Bluebee Pals and Whole Group Projects – Creativity with AAC Communication
Allison Cusumano, MS Ed., CCC-SLP: I am attaching whole group pictures and narrative with Bluebee Pals in Pre-K.
What is AAC communication? AAC means all of the ways that someone communicates besides talking. People of all ages can use AAC if they have trouble with speech or language skills. Augmentative means to add to someone’s speech. Alternative means to be used instead of speech. Some people use AAC throughout their life.https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/aac/
using an app on an iPad or tablet to communicate
using a computer with a “voice,” sometimes called a speech-generating device.
Connecting a Bluebee Pal to a AAC app on iPad to engage speech
Bluebee Pals Week #1
We worked on following 1-2 step directions to complete a craft related to a topic we had been learning about in small group sessions that week, Bees. Hudson, the puppy, started the group session by talking about bees and asking questions after watching a video utilizing the TouchChat App on an iPad mini. “What do bees eat?” “Do you like bees?” Students raised their hands to help answer questions for Hudson. Hudson used his communication board to request items he needed to complete the craft, especially when Mrs. Cusumano forgot to give everyone gluesticks.https://www.bluebeepals.com/autism/
Bluebee Pals Week #2
Heading into the second week of the Bee Project, during the whole group, the students used their bee puppets made during the previous week to follow directions with location concepts (i.e., in, on, under, between, etc.). Hudson helped tell what each picture card said when the students came up one at a time to move their bee puppets around the garden. For example, “Put the bee next to the purple flower.” https://touchchatapp.com
Allison Cusumano, MS Ed., CCC-SLP
Chestnut Elementary School for Science and Engineering
Bluebee Pal instantly placed a smile on my son’s face, and he was utterly amazed how the voice was coming out of the Zebra and the Monkey. It encourages him to use more his AAC device once he keeps eye contact with Bluebee Pals and pays attention to what it’s saying.
It’s incredible how my son Oliver fell in love with the Bluebee Pals. It’s not just a stuffed animal; it gives the child with autism a sense of belonging by having someone that is not unpredictable they can listen to, and eventually, he will communicate too.https://www.assistiveware.com/products/proloquo2go
It is helping him to self-regulate by practicing waiting and listening as well. My son loved the app and used it a lot once it was educational. Whenever my son uses Proloquo2go, Bluebee Pal App, social stories, and reading stories, he expresses joy and definitely thrilled by his Bluebee Pal friend.https://www.bluebeepals.com/bluebee-pals-app/
We have to express our gratitude to the organization and the customer service. Thank you so much for everything you have done for our family!
Hope Haven was founded in 1926, near the height of the tuberculosis epidemic in America, with a mission to serve malnourished and tuberculosis-infected children. Though it opened with just three patients, it quickly outgrew its original facility on the Trout River and, in 1940, moved to a large, white brick hospital on Atlantic Boulevard that quickly became a community landmark. As modern medicine brought tuberculosis under control, a new public health threat emerged – poliomyelitis, one of the most feared diseases of the mid-1900s. At its new hospital, Hope Haven shifted its attention to treating children afflicted with polio. By the 1960s, when the Salk vaccine began to stem the tide of polio victims, Hope Haven had treated more than 20,000 patients.As community needs continued to change, Hope Haven continued to adjust, providing general medical and surgical care for children. In 1980, with major changes occurring in the health care system, Hope Haven limited itself to outpatient services. In 1990, it sold the landmark hospital on Atlantic Boulevard and moved to a purpose-built facility on Beach Boulevard, where its staff treats children and families with a range of educational, developmental and mental health concerns.https://www.bluebeepals.com/bluebee-pals-project-participants/
Today, Hope Haven is recognized as one of the community’s leading nonprofit providers of specialized services for children and their families, and has earned the highest respect from its peers. It serves more than 5,000 families each year. https://www.hope-haven.org
“Thank you for your generous donation of Bluebee Pals to Hope Haven. The feedback on Bluebee Pals has been highly positive, and parents, educators, and therapists are impressed with the response and reactions from children. They are excited about this product and introducing Bluebee Pals in home and academic settings.” Arien Peppers, M.Ed : Hope Haven, 4600 Beach Blvd.Jacksonville, FL 32207
Bluebee Pas Testimonials
“Bluebee Pals are an effective technology tool to engage children in pro-social skills. I introduced this interactive device to my children and in my classroom to discuss important subjects: boundaries, respect, and caring for one another. The children love engaging with Bluebee Pal Riley the Zebra, and I find Bluebee Pals adaptable, user friendly, and compatible with a host of apps. I can play songs for dance parties, tell stories via YouTube videos, and utilize various applications like ABC Mouse.” Apps Bluebee Pals
“I currently utilize Bluebee Pal as a source of encouragement for my 2-year-old during potty training. I use the Speak App to have Parker the Monkey encourage son to go to the potty and praise him when he does. It is an excellent aid, especially during these times where children have minimal contact with their peers.”
Elan Santiago, MS, LMHC-Licensed Mental Health Counselor: Special Needs Children Pre-school Age
2. “The children were in awe of the Bluebee Pals when we introduced them in our classroom. We use Bluebee during circle time during social-emotional lessons. They have opportunities to ask him questions, and we sometimes use him to role-play social situations to model how the students should approach things (asking to play with something, expressing why they are upset, etc.)”
“We also use him in our Calm Down Corner that students utilize when upset or angry. The student will go into the calm down corner, and we will use the Bluebee to help them talk through what they are feeling and offer comforting words. Bluebee Pal is an effective teaching assistant in our classroom, engaging children in communication and literacy.”
Educator: Kiara Moscrip: Teacher Ages 3-7 with Special Needs
“I had the opportunity to see the Bluebee Pals at FAAST/Hope Haven a few weeks ago; it was so fascinating to realize that I could get Bluebee to say whatever I wanted. I brought it home for my 10-year-old daughter Piper to try, and she loved everything about it. She loved how cute the dog was even before setting up the iPad. She loved controlling what it said. We’ve had several friends over, and it’s always the first educational tool that the kids pick up to play with.” Carol Chiang, OTR/L, CAPS, ECHM, CHAMP-Thanks for making such a great product!”
1. He called on students by name to answer questions. (Mia where is the nose?) She was able to find it on Hudson, her communication board, and her craft.
2. He used his communication board to request pieces for the craft and make choices. (I want the red hat.)
3. He commented on each student’s creation. (e.g. I like your snowman!) (That’s a great color!)
4. He even asked for help when he needed it, providing an excellent model for his peers in the group. (It’s sticky, can you help me please?)
I pre-made communication boards for the craft, and also pre-programmed expected comments and phrases in the text to speech app for Hudson, to help the flow of the session. Not all students needed the communication board to request items, however, they were helpful at the end of the session when sequencing all of the steps with Hudson. http://bluebeebpals.com
The students were engaged, attending well, and were excited to work with Hudson again. He is a celebrity when he enters the room now.
Allison Cusumano, MS Ed., CCC-SLP
Chestnut Elementary School for Science and Engineering
School District of Osceola County
4300 Chestnut Street
Kissimmee, FL 34759
Allison Cusumano, a speech therapist, was first introduced to Bluebee Pals while working at Princeton House Charter School for students with autism. The teachers and therapists utilized Bluebee Pals to interact with AAC Devices, modeling the use of devices and communication core boards, reading stories, singing songs, and engaging in social communication in various settings. As the new Program Specialist at Osceola School District, Alison received an overwhelmingly positive reaction to a Bluebee Pal demonstration at an SLP professional development event.
Technology has transformed a host of industries since its creation, specifically education. Yahoo reports that the global EdTech market projects to reach $181.3 billion by 2025, with a 16.1% average growth year-over-year. The numbers used to be much smaller, but the pandemic has called for the rapid adoption of smart classrooms and eLearning solutions, fueling the need for new online teaching-learning models.
Enabling distance learning
The 2020’s pandemic has led to a global need for distance learning technologies. And luckily, many educational tech tools were already in place—their capacity just needed extra adjusting to accommodate the volume of users. Software like Google Classroom and Adobe Connect aims to emulate the traditional classroom experience, with screen sharing features, virtual whiteboards, and even a chat room for students to interact with other students.
The activity has begun to be more inclusive for students with disabilities. Laura Nota, a professor at the Department of Applied Psychology at the University of Padova, shares how her school has ensured that teachers have the necessary assistive technology tools to even the playing field for their students with special needs. For instance, those with trouble hearing had the online stenotype service. It contained the transcriptions of all their classes.
Bridging the communication gap
Not every student is the same kind of learner, and those with special needs often require extra help keeping up with the lessons. Fortunately, technology is here to help with this aspect as well. Since 2012, the Lawrence school district in New York has been providing their students with free iPads and internet access to enrich their classroom experience. As a pathologist for the district and director of Maryville University’s speech therapy program, Meaghan Goodman has been taking advantage of this opportunity to help her young students communicate. Her department uses tablets that have been installed with videos, text-to-speech tools, and voice recognition apps, to help students understand and express their words better (see below video). In addition, AAC Apps( Augmented, Alternative, Communication) like Touch Chat and JABtalk can also facilitate communication for children with limited expressive language ability.https://web.archive.org/web/20210304065608if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/xVJSUfdK1nM?feature=oembed
Immersing Students Through VR Technology
Virtual reality (VR) has many applications from gaming to workplace training and education. VR technology is utilized in classrooms to increase student engage in learning and communication. A great example of this is Microsoft’s Immersive Reader—a collection of tools that help readers learn a new language. While it’s used in many English and other language classes, education reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard and columnist for EdTech Magazine’s classroom beat, Micah Castelo, notes how this VR tool is also designed to support students with dyslexia and dysgraphia. In a space-like environment, the user can focus on pronouncing texts by the syllable.
Teachers have also used VR to conduct virtual field trips. An article on Good Housekeeping has listed over 40 trips you can consider taking your students on, such as the American Museum of Natural History, Bright Farms, and the Atlanta Zoo. Incidentally, VR is also a great way to add a change of scenery to your lessons.
Assisting With Reading:
Reading comprehension isn’t the easiest skill to teach, especially to excitable young kids. However, if the activity was made more interactive and enjoyable, they might be more willing to sit down and learn. Reading apps like Blake’s Reading Egg, FarFaria, and Epic are good assistants to start introducing to young children. They’re equipped with colorful pictures, audio feedback, and other features that can make reading more immersive. Bluebee Pals interactive learning tools connect to any smart device and assist with lessons by speaking the prompts or providing words of encouragement. A huggable plush companion that creates a reassuring and nurturing learning setting at home or school. Bluebee Pals pair with all apps offering unlimited access to special needs, reading, and educational apps promoting literacy and communication. Students watching sing-along or nursery rhymes apps or vidoes can enhance memory and recall at a faster pace. If you can find those accompanied by subtitles that can be ideal.http://bluebeepals.com
Helping Parents Stay Connected
Technology isn’t just used to help kids with their classroom activities—parents and guardians can use it to track their children’s progress too. Several types of software can help with this. One is ParentSquare—an app that streamlines the communication between parents, teachers, and administrators. Whether it’s school-wide announcements or personal remarks on students, ParentSquare ensures that parents and guardians are always in the loop. On the other hand, classroom management tools like Edmodo for Parents are there for easy access to student’s academic performance, from the scores of their tests to which subjects they need help with. For parents and guardians interested in providing supplementary help to their kids, especially if they have special needs, these tools can allow for collaborations with teachers to provide the best education possible. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/parentsquare/id908126679
Technology has created a diverse variety of educational tools, from helping students form sentences to allowing parents to be an active participants in their children’s academics.
Exclusively Written for bluebeepals.com By Jessie Bugg
Bluebee Pals app is an interactive app which brings your Bluebee Pal to life! No Bluebee Pal is needed to use the app or you can use your own Bluebee Pal. The app features activities of daily living like bathing, brushing teeth and washing hands this app can also be used to help your children understand the steps necessary to complete tasks.
The app features four rooms each with specific tasks: living room where you can tap on objects to hear their names; kitchen where you can eat a meal or have a snack; bedroom where your Bluebee takes off their shoes and goes to sleep; bathroom where your Bluebee Pal takes a shower, dries off, brushes their teeth and more!
The playroom has fun educational games including ABC’s, puzzles, building a robot, racing cars, find your Bluebee, matching colors and more! In a parental gated area there are access to suggested apps to use with your Bluebee Pal, resources on ways to use your Bluebee Pal with your children, app reviews and more. App encourages role play, use of imagination and allows kids to explore with no time limits!
I created a document with a list of speech and language goals and how to incorporate this app during speech and language sessions. To learn more, look at this document below!
10 Speech and Language Goals when using the Bluebee App
Teletherapy & the Bluebee Pals App
Many people ask me how to connect their iPad to their computer. There are several ways to do this!
I found the easiest way via an app called Smart Mirror. With this paid app, I can mirror my iPad in any virtual platform.
The Bluebee App is fun and interactive and wonderful, which is ideal for teletherapy. Here are some tips:
Have your mirroring up and ready for screen share.
Begin by choosing a Bluebee Pal. This is a perfect opportunity for your child/student to either use their speech and/or AAC communication device.
Enter your name! Ask your child/student either spell their name (great literacy opportunity) via verbalization or their AAC communication system.
Choose your favorite color. Worked on creating sentences by modeling, “My favorite color is _____.” This is also an opportunity for choice making and commenting.
What activity will you begin with? I use annotation via zoom to circle choices. If you are using google meet, you can go through the choices verbally. I use custom cursor (free as add-on) which can also be very helpful!
Then choose a room for your daily activity. Since you are mirroring the screen, your child/student will have either verbalize the room they want or use their talker to tell you. When in the room, encourage your child/student to communicate different actions such as “open”, “get up”, “close”, “eat”, “drink”, etc.
Play the games on Bluebee app! There are so many ways to play this via teletherapy. For example, in one game you need to “find the bluebee pal”. This can be a great way to work on language that describes where Bluebee is such as “next to”, “up”, “down”, etc.