Elna Schutz,Business reporter

Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar Yasmin Shaheen-ZaffarYasmin Shaheen-Zaffar

Yasmin Shaheen-Zaffar uses an AI chatbot to help with her writing

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

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

As a result of these conditions, she would struggle with written assignments. Then AI came into her life.

“It was a few years ago that I was introduced to [popular AI chatbot] Jasper, and that transformed my life,” says Ms Shaheen-Zaffar, who is a qualified psychotherapist. “It became my friend.”

She uses Jasper to help her tidy 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, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

London-based tech entrepreneur Alex Sergent says that utilising AI helps with his OCD.

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

Mr Sergent explains that even though his extreme attention to detail and ritual has been a burden in the past, he “can feel comfortable delegating things. And largely I’ve been doing that a lot with AI recently.”

The main reason people with psychiatric or psychological conditions may be gravitating towards AI tools is not just the ease, according to Hayley Brackley, a neurodiversity specialist coach and trainer.

“I think one of the massive things is there’s no shame or stigma in asking ChatGPT, or any other AI tool, to do something.”

For instance, she explains that there is an assumption that most people should know how to spell, which is particularly difficult for someone with dyslexia.

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

She adds: “The thing is, if a crutch is there to help you walk, and you have difficulty walking, why would you not use a crutch? And so, if AI provides you with a mechanism in which to make your working world easier, then there’s a lot of argument to say ‘let’s use it’.”

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

Yet she adds that if the AI is available to the entire workforce then everyone benefits from it. “What happens is that we put something in place for a minority, but then it ends up helping a majority without disadvantaging anyone.”

Alex Sergent Alex SergentAlex Sergent

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

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

Powered by ChatGPT, users can do everything from creating to-do lists, making their written sentences more formal, checking whether they are misreading the tone of someone’s email, getting an estimation for how long something is going to take, and even getting cooking tips on how to turn a set of ingredients into a meal.

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

“My friends have certain struggles and needs, so I thought that maybe I could build something that will – if not completely help them – at least alleviate a little bit of that struggle.”

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

iTherapy A child using the InnerVoice appiTherapy

The InnerVoice app is aimed at helping children with autism

AI chatbots have also been created specifically for children with neurodiversity, such as InnerVoice, an app made by Californian tech firm 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 favourite 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 are often able to engage more with computers than the so-called real world around them. He adds that he sees AI only being increasingly used to help the neurodivergent.

“I feel AI can give neurodivergent people some extra tools, and help them communicate with less effort if necessary,” he says.



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