Feeling sick …

I’ve not been too well the past few days. Been to the doctor and back. Nothing serious, just the annoying stuffed head, nose and scratchy throat. I suppose it happens once in a while and can be chalked up to not enough sleep and possibly too much exercising.

The one upside of course is practicing talking to total strangers (the doctors/nurses/check-in desk people). I’ve been able to stay pretty calm and collected and fluent. Although I have stuttered when the questions start going on and on (and of course my phone number). I also keep on forgetting to collect my thoughts before opening my mouth. And they’re simple questions! What’s the problem today? Well, my head is all stuffed up, my nose is runny, my throat is scratchy. And yet somehow I bumble through it.

I also had the follow up with my MRI. I was able to ask the doctor a bunch of things I already had pretty good answers too — stuttered a little here and there, but at least I got to practice. And overcome my fear of talking and asking things to somewhat-strangers.

I’ve got some Botox injections slated for this evening. At least it’ll make this annoying eye twitching go away. Lately it’s not only been a discomfort, but as the muscles get tired, it’s a little painful by the end of the day.

I have written out a list for the next few weeks of posts — don’t worry about that. I think the first thing will have to be another link roundup. I’ve been seeing some really good things on Twitter lately.

Stuttering and the Robot Invasion

I mentionned this bit of news yesterday on Twitter:


It’s happening. Slowly the robots are taking over. We’re headed for that Terminator-like future.

But seriously, there’s a lot of automation going on these days.

I talked before about how technology helps those of us who stutter. And using it to sidestep a day of human interaction.

Today though I wanted to talk about the other side of it — when those of us who stutter may have to interact with the robots — with few other options.

Take this Lowe’s robot for instance. I’ll admit it’s pretty cool. On a good day I’d love to interact with this thing. But I’m like you — I spend an hour walking up and down the aisles of the Big Box just to avoid asking someone where something is. I can find it myself! But you can’t do that with kids (I seem to say this a lot) — because they’ll keep bothering you about asking someone for help. Or they’ll have to go to the bathroom. In which case you’ll at least go to a part of the store you haven’t been to before.

Actually, now that I think about it, kids are the answer, aren’t they? Why do I have to talk to the robot once it accosts me in the store? Why not have the kids do it? And while they’re being distracted by Shiny and New, I’ll sneak off and look at faucets.

The robots in the Big Box stores do make sense. And where else can they go? What about the Big Box Bookstore? I wonder if they only do voice recognition, or if you can just start pushing its touchscreen. So you could search a book on it, and then have it take you to the book. (I’d of course never do this because the point of going to a bookstore is to wander around aimlessly).

At the airport? For check-in? I don’t see why not. It’d scan your documents, scan your face, and then take your luggage. I suppose you could get around telling it where you need to go because it’d already know. But what about answering questions like other passengers traveling with you, or about paying extra fees? Or if you wanted to change your ticket at the counter? I once showed up at the Detroit airport to find out that my flight to Baltimore was cancelled. I sought out a sympathetic Delta employee who got me rerouted. I could sort of do that on my own terms — find an agent who was by themself, away from a large crowd, no line. So take a deep breath, stick out your boarding card, and start talking. But what about doing something like that to an automated system? With a line of people behind you? In a noisy airport?

At a hotel? Either for check-in or carrying your bags up to your room. You could be searching through your bag for a paper when the robot tells you what time breakfast is. You miss it. Can you go to a screen to get the information again, or would you have to ask it to repeat itself?

If you go to the doctor’s office, a robot could conceivably take your vitals (stick you arm in this …) and then ask you what’s wrong. Transcribe that and send it to the doctor’s tablet computer. (Which of course would be funny/horrifying the first time. You start stuttering, and it prints out directions to the nearest SLP.) That’s assuming of course it wouldn’t insult you by asking you if you’re having a stroke …

There’s so much opportunity out there for a lot of things to be automated. My concern would be whether they are looking out for people with disabilities or not. I mean, just talking to an automated phone system is stressful enough. I hate being in a room with people while on the phone with a computer and saying things like, “YES … NO … BILLING INFORMATION … DISPUTE BILL …”

(I don’t know about you, but once that crap starts, I just start pushing 0 over and over again until a human comes on. Usually works.)

I think what anybody who stuters really wants to know about this Lowe’s robot — and any other “helper” robot is this — can I just text it what I want?

Stuttering with the Doctor

One of the things I’d like to do with this blog is to educate fluent people what specific interactions are like for those of us who stutter. I’ve outlined a few of these already when I talk about what I’ve been stuttering on. So here’s another one — related to the doctor’s office.

I read this article regarding doctors and the current state of health care here in the US. I just want to focus on the bits relevant to stuttering.

I think most of us know that a visit to the doctor’s office is full of a lot of waiting punctuated by a quick conversation with the doctor. I’m not even sure you can call it a conversation at times. More like an interrogation, a pause, and then a diagnosis followed up quickly by a good bye and then wondering how to get through the maze of offices back out to the reception area.

The demoralized insiders-turned-authors are blunt about their daily reality. The biggest problem is time: the system ensures that doctors don’t have enough of it. To rein in costs, insurance companies have set fees lower and lower. And because doctors tend to get reimbursed at higher rates when they are in a network (hospitals and large physician groups have more leverage with insurance companies), many work for groups that require them to cram in a set number of patients a day. Hence the eight-minute appointments we’re all familiar with.

Ah yes, the quick appointments. They are intimidating to me as well. I feel like if I start asking the doctor about some other types of medications, other problems I’m having or whatever-else, it’s wasting their time. So I don’t. I also give quick, short answers because I don’t want to stutter. I think in some cases it’s all on the doctor how I’m going to talk … or not. They can easily come off as being rushed, being more important, or being distracted. All of this adds up to a less-than-optimal visit.

I guess my problem is that because of technology, I don’t see the point (and thus justify) in asking the doctor a lot of questions about whatever ailment I have. I can just go home and look it up.

So what can I do? I want to be able to talk, to engage. To get my eight minutes’ worth!

Here’s what I’m thinking. What about advertising my stutter to the nurse who takes my vitals and asks me what’s wrong in the first place? They might put it on the chart for the doctor to read. I’m usually more relaxed for the nurse anyway — more time, less tension … they wear bright happy, colors. I don’t know. It’s just easier to talk to them.

Yes, I could certainly just advertise to the doctor anyway, but that might not go well considering the aforementionned intimidation and perceived time constraints. At least this way if the doctor reads it, he might even ask about it. Or understand that it’s hard for me to talk — so no, I don’t need pills for anxiety or anything like that.

Maybe what else I can do is prepare a short list of questions so I don’t forget to ask something.

This of course is all for back home in the States. Here in Saudi it’s a whole other ball of stress because of the language. None of the doctors at our local hospita/clinic are native English speakers. And they’re not used to any kind of stuttering anyway. I’m not even sure advertising would do me any good. I also don’t have a doctor who I see all time because I go so infrequently.

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