“Alexa” for Kids with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

One of the most popular gifts of this past holiday season, according to CNN Money, was Amazon’s Echo Dot, featuring their digital assistant, Alexa. If you are one of the millions of people who recently brought Alexa into their home, then you are now learning that Alexa can do all kinds of things, from giving you the weather forecast to turning on the lights in your home or operating any number of Internet of Things connected devices. If you have a child with ADHD, then you’ll be happy to know that Alexa can also help with many of the challenges that you and your child face every day.

Kids with ADHD are typically slow to gain independence in their daily activities, like getting ready in the morning, completing their homework, and getting ready for bed in the evening. Parents often find themselves “micromanaging” their child’s day, making sure that things get done well and on time, even when their child is of an age when they “should” be managing these activities independently. The need for constant reminders and double-checking frustrates parents, and on the flip side, kids often complain that their parents spend too much time “nagging” them. This is where Alexa can be helpful. Alexa can essentially serve as an independent third party that provides reminders, alarms, and lists. Kids can easily learn to use these features in Alexa, building independence and confidence, and reducing conflict and negotiations with parents. After all, when a parent says, “You’re going to need to leave for soccer practice in 10 minutes,” it can feel like nagging to a child, but when Alexa says the same thing, it’s not emotionally loaded or the source of immediate conflict.

There are many ways to incorporate Alexa into your child’s daily routine. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Alarm clock. Help your child set an alarm with Alexa, and customize the alarm with his or her favorite song. For example, “Alexa, please wake me up at 7am every weekday with ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen.” If your child is generally slow to wake up, then let him or her know that he or she will need to be out of bed by the time the wake-up song ends. By having your child tell Alexa when to wake him or her up and which song to play, he or she is taking responsibility for his or her morning alarm and gaining independence.


  1. Getting out the door on time. Alexa’s scheduling functions can also help your child keep track of time in the morning. In the Alerts & Alarms section of your Alexa app, create custom reminders that are scheduled to repeat at the same time every morning or afternoon. For example, you can create a reminder called “Ten Minute Warning” and then program Alexa to remind your child at 7:50am every day that it’s almost time to leave the house, “Dylan, I just wanted you to know the bus is coming in 10 minutes.” Again, by leveraging Alexa to provide the reminder, you’re helping to break the cycle of conflict that may be dominating your mornings.
  2. Homework Time. You can also use Alexa’s scheduling and alarm systems to help manage homework time, either by using the Timer Feature, “Alexa, please set a homework timer for one hour” or the Alarm Feature, “Alexa, please set an alarm for 4pm when homework time is over.” Your child can also ask, “Alexa, please tell me how much time is left on my homework timer,” without involving his or her parents in the discussion.


  1. To-Do Lists. To-Do lists may seem like an organization strategy that is geared toward adults, but they can also be very helpful for kids with ADHD. For example, if your child mentions that he or she needs to return a permission slip to school by Thursday and attend a Science Fair on Friday he or she can easily add these items to his or her to-do list. “Alexa, please add permission slip to our to-do list for Wednesday” or “Alexa, please remind me about my science project on Thursday afternoon at 3pm.”

As Alexa and similar technologies begin to play a more central role in our daily lives, kids with ADHD will gain access tools that can help them gain independence, manage their ADHD symptoms more effectively, and reduce conflict at home. And one of the best features: Alexa is screen-free! These digital tools are all available without a distracting tablet or phone that can derail any child’s best intentions. So, help your child get started with Alexa, and see what this technology can do for your family.   



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


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This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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