner, it is difficult to control the hand, which becomes increasingly frustrating and painful. During one "match the symbol" exercise, I even asked to stop before time was up because my hand hurt. After that exercise, I slowed all writing as much as I could, to reduce pain and stress.

When I could not control my hand and it kept "pulling" towards me while working on a maze, I was told that my errors were "a conscious choice." The pulling was not a choice. I could see the solution for the maze, but could not control the jerking hand. It was not "free will" to lose control of fine motor control. Being told trembling was a choice only angered me, making it harder to control the hand, which tightens and cramps when in pain.

Also, reading color names from a list "as quickly as possible" left me dizzy, feeling like I was close to a bad asthma attack. I had to slow my reading so I could breathe and had to request a cup of water so I could reduce the sensation I might faint. The reason I was originally seen by the neurology staff was because I fainted due to pain. I suspect the asthma makes fainting more likely.

I left deeply, deeply, offended. Once I returned home, I had to take several pain killers and applied a lot of heat to the arm and shoulder so I could relax. That should never be the end result of an examination.

Only a small portion of the process seemed to deal with my memory issues or problem solving capacities. Most of the exam was a traditional "WAIS III" examination, a battery I have long found problematic. I find the questions of the exam socially/culturally biased. My answers were met with, "I need something else" and "That's not what the test wants."

I am not going to obtain the exam results. My wife and I discussed this and we both feel this was not a valid evaluation instrument as far as my fainting and potential memory issues are concerned. We will meet with the neurologist this week, as scheduled, but terminate further exploration of these matters. I will probably see my general medical practitioner regarding the asthmatic breathing and for standard pain treatments.

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