Read My Clips

On the home front, we’ve recently adopted a new-to-us AT, and it took some nudging from me to get hubby to participate.

The most fabulous Assistive Technology (AT) in the world is useless unless it gets implemented.  An AT, for those unfamiliar with the term, is any kind of device that enables one to do the things they need to do.  A crutch is very low-tech AT, and a sip-and-puff control to operate a power chair is high-tech AT.

Being able to acquire a useful AT can be problematic for many people.  There are three common hurdles in this process:  firstly, being able to discover what exists; secondly, being able to give it a suitable “test drive” (oft times there’s a learning curve to a new device, so it’s hard to tell how useful it will actually be until you can try it out under fairly natural conditions, which usually doesn’t mean sitting in someone’s office or showroom); and lastly, there’s the dreaded funding issue.  A lot of ATs fall under the “quality of life” category, rather than the “medically necessary” category, so aren’t covered by insurance (totally ignoring that quality of life improvements frequently have long-term health benefits, including the user needing fewer support services – penny wise and pound foolish, as ever).

For hubby and I, it wasn’t a lack of knowing about or even affording the AT.  Having the AT was a partial issue, owing to the fact that my previous equipment was too old for this rather common function.  Likely no one under the age of 30 would think of texting messages via cell phones as being terribly exotic.  But the fact was that my old mobile could receive, but not send.  Anyone who knows me well will understand that being able to express myself is a major psychosocial need – being able to get messages but not reply just wasn’t going to cut it for me.  Having been around plenty of young adults at college and work, I realized that having that kind of function for myself wouldn’t be a mere cultural habit, but rather an AT.  It was getting time to renew the mobile contract anyway, which allowed me to buy a new cell phone really cheap.  (No camera, no MP3 player, just a phone – but it is green.)

I had one month of free texting before I got charged for such; a common marketing ploy, but also a necessary one from that “learning curve” standpoint.  I found that the actual learning curve itself was short; after two messages I was comfortable with the process.  The challenge, I discovered, was getting hubby on the other end of our figurative tin can and string!  He understood texting from technical and sociological perspectives.  He just didn’t see any need for it personally.  He wanted me to phone him so we could talk.

Now, that really made no sense to me; he’s hard of hearing, and I have auditory processing disorder, where my cognitive processing of what I hear sometimes gets blips, not unlike the way my mobile gets erratic signals in buildings.  You’d think that the usefulness of this bit of technology would be apparent as all get-out.  But his emotional reception was lukewarm; he’s a people-person, and prefers as little technical interface as possible.

Doing phone calls during my summer camp job was difficult for several reasons, including crappy reception inside the building, the lack of free time during lunch (we were getting lunch for our campers), and often the utter volume level – some of the counselors could carry on phone conversations during our typically noisy bus rides, but I couldn’t.  Thus, we weren’t able to dependably call each other up for mundane conversations like, “I’m going to the store after work; do we need anything besides bread?”

There’s more than one way to sell something.  I’d get a voice-mail, and after listening to it two or three times to understand the message, replied back in text.  Text messages have clarity, when-you-can-get-around-to-it convenience of e-mail, but with more of the live-time quality of phoning.  I could receive and reply more easily, with greater privacy, and in more places.  I found there were additional benefits, like being able to share phone numbers or reminders, and having those available in digital memory for later in the day.  That’s a big deal for someone with ADHD!

Soon we were texting messages instead of talking on the phone.  We were actually communicating more information, and doing so more often.  We also found that what the missives may have lacked in warm fuzzy voice tones, they made up for in reduced marital stress.

“Need toilet paper!  Home for dinner?  Love you.”

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