‘The chatbot has changed my life’

Image source, Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar

Image caption, Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar uses an AI chatbot to assist with her writing

  • Author, Elna Schutz
  • Role, Business reporter

While AI chatbots may be just an interesting novelty for many of us, they are proving to be transformative for some people.

Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar, from North Yorkshire, has dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

As a result of these circumstances, she would have difficulty with written assignments. Then AI came into her life.

“I was introduced to it a few years ago [popular AI chatbot] Jasper, and that changed my life,” said Ms. Shaheen-Zaffar, a certified psychotherapist. “It became my friend.”

She uses Jasper to help her clean up both the structure and spelling of her written work, which now even includes a recently published self-help book for people with neurodiversity.

That word is an umbrella term for conditions and disorders, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Tourette’s disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

London-based technology entrepreneur Alex Sergent says using AI helps with his OCD.

He uses the AI-powered transcription app Otter.ai to record and organize his meetings.

Mr. Sergent explains that while his extreme attention to detail and ritual has been a burden in the past, he “can feel comfortable delegating things. And for the most part, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately with AI.

The main reason people with psychiatric or psychological conditions are drawn to AI tools isn’t just convenience, according to Hayley Brackley, a coach and trainer who specializes in neurodiversity.

“I think one of the most important things is that there is no shame or stigma when you ask ChatGPT, or any other AI tool, to do something.”

For example, she explains that it is assumed that most people should be able to spell, which is especially difficult for someone with dyslexia.

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Ms Brackley, who herself has dyslexia, ADHD and autism, says AI chatbots allow her to “outsource my challenge without having to explain too much why [to another human]”.

She adds: “The point is, if there is a crutch to help you walk, and you have trouble walking, why not use a crutch? And so, if AI gives you a mechanism to make your work world easier, then there are a lot of arguments to say, ‘let’s use it’.”

Ms Brackley says that in her work with companies and their neurodiverse employees, some companies are more open to introducing assistive AI tools than others.

Still, she adds that if the AI ​​is available to the entire workforce, everyone will benefit. “What happens is we create something for a minority, but in the end it helps a majority without hurting anyone.”

Image source, Alex Sergeant

Image caption, Alex Sergent uses an app to transcribe what was said in meetings

While many of the tools now used by the neurodiverse community are mainstream AI products, some offerings are made specifically for it, such as a website and app called Goblin Tools.

Powered by ChatGPT, users can do everything from create to-do lists, make their written sentences more formal, check if they’re misinterpreting the tone of someone’s email, get an estimate of how long something will take, and even get cooking tips. about how to turn a set of ingredients into a meal.

Goblin Tools was built by Belgian software engineer Bram De Buyser, who says it’s a kind of ode to his neurodivergent friends.

“My friends have certain problems and needs, so I thought maybe I could build something that would, if not help them completely, at least alleviate some of that struggle.”

Mr De Buyser says that their website now has 500,000 users per month. It is free to use, while you have to pay to download the app versions.

Image caption, The InnerVoice app is intended to help children with autism

There are also AI chatbots created specifically for children with neurodiversity, such as InnerVoice, an app created by Californian tech company iTherapy.

Aimed at children with autism, parents can help their son or daughter animate an object or person from the child’s life, such as a favorite toy or pet. This then becomes a talking avatar on a phone or computer screen.

Matthew Guggemos, co-founder of iTherapy, says that autistic children can often interact more with computers than with the so-called real world around them. He adds that he only sees AI being used more and more to help the neurodivergent population.

“I think AI can give neurodivergent people some extra tools and help them communicate with less effort when they need to,” he says.

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