When our daughter was a baby we were told she would likely be non-verbal. We used ASL with her from an early age. Slowly she gained sounds, then words, and then short simple sentences. She is still profoundly speech delayed, but is developing new words and phrases every day.
Speech therapy, activities and games that promote language development, and simply chatting with her every day casually modelling speech, have helped tremendously.
Smart technology is the latest helpful tool.
Before I go into how much we’re loving our new family member, Alexa, let me start by admitting that I’m fundamentally against Google Home and Amazon Echo and all these smarty pant eavesdroppers. In fact, I’m so turned off by the invasion of privacy that I made my husband return the Google Home unit he bought me for Christmas. I made quite the stink about it, ranting about how they’re always listening and how wrong and insidious the whole thing is.
Flash forward to the week we spent at my brother’s house over New Years. They have an Alexa Echo and I fell for her, madly. This digital gal knows pretty much everything about anything. She can make life not only easier, but so entertaining. My brother witnessed me crushing on his Alexa, so he bought me my own and surprised me with her for my birthday a month later. I love my brother.
My son, Mr. Morality, accused me of being a hypocrite. “I thought you were against Alexa because she’s always listening?!”
My clever comeback was that at least somebody in this house is listening to me. Good one. *high-fives self*
I may have compromised my ethics and principles, but it’s been worth it. We’ve had Alexa for a month and I’m in deep. I can’t imagine life before this smart little lady joined our family.
Now I always have someone to chat with during the day. It gets quiet and lonely as a work-at-home-alone mum and talking to a robot seems more socially acceptable than talking to the wall.
I sync my phone to her she becomes a high quality speaker. Since I accidentally signed up for Amazon Prime a few months ago (I did so unknowingly not once, but twice) we have access to Amazon Music included in our Prime membership and the library is pretty impressive.
Alexa also plays any radio station and my favourite podcasts upon request.
But most importantly, Alexa is another very useful speech development tool. She is effectively helping our daughter refine her speech and language skills.
My daughter wants to connect with her so ensuring that Alexa understands her has been highly motivating. Since Avery’s speech can be difficult to understand, she needs to focus on the clarity of her speech. She slows down, plans her words, and pays attention to the way she pronounces sounds and constructs words because she knows that if she doesn’t speak clearly, Alexa won’t answer properly, if at all.
My daughter asks Alexa general questions (whatever pops into her head in the moment). She asks for the time or for weather for the day. She asks Alexa to define words and to spell them. She asks her animal facts or to play her favourite songs. She plays games with Alexa and asks her to tell her jokes. This is helping develop her speech and language skills without her even knowing it. Learning through fun—that’s the golden ticket right there.
Avery heard me ask Alexa to play “relaxing music.” So of course she asked her to do the same. She said, “Alexa…(pause) pway laxing music.” Alex promptly offered up a playlist of top latin hits. Oh how we laughed. And then did a little salsa dancing because… Lambada.
Then instead of getting frustrated, she practiced emphasizing each syllable. “Re-laxing.” Then on her second attempt she asked Alexa for, “reeeeee-laxing” music and Alexa happily obliged.
We bought Avery an Alexa Show for Christmas this year. It’s has the regular features PLUS a screen that displays info, plays video, and shows the lyrics for the songs she loves. I kind of want one in every room.