Technology helps students pay attention

By: Lucinda Sutherland
BizTech Writer

Posted: 4/19/07

What is it going to take to get you to pay attention and get things done on time?

A few basic tools can go a long way to helping you get organized whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with one of the forms of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Calendars and alarms or timers are where most of us start, but what kind will work for you?

Can you set an alarm to remind you to write a paper or contact your adviser?

A hand held computer or PDA can work as an alarm that reminds you why you set it.

Audrey Malone, 20, a sophomore communications major at Boise State uses the Palm Pilot Zire 72S.

“My Palm Pilot has a calendar with an alarm function that I use to keep on track. It comes with voice memo recording, MP3 player, picture taking, video taking and word processing. I can beam notes, memos and programs to other Palm Pilots. It also has Bluetooth,” Malone said, “but I don’t have anything else that’s Bluetooth compatible, so I don’t use it.”

Malone’s Palm Pilot makes it possible for her to color-code her schedule, a technique which is highly recommended by BSU Professor of Special Education Jack Hourcade. 

“The basic principle in identifying and implementing assistive technology is to first consider the unique challenges associated with that specific disability. For people with ADHD, those challenges primarily revolve around such issues as organization and attending to critical ideas and details,” Hourcade explained.

“AT that would be most useful in helping with these kinds of tasks would probably target those kinds of needs, schedules and/or day planners showing what is supposed to happen at different times during the day. Palm Pilots are also useful, as are spelling and grammar checkers on computers.”

Hourcade went on to describe other AT he has recommended since he began working with people with disabilities in the mid-1970s.

“Ear muffs, ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones are good tools for those individuals easily distracted by sounds. Software such as ‘Inspiration’ is used for outlining and organizing ideas to be written up or presented,” Hourcade said.

“WatchMinder is an AT watch used by individuals who need reminders and training for self-monitoring behaviors, medications and staying focused on chores or schoolwork. 

The watch vibrates and will scroll a message to keep the user on track.

The messages have to be selected from those pre-programmed into the watch and can be scheduled to activate the alarm every 15 minutes,” Hourcade said.

The value of a vibrating alarm is obvious to many, whose watches or timers get crammed into purses or pockets where the buttons get pushed and alarms going off when they aren’t supposed to.

For those who struggle with remembering to turn alarms off, this may not be an ideal option.

While a PDA is on many wish lists, ear alarms are an inexpensive option often liked because they are small, designed to be fairly quiet and are easy to set and stop.

Ear-fitted timers and alarms range in price from the W.R.
Rayson alarm, which sells for $4.99 at Sally Beauty Supply, to the spoon-shaped Earlarm designed in Korea and selling online for $14.99.

“Check things out and use what works for you,” Brad Levitt, an area psychologist who evaluates suspected ADD/ADHD students and adults, said.

“A cell phone and camera that can be used for reading e-mail and scheduling your day is great for many people. But some of my clients have trouble keeping track of their possessions. For them I advise a separate phone and PDA so if they lose one tool they haven’t lost everything,” Levitt said.

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