Amber, Alexa and Me

This week’s blog is from Marc Starbuck, dad to Amber.

It’s Monday morning, the kids need to get ready for school and time’s ticking. Despite thinking I’d got everything ready the night before, it’s somehow ended up being pandemonium. Amber’s minibus is due to arrive in five minutes and I’ve just spent the last hour shoehorning her into her school uniform and getting food and medicine down her before she has a seizure.

Another four precious minutes pass, as I wrestle her into her coat – which she always finds hilarious – now it’s just teeth and shoes and she’s good to go.

One shoe on, two shoes on, toothpaste everywhere. A horn sounds from the road outside. The bus is here. We did it, Amber! We made it.

That’s when it hits you.

That’s when you remember that today is, ‘Dress up as your favourite Disney Character day.’

And trust me, there is no Disney character that wears a green school uniform.

I imagine days like this are a common occurrence in most households up and down the country, whether they have a child with Rett Syndrome or not. The reality is that we all need an extra pair of hands from time to time, which is why I have turned to Alexa.

Alexa is Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant for the smart home. A genie in a lamp that can make all your Wi-Fi enabled wishes come true.

Depending on how ‘Smart’ your home is, Alexa’s abilities make Mary Poppins look positively boring, but you don’t need to access all of her whistles and bells to benefit from her excellent PA skills.

Ten simple Alexa skills to help you through the day.

1, Calendar:

You know all those medical appointments you’ve been waiting months for? The scoliosis, breath-holding, sleep problems, physio, dietician, seizures, etc. Tell Alexa all about them and she’ll remind you all about them – that goes for ‘Dress up as your favourite Disney character day’ too!

“Alexa, what’s on my calendar tomorrow?”

2. Driving Time:

So many appointments, at so many different times of the day, at so many different places. Not sure what time to leave?

“Alexa, how long does it take to drive to the Hospital?”

3, Weather Forecast:

Does Amber need a winter coat or a raincoat? Does she need a sun hat, warm hat, thick socks, shorts socks?

“Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?”

4, To Do List:

You know how you always think of something really important, just when you’re in the middle of doing something else and you can’t find a pen or paper to write it down?

“Alexa, add send in prescription to my to do list”

5, Turn on the TV:

With so many remote controls and a variety of internet enabled on demand TV options available nowadays, finding what you want can be time consuming and tedious. That’s assuming you can find the remote in the first place. So why not ask Alexa to turn on the tv and play your child’s favourite film instead?

“Alexa, play Cinderella on Fire TV”

6, Music:

Amber has a favourite song that always cheers her up, and to save time flicking through my playlists or trying to remember where I left my phone, all I have to do is say…

“Alexa, play Troublemaker by Olly Murs”

7, Lights:

Walking Amber around the house involves keeping a firm grip of her with both of my hands, which means getting Alexa to turn the lights on as we go is incredibly useful. Also great for dimming the lights as bedtime approaches.

“Alexa, bedroom light on”

8, Timer:

When you get distracted by a Rett emergency or find yourself scratching your head over your child’s year 2 homework, a timer is great way of reminding you that the dinner is about to carbonise.

“Alexa, set a timer for 30 minutes”

9, Story Time:

If for some strange reason, you aren’t superhuman and can’t do 37 things at once, then let Alexa read a story to the kids instead.

“Alexa, open Amazon Storytime.”

10: Applause:

This is, perhaps, the most important skill of all. At the end of the day, when the kids are finally asleep in bed, bask in the glory of a standing ovation. You deserve it.

“Alexa, open Applause”

Of course, Alexa can’t dress Amber, comb her hair, give her med’s or physio, can’t feed her, hug her, kiss her or gaze lovingly into her eyes, but anything that helps make her day – and mine – run just a little bit smoother, has to be a good thing.

So take a bow, sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that your virtual assistant has it covered and tomorrow holds no forgotten appointments or fancy dress surprises.