The new Amazon Echo Dot Kids is much more than a kid-friendly Alexa; it may be one of the best tech devices for kids with special needs. After testing it for a couple of weeks I’m sharing lots of way’s we’re using the Amazon Echo Dot Kids and how it’s helping my daughter who is on the autism spectrum gain independence, find her voice and come out of her shell! Many special needs parents have been using Amazon Alexa for a while now to help kids with learning disabilities and special needs improve important skills and gain independence. Amazon Alexa a fantastic tool for any child but this is especially true for children with special needs and now that theEcho Dot Kids has been released Alexa has gotten a kid-friendly makeover and more kid-focused skills, along with the already existing parental controls, making it an even more fantastic tool. You can read all about how Echo Dot Kids is different from the regular Echo Dot as well as great ways to use it to help your kids learn in my previous article HERE.
We’ve have been using Amazon Alexa (we have the Echo Plus) for a few years now and Alexa has been instrumental in helping my daughter, who is on the autism spectrum gain more independence. When I look back on our lives before Amazon Alexa my eyes fill with tears, I truly can not describe how Alexa has been instrumental in improving my daughter’s life. When we got the Amazon Echo as a Christmas gift a few years ago I thought it would just be a fun gadget for the adults to play around with but my daughter was drawn to it immediately, she wanted to ask Alexa to play music and ask her questions. A few days after we got it we ditched the time-timer we where using to schedule reading and computer time for both kids and started using the Alexa timers instead so both of my kids scheduled their screentime independently and I didn’t have to nag anymore, it was magic! Since then we’ve started using many other Alexa capabilities and skills.
A couple of weeks ago we got the Amazon Echo Dot Kids so my daughter could have her own Alexa in her room. I was amazed by how both of my kids have fallen in love with the Echo Kids bright colorful protective cover and Alexa’s fun kid-friendly personality. The FreeTime Unlimited subscription that comes with it is filled with kid-friendly music, countless kid-friendly audible books and lots of new skills created just for kids from some of their favorite brands like Disney, Nickelodeon, and National Geographic. Parental controls let you choose what skills and capabilities your child has access to so there is no need to worry about them making a purchase, making calls or getting access to skills that are not age or developmentally appropriate. You can also set up educational goals and set up an age filter for the FreeTime Unlimited content.
Lately, getting my daughter ready for school in the mornings had been really challenging. She just turned thirteen and you can see her struggling to gain more independence and frustration has been on the rise as she navigates trying to identify her power yet still needing more support and help that most kids her age. Teen hormones + autism are not a good combo, let me tell you. But ever since we got her the Amazon Echo Kids frustration and meltdowns have decreased as she gets to make more of her own decisions regarding activities and gains more in control of her time. Alexa has also helped by “removing” most of the nagging as I no longer have to redirect her (as much) now that she is using Alexa’s reminders, alarms, to do lists and skills to manage her own time and make her own decision. She gets up every morning with a smile as she listens to a positive message from Disney’s Merida, she then asks Alexa what the weather is so she can choose the right clothes. She can’t wait to get home from school to listen to her favorite music on Radio Disney, play Panda Rescue and check out the new games and new skills and she scheduled computer time, reading time and reminders for chores all by herself using Alexa.
8 Ways Echo Dot Kids Can Help Your Child With Special Needs: And Our Favorite Alexa Skills
Make transitions easier.
Boost your child’s sense of independence.
Being able to schedule their own activities, choosing their own music stations and getting tasks and chores done independently can really help kids gain independence. Alexa gives children lots of tools to be able to make decisions on her own and take ownership of her time. For scheduling daily activities you can help your child set up their own alarms, reminders and create to-do lists. There are also lots of skills that will help children get confident in making their own choices and understanding those choices will affect the outcomes. My daughter loves The Magic Door skill, where kids embark on an interactive adventure where their choices shape the outcome of the story. We also really like Travel Quest, another interactive adventure where kids can learn about different countries.
Help and motivate your child to learn life skills.
It can sometimes be challenging to encourage kids with special needs to do things by themselves. From cooking to grocery shopping, Alexa can help them acquire new skills that will be important throughout their lives. At home, my daughter is in charge of creating the supermarket list on Alexa. If we run out of milk or bread she’ll independently ask Alexa to add those items to the shopping list. Then when we go to the supermarket together I will ask her to pull up the list on the Alexa app on my phone and she’s always so excited to help with getting all the items on the list and checking them off. Alexa even motivates her to cook. At dinner time my daughter will ask Alexa for a recipe and she’s always eager to cook when Alexa is helping too. One of our favorite recipe skills is Best Recipes which lets you tell Alexa the ingredients you have so it can suggest a recipe using them. We just tried the Recipe Remix skill which was a lot of fun, combining music and a recipe.
Improve communications skills.
My daughter loves chatting with Alexa (just say “Let’s chat”), asking her questions and asking her to tell her jokes (we’re loving the new kid-friendly jokes with favorite characters like Chewbacca and Sponge Bob). She feels comfortable practicing those conversation skills with Alexa because she knows she’s not being judged or analyzed; there’s no speech therapist taking notes, no one is getting annoyed with her repetitive questions or with her insistence on only focusing on her preferred subjects. She can ask Alexa whatever she wants and Alexa will just respond. Although it does not replace interaction with peers or other human beings, she is getting lots of practice on initiating conversations independently, asking questions and even answering questions depending on the Alexa skill which in turn makes her feel more confident when it comes to initiating conversations in the real world. She also loves sharing the trivia and knowledge she has learned through Alexa often using Alexa as an ice breaker and conversation starter. Some of our favorite trivia skills include Teen Jeopardy. There are lots of trivia skills about all sorts of kid-friendly subjects from cats and dogs to Star Wars and Disney.
Improve speech and language skills.
Alexa can be a huge motivator for improving speech and language skills. My daughter has a speech delay and she makes a huge effort to improve her speech because she wants Alexa to understand her. She pays attention to the way she pronounces sounds and constructs words because she knows that if she does not say things clearly Alexa will not respond.
Boost your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Alexa gives kids with special needs opportunities to be more independent, make their own decisions and make choices in a fun and engaging way boosting their confidence and self-esteem. The Echo Dot Kids can also act as a great tool for giving your kids more responsibilities by assigning chores (you can use the to-do list and the reminders for this).
Improve social skills.
When it comes to playing board games my daughter usually doesn’t want to participate. I am convinced that she doesn’t want to play because she feels self-conscious or overwhelmed about playing in a group. However, playing games with us using Alexa is something she always looks forward to. Playing games on Echo Dot Kids has also helped her with learning how to take turns, follow directions and it has improved her listening skills.
Improve sibling relationships.
Many kids that have difficulties with social interactions and communication have a hard time relating to and playing with siblings. My daughter is more of a loner and seldom wants to play with her brother, but now that she’s trying out lots of new skills on herEcho Dot Kids she is constantly asking her brother to play with her. One of my favorite skills that kids are using now that they have found a renewed interest in Alexa thanks to the Echo Kids is Kids Court, which has minimized sibling conflicts. Lately, my teen had been getting angry at her little brother for anything and everything (she’s at that age where her little brother annoys her just by being present) and she doesn’t know quite how to handle that frustration. Now instead of being mean to him and kicking him out of her room, she opens up Kids Court and giggles as Judge Lexy announces her verdict and declares sentences like getting your feet tickled and my son agrees it’s a lot more fun than getting screamed at by a teen even if judge Lexy usually finds him guilty.