Danielle's Writings

Freedom in Private Thoughts

I've often said, and truly feel that I am blessed!  I have a great number of things to be very thankful for!  Let's face it, based on my condition at birth, and the predictions the doctors made for me back then, I probably shouldn't be able to understand language, let alone write this.  In my heart of hearts I truly feel like there's only one explanation for the reason that I have been able to come as far as I have, and accomplish what I have; God's grace.

Along the way, He has blessed me with so many wonderful and beautiful things.  For starters, my family, which besides me consists of one brother, one sister, and a loving mother.  My ability to speak, which I cherish beyond words!  Also, my ability to have and create my own thoughts, ideas, and opinions about the world around me.  With these two abilities alone, I have been able to do so much!  For instance, they have allowed me to discover many, many assistive technologies over the years.  All of these technologies, whether I'm using them today or not, have in some way, at some point in time, allowed me to live life as independently, and as fully as I do today.

Assistive technology can take on many different forms.  It can be hardware such as an Environmental Control Unit, more commonly referred to as an ECU.  An ECU allows people who have physical disabilities, and have difficulty operating a standard stereo remote for instance, to operate all of the functions on that remote with the touch of a single switch.  I have an ECU, and I don't know what I would do without it!  Come to think of it, I've only had mine since February of 2005, and looking back, I really don't know how I EVER survived without it!

Certain computer software can also be considered assistive technology as well.  Ever dreamed of being able to talk to your computer, and having your words appear on the screen?  There is a program that will transform what you say into written words.  It's called Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  Here's how it works: You spend about 20 minutes reading to the computer so it can get used to the way you talk.  After you're done reading, the program builds a vocabulary from everything it's heard, which takes about fifteen minutes.  Once your vocabulary is built, you're all set!  Open any word processing document, make sure your cursor is where you want to start typing, and talk away!  Anything that comes to mind that need or want to put on paper, go for it!  The sky is TRULY the limit in this case!  I've been using it for eleven years, and can tell you that it has saved me a huge amount of time over the years!  When I use a standard keyboard, I can only use my index finger on my left hand.  Running my mouth, on the other hand, isn't a problem!  It NEVER has been!

Now, don't get me wrong.  All of the assistive technology that I've ever used has had its drawbacks at some point.  None of it, be it hardware or software has ever come without some drawbacks.  Imagine, just for a moment that while you were writing down your most intimate and private thoughts everyone around you could hear them.  How do you feel when you think about that?  Does it bring to mind something to the effect ofthat would drive me insane...I could never do that?

Well, the reality of it is that if I want to be able to type as fast as I'm thinking, my best option is to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking because it can keep up with my thoughts.  One of the sacrifices that comes with using a program like Dragon is that unless I'm completely alone in my apartment, whoever is with me can, and probably will hear everything, whether I want them to or not.  Now granted, I could just wait until I was by myself, and most of the time I do.

There is one more big drawback to using a program like this.  I am a very spontaneous writer and thinker.  I'll have an idea for a journal entry or a piece of writing at two or three o'clock in the morning...long after I'm in bed.  When this happens, I really have no choice but to try to put it in my memory, and try to hang on to it until I can get back to my computer the next morning.  Sometimes that can be very difficult, and frustrating!

By now you're probably wondering if I've come up with any solutions to fix these drawbacks.  While there isn't a fix to the particular drawbacks of this program, I have come up with an alternative solution.  It's a solution that I know in my heart of hearts will solve both of the above drawbacks!  So what is this solution?  It's a switch activated tape recorder.

What is that, and how does it work?  Well, remember the description of how the ECU works?  The tape recorder works on the concept.  You can start and stop it with the touch of a switch.  Prior to finding this magic piece of equipment, as I now refer to it, using a tape recorder would have been out of the question.  I can't start and stop a regular tape recorder by myself.  That's the major idea here...independence!  Now it WILL be possible!

With that independence comes a secondary, yet somehow equally important piece of my life puzzle...freedom.  The freedom to say what I want without the constant thought of being watched or overheard.  The freedom to write where I want, when I want.  The freedom to, for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, be able say that I have private thoughts, and truly know it and believe it!  In my heart of hearts, I know that there truly is freedom in private thoughts.