Category Archives: Apps

Pain and Anxiety Relief With Mindfulness and AT


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Drawing of a man and a dog with thought bubbles. The man's bubbled is cluttered while the dog's has only trees. Caption reads

There is often an inside joke among people that have Cerebral Palsy (CP) related to how often we get told by those in the medical profession to “just relax”.  It’s funny, because, with CP of the spastic type, it is very difficult, if not impossible to get you muscles to relax especially if you’re trying or anticipating something painful.  Personally, being cold, anxious, tired, excited, or even having a thought can make every muscle in my body tighten.  There is a definite mind body connection when it comes to CP.  This is why, when learning about techniques to help with anxiety, insomnia, and shame resilience, I’ve had a hard time understanding exactly how to be mindful.  Mindfulness involves intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment, feeling relaxed, and accepting all of your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement.  How do I stay in the present, remain relaxed, and accept my thoughts?   That’s like the doctor telling me to relax before they poke me with a needle!

Yet, I decided to give mindfulness another try when my doctor recommended it as we were discussing the pain in my neck and shoulders from spasticity (I tend to pull my shoulders to my ears, especially at night).   After researching apps, books, cd’s and websites (there are many to choose from) I decided to try an app called HeadSpace (also a website), aimed at beginners, that takes you through a 10 minute mindfulness exercise for 10 days.  These exercises are free, but you can also get additional content with a paid subscription.  The app is easy to use and provides funny animation tutorials before the exercise.  The exercises themselves are easy to understand, and make a point to discourage efforting to make yourself relax.  That’s when it hit me – I was trying too hard to make myself relax instead of letting it happen naturally.

Index finger tracing the hand.Mindfulness is still not easy for me, it involves practice.  I can say that I am starting to get it, feel more relaxed, and even fell asleep one night during an exercise!  I’ve had to modify things a bit to help me stay in the present moment.  For example, I trace my fingers as I breathe in and out as a sensory reminder.  Other people have used tapping or hugging themselves as a way to enhance their mindfulness.  Assistive technology like weighted blankets, adult coloring books or objects like a smooth rock, candle, soft fabric, beads, or a bracelet work for other people.  My colleague, Aimee, has blogged extensively on alternatives to medication for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and relaxation. Check out:

Mindfulness doesn’t require you to sit with your legs crossed, burn incense, or say “ohm”.  You don’t even necessarily have to have your eyes closed. It just requires intention and practice and there is really no wrong way to do it.

What relaxation or pain relief techniques do you use?


Assistive Technology for Infertility


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Program Staff

My husband and I have been on an infertility journey for 8 years. Part of that time in the middle we gave up for awhile and told everyone we didn’t want kids and loved our life as it was. Then, when speaking to an OB/GYN about options for a hysterectomy to treat a condition I have, the OB/GYN said, “If you go through with this hysterectomy, which is warranted in your case, you give up permanently on trying to have children yourself.” That’s when I burst into tears and realized that I had been telling everyone that I didn’t want to have kids because of past failure and fear and trying to put away what is and was a deep desire.

There have been many steps on our fertility journey. There are many causes for infertility—physical, physiological, and for me also emotional/trauma related. I have friends who are also on this journey and their path has been different. I’d like to share a couple items of AT and support to consider if you, too are on this journey.

One of my disabilities is polycystic ovarian syndrome. For me, this means that I sometimes don’t ovulate and when I do ovulate, its at a time different than what most charts or doctors would predict for someone without PCOS. A piece of AT for me is lutenizing hormone testing strips I buy in bulk from I also used the books Taking Charge of Your Fertility and the conception section of Expecting Better to understand how to look for signs and symptoms of ovulation including using the test strips. I wish someone had told me about these resources 8 years ago—you have to have intercourse at the right time to even have a possibility of conception and we were doing it wrong. Do yourself a favor and figure these things out for yourself. Also, once you are using the signs of ovulation and the testing strips, get an app like Kindara and track your cycle so you can start to map best bets for timing intercourse for conception.

Another of my disabilities has resulted in a blocked fallopian tube and an “arcuate” uterus. There’s really no AT to help with fertility for these conditions, but the fertility center I go to does monthly ultrasounds to see which side I’m ovulating on so I know not to get my hopes up if it is the blocked side.

I have had two quite traumatic miscarriages in the last two years. One of them I’m pretty sure could have been prevented with access to a good OB/GYN—no one wants to see you until you are 12 weeks along but I had bad infection that made me very sick starting with week 5 and started hemorrhaging in week 6. I really believe earlier intervention with the infection and better support would have prevented the miscarriage. The baby continued to grow and the heartbeat was very strong for weeks. Until it wasn’t. There isn’t any AT to help with this but there is a hint I’d like to share—establish a relationship with an OB now, before you’re pregnant, so immediately upon becoming pregnant, they’ll see you.

I have PTSD in part because of the trauma of the miscarriages, but they really were the end of a series of traumas involving the medical community that started with sexual abuse by my pediatrician. The PTSD app and calming, meditative, mindfulness apps and other practices I’ve developed are absolutely necessary in my fertility journey. Even without the history of trauma; infertility, they say, is as stressful on a couple as a cancer diagnosis and dramatically increases divorce rates (as does miscarriage). So, find practices, apps, and people that help you cope with stress.

Also not AT, but if you have a history of trauma, check with your local domestic violence and sexual assault center to see if they have OB/GYNs they recommend. The OB/GYN I have now was recommended by a local YWCA sexual abuse counselor. This OB/GYN has been way more supportive than the OBs I managed to see with my first miscarriage. I also have it written on my chart at my OB/GYNs that I do not see male practitioners. While previous offices said, in emergencies, I had to see whoever was on call (and it was always a male practitioner when I had emergencies and I was unable to let him touch me), my new office has assured me that they will find a way for a female practitioner to treat me whenever I need it. I was not joking when I told them I would rather see a female podiatrist for an obstetric or gynecological emergency than a male OB/GYN—and they listened.

Because of trauma, fatigue, or physical disability, the physical act of intercourse can sometimes just not work. The added stress of knowing you are ovulating can also impact the you or your partner’s ability to have conventional intercourse. There are other options and I would consider them AT. Google at-home insemination and inform yourself about these options. Sterile syringes, the Instead cup, even sterile, disposable speculums are available on Be sure to do your homework though. Before I knew better, I assumed we could figure out a way to do an intrauterine insemination at home and save ourselves the money for that procedure at the fertility clinic (that ran us about $700 including meds). You can do yourself great harm if you are trying to put anything into or through your cervix. Consult a doctor, read up, and be careful. I’ll repeat this again, at home insemination yourself should only ever include getting sperm near your cervix, not in or through it.

Because of my history of abuse by my male pediatrician, I did not seek help at our local fertility center until they hired a woman fertility specialist. That left us trying our own with minimal support from general OB/GYNs for a long time that we could have had more advanced support. So, FYI, until you get to IVF, female nurses in the practice are the only people touching you. There was no initial physical exam because I had already seen my regular OB/GYN for that part and she did my HSG test which showed my blocked tube. For our tries at insemination in the office, nurses that I chose performed the procedure. Also, now that we are heading into IVF, I have the option of being completely sedated for the egg retrieval procedure so even if a male doctor performs the surgery, I will not be awake/aware of it. I am scheduling with the female fertility doctor for the embryo transfer. So—this part is not really AT, but know that there are options if you prefer a female provider. Also, I’m pretty stressed out about this whole process so yoga, meditation apps, and my PTSD app are coming in handy. I am developing a written plan for my care during the IVF procedure that includes who can be in the room and what they need to wait to do until I am fully sedated.

It looks like a lot of people participate in online support communities for fertility. I haven’t gotten into them as there often seems to be a lot of misinformation, but a friend found them to be very helpful during her IVF process so that is something to consider as well.

So, do some reading (I also recommend  the book Making Babies), get informed, and access AT if you, too are on a fertility journey.


Have you struggled with infertility too? What things helped you? What things didn’t?


Expanding Subjective Experience Through Assistive Technology


By Norman G. DeLisle, MATP Staff Member

Old fashioned 3D Viewer with old photosWhen I began working with persons who had severe brain damage and their families in the early 70’s, there were no publicly funded rehabilitation supports outside of institutions. This included wheelchairs, accessible public transportation, or vehicles that could be easily converted for transportation of adults with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The lack of supports meant, among other things, that the personal experience of persons with TBI was impoverished because there were no tools for inclusion in the larger community. While this narrowing of personal experience was a vast improvement over what was available in any state institution, it nonetheless constricted the world, the learning, and the social relationships of the person with TBI.

There was no simple solution to this problem. We used sensory enhancement experiences to partially compensate. We would play tapes of normal household activities in the room of the person, timing them as they would occur in a typical home; we would use sharp and varied smells and tastes at normal meal times regardless of what the person could eat; we would play music through headphones; and, to the extent possible, we supported movement and travel.

As most of you are aware, there is a large and active initiative across many technology arenas to develop virtual reality experience systems, applications that can use the hardware and software, and various add-ons focused on specific kinds of experiences. I saw a recent article about a cutting edge project to include tastes and smells in the Virtual Reality (VR) universe of possibilities. In turn, this got me thinking about the greater effectiveness of 3-D experience in all the senses and motions when you compare it with the passive nature of images and text on the internet.

In particular, I think there may be an opportunity to enhance the depth and personalization of experiences for all persons with disabilities in the same way that such depth and personalization is expected by VR enthusiasts without disabilities. Learning in particular is more effective when as full a realization of reality as possible is available for the actions involved in that learning.

Obviously, VR has to be made accessible for all who want to use it. This goes beyond the immediately obvious use of multiple avenues of input and output. After all, reality is a richer framework of possibilities than text or images. Though fairly primitive, Second Life has shown that it is possible to accommodate people with disabilities to expand and enrich the experience of its VR platform. Hardware development and basic software development is the current focus of VR development, with the power of computers being the weakest link in the development of useful VR. Accessibility in VR will also require powerful computers and their availability to the general public.

But, when those core pieces have become “reality”, it will be time to think about, and create, pathways to supporting everyone in our community, including people with IDD, in making and using the possibilities of VR.

  • The World’s First Eye Tracking Virtual Reality Headset
  • VR tour of Buckingham Palace accessible on YouTube (using cardboard and your smartphone)
  • W3C: VR Technologies and Accessibility



This entry was posted in Android, Apps, Cognitive, Innovation, Mobile and tagged 3D, TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury, virtual reality on by Norm DeLisle.

Talking to Alexa, the Amazon Echo


By MATP Staff Member Catherine McAdam

When Kathryn wrote about the Amazon Echo a few months ago: Getting to Know Alexa: Amazon Echo, I was interested in trying it. I was still hesitant to buy it though, as I’ve found Amazon’s history with accessibility to be quite mixed. (See this article about the Kindle.)  But then I listened to the Tek Talk Review for blind users and was enchanted!

Tek Talk Features Chris Grabowski, The Amazon Echo, What it is and how can I use it? Hosted on Amazon EchoMonday, October 26, 2015

So of course, I now own this gadget. I was able to set it up independently using a my computer. There is a tablet/smart phone app too, but the computer app* seems the most accessible.   I suspect this is mainly my own comfort level.

The question of whether this is assistive technology is interesting. This is a mainstream item. However, it was assistive to me. Even to find and play music by particular artist is much easier than going through my CD’s even though many are labeled in Braille.  For many who have recently lost vision this is going to be a joy. The to do list and shopping list also show up on the computer or tablet/smart phone apps for review offering alternative options for “reading” of this information.

I’m sure it won’t be too much a surprise to find out how easy ordering items from Amazon is, but I do have to give Amazon credit for making this so accessible. Included is a set-up called “skills”. Most of these are games and they do work well. If you like trivia and word games then the skills are fun to explore.

If you need a dictionary and spelling of a word you can just ask. For those who have difficulty looking up phone numbers this can be done through a voicing search feature. You should be aware that because you are using speech to text, it’s not perfect; it will still take practice and patience.

I do know many of the tasks outlined here can be done with a mobile device and apps. I’m not as good with my mobile device as many of my friends and this is a much simpler interface. I think for many seniors with low vision who are not computer users this may be a good option. So, many may find this redundant, but for others with low vision or mobility issues it may be a better option.

*Note: The computer app function to add music from your personal MP3 files is completely inaccessible!

We’d like to hear from you!  I’d be interested in knowing if there is a competitive stand alone device.  And, let us know if you’ve tried the environmental controls for lights and other switches!