The Clock Face

I was running my errands this weekend when I caught Act Four of This American Life's episode 583: It'll Make Sense When You're Older.

The clock exercise is a standard diagnostic tool.  A clock face is an easily recognized and near universal object that we are taught to understand at a very early age.  The test is easy to administer and the mental processing errors are immediately obvious.

It sounds like an easy task.  It's actually quite a complex task.  The individual has to be able to imagine the clock face, recall the numbers and their positions on the clock, keep the requested time in mind, and correctly render that time on the drawn clock face.

Lyn has never been able to draw a complete clock face.  The test would not have been a useful tool for her because of this life-long inability.  She used to understand it though and could read the time from it.  I chuckle as I recall how she would try to manipulate people, particularly men, into giving her attention by convincing them she didn't know how to tell the time.  She no longer can tell the time from an analog clock.  She can still read the time from a digital clock.  

It's absolutely worth listening to because it highlights why individuals with dementia struggle with drawing a clock.  The first link above will let you listen to the story without having to sit in your car to hear the whole thing.


  1. At my "advanced" age of 68 AARP is always sending emails with Dementia tests that you take now, save results & take again in a year. There is a clock face on the test.

    I have a comment I keep forgetting to make. I realize the new "politically correct" term with Lyn's and my daughter's disability is "Intellectually Disabled" and my response is, "Who isn't?" I AM! There's a lot I don't know...the math my grandkids do, all the history I didn't learn in school because I didn't pay attention, some world leaders' names, etc. Now there are some people in my opinion who aren't "Intellectually Disabled" like 10 year olds who graduate from college or medical school. Unique phenomena's. My daughter is 46 & has gone from being "hyperactive" to "minimal brain dysfunction" to "retarded" to "developmentally delayed" (which is the most accurate seeing as how she is 46 & functions maybe on a 4 year old level) to "developmentally disabled". But I just cannot bring myself to refer to her as "Intellectually Disabled" even though it sounds so much "nicer" than the frowned on old fashioned "retarded" which is a term she cringes at. She is "Intellectually Disabled" considering she's 46 & can't read or write but we will stay "Developmentally Disabled" and live happily ever after with that label. Why do we have to be labeled?

    1. You raise a good point, Rebecca. Terms change over time, often as a result of our understanding of a condition, a result of our acceptance of a group of people, or our discomfort with terms which seem racist, bigoted or ignorant. When you were younger, the term "Mongoloid" was used to refer to anyone who had Downs Syndrome. By the time I got to college, that term was considered an HR violation at the college. When I was young, "retarded" was used to refer to Lyn and your daughter. Now, either "intellectually disabled" or "developmentally disabled" are used because "retarded" came to be used as an insult and not just as a description of a condition. Language is dynamic and changes over time. Just think about words we use today like "text" and "email" which didn't exist in our youth or were not used in the context in which they are today. Saying "Developmentally Disabled" instead of "Intellectually Disabled" is fine. There are no hard and fast rules in this and the terms are evolving around us. As long as we're speaking with respect and treating Lyn and your daughter as people; not as things that are lesser than us because their brains function differently than ours, then we're doing OK.


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