Sunday, October 28, 2018

How Alexa Changed My SLP Life

In the summer of 2017, I got my first Amazon Echo (with Alexa). I really purchased it just to listen to music in our home (which, yep, it's great for), but within weeks I knew I had to have one in my office. In fact, I decided I needed one in my bedroom and bathroom, too. I was HOOKED. 

I may be over dramatizing this, and in a few years I'm sure I'll be totally "over" Alexa, but in the meantime I'm calling it life changing! Here's how it's changed by #momlife #wifelife and #slplife....

Oh, first, you should know you have to get the Alexa app to control your echo or echo dot (which you can use to summon Alexa anytime you aren't around your echo or echo dot) On the app there are skills for you to choose from. Skills are like apps for your app. All skills that I've ever wanted have been free. Free is GOOD. 

I use the app ANYDO for all of my life's to-do list at home, my to-do list as work, lists of things to buy, my grocery list, and my Christmas lists! Alexa takes ANYDO to a whole new level. 

You see, Alexa works with many of your existing apps (and those you don't YET) to make them hands-free. While I'm cooking or while I'm planning for my grocery list, all I have to do it tell Alexa to add something to my grocery list - "Alexa, add eggs and ketchup to my grocery list. It will appear there, and not only can I see it, but my husband can, too, when he logs on to his ANYDO app.  It will also sort your grocery list by departments so that you are sure not to miss anything on your list while being distracted by the wine section or Halloween candy aisle. Or maybe that just happens to me.

I can easily add tasks to my to-do lists by simply saying, "Alexa, add Medicaid billing to my to-do list!" You can view all of your tasks from all lists, or just view specific lists. The app can show you your to-do list each morning (with a nice non-judgmental chime) and also let you plan your day (by moving tasks to another day if needed)

And don't worry, you still get that gratifying feeling of marking things OFF YOUR LIST. Just use your finger and smile about everything you got accomplished. 

2) I CAN LISTEN TO ANY MUSIC I WANT AT ANYTIME (all free and more than you can ever listen to if you have Amazon Prime)

I already mentioned that I love it for my home. Our one and only "tower" echo is in our kitchen. Every time our niece and nephew come over, they immediately ask, "Alexa, tell me a joke." or "Alexa, tell me a story." While I unload the dishwasher or cook dinner, I'm all about, "Alexa, play New Orleans Jazz" and my husband is all, "Alexa, play 90s country." You can also crank up or lower the volume just by saying,"Alexa, volume up 5 times." or "Alexa, lower." At work, during those times I have to sit at my desk and do paperwork, it's been awesome to have my echo dot on my desk. All I have to say is, "Alexa, play the Piano Guys" or "Alexa, play acoustic for working." If someone walks in, I just say, "Alexa, stop. (or pause)"  The echo dot doesn't get nearly as loud as the tallier echo, but it's perfect for my office. 

By the way, you can also call your echo "Amazon" or "Echo" instead of Alexa. Because my dots in my bathroom are close together, I call one Alexa and one Echo so they don't get confused. 

To set up music on your echo, use the app to connect your echo to your Amazon account. Your echo can play music from your phone or music from your Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music, and other streaming services. All you have to do is tell it a song, artist, album, genre or playlist (from your phone or amazon) that you want to hear. Be as specific as you like!! Incredible!! 

My favorite Amazon Prime Music Playlists are: 


Here's the thing, I get 100-150 emails everyday. I literally could sit at my desk ALL day and ONLY answer emails. Being able to keep clacking away at my keyboard while using my voice to add items to my calendar and set reminders has TRULY been a game changer and humongous time saver. I keep typing while saying, "Alexa, add MEET WITH PAM to my calendar tomorrow at 2 pm." Then she will ask you anything else she may want to know such as location or other details I may want to add. Then it shows up in your calendar. Likewise, you can add reminders. My most frequent, since I eat a boiled egg almost every morning and like them soft boiled, is "Alexa, remind me in 6 minutes to check the eggs." Because I'm the worst at waiting until the last minute to leave for meetings, I also set reminders such as, "Alexa, remind me to leave for Lake Elementary at 11:40." Finally, I use the echo dot on my nightstand as my alarm clock. It's so easy. "Alexa, set an alarm for 5:45." and I snooze just by saying, "Echo, snooze." 

I am NOT a morning person. AT ALL. I can stay in my bed a couple more minutes and ease into the day by helping me take care of these essentials:

1) Find out about the traffic on my drive to work (just ask)
2) Refresh my memory about what's on my calendar (just ask)
3) Find out about weather to help me choose an outfit? (again, just ask) 
4) Get motivated with the limitless number of skills for motivation and inspiration. I really like the skill for quotes from Mother Teresa
5) Prayer (I like Silent Unity) Just ask for a prayer on any topic that's weighing heavily on you.
6) Meditation (my obsession with the HeadSpace app will be an entire post of its own)
7) Ease into Morning Playlists Once I'm up and getting ready, I ask Alexa to play "Ease into Morning __________ <<< (insert genre there)" 


By problems, I mean math problems. Y'all, I do not do math. I probably couldn't pass a 5th grade math test, and I'm okay with that. Truth be known, I'm probably learning disabled in math. Now Alexa does the math for me (I'm not even great with a calculator- sigh). She's my calculator now, and I love her for it.


Alexa can add a bunch of fun to lessons with kids. My niece and nephew love to ask her to do all kinds of wacky things - pretty handy for practicing asking questions actually- mostly they ask her to tell them a joke. Retelling jokes has always been a favorite carryover task of mine. Have your student learn a joke and then go out and use his or her stellar communication skills to tell it to someone else.

The skill called the Magic Door also has a therapy application. It tells stories and lets listeners choose what happens next. I also love the Twenty Questions skill and the Would You Rather (family version) skill for working on carryover of artic and fluency skills. New fun is always being added to Alexa; I get an email weekly telling me what's new with her, and much of it is seasonal.

 During this Halloween season, for example, you can ask Alexa:

what she's going to be for Halloween
to tell a Halloween joke
to sing a spooky song (especially entertaining)
to tell a scary story
to play Halloween music
to tell about what best-selling kids costumes
what you should be for Halloween

OR try to scare her by saying BOO and see how she reacts!

During Christmas, use the Elf Generator skill and the Ask Santa skill. The Christmas facts skill will tell you about anything related to Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah. You can even use the NORAD Track Santa skill to keep track of the big guy. 


You can tell I'm in deep when I am letting Alexa control all my lights. I bought an Alexa compatible plug at Christmas, and I plugged my Christmas tree into it. That was it. I was sold. All we had to do to turn it off and on now (which normally means getting BEHIND it and knocking down several ornaments) is saying, "Alexa, turn on/off the Christmas tree." Now she turns on all of my hard to reach lamps (I'm short, y'all). The plugs are so easy to pair with the Alexa app. 

As I discover new uses, I'll add them here! In the meantime, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear how you use Alexa. Don't have one?? Enter to win one NOW! 

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