Friday, August 10, 2012

The code-breakers

We are squarely between a rock and a hard place, with Baz at the moment. Two weeks ago, Ross and Robyn, took him along to see an optometrist in Toronto. Ross quite liked her, she seemed to make sense. Her qualifications from the University of Sydney were top notch. She ground Barry 'special' glasses. I thought, initially, they were Peli lenses, but they are not. I don't know what 'label' they go by. So I will have to telephone her and find out. However, to look through them is wierd - very distortedm, in a wavy sort of way.

I spent an hour with him yesterday, trying to tease out information to guide my thinking of where I go next. From my extensive internet research on reading problems post left hemispheric stroke. I knew that he needed assistance with scanning and tracking, with how to hold and tilt his head, and to heighten his field awareness. The stroke took out the language part of his brain, but his intellect and inquisitiveness is still intact. His frontal lobe has been impacted too, because he can only cope with things immediately in front of him. Out of sight, out of mind.

So I made a 'typoscope' by cutting a slit from a rigid piece of cardboard, the slit being wide enough for the font I proposed to use. I found some ESL paragraphs that would give him confidence that he could still read. I knew he could read 3 letter words because he did that for me the previous week. So the language was very simple, but I was aware that I did not want to come across as disrespectful. I treated the hour as a scientific experiment. I printed off three ESL passages (font=28) as well as 'The Man from Snowy River' (font=14), a poem by Andrew Barton Paterson. We did not get on to the poem. Here is the second ESL passage:

The Farmer

Andy’s uncle is a farmer.
Andy goes to the farm.
He milks the cow.
He feeds the pig.
It is always hungry.
He collects the eggs.
The chickens lay many eggs.
He finishes his three jobs.
He says goodbye to his uncle.
His uncle thanks him.
He gives Andy two dozen eggs.

With assistance, Barry read every word on this page. If it was less than 4 letters he did not need clues. The clue that mostly helped him, was to read the next bits in the sentence, and guess from context and see if that was 'sort of' what he could see. I told him that strokes often unhinge the ability of eyes to see in tandem, resulting in double vision. This seemed to help, so my guess is there is a lot of double vision in there. Then we reached the break-through moment.

He made chopping motions and sliding motions, trying to explain something to me. Trying to explain what HE could see. What he was trying to convey, was that he thought the letters had been laterally transposed. Not swapped around. But as though someone had sliced the letters through and displaced the top part from the usual bottom part.

All language is artificial, there are hundreds of different lettering systems the world over. You learn the appropriate one for your culture. He knew the arabic system of A-Z amd 0-9. Now he has to learn a variation upon this, and translate it back into the original. Not easy. However, have you seen those passages where entire swathes of letters are missing, yet you can still 'read' the passage. Barry is contending with something a bit more difficult, in that the letters that have been pushed laterally, now join up with different pieces of language.

However, I am not able to put this next piece of information into the jig-saw. This is a photograph of something Baz wrote for the Social Worker in Port Macquarie Hospital back in February. He writes a lot in capital printing. However, none of this is transposed. But something has happened to it. I woner what.

The content is not important, but I think he is trying to explain how something mechanical works. It gives the appearance of language, I grant you. But take this sentence:


For the first 6 weeks after the stroke, he spoke like this. In gibberish. It distressed and embarrassed him.

Ross is going to make me an engineered typoscope that I can move along and uncover the words on the line one at a time. I have no idea how much of what we do, will still be remembered when I return a week later.


diane b said...

That sure is a difficult one. Years ago we had a friend with a brain tumour and he used to talk like that now and then. It must be so frustrating for him.

kirsten said...

The brain is fascinating. Looking from outside of course; from inside, this must suck.

Julie said...

What he has done, for the last 6 months, is give up on reading and writing. He does not get involved in multi-people conversations, either. One-on-one he is okay to converse with. Normal.

He did show an interest in a computer, though. So I am going to 'use' that interest to leverage up the importance of rudimentary reading.

brattcat said...

baz is a lucky man to have such siblings.

Joan Elizabeth said...

This is a fascinating intellectual challenge for both of you.

Kay L. Davies said...

I know you and Ross are doing everything you can to help Barry. My brothers and I did the same thing for our parents. I hope my brothers and my eldest niece never have to do things like this for me, but I know they will, if it ever becomes necessary.
I am fascinated by the words and drawings Barry did for the social worker. I'm sure you're right, it's an attempt to explain how something works. This must be awful for him if his intellect is still intact.
I hope the computer helps him.
Sorry I've missed out on commenting recently. Things have been a little strange here. I'll e-mail you next week when I know more. Meanwhile, hugs from me and hi from Dick, and a virtual woof from Lindy.