Breaking Ground 107 - In Practice: Keeping the Peace with Google Home

By Babs Tierno, Executive Director, Autism Tennessee

About five years ago, I received a Google Mini Speaker as a prize at an event I attended. I was unfamiliar with the product, but I’m pretty tech-savvy. So, I took the speaker home and set it up.

That same week, my son had a therapy session. We talked about ways for the two of us to work together instead of against each other.

My son has autism, OCD, and anxiety. That can be an explosive situation when things don’t go according to plan. We were noticing that my son often resisted when he felt I controlled a situation. We were trying to come up with ways for him to finish tasks without me holding him accountable. I recalled that the Google Mini had a “routines” option on the app. My son and therapist both thought that was worth a try.

I went home and made a list of all the things we do every single day. I listed what triggers the action, and when it happens. I came up with about 20 tasks. Then I got started programming the speaker.

For each task, I set the speaker to “ding” at 70% volume to alert that a task is coming. Then, Google speaks aloud a task. Sometimes there is a timer associated with it. Sometimes the task is followed by music. The options are endless. We use Google Home routines to prompt all home transitions like:

  • meals
  • self-care
  • bedtime
  • getting ready and leaving the home
  • medication reminders
  • chores
  • and more. 

Here are a few examples of how we use this off-the-shelf technology in our home.

  • 6:30 a.m.: Ding! It’s wake-up time. (Kids Bop songs blare to wake him up.) If you are downstairs before 6:40, you get to choose what we watch.
  • 7:00 a.m.: Ding! It’s time to brush teeth in one minute. Go to the bathroom and get your toothbrush ready with toothpaste. (Sixty seconds pass.) It is time to brush teeth. Inside, outside, tops, and tongue; when I stop counting you are done. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Rinse your mouth and your toothbrush. Great job! 
  • 8:10 a.m.: Ding! It’s time to leave for school. Please put your shoes on, get your backpack, and get in the car. 
  • 4:05 p.m.: Ding! It's time for homework. Get your backpack and pencil, and sit down at the table. 
  • 8:00 p.m.: Ding! It’s time for bath. Rory, sit on the stairs for your turn. Carmen, go upstairs and get started. Dirty clothes in the hamper, use soap on all your parts. (This one turns on classical piano music to start the nightly bedtime calm-down routine.)

Using Google Home has made a real difference in the stress level of our home. Parents and caregivers went from adversaries to allies helping our son manage his day. I recommend this technology to any family who is struggling with routines!

a young boy with brown hair wearing big noise-canceling earphones sits at a table and looks down at his homework intently writing with a pencil.
Carmen Tierno starts homework with a Google Home prompt