Category Archives: Mobile

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?


AT Round Up


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW

I’ve heard about and used some cool AT recently that doesn’t all fit in one category for a cohesive blog post, but I still want to share these with you, so in no particular order, enjoy these apps, devices, and resources.


The Atlantic had a great article about relieving anxiety through singing using the Songify App. I’m very much going to give this a try! Songify allows you to take intrusive anxious thoughts and make them feel more trivial by turning them into a funny song. The author took her fear of having contracted leishmaniasis and turned it into a song you can listen to in the article. My brain does a great job of generating fears. I think Songify will help me fight back. My psychiatrist also informed me that negative thinking/negative self-talk can also be mediated using singing. She gave the example of singing “I’m so stupid” to Camptown Races. The beauty of music therapy of all sorts! Songify is available on iOS, Android, and Google Play. What apps and AT do you use for anxiety and/or negative self-talk?


Inspired after seeing her grandmother struggle with eating after developing Alzheimer’s, the designer of EatWell created an adaptive dining set. It is user-centered design and helps to increase food intake and maintain dignity, while also making the process of eating as easy as possible. In this way, users can feed themselves for as long as possible. The design has more than 20 features including colors to help users distinguish food, no-slip bases, slanted bottoms to help users gather food without having to scoop, ergonomic handles, and spoon heads that match the curves of the bowls and basin. The set even comes with a tray with clips which would allow the user to attach a bib or apron to prevent food staining clothes. The EatWell set has won many awards including the 2014 Stanford Design Challenge.

An Eatwell set on a tray that includes clips to attach an apron, two cups woth large bases and contrasting bright colors and large comfortable handles, two ergonomic, built up spoons, two plates that are deep with slanted bases to aid in loaning food on the spoon.


Making Food Preparation Easier

I’ve been having more trouble with fatigue lately, especially after finding out I’m pregnant. For me this means having the energy to cook healthy meals is a challenge. I also was talking to some people I know who use home and community based supports to live in the community. They were talking about finding the energy to cook for themselves because the Meals On Wheels in our community is just not very good. We discussed cutting back on the need for intensive prep and clean up to conserve energy and swapped recipe ideas for Sheet Pan Suppers and One-pot Meals. There are some great options for recipes online that require less energy and time in prep and clean up. EatingWell has some delicious sheet-pan recipes, though they have more costly ingredients than some other recipe sites. I especially enjoy the kale potato hash with eggs and the mini meatloaves with green beans and potatoes. I also found some sheet-pan recipes on Allrecipes I want to try. I find myself using things like pre-shredded cabbage and my food processor more often now and digging out my 30 minute meal cookbooks. I also put away my heavy cast iron cookware and get out lighter pieces like my ceramic non-stick everyday pan which can cook an entire meal but is light weight and easy to clean. It can also go from stovetop to oven or vice versa. What are your cooking hacks?

the ceramic everyday pan is a 12 inch saute pan that is deep and has rounded handles on both sides riveted to the pan. It has a dome lid with a large handle on top and is ceramic non-stick lined.

You know, maybe these aren’t so random after all–I do a lot of cooking and eating when I’m anxious–and I’m working on the anxious eating part.


“Ok Google” as Assistive Technology


KathrynBy MATP Staff Member Kathryn Wyeth

I have this powerful assistive technology and haven’t been using it effectively. I noticed my mom was having trouble using her Android phone to make calls. She is losing vision due to a variety of issues including Macular Degeneration.

In researching and playing around with settings on her phone, I realized the Google Now assistant could help.  Google Now is already installed in all Android 4.1 (and above) devices and can be downloaded on Windows Phone and iOS devices too. Setting up Google is simple: Just open the “Google” app and answer a few questions, like your home and work locations, transport means, interests, and so on. (You can skip questions you don’t want to answer.)

screen shot with G in red circle (google icon) and the word "Listening..."First, I needed to move the Google app to her home page, since it wasn’t there. She still wants to lock the phone, so does need to unlock it first, but now can just say “Ok Google” followed by what she wants the app to do.

So calling people was the first issue. Now she can just say, “Ok Google” then the person’s name as it is listed in her contact. Of course, the contacts were a bit of a mess, with multiple listings for some of the people, so we spent a bit of time cleaning this up.

Then we found this tip: How to set up Google Now Contact Relationships.

Google has updated Google Search (and thus Google Now), adding the ability to recognize commands based on the relation the contact is to you. So for people she calls often, like me, she can now say “Ok Google” then “Call my daughter.” This avoids some potential confusion with multiple contacts who have names that are or sound a like.

The other thing we needed to do was make sure that phone numbers for people who had multiple numbers had descriptions that she could remember. If there is more than one say, Mobile or Home number listed, it could be confusing. So in my listing, we edited the contact, selected “custom” for the phone type and gave it a name she’d remember.

She has more than one son. We set them all up as “Ok Google, ____ is my son”. When she says “Ok Google, Call my son”, the phone lists the first two names or and then she can say the name of one of the other 2 sons if she wanted to call someone else. So not quite as good, but it still works.

Woman with glasses and hat smiling

Mom on 80+ birthday

So I wondered if we could assign nicknames for some of her contacts who had the same or similar sounding names. For example, if there were two Susan’s she might call frequently, one could be “Neighbor”, the other would be “Susan”. This did not work. Only relationship names seemed to work.

The advances in technology are great! Now many things that used to be expensive assistive technology are built-in. Voice input can help everyone, including people with disabilities who either can’t see, manipulate a touch screen, or have better spoken than written literacy. My mom and I have just started the learning curve in using Google Now via voice command. Do you use it? What do you use it for?

Here are some additional resources for using Google Now

  • How to use Google Now
  • The complete list of ‘OK, Google’ commands from CNET
  • Huge cheat sheet tells you everything you can do with Google Now voice commands

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.