Close Server: KOPWWW05 | Not logged in

Welcome to Health Care POV | sign in | join
PT and the Greater Good

My Left-Sided Neglect

Published September 30, 2009 9:07 AM by Dean Metz
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!


It's now May, and I have just discovered your blog.  I'm enjoying it tremendously.  I had the reverse issues (at least in part).  I'm an American married to a Brit.  I lived in London for 13 years (before I became a PT).  I first took driving lessons in the UK, so I do understand the problem!  When I came here I had the issue of coping with automatic shifting, power steering, etc. - all on the "wrong" side.  When I learned to drive in London, we didn't have to parallel park - just reverse around a corner, do a hill start, a 3-point turn, and an "emergency" stop.  As far as differences in the health care system, I didn't have to cope with it in the UK - except on a personal level - as I didn't go to PT school (Columbia, '85) until after returning to NY.

Karen Spencer May 25, 2010 6:25 PM
New York NY

Janey, Thanks for the encouragement! Every day gets a little better but it really requires a complete shifting of the mind and continuous attention.

Dean Metz October 26, 2009 2:28 PM


I found this post intriguing.  I've always had trouble keeping my right and left straight.  (sidenote:  I'm increasingly convinced there must be a genetic code for this skill, especially since my 5 year old can now out "right/left" me and my teenager!)  Given my challenge, I knew I'd be a menace to society driving anywhere but the US, but I never imagined that reverse driving would be difficult for someone with right/left aptitude.  

I was discussing your post with a friend who is from England, but has been in the states for years now.  He said it took him a good six months to adjust to driving here, and that was using an automatic, so no shifting curve to overcome.

Just listening to his descriptions of the roads and driving conditions in England had my palms sweaty.  My hat's off to you as you learn this "new" skill!  Buckle up!

Janey Goude October 21, 2009 1:47 AM

leave a comment

To prevent comment spam, please type the code you see below into the code field before submitting your comment. If you cannot read the numbers in the image, reload the page to generate a new one.

Enter the security code below:


About this Blog

    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
  • About Blog and Author

Keep Me Updated