Monday, June 15, 2009

20 Questions

I have a lot of questions lately. A lot of questions. Like big life kind of questions.

No one has answers. It's annoying. I know it's because there are no answers, no right or wrong, just two sides of one big sloppy coin.

Sometimes the hardest part is even formulating the questions - knowing what to ask.

I've been working with a couple of patients for quite awhile now, and they are so similar in their presentation that they are frequently paired during their sessions. They both have aphasia, and it's been fun to watch them progress from not being able to say anything that was recognizable to being able to have a simple conversation. Their personalities are both enormous, and even when they struggle to find words they are both still excellent communicators. This week, I had them play 20 Questions to work on both formulating and responding to questions.

I wrote the names of several famous people on index cards -- JFK, Oprah, Michael Jordan. After we did a few practice rounds with my modeling, we were off and running.

JFK took awhile, but they finally figured it out after a lengthy discussion of the meaning of the word "recent".

The next round was Ray Charles -- I knew the answer because I had written it on the card an hour earlier, but to give the other patient more time to think I acted like I hadn't figured it out yet. We had it narrowed down to a male singer who was dead and blind. The guy holding the card, after doing a pretty spot on imitation of Mr. Charles, got frustrated and said, "Seriously? Ok,here's the problem -- you [looking at the other patient] don't know enough musicians, and you [looking at me] don't know enough black people". Awesome.

Then it was my turn to be the one holding the card, and therefore answering the 20 questions. We were getting close to the end of the hour, so I decided to help them out and give a few hints along the way.

Patient 1 : Is it a man?
Answer: Yes, but not a real man.

Patient 1: You mean like he plays a woman?
Answer: No, he's not a real person. He's a fictional character.

Now remember that both of these folks have difficulty understanding what they hear, and that's a pretty abstract concept.

Patient 1: Is he on TV?
Answer: Well, yes, you can see him on TV sometimes, but remember, it's not a real man.

Patient 1: (crickets)

Patient 2 (who I thought wasn't listening): Is it Ru Paul?
Answer: Um, no.

It was Santa Claus.

How amazing is this picture? I love that the career options are fashion designer or model and that boys make the best partners. I guess it's all about how you ask the question.

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