ADHD and me

photo of blake taylor Blake E.S. Taylor

I juggled ADHD along with my math and chemistry equations in sc hool. Then I discovered that a t ablet PC, coupled with Microsoft OneNote, was the answer to my organizational nightmare.

Note-taking emergency

I sat in my 11th grade calculus class and wondered how I would cope with all the equations. My teacher was quickly writing on the board and naming the concepts. I frantically copied down the calculations with a mechanical pencil but ran out of lead and had to replace it. Later, as I erased some of the numbers, the pencil smudged on my notebook paper. I suddenly realized that my tried and true note-taking routines, for dealing with my ADHD, with associated trait of disorganization, weren’t working as well as they used to. It’s not that I found the math much harder than the pre-calculus or analytical geometry, but the pace was quicker, there were many more calculations, they were a lot more complex, and there was more room for error. This spells disaster for anyone with ADHD. Just one calculus problem, in fact, could take several pages to solve, and my repeated erasures and the resulting smudges were making the problem – and its solution – impossible to decipher. My old system clearly wasn’t working, and I had to find a new way to get organized, and quickly.

ADHD, briefly

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurological condition. Characterized by distractibility and disorganization (and, in many cases, hyperactivity), ADHD affects over four million young people and about three times as many adults in the United States. Once diagnosed, learning how to create and implement structure at home and at school or work, is the biggest hurdle facing people with ADHD, regardless of intelligence or drive.

Tablet PC to the rescue

The following day, I noticed a classmate sitting in front of me actually writing his notes on the screen of his laptop computer! Who would have ever thought that possible? Using a laptop as a true notebook! Turns out, he was taking notes with a tablet PC.

I watched closely, and a little skeptically. What was the accuracy of the tablet’s pen-detecting capabilities on the screen? I was afraid that it would be like the grocery store credit card where your signature ends up looking like slash marks on a screen. But the clarity on this tablet was fine and accurate.

I gathered up my allowance money and rushed out to buy a tablet PC and, as my classmate had advised, loaded it with OneNote. I couldn’t believe how it mimicked the natural style of writing on a piece of paper. It was that easy. And furthermore, I could use the highlighter to mark my notes in different colors and thickness. No more erase marks. No more smudges. No more failing mechanical pencils. Suddenly, I could take my calculus notes, file and organize them. It worked especially well for my biology and chemistry classes, with their diagrams of molecules and long chemical reaction equations. And I could just print all my notes out after I was finished. Now it didn’t matter how cruel the calculations were, I could write an infinite number of digital pages, and could always go back, edit, highlight, and cut and paste with no problem.

And so, with the help of OneNote on a tablet PC, I was able to counter my main problem with ADHD – note-taking – and become what I thought I could be: super-organized.

Oh, and I got an A in calculus!

About the author

At 19, Blake E.S. Taylor, a UC Berkeley sophomore, was the youngest person to publish a book about living with ADHD. Check out his memoir ADHD & Me – what I learned from lighting fires at the dinner table (New Harbinger Publications, 2008). Blake's website is

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