Things That Make My Life Easier is a series started by Amandaw, who blogs at three rivers fog and Forward/FWD, to talk about the various things in her life that she uses to make things easier for her. In August she opened up the series for contributions from other bloggers with disabilities – so if you’re interested, check it out!
I remember my family’s first computer. I was a little kid, maybe four or five. I used to play Mickey Mouse games on it through DOS, where you could juggle shapes during a magic show or go to a vegetable fair. You could even wander around in his house and watch television or water the flowers (who would get cranky and give you a sad face if you didn’t). My father, noticing that I loved these games so much and working so often since he and my mother were in the Navy at the time, taught me how to boot up these games myself so I could entertain myself when they were busy. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that, because they can’t imagine how a toddler could operate DOS successfully.
That was just the beginning.
Later on in life I started to find other uses for them. Especially when I had access to the internet. When I interact with people in real life, my natural body language and odd use of the English language can confuse people. And on top of that I have a difficult time understanding people, what they’re saying due to auditory processing issues, my brain’s translation of their body language, and a whole host of other things. What’s worse, this all escalates when I’m under serious levels of stress, of which school was filled to the brim with.
Computers, and their wonderful ability to connect to the internet, brought me to online forums and chat programs. All of a sudden, I could edit my words before I submitted them! I could read them and think to myself, “does this make sense?” and check to see if I’m using a word incorrectly if it doesn’t. Body language was no longer an issue in either direction. It was less direct, the computer and internet feeling like a protective barrier between me and the world, allowing the anxiety of more direct communication to melt away. And if my brain was having a hard time articulating things, I could spend more time trying to hash out what I’m trying to say instead of just blurting it out and there being all sorts of confusion and miscommunication.
This enabled me to connect with people in a way that was never possible before. Before, interaction was distressing and often left me in fear of the people around me. Hell, it still does, and I’ve been known to IM people that are in the same room as me because that’s how I feel most comfortable communicating. I constantly worried about people picking on me for pronouncing things wrong because of how my brain processes language, or stuttering and stumbling over my words. I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. I felt happier, more relaxed, and like I could be myself.
As the years progressed I expanded my use of them into gaming, programming and tinkering. Gaming allowed me to separate myself from the world and disappear into an interactable fantasy world with its own story, rules and mechanics. I could get away from people, the world and all of its hardships by absorbing myself into something completely unrelated, and during periods of high stress it works to ground me due to the levels of interaction it requires. Programming gave me access and control over different forms of language that have very specific rules and structure, things I could understand much better than the grammar rules of spoken and written language. And that in turn allows me to feel closer and more connected with the technology I use, allowing me to feel more comfortable and shape it into different things and the tasks I need it to do for me.
We understand each other. They communicate to me in very direct, easy to understand and easy to follow language that isn’t clouded by these arbitrary rules of body language and social interaction. And in turn they listen and do exactly what I tell them to do – even if I tell them to do the wrong thing. And they give me a window to communicate and interact with the rest of the world, in an environment that I can control and feel more comfortable existing in.
I have no idea how I would manage without them.