Hey Google -- Listen to my AAC

Jun 05, 2018

Summer usually means more time spent at home, and less time spent at school.

And as digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home pop up in more and more homes that means more and more opportunities to encourage communication in a new way.

As digital assistants become common in homes around the world, it is easy to see how a family could encourage AAC communication opportunities using these talking boxes.

While this article will focus on features of Google Home, similar opportunities can be created using Alexa (see our link below for all available directions for Alexa and Google Home)

What child (or adult for that matter) doesn't get sucked into the fun of asking odd questions, giving commands, and controlling smart home features simply by speaking. And since Google Home is voice controlled, this device can become not just a handy assistant but a pseudo communication partner with just a tiny bit of encouragement.

The following are some ways to motivate speech through interactions with Google Home.

  • Of course, an AAC communicator can pre-program a speech button to make some basic requests like "tell me a joke," "what time is it," "tell me a scary story," or "sing me a song." This basic function of the device can be entertaining and silly, but most people love a bit of silly, so using a speech device to make these requests could be a good opportunity for verbalized speech.

  • Along the same line, communicators can quickly learn to request their favorite music using voice commands. "Hey Google, play Imagine Dragons radio" might become a favorite phrase. Google can play music by genre or artist and that could have toes tapping everywhere in your home.

  • Google Home is pretty good at answering questions. "We're going on a trip, I wonder how many miles it is from California to Missouri, let's ask Google" or "I don't know that word, have Google tell you what it means" are just a couple of times your AAC communicator could ask questions of Google to get a great answer. Other times might be to check the answer to a multiplication problem, verify the spelling of a word, learn interesting facts, find a certain piece of information, and more.

  • You can use Google Home to help you know what is going on that day. If you have connected a Google Calendar to your account, you can say "Hey Google, tell me about my day" and Google will let you know what events you have scheduled. This could help prepare your communicator for upcoming appointments or interactions each day and take some of the drama out of daily happenings.

  • If you have smart home features like smart lighting, a NEST thermostat, or a smart television you can connect your Google Home account so your communicator can control these features. An AAC user could find his or her own tv show using their speech device with just a couple of quick commands.

  • And speaking of commands, communicators can learn to set a timer, schedule a reminder or broadcast a message to devices elsewhere in the house all using simple Google Home commands.

  • But some of the best bits about Google Home are really just for fun. If your AAC user loves animals then ask Google to tell you what sound each animal makes. If your child enjoys games ask Google to play one with you. Let your communicator use Google to flip a coin or roll a die by speaking the order through their speech device.

  • But Google Home can also help you stay connected. Set your Google device to recognize the speech device when it says to "Call Mom" or "Call Dad" and your AAC speaker can then reach you on your phone using Google.


Find a pretty exhaustive list of available commands for Google Home here.

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Get a great collection of Alexa instructions here.

Try it yourself using our public Google Home board through this link or by using the speech board below. Remember to start every command with "Hey Google."