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11 Smart Speaker Activities for Adult Speech Therapy

Smart speakers can remind, entertain, and inform our patients. Yet many well-meaning people gift their loved ones a smart speaker—only to find it gathering dust!

In this post, you’ll find 11 smart speaker activities for adult speech therapy that can help your patients become more comfortable with their devices while supporting your speech therapy goals.

For even more functional treatment ideas, handouts, and worksheets, check out The Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack!

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How To Teach Patients To Use A Smart Speaker

activities for adult speech therapy

1. Choose A Motivating Goal

Discuss with your patient what they want out of their smart speaker. Start with one feature that you both believe will positively impact their daily life.

Do they keep forgetting to take their meds but they have no caregiver support? Set medication reminders.

Do they keep asking caregivers what time it is? Used spaced retrieval to teach them how to ask their smart speaker instead.

After your patient has learned how to use this one feature on their smart speaker, gradually expand to 2-4 features that will improve their daily lives.

How To Use Smart Speakers To Meet Cognition Goals

Examples

Goal 1: The patient will use aids to increase orientation to 100% given occasional verbal cues in order to reduce confusion. One of those aids can be a smart speaker.

Goal 2: The patient will complete complex functional math at 100% given occasional verbal cues in order to increase independence in financial management. One of the verbal cues can be a reminder to use their smart speaker to check their math.

2. Use Strategies

cognitive strategies for adult speech therapy

You’ll most often use task analysis, repetition, and spaced retrieval to help patients remember how to use their smart speaker.

3. Teach How To Summon The Smart Speaker

This may seem obvious—but for many of our patients, it’s not!

I used to live with my older adult parents who have no neurological diagnosis (although I have my suspicions…) They were gifted an Amazon Echo™ but absolutely could not remember what word they had to say to summon their device.

Complicating things, English isn’t my mom’s first language and some of the phonemes of the summoning word (“Alexa”) are hard for her to articulate.

What worked for my parents was to change the summoning word to something they could both remember and that my mom could articulate.

Google how to change the summoning work into something that’s easy for your patient to remember and speak.

4. Teach What Words & Phrases To Say

Teach your patient the specific words or phrases to use with their smart speaker.

Having been raised on Google, younger patients will likely have an easier time with this. Younger generations know how to change words and phrases to get the response they’re looking for. Teach your older patients how to think this way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the operating system of your patient’s smart speaker, take a few minutes to test what terms work best to get the responses you’re looking for.

5. What If They Still Don’t Want To Use It?

First, check if your patient even wants to learn how to use their smart speaker! Many are intimidated by the new technology, but, with encouragement, can be convinced to give it a try.

But if your patient truly has no interest, it may be the end of the road for their smart speaker! If they’re not interested or find their device too frustrating or ineffective, no worries! There are plenty of other ways to meet their speech therapy goals.

Example

I once had a patient whose smart speaker reminded them to “Put in your hearing aid.”

Upon reflection, an auditory reminder wasn’t my wisest therapeutic choice. BUT, the patient would hear something in the house which prompted them to get up, put in their hearing aids, then investigate what was going on. Eventually, I taught them that when they saw and (sort of) heard the smart speaker going off, it was a reminder to put in their hearing aids.

This was the only feature my patient had any interest in using their smart speaker for. But it improved their safety, function, and quality of life!

After giving smart speakers a try, if your patient has positive changes and wants to keep using the smart speaker, keep going with it! But if it only causes frustration and confusion—or is just too ineffective—let it go.

11 Smart Speaker Activities For Adult Speech Therapy

smart speaker activities for adult speech therapy

1. Set Daily Alarms

Teach your patients to use a smart speaker to set daily alarms. Daily alarms can help our patients get into a routine. This can help with memory by lightening their cognitive load.

For example, they can set a daily alarm for 6:00 am once, instead of having to remember to do it every day.

Daily Alarm Examples

  • Wake up at a specific time
  • Take medications
  • Check blood sugar levels
  • Eat meals

2. Set Appointment Alarms

adult speech therapy treatment ideas

Teach your patients how to set alarms for appointments and events they need help remembering.

Appointment Examples

  • Doctor appointments
  • Hair appointments
  • Therapy appointments
  • Social events (birthday parties, lunch dates, etc.)

When to set the alarm will depend on what works for your patient. For example, some patients may be confused if an alarm is set the day before an appointment. While others need that day-before reminder to secure their transportation.

Consider setting multiple alarms for one appointment. For example, one reminder the day before to secure transportation. And another reminder one hour before to get dressed and prepared.

3. Check The Weather

cognitive speech therapy activities

While talking about the weather has a bad rap, a lot of people love knowing the forecast! Many also enjoy knowing what the weather is like in other cities.

Train your patient to ask their smart speaker questions about the daily forecast, weekly forecast, chance of rain or snow, the high temperature for the day, etc.

Make it a memory task by first prompting your patient to ask their smart speaker for the forecast. Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, ask your patient follow-up questions.

“What’s the weather like today?” “What’s the weather in Miami?”

If they forget the answer, prompt them to ask the smart speaker again.

4. Check The Time

activities for adult speech therapy

Patients with mild cognitive impairment or dementia may have a variety of clocks and watches around their space, but that forget that they can use them to tell time. Using a smart speaker to check the time can also help your patients with orientation.

Turn this into a spaced retrieval task! Choose a target question (“What can you ask to tell the time?”) Then teach the patient the target response (“Alexa, what time is it?”)

Gradually space out the time intervals between asking the question, using the spaced retrieval protocol.

To add to this task, compare the current time with the next appointment time. For example, let’s say that your treatment session is before lunch. Ask the patient to problem-solve how long they have before they should head to the dining room.

5. Check The Date

home health speech therapy activities

Similar to the “Check The Time” task, patients with mild cognitive impairments or dementia may benefit from learning how to ask Alexa to check the date. Learning this task can also help patients with orientation.

An example target question is, “What can you ask to check the date?” And the target response may be the patient asking, “Alexa, what day is it?”

Add to the challenge by comparing the current date with future or even past appointments.

For example, you may prompt, “Alexa said that today is Wednesday. Your daughter visited on Monday. How many days has it been since your daughter visited?”

6. Set Reminders

smart speaker speech therapy

This smart speaker task is similar to setting an alarm. But instead of just having an alarm go off, the smart speaker can be prompted to say a specific reminder. This is more appropriate for mild memory loss or mild cognitive impairment (versus dementia).

For example, your patient may say, “Hey Google, remind me to call Amrita at 2 pm.” Then, at 2pm, the smart speaker will play a sound and say, “This is a reminder to call Amrita.”

7. Use A Calendar

tasks speech therapy exercises for adults

Similar to reminders, patients with mild memory impairments can keep an auditory calendar on their smart speaker.

They can add events to their calendar. Then ask what time the event is if they need a reminder.

For example, “Hey Siri, add a doctor’s appointment to my calendar on May 21st at 10 am.” And, “Hey Siri, what time is my doctor’s appointment?”

I do recommend that your patients also keep a written calendar.

8. Make Calculations

adult speech therapy treatment ideas

As appropriate, teach your patients how to use their smart speakers to make calculations during functional tasks.

For example, a smart speaker can help them calculate how much cash they need for their grocery run. Or it can help when balancing a checkbook: “Hey Siri, what’s $172.09 minus $23.42?”

This calculation feature does have its limitations. The smart speaker can talk too quickly, for instance, leading to frustration. Use your best judgment!

9. Check Spelling

materials adult speech therapy

Teach your patient how to ask their smart speaker to check how something is spelled. Maybe they enjoy writing letters and cards. Or they fill out paperwork or take notes by hand. Or perhaps they’re just curious!

Regardless of the reason, their smart speaker has a robust dictionary to help them spell more accurately.

10. Calculate Conversions

functional speech therapy tasks

Patients can use their smart speakers to make conversions during functional tasks. This is an especially useful (and hands-free!) function when cooking or baking.

Example Conversions

  • How to half a recipe
  • How many tablespoons are in a half quarter-cup
  • Convert milliliters to/from teaspoons or cups
  • Convert miles to/from kilometers

11. Have Fun!

speech therapy activities for adults

Finally, encourage willing patients to have fun with their smart speakers!

Following their interests, you can teach them how to play music, audiobooks, or their favorite news station.

If they enjoy a little silliness, show them how to use their smart speaker for moments of fun. For example, “Hey Siri, tell me a joke!” or “Hey Google, what are some interesting historical facts?” or even “Alexa, can you meow?”

Adult Speech Therapy Materials

For everything you need to assess, treat, and document adult speech therapy, check out our shop!

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