For Shyamala Krishnan and her son Surya, Alexa has become an indispensable digital assistant. Surya is a junior college student with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and autism, who found a personal assistant in Alexa. Alexa helps him by reminding him of his everyday tasks, his online classes and even with keeping track of his medication.
Shyamala shares, “My son sometimes has trouble remembering things, so since he was young, we have been exploring how to best support him in being independent.” While Surya was beginning to grow tired of his parents constantly following up on his tasks, Shyamala and her husband also were finding it difficult to keep reminding their son about the things he needed to do. Two years ago, they began to think more about the role that technology could play.
“Over the last couple of years, we have been exploring digital assistance for him. We did some research and saw some posts about Alexa. We even reached out to the Amazon team through a social media platform,” says Shyamala. After investing in an Echo Dot, his mother has seen how powerful Alexa has been in enabling Surya to achieve his day today tasks. Shyamala believes that Alexa will help her son Surya become a lot more autonomous in future.
Learnings along the way
Once Alexa came into the picture, the family started using the reminder feature extensively. “People with ADHD can find it difficult to follow a schedule and may find follow-ups frustrating. To encourage them to follow a schedule, it must be done subtly. For Surya, getting reminders from somebody else besides me, is easier to accept,” explains Shyamala. “With Alexa, we have been able to have reinforcement that will help build habits, which is very important for him . Surya prefers getting reminders from Alexa than getting them from his Amma,” she laughs.
“The early success of having earned the feeling of independence should hopefully propel him to develop important skills as he starts to plan a college life for himself.”
The process of using Alexa also raised their level of mindfulness of how they were speaking to Alexa and to Surya. Over time, Shyamala realized that Alexa had begun to sound a lot like her since she would set the reminders for her son. However, she says that Surya would get irritated with Alexa’s reminders as they were too repetitive. “As parents, we are also learning that our language and messages need not always be in the same tone and same words. We learnt that we can soften the tone and words to get the work done. We also had to tell Surya to give Alexa a chance; as she was there to aid him in his work,” she adds.
The change in the language of the reminders has had a positive impact all around. With Alexa taking over the repetitive aspects of reminding Surya of multiple daily tasks, his parents are more relaxed and Surya has been able to thrive with much
less support from his parents. Separating themselves from the transactional aspect of managing his schedule has also helped them to understand him better.
The journey with Alexa has just begun
The Krishnan household believes they have just touched the surface of what Alexa can do, with a lot more features yet to be explored. Shyamala says Surya now uses the various scheduling, reminders and alarms features. “The early success of having earned the feeling of independence should hopefully propel him to develop important skills as he starts to plan a college life for himself,” she says.
Shyamala has shared the positive changes Alexa has been able to bring with the closed parents’ group she is part of. “The advantage with Alexa is that it is managed by me, but my son benefits from it,” she says. And for Surya, from Alexa sometimes acting like his Amma (with her constant reminders), Alexa has become… Alexa, his trustworthy companion and personal enabler!