Category Archives: Mood

AT for Early Pregnancy


By Aimee Sterk, MATP, LMSW

Today I’m 13 weeks pregnant. It took a lot to get here including two drawn out, awful miscarriages and IVF. This is by far my “easiest” pregnancy to date, but along the way I’ve gathered some AT and resources that have helped me get through this pregnancy and my other two.

SeabandsFour raised hands with seabands on the wrist with the plastic dots in the palm side of the wrist crease

Seabands are motion sickness bracelets that also help with pregnancy nausea. They have hard
plastic bumps that are placed so they press on an acupressure point that helps with nausea and sea sickness. They are available at your local drug store.

Facebook Groups

I have mental health disabilities including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. That combined with the “normal” anxiety of pregnancy and my two previous losses resulted in some significant anxiety early in my pregnancy. In addition to therapy and medications, I found great online support from groups including the Facebook groups: Pregnancy After Loss and the IUI & IVF Pregnancy Support Group. These groups offer strength, support, and shared stories. I found them especially helpful for middle of the night anxiety—because people are on from around the world, I would get responses to questions and requests almost immediately at any time of the day or night. There are many other pregnancy support groups on Facebook as well, depending on your situation. I also found The Disabled Parenting Project Facebook page to be helpful and reduce internalized ableism about parenting with a disability.

Timer Apps

This pregnancy, I have been especially tired the first trimester. Early on, I needed two naps a day. To keep up with my work and maintain my job, I needed to make sure my naps didn’t go overboard so I used timers on my smartphone to wake me to get back to work.

Mood Apps

I experienced Prenatal depression with my first and second pregnancy. Mood tracking apps would have been useful to try to notice when it was starting to get bad. An ill-informed OB nurse told me to quit taking my antidepressant during my first pregnancy which spun me into a deep deep depression that only worsened after my miscarriage. Had I been tracking my mood, it may have prevented such awful consequences. I recommend T2 Mood Tracker and PTSD Coach. I am using PTSD coach this pregnancy to track symptoms.

Pregnancy PillowsA pregnant woman sleeping with the C shaped Snoggle pillow by Leachco. Several positions are shown including the pillow alone and the woman with the pillow wrapped in front of her and behind her. The top of the c is under her head and the bottom between her legs. The middle either supports the belly or the back.

I have chronic upper back pain and am starting to have lower back pain related to pregnancy. Pregnancy pillows have already been very helpful for me for sleeping more comfortably. They wrap around your body supporting your neck, back, belly, and then slip between your knees to support your low back. Boppy makes a pregnancy pillow as does Leachco and several other companies. I have the Leachco and so far it is working well for me. I have ordered a wedge pillow to put under my head and upper back to help with heartburn and sleep apnea symptoms.

Have you been pregnant with a disability (disabilities)? What AT worked for you?


Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and AT Resources and Webinars


Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

MDRC staff members have been working on a multi-year collaborative grant from the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice. Through that work, all of our staff has become more familiar with the services and supports available from the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support community. People with disabilities experience sexual assault and domestic violence at a higher rate than the general population and these violations can also lead to disability.

How does this all relate to assistive technology (AT)?

In a variety of ways:

  1. Perpetrators may withhold people with disabilities’ access to assistive technology they need as a means of control.
  2. Perpetrators may monitor conversations of people with disabilities, especially people who are Deaf and use communication devices. This is another means of control.
  3. Many shelters are not accessible and need to develop ways to help people with disabilities access AT when they flee a situation.
  4. Sexual Assault and domestic violence program staff may not be aware or capable of assisting people with disabilities who have intellectual, processing, or communication disabilities due to their own lack of knowledge and skills. Access to assistive technology can help.
  5. Apps for PTSD can be useful to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. For example, I am a sexual abuse survivor and use T2 Mood Tracker to monitor my symptoms, Gratitude! for mindfulness and PTSD Coach.
  6. There are apps and devices for safety like Circle of 6 which lets you send out messages to your friends like “come get me” and gives your GPS location. Circle of 6 also can connect you to resources. There is also Cuff, a jewelry-device that in addition to tracking your steps and location, can be used to call for help.
  7. Survivors who are Deaf and hard of hearing need to know their rights and the systems of help available. Some communication and relay systems keep transcripts of conversations automatically unless the user specifically requests that they don’t. Perpetrators have also impersonated Deaf survivors through electronic communication methods so shelters and survivors may want to develop codes phrases.

Do you know about domestic violence and sexual assault services in your community? Are they accessible? Have they done an accessibility audit? Are they welcoming and able to serve people with all types of disabilities?

A series of webinars on disability and domestic violence/sexual assault is coming up. Put on by VERA Institute of Justice Center on Victimization and Safety, these webinars cover social media and people with disabilities and safety and the ins and outs of AT for people with disabilities and safety. Below are descriptions, dates and links to register.

Engaging People with Disabilities Through Social Media

June 14, 2016

2:00-3:30 pm ET

Do you use social media in your prevention or intervention work? Learn what a group in Austin, Texas found when they initiated a project to explore social media use in their community.

Register Now


Working with Survivors with Disabilities: Understanding Tech Misuse & Online Privacy

June 30, 2016

2:00-3:30 pm ET

When is technology an advantage and when can it be dangerous? Learn from the experts at the National Network to End Domestic Violence as they present about the safety implications you should consider when using social media in your work.

Register Now


The In’s and Out’s of Safety and Assistive Technology

July 12, 2016

2:00-3:30 pm ET

During this presentation, participants will learn about common assistive technology devices, ways that abusers may use those devices to compromise safety, and how to promote the safe usage of assistive technologies.

Register Now


Join us as we fight domestic violence and sexual assault and raise awareness of AT.


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?


Our Increasingly Assistive Technology


By Norman G. DeLislethe earth with arrows to things with words The Internet of Things

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.” -Wikipedia Article on The Internet of Things

Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in the attention that the IoT is paying to devices and networking that would be of use to people with disabilities, and the general use that the IoT is increasingly having for everyone, including people with disabilities.

The most obvious example is making driverless cars a reality. And it isn’t simply the goal of totally driverless cars. Each incremental effort by manufacturers to make cars safer by automating safety actions or reducing information and decision burden makes cars easier to use for everyone, including people with disabilities. (See post by M. Catherine McAdam “My Driverless Car“)

There are others. I recently posted a link to a device that uses ultra-small amounts of microwaves to detect glucose levels so that no finger prick is required. In addition, it uses an app to record ongoing glucose levels so that more information about the dynamic of blood sugar is available for use by the person in making short term glucose management decisions and in understanding the long term trend of, say, Type 1 diabetes.

In addition to “things” that increase personal control over health or physical status, there are other potential tools for supporting recovery on the horizon. If the core of the Recovery Movement is the expansion of personal control over life through management of symptoms that reduce control and the building of a personal social network that supports the recovery journey, then the IoT will have “things” to offer us as well.

The use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is currently only a research tool in depression, pain control, empathy development, and a variety of other issues because (it seems just plain weird) it is expensive to do, and there is no solid framework for understanding what it does. But it is also non-invasive and has predictably short term effects allowing for eventual actual personal control over its use. Is it too strange to envision a genuinely portable device that you could use as a specific method of controlling a specific symptom? Is it even much too “stranger” to imagine a social network of people using TMS as a part of their social interaction?

Although environmental control has been a possibility for people with disabilities for some time, it has traditionally been a very expensive tool requiring the development of highly customized control systems. Now, because of the ubiquity of wireless and smartphones, and the drop in price for small devices that can control house systems (the expansion of the whole consumer market for such devices and environmental control), it is possible to create a voice managed control system using something like the Amazon Echo inside the house and a smartphone app when outside the house. Your personal system can be assembled a bit at a time, allowing you to customize it to your needs as you go.

There is a distinction in disability studies between “accommodation” and “accessibility” which points to the fundamental difference between a community response that creates access (accommodation) for a specific individual (segregation) and one that allows everyone (accessibility) to use the community (inclusion). I think the IoT is beginning to muddy that distinction by making universal access to the community a part of the general development of the IoT and the parallel creation of devices that can be customized by the individual person to connect to that general community. IoT is a trend worth watching by our community. We will also, as always, need members of our community to be at the forefront of making IoT realize the possibility it has for all of us.


  • Internet of Things could be the low-cost ‘connectivity key’ that transforms lives in developing countries
  • Beyond the Hype: These Technologies at CES Can Help People in Need
  • Can the Internet of Things bridge the digital divide?