My Left-Sided Neglect
I have a new appreciation for anyone suffering from neurological impairment. Without knowing it, for the past 30 years I have had left-sided neglect. My LUE and LLE sat idle by my side when I drove, not doing anything, not providing any feedback except for enough proprioception to find my ever present bottle of diet Pepsi.
I have just undergone neuro rehab in the form of driving lessons here in the UK. I thought that because I've been driving for thirty years, completely without incident I might add, driving here would come easily. Not so.
The amount of motor learning that I must unlearn is remarkable. No longer do I look left to see if I can merge, I must look right. No longer do I look over my right shoulder when backing up, I must look over my left. Hazards don't approach from where I'm used to and I need to end up in different places when I turn at an intersection. All of this is in addition to learning that my left foot and hand now have a necessary function to shift gears and engage the clutch. Now put that all together and navigate something called a roundabout (traffic circles for those of you from the North East) except they're all moving about clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. This all sounds very amusing until you realize you could die or kill someone else if you get it wrong.
My instructor has been profoundly patient and I can tell that he's been teaching driving for a rather long time. The one thing I did very well from the start was parallel parking. This perplexed the instructor until I explained that I've been doing this maneuver in New York for thirty years. Finally something that didn't need complete motor retraining! He gives me lots of positive feedback but he sometimes helps too much with his own clutch pedal not letting me screw up and learn for that experience.
What does this mean to a therapist? Well the next time you're feeling frustrated with a patient who just isn't "getting it" or seems down, try doing something that really challenges you're established motor patterns; take a dance lesson, learn to knit, learn tai-chi and feel how truly difficult it is to learn a new motor skill. Try providing some positive feedback to your patient because everybody can do something well and needs to know that. Lastly don't help too much, let people make mistakes safely so they can learn from the experience and move on.
My US license is good here for 12 months, but I must get a UK license if I am to stay longer. I'll let you know when I pass my test. Hopefully it won't be a year from now!