Google Home for ADHD

We’ve had a couple of Google Home Minis since coming home from Australia in January, and I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of functionality since then.

We’ve also bought an extra one for the bedroom, but since Squid moved to his own room, he’s taken it.

Since the devices have been so useful for us, I thought I’d write a post about how we use them, what has been helpful, and what I’d like to see in future updates.

For weeks I’ve been hoping for a feature that would allow me to keep the kid on track from another room. Today, I found the broadcast feature, which looks promising. I just tested it by broadcasting “Inigo, get off the toilet!”. A phrase I seem to use way more than I’d like to.

In the kitchen, we mostly use the mini to set timers for cooking – “Hey Google, set a timer for ten minutes” is an absolute corker.  Being able to set a timer while using both hands for other tasks is much more useful than you think it would be. But the absolute winner is the shopping list.

When you set up your Google Home Mini, your Google Home app will gain the “Shopping List” function.  With this, the ADHD brain can finally gain true Zen Mastery, where thought and action can become one.  Using the last of the stock powder? “Hey Google, please add Vegetable Stock to the shopping list”.  Try as I might, I just can’t turn off the manners when chatting with my new friend.  Thought and action become one in a way that is previously unheard of in this house.

Living with ADHD means that many tasks you regular brains do without conscious thought (changing the toilet paper roll, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket, paying the rent on time, putting petrol in the car) can become huge barriers. Finishing the last of the yoghurt, and then remembering NOT to put it back in the fridge, then ALSO remembering to add yoghurt to the shopping list is just one task too many for a brain that is already overwhelmed.  This particular function is worth the cost price for our family on it’s own – we haven’t run out of toilet paper since they came to live with us, and that is huge.

If you have a spotify account you can use the google home mini to play specific music.  Without a paid account, you are limited to “Hey Google, play some music”, and you can’t specify genre or artist.  Since we already have an Apple Music subscription, this is wildly annoying.  I have signed up for spotify to trial it, but I hate the interface, and I can’t use it with my own music (please correct me if I’m wrong here!).  The Apple Home Pod will work with Apple Music, but at $600, that isn’t in our immediate future. But my birthday is coming up…

We have a Google Chromecast, but it is on the TV in the bedroom that we never use, and no mini in that room anyway, so we haven’t been able to take advantage of using the mini to tell Netflix “YES I AM STILL WATCHING, YOU JUDGEMENTAL BASTARD”.

Setting alarms is also brilliant.  Squid is trying to work on a morning routine, with the plan that eventually he’ll be able to wake up and get through all his morning tasks by habit, rather than actively having to remember what his next task is.  Ideally, we’d be able to get google to help with that too, but I fear that functionality is a little way away.  If anyone from Google is reading this, I have a killer idea I’d like to talk to you about, drop me a line.

Inigo uses “Hey Google, Good Morning” most mornings, but since he has an aversion to actual news, he has to stop it before it tells him what new horrors are happening in the world. If I could reprogram it to play music instead, that would be brillig.

Reminders is another function that isn’t quite there yet.  Some reminders seem to work well, others don’t appear, and then you find multiple reminders on another day. Since we are a household of three, we need 6 medication reminders per day, and three “get another script” reminders every month.  Making these reminders appear in the right calendar, and then making sure the notifications appear, are persistent but not too persistent, and repeat daily or monthly as applicable, is a dream that I hope one day becomes a reality.

“Hey Google, how long will it take me to drive to Mt Roskill?’, is useful, as is “Hey Google, what time does the bookshop close?”. We also love “Hey Google, what sound does a unicorn make?”, and “Hey Google, I’m feeling lucky”. Someone in this house also has way too much fun with “Hey Google, what does the fox say?”, but it isn’t me or the kid.

For homeschooling, being able to use google as an encyclopedia and dictionary is great, not as good as the real thing, but a good quick and simple shortcut for when you need an answer fast, but don’t really need detail.

And my favourite new found feature?  Podcasts. If your podcast is supported (the creators need to have some code in their feed), you can just say, “Hey Google, play The Infinite Monkey Cage”, and it will play the next available episode.

Living the dream.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on cool things you’ve been able to do with your assistant.  Do you have smart lightglobes?  Something else other than a chromecast you can connect to?  Another tip for making life easier?

Thanks to Web-Goddess for her post that inspired me to take the plunge and give them a go!


Homeschooling, day 479

Just making up numbers, because recording things isn’t one of my strong points.

Squid has been working on year 10 (ish) maths, building skills in patience, research, persistence and resilience. Finding out the skills you need to learn in the face of challenges, something that he hasn’t really been getting from school.

Here is a link to a video that demonstrates why not being challenged is a risk factor for gifted kids.

Right now he is rewriting “The Princess Bride” in Zero Language. Probably not useful from a creative writing perspective, but his handwriting is legible, so we are also calling that a win.

I really don’t give a rats about what level he is working at. What I care about is that he learns how to deal with barriers. How to persist when things get hard. How to use your brain to foster a growth mindset instead of just expecting life to be easy, and to turn to custard when you face a challenge.

We’ve been having lots of conversations about intrinsic Vs. extrinsic motivation, and how to get through the boring tasks so that you have time for the fun stuff. A lot of kids with ADHD struggle with repetitive, boring tasks, and executive function is something that we are explicitly attempting to deal with in our “year off”.

We don’t know yet what next year will look like. I know that Squid would love to go to AGE full time, and I honestly feel like a year of exploration and low demand would be good for the soul. But I can’t see us finding the $20k per year, and I also can’t quite let go of my expectations that he should be able to function in a “normal” school environment.

Maybe, a year of play and exploration will lead to more demand avoidance. But maybe, some cognitive skills training and raising expectations will see him able to integrate back into a mainstream school setting, albeit with a few accommodations.

One reason mainstream school needs to be part of the picture is because of his strong interest in science – teaching chemistry without a lab or a licence to buy chemicals (or having any expertise at all!) isn’t an idea I can get my head around.

This afternoon we switch from the psychology team to the neurodevelopmental team at the Kari Centre. The anxiety for which we were initially referred last year has all but disappeared since leaving school. Two weeks ago, at his own suggestion, Inigo has moved back into his own bedroom to sleep. At the same time, he said he didn’t need an adult to stay with him while he sent to sleep, and has mostly slept by himself all through the night without any input from a parent.

It smells like victory.