I’m not as smart as a 5th grader

Wish I were as smart as him!

Oh, to be as smart as this lad…

As a psychologist, I spent many years assessing children’s IQs for learning strengths and weaknesses. I even assessed the odd–and I don’t mean “strange”–adult. So I have a good sense of what makes a person smart, at least by these widely recognized testing standards.

In my last post, I quipped about not being smarter than a fifth grader. Out of curiosity, I went on line and found several tests to assess exactly that. Now, no psychologist I know supports any kind of on-line intellectual testing, yet I was compelled to find out whether I had been speaking out of school. My scores aren’t important. Let’s just say that sadly I was right.

I used to think I was smart enough, but then a few years back I became very sick and ended up in hospital for almost two months. I spent so much time in bed, lost so much weight and muscle strength, that initially I needed a wheelchair to get around. Over several months I regained my balance and those muscles grew back yet my body is not yet where it was before I got so sick.

I figure if my body was so impaired by my hospitalization, my mind must have been as well. In other words, when I was in hospital, it’s likely that more than a few brain cells died.  People don’t talk about these cognitive effects of illness much because they’re harder to quantify than the physical changes. (I thank God I don’t have a pre-hospital IQ for comparison since I’d hate to imagine how many points I dropped during the ordeal.)

I had not thought much about this until my Sister in Liver Disorders, who suffered a similar critical and prolonged medical stay when her liver jumped ship, noted she felt less smart now than she used to. (N.B.: She seemed sharp as a tack to me.) Her thinking and reasoning is probably different than it was before, as is mine.

The changes I’ve noticed are subtle. My attention and concentration are weaker than before. Paperwork challenges my attention to detail and organizational skill. For example, my taxes were a nightmare–and not just because I earned so little. I sometimes have difficulty keeping up with fast-paced conversations, and I miss the occasional joke.

Just as I’m now able to walk and my balance is much improved, my brain doesn’t feel as slow as I did when I first got out of hospital. If this is any indication, I’m back to doing those tough Sudokus again, although I make more careless errors.

I don’t do IQ testing anymore; I gave that up soon after my hospital discharge, knowing I just wouldn’t be up to the task. So, although I can speculate based on past experience, I can no longer formally assess whether your fifth grader is smarter than you. But based on my recent on-line testing results, irrespective of medical status, I may not be the only one struggling to keep up with the younger generation of smarties.



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