A tribute to the scribes who provided me writing assistance

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by Ari Anderson |

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I’ve written a lot about the support I’ve received from nurses and others. Although I always recognize the people in my life one way or another, I have yet to celebrate plenty of people, both medical professionals and nonmedical ones, through my columns. Everybody I know has gotten recognition in other ways.

So who were the people in my life who helped me with academics?

Throughout my educational journey, I was always the man with the plan. What I mean is, I answered test questions, crafted papers, and did homework with the exact words I wanted to use. While this was made a reality by my scribes, everything they wrote came from my head and mouth. In addition to the wording, I also decided where to place punctuation.

I was like a conductor orchestrating the input I gave them. I’m specifically thinking of two people I dictated my work to when I came home from school. They were both retired, so they were flexible with their time and visited my home several times a week.

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Watching me grow up

When I was in the fifth grade, I had a teacher who was very devoted to me, a sentiment I reciprocated. This teacher decided to retire at the end of that school year, but she and I weren’t ready to part ways. She was so committed to me that she became my scribe for eight years, from the sixth grade to the end of my first year in college. She was so patient when typing up my papers and making sure they were just the way I wanted them.

This person wasn’t just a former teacher and scribe, she was also a dear friend. She would give me gifts and attend events that celebrated special milestones in my life.

Seeing me for me

Another treasured scribe is someone I met when I started college. He was the best friend of my day nurse’s father.

Like the other scribe I mentioned, we spent a lot of time together and got to know each other well. One day, my nurse told me something very special. She heard my scribe say that he didn’t see me as somebody with physical challenges, just as a regular guy.

That brought me so much hope, because that’s all I ever want from people. I took it as a tremendous compliment. Simply getting to know me or anyone else with SMA can break all kinds of barriers. I never heard him say that he saw me as a regular guy, but that’s how he treated me.

About halfway through college, I got my first Tobii Eye Tracker, which allowed my eyes to type and be the composer of my thoughts without using someone else’s hands. I transitioned from using scribes to typing almost all of my work myself.

I must say that typing with my eyes has many advantages. It’s much faster than dictating. Although my scribes were as flexible as they could be with their time, doing things on my time is even more efficient. Plus, using the eye tracker boosted my self-esteem because it gave me a tremendous amount of independence.

I wish I had eye-tracker technology during my academic years, but I’m also glad I got to know my scribes and become friends with them. They were a big part of my journey in life. Part of who I am today stems from our friendships. Not only did they provide me with pleasant experiences, but they also richly showered me with generosity.

Sadly, I lost touch with both of these scribes over the years, and I know at least one of them has passed away. Yet I’ll never forget how they affected me during my younger years. Whenever I think of them, my heart smiles.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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