Posted on May 4, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Helena

Work for Brain Injury Survivor: Helena Part Ten

This sense of what is best for her, what pace she can handle didn’t come automatically. She became keenly aware of how overwhelming the pace of information could be when she attempted to learn a new profession to go back to work for brain injury survivor, a particularly challenging one. She explains:

One of the other parts of my recovery was, I wanted to see – I needed to earn some more income. So I got a chance to be a very part-time person, as a neuropsychomotrist, working with another neuropsychologist.

Neuropsychology is the field of psychology that primarily assesses brain dysfunction. One of the fundamental tools that neuropsychologists use for this assessment is the administration of a battery of primarily pen and paper tests, to determine strengths and weaknesses of a particular person. Included in these batteries are traditional tests of IQ along with many measures that test the performance of the brain post brain injury, beyond just thinking and cognitive tasks. A neuropsychomotrist is the assistant to the neuropsychologist, the person who administers these tests for work for brain injury survivors.

I thought, oh this is cool. I worked at it for a year. It’s very complicated, it uses a lot of math, there might be 70 different tests, and they all operate differently. They hired me knowing that I was brain injured. I made wonderful contact with all the patients.

It took me six months to seven months to, to start trying to score them, which is a lot of math and algebra, and I couldn’t remember T scores from… I mean, I couldn’t remember any of it.

People said well just give it some more time, all you need to do is practice this, and I began to realize my brain wouldn’t do that. My brain would not if it ever was able to, because it also had to go at a really fast clip, and I couldn’t keep up, and this is what I think brain-injured people have to live with all the time, what can I do and what can’t I do.

The puzzle in this story is why a neuropsychologist would think she could have done this work for brain injury survivor. Key to valid neuropsychological testing is that everything is done in measured time. While the neuropsychomotrist isn’t being time in the same way that the patient is, the time stress would still be significant. Further, accuracy is paramount. Memory, especially memory for new learning can be expected to an area of deficiency in someone with Helena’s weakness with work for brain injury survivor. Further, as shown by the testing when she was the test subject, speed of information, numbers and multi-tasking are areas of relative weakness when having to do this for work for brain injury survivor.

While we have consistently advocated returns to work for brain injury survivors on these pages, it is critical that an assessment of be made of the potential to succeed before pushing a post brain injury survivor into a vocational choice. Care must be taken to be sure that the potential job plays to the strengths, not the weaknesses of the individual post brain injury. Clearly, this choice didn’t do that. Better choices were the ones that she was doing, those that involved music. While her empathy for other TBI survivors made her a sympathetic administer, the job of administering these tests was one where failure was more likely than success. In explaining why an expert in TBI would think this work for brain injury survivor was a good vocational choice, Helena said:

I think, I, there are several things. She, I had wanted to do this before my brain injury, and I had talked with her about this. It was part time, which turned out really to be a liability. I think she wanted to give me a chance, and she warned me that it would go really fast. I have no idea how, and also, you know, ADA, persons with disabilities, you know, and she wanted to give me a chance.

Detailing her inabilities in work for brain injury survivor, she said:

All the same things that I, I knew from the beginning. I can’t comprehend mathematical concepts, and I always had math anxiety, but unless I read something out loud and take notes, I cannot comprehend it. So I was, and part of it was just the nature of the job and the amount of training I had.

But all the directions for the tests were all different; I couldn’t read it fast enough, I couldn’t keep up with it, and there were too many things going on and I would just, and she would come and say just calm down. Well I couldn’t do that many things at the same time at that speed, and this was before I ever started scoring them. So I was going to quit about three different times and, and my position is to go all the way to the end of the road and I, and I’ve always called it, this is my grand experiment. I did not have the capability of doing that within the job description.

Grand experiments are great, but if vocational tasks do not result in some improvement curve, some modicum of success, then the emotional and attentional costs of failure can actually make the injury worse post brain injury .

Next in Part Eleven – Music Was Her Best Choice

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447