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S5E26 Assistive Technology with Kristi Peak-Oliveira

Listen to S5E26: Assistive Technology with Kristi Peak-Oliveira

Welcome to Living Well with MS. In this episode, we are pleased to welcome Overcoming MS Ambassador Kristi Peak-Oliveira, who has been following the Overcoming MS Program since 2016 and is an Ambassador for the Boston Circle. She is also a pathologist and the assistant director for assistive technology services at ‘Easterseals Massachusetts’, whose clients include people with multiple sclerosis.

Watch this episode on YouTube here. Keep reading for the key episode takeaways and Kristi’s bio.

Questions and Timestamps

01:00 Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your MS diagnosis?

05:08 How did you come across Overcoming MS?

07:14 Tell us about how you became the Ambassador for the Boston Circle.

11:44 Have you talked to your neurologist about Overcoming MS?

18:28 You work as a speech pathologist and as the assistant director for assistive technology services at ‘Easterseals Massachusetts’. Could you tell us what that is?

21:08 What are some examples of assistive technology that can help symptoms like cog fog and memory issues?

24:54 Do you have examples of assistive technology for fine motor control as well?

26:13 Is there anything we can do ourselves to make our devices more accessible?

26:59 Can you tell us about your upcoming trip to Peru, to take assistive technology to orphan children with disabilities?

31:39 You have always loved dancing, are you still able to dance with your MS symptoms?

35:41 What advice would you offer to someone who has been newly diagnosed with MS?

Selected Key Takeaways

Assistive technology helps people complete daily tasks more independently.

18:45 “Assistive technology is a broad category, but it’s basically almost anything that can compensate for your disabilities to help you access different life skills, whether it’s working on a computer, cleaning your house, or remembering to take your medication. Augmentative communication is what I do as a speech pathologist, [and] is a subset of assistive technology. It focuses on someone who is not able to use speech as their primary means of communication. So, we’re helping them with technology.”

Kristi credits the Overcoming MS Program for giving her the confidence to take a humanitarian trip to Peru.

30:32 “My yoga teacher got this idea; it’s called ‘Project Give a Voice’. I’m going with her in September for two weeks to bring augmentative communication to students in Peru who are not able to speak. I’m really excited about it [and] she’s excited about it [too]. It’s because of Overcoming MS. If it wasn’t for Overcoming MS, I might not ever have tried yoga or ended up with this teacher. [Following] Overcoming MS gives me the confidence to know that I’m going to physically be able to participate in this trip.”

Finding a reason to live well helps Kristi stay motivated.

32:58 “You have to find something that’s really motivating. For me, it was my dance class. I didn’t want to give up my dance class, I love the women there. That was the thing that really motivated me to dig into Overcoming MS. Over time, foot drop was an issue [and] I’ve definitely fallen in the class. But over time, I’ve definitely noticed especially my right foot, (my right side is more affected) has gained in strength.”

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Read the episode transcript here

Overcoming MS  00:01

Welcome to Living well with MS. This podcast comes to you from Overcoming MS. The world’s leading multiple sclerosis healthy lifestyle charity, which helps people live a full and healthy life through the Overcoming MS program. We interview a range of experts and people with multiple sclerosis. Please remember, all opinions expressed are their own. If you were able to, we would be grateful if you could donate to help support the podcast and other work of Overcoming MS to help give hope to those impacted by multiple sclerosis. And now here’s your host, Geoff Allix.

Geoff Allix  00:38

Welcome to the latest edition of the Living Wel with MS. Coffee Break. Joining me on this edition is Kristi Peak-Oliveira, who is the Overcoming MS ambassador from Boston, Massachusetts, and also who works in the field of assistive technology with Easterseals. So welcome to the podcast, Kristi.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  00:56

Thank you. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.

Geoff Allix  01:00

You’re welcome. So to start off with, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your MS diagnosis?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  01:07

I am 57. And I back in 2005. I had an episode of optic neuritis. And I woke up one morning with a headache. And a gray line across my vision that just kept growing and growing. And you know, it’s like I’m sure everyone experiences all the back and forth between the doctors who’s going to see me the neurologist the eye doctor. And they did have an MRI, nothing, they didn’t see anything on the MRI. And it did eventually resolve although I did lose some vision and in the eye. Fortunately, I was already wearing corrective lenses. And so they were able to tweak it. And so I’m very grateful for that. Then, a few years later, I went numb from the waist down, saw a neurologist, got more MRIs. And he told me it was a bulging disc. And I said, Are you sure? Because it’s both sides of my body. And if you recall, I had optic neuritis. He’s like no, no, no. It’s a bulging disc. Okay. And so a few years later, it happened again. And by this time I’m having other symptoms, a lot of pain. I thought it was because I was driving a lot. A lot of pain in my hips and my byes. And then it started happening again, this was June of 2016. And I called my primary care doctor, she said call your neurologist, and the neurologist office says we can’t fit you in until August. And I’m like, okay, and but then it just kept progressing. I was having trouble walking, then my arms, I started losing sensation and strengthen my arm. So I was dropping everything and couldn’t open jars and that kind of thing. And so my primary care doctor finally sent me to the emergency room. I had another round of MRIs. And that’s when I was finally diagnosed with MS. And that was June of 2016.

Geoff Allix  03:18

Oh, wow. Was that 11 years?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  03:20

11 years after the optic neuritis? Yes. Yeah.

Geoff Allix  03:26

I mean, I know there are there’s gonna be a lot of people who don’t have MS. I guess who’ve have had a symptom because they’ve got something something else or, you know, there’s limes diseases. There’s various other things that could be so there must be all these other things. But you really do hear about you know, you just think wow, how do they not spot these things earlier?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  03:47

I know in my story is not it’s not unique.

Geoff Allix  03:53

yeah, I mean, I think almost all of us had something early on. I mean, I my earliest one was way, way before. I mean, it must have been pretty similar, probably 16, 17 years before my diagnosis, but it was just I lost feeling in all my fingertips. And then, but then it went away. And they were like, Oh, it’s fine. It’s gone away. Yeah, but Oh, interesting. It’s only my neurologist now. So that was probably the first thing you had. And then similarly, I had one which could have been a bulging disc or something. And I was going to a chiropractor and because my legs gave way as I was queuing up actually at Disney, in Florida, and literally, I just fell to the ground because my legs just completely collapsed under me. I thought it’s got to be a trapped nerve or something in my spine. That’s because that was really weird. But again, it happened a couple of times, and then never happened again. This never happened since. Some of those things like just early things, have never come back at all. But it’s funny the later things now like sort of balance and walking problems seem to be sort of sticking around. But those those early ones just completely went away haven’t had any of those symptoms at all.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  05:03

It’s fascinating. It’s really fascinating. Everyone’s story is so different.

Geoff Allix  05:08

Yeah. So but it’s obviously some things can completely fix themselves. And then obviously, they say that there’s various, like YouTube things I’ve seen where they say like this, it is pool of water thing and the sort of as the, your reserve gets lower than, things get harder and harder to fix. The further on you go. So how did you come across Overcoming MS then? Because it’s less popular thinking in the States? And yes, UK and Australia? Certainly.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  05:41

So it just happened that a friend of my husband’s is very into nutrition. And so when he heard about my diagnosis, he said to my husband, you should have her look into diet. They’re talking. There’s a lot of discussion right now about diet and MS. And he told us about the Whals diet. So I started looking into that, reading about nutrition and MS. I tried Whals first, it didn’t agree with my stomach, I really, I was not a good fit for me. So I started doing some other research, found Overcoming MS. And at this point, we’re kind of in well into the summer, and lo and behold, guess he was coming to Boston for a one day seminar? Dr. Jellinek. He was in Boston that October, I think it was October. And so I went, my husband came with me, we went to the one day seminar, he spoke, Linda Bloom spoke, there were other speakers. And it was so inspiring. And they were talking about real science, like there was science there to back up what they were saying, which was so exciting and inspiring, and all of that. So I’m so incredibly grateful that it just happened to be that fall that they were in Boston, and I’ve been following it ever since.

Geoff Allix  07:14

And you’re the ambassador for the Boston circle. So tell us a bit about that. What do you get up to the Boston circle?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  07:22

Well, I, I have to say we’re not super active. Unfortunately, it’s just been part of the Boston circle. Right from the beginning, we had kind of a rocky start, where after the, seminar, we made plans to meet up at a restaurant and we were all going to try ordering together and figuring out menus together and all of that. And it just happened that someone at the seminar was involved with other other groups. And he was there because he’s just someone that likes to get information about a lot of different things. He also has MS. And he invited a whole group of people from another support group, to the same restaurant. And so there were some of us trying to manage ordering things with no cheese and all of that. And then this other table where they’re like, can I have eggplant parm? Can I have chicken parm? And it was, it was, yeah, it was kind of a strange beginning. And I do think it unsettled things a little. But then, you know, we did meet, we would go out, we would usually meet at restaurants and try different restaurants. And then I was an investor at the time it was we went through a couple of different ambassadors. And then during the pandemic, I you know, you’re just looking for connection, I just was looking for connection, wanted to reach back out to OMS. And I did and I said, You know what, I’m happy because at that point, we didn’t have an ambassador in the Boston area. So I said, I’ll do it. And so we met remotely, a few times during the pandemic, and, and at this point, now, there’s, you know, what, there’s a couple of people that are more active now. So we have met in person we have met for lunch, we actually had a great session where Vickie, the ambassador from Connecticut. She’s wonderful. And we joined their group for a session over zoom, which was really nice. And now we’re working towards a summer outing, where we can come all together and get together in person. So I, you know, what, if I have one active person, I’ll meet. We’ll have a circle. So I’m kind of going from from there, hopefully, and hopefully, we’ll have more. We’re up to 40 members. It’s just, it’s just not as active as I would like,

Geoff Allix  09:48

if you meet virtually. I mean, most of the stuff we do in my circle, we it’s mostly just done over the internet, because it’s a big area that we cover, and so we don’t meet up that often. With It’s getting better now we’re similar that it’s really got going in the pandemic. And then now, we’re starting to meet up more and more, but we probably don’t meet up. It’s not even monthly, really every six weeks something. So we try to we try again to try and do more. Just try and do them in different places. So that sort of different people come to different ones and yes, and do different things. Because some people are more active than others. Some people are really, really active, and then other people are wheelchair bound. And so we try and sort of mix up what we’re doing as well and do all sorts of different things, we have, pizza making coming up.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  10:39

Because Oh, it’s fantastic. I love that.

Geoff Allix  10:44

Because you can have pizza without cheese, which is

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  10:47

Absolutely we we’ve got a restaurant that we will do takeout from and they it’s it’s apps, their crust is delicious. And it’s OMS friendly, and I make the cashew Parmesan cheese put that on the top. Delicious.

Geoff Allix  11:06

I just have it no cheese at all. It’s quite like it’s I mean, they do in Italy, they quite often there’s quite a lot of pizza with no cheese. It’s when I if I’d come to the States and I have pizza, it’s sort of one of my go to meals because I know I can get OMS friendly pizza. If it’s if it’s handmade. Yes. Then when I just say, Oh, I don’t want any cheese. They say we have vegan cheese. That’s it. No, I don’t want any at all.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  11:32

Right? That’s always the challenge. It does.

Geoff Allix  11:35

throw them a bit. I think there’s a thing certainly in America that piece has to have Geez.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  11:40

Oh, for sure. Everything needs to have cheese in America

Geoff Allix  11:44

In Italy, that’s not the case in Italy. That’s fine. They can that’s okay. That’s fine. They don’t even question it, it’s a normal thing. If somebody some pieces that you just don’t don’t have cheese there was there’s several pizzas that don’t have any cheese and it’s normal. So it’s Yeah. But in America, you have to No, no, not that one. No, not that one. It’s not just Yeah. Anyway. So your neurologist? So how are your neurologists up there with Overcoming MS. Have they heard of it at the on board with it?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  12:14

Oh, so that’s a good question. So I actually again, very fortunate, I’m treated at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital right in Boston, and they have a specialized MS Center. And actually some Mass General Brigham now they merged with another hospital. And my neurologist is wonderful. He’s been wonderful right from the beginning, but that first time I met him, I am on medication. And I said What else can I do? I’ve heard about diets and lifestyle. And he said, No, no, he kind of, he was a little dismissive. And I was like, okay, but again, this was 2016. He’s he was open, he’s always been open. And they’re actually doing a lot of research in this center on gut biomes. And their impact on MS. So I probably more open than maybe a neurologist in a different part of the country. So since then, he has seen how well I’ve done not just maintaining, and my MRI might so part of the reason I’m on medication is my MRI was so scary when I saw my MRI in 2016. I had a big lesion right at the base of my neck in the cerebellar area, which is why all four limbs were affected. And so anyway, but since then, not only by maintained and no new lesions, I’ve actually improved lesions have shrunk. I’ve gone from really struggling with heat sensitivity, and foot drop, and pain to not having those things. You know, you do the 25 foot walk when you go for your neurology appointments. I like beat my own record. The last time I saw him in person, I beat my record. So he sees that improvement. And so he’s definitely now if someone asked him about diet or lifestyle, he gives them my contact information.

Geoff Allix  14:27

Yeah, that’s really positive. And they are actually taking because you get some very old fashioned neurologists who are you know, what they were told in the 1950s is what happens.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  14:39

Exactly, or it’s like medication, you need medication. That’s it. And that’s the only way to treat it. So yes, it’s been wonderful. He’s great. I really am so lucky to have him for sure.

Geoff Allix  14:50

Yeah, I similarly mine actually is when I first mentioned it because I basically said what do you think of this? Because I’ve seen it. There’s a lot of evidence Senate sounds really good to me, but just your professional opinion. And he said, Well, there’s no evidence that lifestyle factors will affect MS. But there is evidence, it will reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke. And he listed loads of things. And he said, It won’t do you any harm. So there’s no risk of what you’re doing. And your lower your risk of getting all those other things, it might help MS. So the worst case scenario is you’re less likely to get one of these other things. And you really don’t want to get heart disease or cancer or something else, when you’ve also got MS. They said, if nothing else, you’re stopping those risks. And then he’s then now actually come along. And he’s asked me to talk, because they are NHS, they can only say the party line, they can only they’re only allowed to say what’s the official Don’t you know, they’re not allowed to go off off script at all. But he’s asked me to come along and speak because I can. So he’s very supportive now. Because the more and more they see the research coming in, and so he’s saying, yeah, totally. And yeah, my MS Nurse, similarly is she was very skeptical at first, but now is pretty much on board. So yes, it’s moving in the right direction. I think things are changing, and people are realizing that there’s more to it.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  16:26

Definitely. It’s great. It’s so wonderful to see that. And even the National Multiple Sclerosis Society here in the US, has something about lifestyle changes on their website, like something positive. So it’s definitely coming along.

Overcoming MS  16:41

Have your say in the 2023 community survey, Overcoming MS values, your feedback as it helps to shape and improve the services we offer to the community as a charity. The anonymous survey is open until the 13th of August 2023 at

Geoff Allix  17:01

And I think it’s quite interesting. There’s a commonality between the it’s not a competition between Overcoming MS and Wahls protocol and Best Bet diet. Because there’s actually if you look at the overlaps, and okay whilst protocol maybes a little bit out there because sort of like paleo diet, but if you look at that they’re all dairy free. And when you look at Matthew Embry and Best Bed, you know, he’s very similar. He has it occasionally, grass fed organic beef, but But basically, it’s low saturated fat. It’s Whole Foods, it’s no dairy. It really is all the same. It’s mostly so we’ve had him on the podcast because it is mostly the same. He said, Well, you should really be eating your protein should be coming mostly for fish should be eating lots of fruit and veg should be healthy food. Yes. I mean, he doesn’t have gluten, but which is one of those Overcoming MS as you are more likely to have gluten sensitivity if you’ve got a MS. That if you haven’t that way, but yes. Well, I mean, I’m guessing he probably does have a sensitivity because he’s found it really effective. But yeah, but similar. I’ve found people Yeah, for falling, Overcoming MS who have a gluten sensitivity and help. That’s help. But yeah, there’s definitely commonality. I mean, I that’s where I sort of big red flags for me are things like dairy? I’m like, Yeah, that’s definitely bad.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  18:27

Yes, and that way,

Geoff Allix  18:28

so in your day job. You are a speech pathologist and the assistant director for Assistive Technology Services at Easterseals, Massachusetts. So could you tell us a bit about well, what is that?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  18:45

Sure. Assistive technology is is a broad category, but it’s basically almost anything that can compensate for your disabilities to help you access different, you know, life skills, you know, whether it’s working on a computer or cleaning your house, remembering to take your medication. And then augmentative communication is what I do as a speech pathologist is a subset of assistive technology. And that is really focusing on someone who they’re not able to use speech as their primary means of communication. And so we’re helping them with technology. An example is somebody with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which I think you call motor neuron disease in the UK, using an eye gaze device where they’re able to control a computer with their eyes and have it speak for them. So that’s augmentative communication, an example under that broad umbrella of assistive technology.

Geoff Allix  19:50

Stephen Hawking.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  19:56

He was amazing. Like he really is. was quite a power user of his system. So, it what I do I work at Easterseals, Massachusetts, and it’s all geared towards providing services to people with disabilities. And veterans, we just added a Veteran Program as well not long ago. So it’s, it’s a great organization, I work with the most amazing people from the top down. Everyone’s really dedicated to the mission. And we work with a lot of adults, we have contracts with the state of Massachusetts. And through those contracts, we work with a lot of adults, many of whom do have MS, especially through a program we have that’s called the Assistive Technology Independent Living Program, which is geared towards helping people with disabilities stay out in the community, not having to go into a nursing home, or something like a skilled nursing facility, but staying out in the community using assistive technology to live as independently and as safely as possible.

Geoff Allix  21:08

Okay, so what are some of the things where you have assistive technology that may be some of the things that people with multiple sclerosis might have like cognitive fog, or memory issues, what what sort of assistive technology is available for those sort of things.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  21:24

So there’s things you can use, just use your phone, if you already have a smartphone, we might show you how to use reminders on your phone, use the calendar on your phone, those kinds of things, apps to help you remember to take your medication, like I have an app on my phone that reminds me to take my medication in the morning. There’s also we’ve been doing a lot with smart speakers, Google Home, Alexa setting reminders, there are now companies that will there’s they have these medication boxes, that will automatically dispense medication, you don’t even have to touch it, it just at the right time. It opens up, there’s your medication, and it will remind you to take it. Some of them even take it a little farther where there’s human beings monitoring. And they’ll say, Oh, Mrs. Jones didn’t take her medication at 11am. And they’ll call the daughter or whoever the contact person is and say, Can you check with your mom, she didn’t take her medication. So there’s those things in place. To help people live more independently, there are four environmental controls, doing a lot. Again, with smart speakers. You know, if you’ve got someone that spends a lot of time in bed or in their wheelchair, maybe it’s hard for them to get to the door to open the door. So just using regular, commercially available technology, like the Ring doorbell, you can see who’s at the door, you can open the door without having to actually physically go to the door. So things like that can help people. Lights on and off through these smart speakers. It’s it’s, it’s amazing. The old environmental control systems were so cumbersome and so expensive, and they broke down constantly. So that smart speaker technology has really improved our ability to help people and help them be more independent with it.

Geoff Allix  23:23

Yeah, it’s amazing how fast things have moved, isn’t it? Yes. It’s because we’ve got in our house. Yeah, we have like, Alexa devices. Yeah. And, yeah, but for lights on and off and things like that. So our main living room, the light switches, we redid it as well. And it was stupid to put the light switches by the door where you come into the house, which makes sense. But of course, when we go to bed at night, that means that they’re the other end of the room. So you’re then having to walk across the room in complete darkness. But because they’re all now smart. Speaker controlled, we just tell Alexa to turn the lights off. And it’s just, it does it and just so many easy things like that. And yeah, like you say reminders, and I have a robot lawnmower.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  24:19

Well, I was just gonna say we for some people who are physically really involved, we might we might give them a Roomba. So they can independently, you know, vacuum their floors, or someone with visual like sometimes people with MS do have significant visual impairments. So is there a software program that we can give them that will read their computer screen to them? Or if they’re physically having trouble accessing the computer, can they use their voice speak to text technology to send emails, open websites, things like that.

Geoff Allix  24:54

What about fine motor control as well. Does it get to that level?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  24:59

Oh, definitely, part of my role is I manage this Assistive Technology Independent Living Program. So I get to talk to I talk to all the clients. And it’s nice, it’s not just communication, it’s all these other things as well. And there’s definitely people with MS that I speak to and, you know, fine motor, maybe you’re having trouble with cooking, you know, you want to be more independent in the kitchen. There’s these things. We have them here, I don’t know about the UK, they’re called the June oven. And you just you put your your dish in, and it just automatically knows what to do, how to cook it, it recognizes the food. And so that saves you a lot of fine motor in terms of having to prepare your meal do any chopping even, you may have to press some buttons on the oven, but it’s minimal. Or accessing the the keyboard, like I said, if you’re having fine more motor control with the keyboard, can we have you use your voice to control your computer and then we do a lot with automatic jar openers, one handed jar openers, cutting boards with the knife attached, so it makes it easier to chop. Pencil grips you know, all kinds of things to help address fine motor issues.

Geoff Allix  26:13

Wow, you really are you’ve so everything you’re aware. Every device for everything that’s amazing. So you mentioned sort of like keyboards and things. So laptops, tablets, phones, so are there things we can do ourselves that we can make them more accessible without buying extra things?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  26:37

Absolutely, you can increase the font size on your phone. If you have trouble seeing your phone. You can there’s ways to have text read back to you on your phone if you need to have that as well. Yeah, there’s a lot. And Apple especially, has a lot of built in accessibility features that are right at your fingertips.

Geoff Allix  26:59

They did go through with me about because I had eye issues. One of my dad’s thing actually got my MS diagnosis was, was and eye thing because the optician said it’s nothing to do with your eyes. You need to go and see in your neurologist. But he did also say, because I’d never needed glasses in my life. I always had amazing eyesight. But he said, but next time you come in, you’ll need glasses, because you’re not gonna get into your 50s Because I’m 52 now and he said you’re not getting to 50 is not need reading glasses. That’s ridiculous. I’ve never the classes that he said he’ll be back. Right? So actually, it’s not. It’s just an age thing, unfortunately. But yes, I need a bigger screen, actually. Because the problem is the screens too small, one of these bigger phones that I need. Now if I can get the fonts big enough to read without my glasses all the time. Yeah, yeah, still useful. So there’s another thing that connects with this, that I understand you’re going to Peru soon to bring assistive technology to orphan children with disabilities. So firstly, tell us a bit I’m amazingly jealous. And it is an absolutely fantastic country if anyone’s considering it. So how did it come about? Tell us a bit more about it. So what what does this involve?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  28:19

So I owe it all to OMS. I do because when I got my diagnosis, and then I started doing OMS I’d always been interested in yoga. I actually I do take a dance class. Oh, actually, I don’t know maybe we’ll get to this in a bit. But that my tap class. That’s another way that I really seen improvement. Whereas before, I would have to I couldn’t make it through the whole class, I would have to stop and rest .And now we make it all the way through. It’s amazing how you’ve I’ve seen the improvement over the years. So I’m sorry, I digress a little. So I’d always wanted to try yoga. And when I was diagnosed, I said this is it. I you know, I learned about Overcoming MS and exercise. I’m like, I’m going to do it. So I did I started going to yoga. And so I met this amazing teacher. And she leads these trips excursions all over the world. She goes, I went a couple of years ago I went with her to Sedona, Arizona on a hiking and meditation retreat. She’s gone to the Bahamas, Costa Rica. She goes to the Galapagos, she goes to Peru. And so in going to Peru to the same area once or twice a year. And she’s made a connection with this school. And some of the kids are day students. Some of the kids are residential. There’s many children with disabilities. Culturally still this part of Peru, having a child with a disability can be seen, as you know, you’ve done, you know, it’s not something that is desirable. So there are some kids who have been abandoned and left it, at least if they’re at the school, and they’re, you know, they’re being cared for that way. This person also, she has a son on the autism spectrum who has an iPad with a communication app. And so there’s lots of kids in this school, who are not able to communicate. So she got this idea, it’s called Project Give a Voice. And so I’m going with her in September, for two weeks to bring augmentative communication to the students who are not able to speak. I’m really excited about it. She’s excited about it. So yeah, that’s how I that’s how that’s it’s because of OMS. Because if it wasn’t for OMS, I might not ever have tried yoga, or it ended up with her. And of course, being on OMS gives me the confidence to know that I’m going to physically be able to participate in this trip.

Geoff Allix  31:10

Do you speak Spanish?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  31:13

No. I took French in high school. But I actually I did the I did the Babble app. So I’ve been trying to learn Spanish.

Geoff Allix  31:28

Did they have a Spanish speaking?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  31:30

Yes, although she said the teachers speak English, so I won’t be completely lost without being fluent in Spanish.

Geoff Allix  31:39

And so you mentioned the tap dancing now, I’m a terrible dancer, so many years for having MS. When we were getting married, my wife said she wants to do a proper first dance. And so we should do salsa lessons. So we went to a salsa lesson. And I lasted one lesson. And I just found it literally had two left feet. Like I just said, I can’t do this. It’s just terrible. So we did the really basic sort of, you know, parade around first dance without the, you know, she really was hoping for something quite spectacular. That didn’t happen, unfortunately. But so I’m impressed that you could have tapped anyway. So tap dancing with MS though. So initially, did you find you couldn’t do it anymore? Or what happened with tap dancing?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  32:25

When I was diagnosed, I really couldn’t dance because I could barely move my feet. But as I improved, and yeah, it’s, I think you have to find something that motivates you. I have a lot of people that ask me, How do you do it? How do you how do you give up cheese? How do you give up this that and the other thing? When am I going to see results? If I give up a cheeseburger when am I going to see results. And I feel like you have to find something that’s really motivating. For me, it was my dance class, I don’t want to give up my dance class. I love the women there’s people that have been dancing for years and years and years. It’s a great group. I love the woman that teaches the class, she owns the studio. That was the thing that really motivated me to I am going to dig into OMS because I didn’t want to give up the dance class. And so over time, foot drop, you know, was an issue. I’ve definitely fallen in the class. You know, early on, I fell. But over time where I could really you know, tapping you’re really isolating movements in your feet. And you’re either tapping with your toe, you’re clicking with your heel, maybe you’re doing it in sequence. I’ve definitely noticed over time, my especially my right foot, my right side is more affected. My right foot has gained in strength over time, and I can where I went from really not being able to hear my taps that well, not being able to make it all the way through the class to now. Last year we did. Oh my gosh. So we’re in the children’s recital, the adult children’s recital, we always get a big cheer. And we did a song to Beyonce that was actually really challenging. And I had no problem. So I was tapping my heart out. So I’ve definitely seen and I know that’s OMS I know that’s OMS it’s not my medication, my medications just to stop new lesions. It doesn’t address symptoms. So I you know, I tell people you need to find something that’s going to motivate you to follow this through and stick with it.

Geoff Allix  34:44

Yeah, then you don’t feel like you’re giving something up. Do you? You feel like you’re getting something back that’s more desirable than cheese?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  34:54


Geoff Allix  34:55

think if you do it after a while you don’t miss cheese. I think people who’ve done it for a while they don’t miss cheese anymore. I did it first the first like year or two I did. But now I don’t like the idea of it at all. It doesn’t appeal to me.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  35:08

Isn’t it interesting how your tastes change over time, I used to avoid anything with mustard, avoid anything with red onion. And now, I eat that all the time. And I enjoy both of those items and what they bring to my meals. So it’s interesting how things change over time, right? You’ll have I have had a bite of cheese. And then I think, why did I do that? It wasn’t really what I remember. I’m not going to do that again.

Geoff Allix  35:41

Well, that was a very inspiring discussion. I think. So could you give us the one final piece of advice if someone if it was you or as a newly diagnosed person? What piece of advice would you give to someone if you’re looking back to yourself as newly diagnosed or to person you met now who’s newly diagnosed?

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  36:05

I have talked to people who’ve been newly diagnosed. And obviously, it’s extremely upsetting. But I try to tell them, there’s hope. There’s things you can do, to help yourself, heal, to help yourself, maintain all the things that you’re doing right now that you are enjoying in your life. There is a path forward for you, if you want to go that way. And I would also say when you’re starting OMS one thing at a time, don’t try to do everything at once I feel like it can be overwhelming for people choose one thing and go from there. And then the final piece of advice is I think everyone struggles with meditation. And they really beat themselves up over it. And I’ll tell people, it probably took me a good five years before I had a regular meditation routine. So don’t let that discourage you either. It’s just do it. Just take that first step. And you’ll just be helping yourself so much.

Geoff Allix  37:15

Okay, with that. Thank you very much for joining us, Kristi Peak-Oliveira.

Kristi Peak-Oliveira  37:19

Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

Overcoming MS  37:23

Thank you for listening to this episode of living well with MS. Please check out this episode’s show notes at overcoming you’ll find useful links and bonus information there. Have questions or ideas to share. Email us at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you. Living Well with MS podcast is for private non commercial use and exists to educate and inspire our community of listeners. We do not offer medical advice for medical advice please contact your doctor or other licensed health care professional

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Kristi’s bio:

Kristi’s MS and Overcoming MS journey

Kristi was diagnosed with MS in July of 2016 and started following the Overcoming MS program later that year. She has been a part of the Boston, US Circle since it began and now serves as the Ambassador.

Kristi’s personal life

Kristi is married with two adult children, and thanks to Overcoming MS continues to enjoy activities such as yoga, dance class, gardening, and singing in her church choir.

Kristi’s career

Kristi has been a speech-language pathologist for over 30 years and currently serves as assistant director of assistive technology services at Easterseals Massachusetts, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to serving the needs of individuals with disabilities. Clients include those with multiple sclerosis, and they are provided with assistive technology (AT) solutions to compensate for sensory, physical and cognitive challenges. Kristi has used AT solutions herself to deal with MS symptoms and exacerbations and is happy to share the information so others with MS can benefit.