Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coming full circle with A.D.D: Highlighting hope for Learning Disability Awareness month

How one man's experience with A.D.D. became a resource for others.

By Bennett Purser

With the roar of saw blades and welding torches, the Assistive Technology Lab at the UATP is rarely a quiet place. As steel sparks and sawdust fill the air, the team of builders are busy creating custom devices, helping people to live, learn and cope in unimaginable ways. 

Clay Christensen, coordinator of the UATP AT Lab
Clay Christensen, coordinator of the
Assistive Technology Lab for the UATP
With the guidance of Clay Christensen, the AT Lab’s coordinator, the lab also provides high-tech computer equipment for people who experience learning disabilities from Autism, Dyslexia or Attention Deficit Disorder. 

As October is National Learning Disability Awareness Month, Christensen has been busy providing new software and creating custom devices. But, he’s also taken time to reflect on his own personal experience with learning disabilities.

Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at a young age, he remembers having trouble focusing, especially during lessons. He knew there was a lot for him to learn, back when assistive technology wasn’t as accessible.  

He also remembers being the only student in his college classes who used a recording device during the lecture, a device then that was big and noticeable.

“It was awkward, it was a little bit embarrassing,” he said. “I would sit down in class and set out this recorder on top of the desk and people would look at me like ‘Why does he need that?’”

But using that recorder and tools that were available at the time were what helped him to learn efficient study habits, which led to earning his degree in psychology from Utah State University. An achievement he accomplished with hard work and the help of assistive technology.

LiveScribe Smart Pen
A LiveScribe Smart Pen, programmed
to digitally record notes easily
uploaded to a computer.
Today, as assistance is much more accessible with iPads and computers, when students come to the lab, he introduces them to smart pens, iPads and apps, and all the computer software for their specific needs, serving as a resource for students and community members who also find themselves battling with a learning disability. 

“Sometimes I see the look of discouragement on their face, because they’re struggling,” Christensen said. “It’s been interesting for me to come full circle and say ‘I know how you feel, let me show you some things and share my experience with you, what I did to overcome this.’”

Reflecting on his younger self, he said he’s always had an interest in human behavior. Working now with persons with disabilities, the connection of the mind and the body through disabilities, has been fascinating. When he first became part of the UATP, he recalls feeling like he was introduced to a “new world” when he met the community of people with disabilities.

Christiensen modifying a walking device
Christensen modifying a
walking device in the AT Lab 
“Until you work with this population, this group of wonderful people, you don't know what it is they’re going through or what it’s like to be in their shoes. I just fell in love with it almost instantly.”


  1. I have a son with adhd and comprehension issues do you know of some good apps or tools to help him .

  2. Hi Dawn, I've got a few different things on UATP's Pinterest board ADHD that may be of help: as well as the learning disability board