User profile: HP Palmtop Helps Learning Disabled Student Remember Assignments and Bring Them Home

The combination of Appointment Book and NoteTaker helped this student with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) remember to write down her assignments and bring home materials needed to complete them.

By Jini Scammell-Tinling

My daughter, Heather, was diagnosed with two distinct disabilities when she was 9 years old (in between 3rd and 4th grade). The predominant problem is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It is characterized by extreme distractibility which usually translated to an inability to complete assigned tasks. For instance, Heather was assigned the task of setting and clearing the table for dinner each night. It was common for me to call her back to her tasks 5 and 6 times before it was completed. This was a burden on everyone, but most especially on Heathers self esteem.

In addition, testing revealed a hardwire problem of translating information in her brain to a written page. She had trouble manipulating a pen for text, but is a wonderful artist, and has exceptional verbal skills and deductive reasoning. Our physician informed us that writing the letter L is more difficult for the brain than striking the L of a typewriter. The physician therefore recommended that Heather learn to type.

Unfortunately, ADD is NOT recognized as a disability by our district. Fortunately, the grammar school Resource Specialist (the individual who works with kids with a variety of disabilities) did not share the administrations attitude regarding kids with ADD. At the close of each school day, the Resource Specialist would visit 3 or 4 students at their desks as the students prepared to leave school for the day. In Heathers case, that meant insuring Heather had the assignments written down, and the appropriate papers and books necessary to complete the tasks. This proved to be an excellent solution. Heather seldom left information or books at school that were needed for that nights homework.

Palmtop replaces Resource Specialist

Our district has junior highs for grades 7 through 9, and I knew that when Heather graduated to the 7th grade, we would lose the services of the Elementary School Resource Specialist. Over the summer between Heathers 6th and 7th grade, I began trying to think of ways to give Heather the same services.

When I decided to buy the new 200LX, I hit upon the idea of passing my 100LX on to Heather. The Appointment Book alarm function seemed ideal as a way to remind Heather of things she had to do, and NoteTaker could be used to take down homework assignments.

Heather and I discussed how it would be set up, and how things would be handled. The only potential concern was that we did not know how the Junior High School administration felt about a student bringing a personal computer to school. Fortunately, once we explained the purpose of the Palmtop to Heathers teachers and the administration, there were no objections. In fact, we received their whole-hearted endorsement of use of the HP 100LX.

Appointment Book an excellent reminder

As mentioned earlier, Heather needs to be reminded of tasks. Fortunately, the Appointment Book application on the Palmtop is an excellent reminder. Repeating appointments remind Heather to take her medication three times a day, at the right time. In addition, appointments remind Heather at the appropriate time to write down her homework assignments.

I have two appointments set for each class. The first goes off at the time the teacher normally gives homework assignments, displaying a message saying Write down homework assignments. This appointment can be at the beginning or end of the class, depending on the teacher. The second appointment goes off a minute later. This appointment runs a macro that opens a special NoteTaker file where Heather keeps her assignments. [For example, to set an appointment to run the Fn+F1 macro, press (F2) to add an appointment; key ||1 into the description field; set the Start Time; make sure the Alarm is Enabled and your Leadtime is set properly; and press (F10). (The | symbol in ||1 is the shifted value of the \ key, found next to (ESC) in the upper left of the keyboard.) For more information on this topic, see Appointments, running programs in the index of your HP 100/ 200LX Users Guide.]

Please see the sidebar on the previous page for a detailed description of the first macro and a complete list of all the macros we use.

Before the first class period each day, the Appointment Book ran the Quiet Alarm macro, which sets the appointment alarm sound to Chime. My objective was to minimize disruption of the class, and the Chime alarm is less obtrusive. The Loud Alarm macro sets the alarm back to Custom, which plays an alarm Heather created for her Palmtop.

NoteTaker Homework File: Graphic

 By the end of the day, Heather would have a single Notepad record with all her assignments on it. The final phase was running a macro that moved the contents of the NoteTaker Notes field to an Appointment Book ToDo item labeled HOMEWORK. We decided to do create a separate ToDo list so that Heather could check off assignments as she accomplished them and see what she had left to do.

Daily Assignments in Appt Book: Graphic

 The Fn+F7 macro described in the sidebar on this page opens to ToDo Notes field, goes to Note-Taker, uses a smart clip to copy the days assignments to the Palmtop clipboard, goes back to the ToDo Notes field and copies them there. Heather looks at the ToDo list at the end of the day for the days assignments, and assembles books, and other material she needs to bring home.

Refinements needed

 About a third of the way through the school year, Heather succumbed to a common problem among Palmtop users She started ignoring the appointment alarm. We quickly switched to a custom alarm I downloaded from the HP HANDHELD forum on CompuServe to give her a fresh new sound.

This met her needs admirably until the early spring, when her use of the 100LX began to diminish. Occasionally, shed leave her HP at home. After discussing things with her at great length (Moms a bit dense about these things) I discovered she simply wanted to put her own imprint on the process. Two changes were made as a result of our conversation.

First, Heather programmed her own custom alarm, the tune to Its a Small World. She was beaming after shed written and debugged it. It was the first computer program shed ever written.

The second change was a little more complex. Heather not only wanted to be able to see all the assignments of a given day, she also wanted to view assignments on a class-by-class basis. In other words, she wanted to be able to just look at the semesters music assignments, or math assignments, etc. The way we had things set up, this was not possible.

I set up a new NoteTaker file. Each record had the date in the Title field, as in the first file. However, this time I put the name of the class (English, Math, etc.) in the Category field. The Note field contained the assignment. Initially, I created a dummy record for each class, using April 1 as the date in the Title field. Then I set up a Subset named LIST, which displays entries with the date April 1 in the Title field. The LIST Subset displayed a simple list of the classes, with no assignments. (To create a Subset from the NoteTaker main screen, press (F6) (F2). For more on creating Subsets, see Subset in the index of your HP 100/200LX Users Guide.)

NoteTaker Refined Assignments File: Graphic

 I then created a series of Subsets, one for each of the classes. Each class Subset was defined to display NoteTaker entries for that class only. For example, the ENGLISH subset was defined to display only those entries with English in the Category field. The All Records and class Subsets were sorted first by the Category field (i.e. the class name) and then by the Title field (i.e., the date). This ensured that all the entries associated with a specific class were displayed together, the uppermost record being the most recent one.

Sample Macro Fn+F1: First class of the day

Creating a custom alarm for your Appointment Book