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Google Home Is Helping My Autistic Son To Speak

Co-Parenting With Technology

autism, speech therapy, google home, gadgets, gook mom, mom blog, parenting, technology, toddler life

Ok, before you all jump through your screen to fight against the rise of technologies in our children’s lives, I am by no means suggesting that Google Home can replace therapies or good ol’ dinner table conversations. We've had nearly three years of Speech Therapy coupled with sign language that gave my son an invaluable understanding of communication. This type of therapy cannot be replaced.

Since welcoming home our new robotic roommate, we’ve noticed one major advantage the device has over us: it is not intuitive.

To backtrack a little bit, my son didn’t talk, at all, until he was almost three. And it was through intensive therapies, follow through, and sign language that he finally understood he needed to communicate to have his needs met. Now in preschool, he’s just starting to string a few words together on his own. His receptive language is very advanced actually (he can understand what he hears), but for some reason, getting those words and phrases out is a difficult task for him.

Since I’m with him most of the time, I am very tuned into his needs so I can constantly help him find the words and model phrases for him to repeat. As a mom, I almost always know what he’s trying to say, so I can respond and ease the stress for him at home. For example, if he says “Fish”, he means “I would like to eat goldfish crackers.” Sometimes I’ll model the sentence for him to repeat before honoring his request, but sometimes (okay, a lot of times) I just get him the snack because we both know that I understand what he means. That intuition can hold him back.

And that’s the big difference between me and Google Home. Our cute little speaker can’t guess at what my son is trying to say. It can't see what he’s looking at. It can’t use his body language and events of the day to determine what he’s talking about.

autism, speech therapy, google home, gadgets, gook mom, mom blog, parenting, technology, toddler life

This lack of intuition is actually pushing my son to speak. Google Home has some pretty fun responses like making animal noises, singing the alphabet, and even playing his favorite songs, and therefore he’s highly motivated to get the device to understand. He has to be mindful of his speed, articulation, and volume when making requests. It’s empowering and reinforcing when he finally gets Google to respond correctly.

Google Home is all business too. If you don’t say the request just right, you might get some weird long-winded trivia in response or hear a song that you hate and Google doesn’t give a sh*t about what you meant. And I’m kinda in love with it for that reason.

Here’s some of the fun things Google Home will do, starting with “Ok Google….”

“Play Tom Petty” (I couldn’t be more proud of my son’s musical choices)

“Spin the Wheel of Fortune” (It totally makes the clicking wheel sound from the game show, my son’s fave new obsession)

“Sing ABCs” (not a bad rendition)

“What does an Elephant say?” (some of the other animal sounds are very questionable though)

“Tell Simon what time it is?” And Google responds “Simon, it’s time to take a nap” (Best part about this device is being able to create our own responses!)

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Google also helps us check the weather, set timers, add reminders and groceries to name a few.  I’m also hoping once my son hits that endless “Why” phase, I can just direct him to our speaker pal to supply endless answers and then maybe I can finish my coffee in peace.

So for now, me and the robot are working together. I’m taking care of all the life sustaining requests like food, water and clean diapers while Google Home is handling the silly songs and animals noises. The three of us are practicing reciting phrases and simple sentences and we’re all having a ton of fun.

*If you have any concerns about your child, please discuss with their pediatrician or contact your local school district or Early Intervention center for an evaluation.*

Rielly is a part-time writer and full-time mama to an adorable autistic toddler. Her favorite hobbies include naptime, drinking coffee, and trips to Target. Follow her online @riellygrey.

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