Once in a while stars collide and sparks fly! Such was the case when Bluebee Pals met Dr. Eleazar Trey Vasquez III, director of the Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute (TJEEI). In just over a year, Dr. Trey, as he is often called, has brought in over $8 million in funded research to the institute that is located at the University of Central Florida. At the Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute Dr. Trey and his ever growing team of special educators and behavior therapists are focused on providing research-based practices, professional development, and partner collaborations to individuals with disabilities and their families. https://tjeei.ucf.edu
Dr. Trey credits his college experience with Special Olympics for guiding him on a path to an exceptional education. He has worn many different hats throughout his career including teacher, school psychologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D), associate professor, and Principal Investigator of research focused on the use of technology to increase academic and behavioral outcomes for students with autism. In addition, Dr. Trey is an expert at increasing interdisciplinary collaboration evidenced by his partnerships with UCF’s PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Hospital (hospital-based pediatric school program) and CAST (nonprofit education research and development organization focused on Universal Design for Learning).
Now to the fireworks! Bluebee Pals were introduced to the Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute in 2018 and quickly became part of their technology-focused research. Dr. Trey and his team recently completed a Single Case Research Design on the use of the Bluebee Pals to teach children with autism early social skills utilizing the VP-Map curriculum. Preliminary results of the study demonstrate early social skills can be increased with the use of robotics and good pedagogical curriculum. We are thrilled that Bluebee Pals were part of this important research focused on increasing crucial social skills in children with autism! We can’t wait to learn more about the use of robotics and technology for learning and thank Dr.Trey and the entire TJEEI team for their innovative research and dedication to persons with disabilities! !https://www.bluebeepals.com/autism/
Check back soon to stay informed about TJEEI’s publication and future research projects!
I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing the power and fun of Bluebee Pals with many educators, therapists, caregivers and clients. Even then, it can be tricky to connect with the many people that could benefit from Bluebee Pals and empower them to use this educational tool with success. Thanks to the University of Central Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), I was able to provide a free webinar to help others get their “degree” in Bluebee!
With a little help from IT support and the guidance of Dr. Daly, UCF CARD Director, we were able to provide a live Bluebee Pals Tutorial webinar for caregivers and educators! https://www.bluebeepals.com/tutorials/ This live webinar was recorded and shared on the UCF CARD and Bluebee Pals Facebook pages for anyone to view at their leisure. Webinars provide an invaluable resource to us all as we try to stay informed about topics that affect our home and work lives. We are so thankful for the opportunity to educate caregivers and service providers about the many possible ways they can use Bluebee Pals as an affordable assitive technlogy tool to enhance learning and communication.
The Webinar covered operational basics, goals and activities, recommended apps, online resources, testimonials and examples. We look forward to conducting more Bluebee Pals Webinars and sharing them with all of our Bluebee friends. Check out the Bluebee Pals webinar today to get your very own “Bluebee Degree”! Also, check out www.bluebeepals.com for video tutorials, PDF resources, app reviews and much more! http://ucf.adobeconnect.com/pcyw3g0hv89r/?OWASP_CSRFTOKEN=22c6911c124acd5021735fc4e0266e9c56be6bf379034e2995983d6f71429c95
We are proud to introduce our latest Bluebee Pals Project site Pathways Strategic Teaching Center, a program of the Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center located in Rhode Island. Pathways Strategic Teaching Center is an educational and treatment program that serves persons with autism and related disabilities. Founded in 1998, the program provides speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and behavior analysis in home, community and educational settings.
With an intensive staff-to-student ratio (often one-to-one), individuals ages 3 to 21 years are provided individually tailored curricula to increase communication, pre-academic/academic skills, daily living/self-care skills, play/social skills and behavior skills. Clients work towards tolerance of small and large group settings and are even provided assistance with transitioning via a transition apartment classroom where daily living and vocational skills are taught.
The staff at Pathways Strategic Teaching Center have been using Bluebee Pals weekly to encourage participation in otherwise non-preferred activities and tasks as well as a teaching/therapeutic tool for sustaining attention and targeting specific therapeutic and academic goals. Finding them “very simple to grab, connect, and start using so material making and therapy planning was not made more difficult” has allowed for Bluebee Pals to help increase success and participation in therapy groups, arts and crafts activities, reading and playtime. “We have thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Bluebee Pals and are encouraging parents of our students to investigate the possibilities for home.
We are expanding our opportunities and integration of the Bluebee Pals into our daily programming, and we are excited to find a larger variety of ways to use it!” stated Meghan K. Broz, M.S., CCC-SLP, ATP of Pathways Strategic Learning Center. We are thankful for Pathways Strategic Learning Center and their creative use of Bluebee Pals to enhance their state-of-the-art program! https://www.bluebeepals.com/autism/
Do you think your center or school would benefit from Bluebee Pals donations to enhance academic and therapeutic activities? Simply contact Bluebee Pals today! https://www.bluebeepals.com/bluebee-pals-project-participants/
2018 was an exciting year for Bluebee Pals with the Bluebee Pal App launching and the Bluebee Pals Project expanding. A major expansion took place in O-Town (what we Orlando natives like to call our town along with “The City Beautiful” and home of “The Mouse”) over the course of the year with numerous additions to the Bluebee Pals Project.
The new additions included The Academy for Autism, Advanced Learning Academy, Calvary City Christian Academy and Preschool as well as a live broadcast at the UCF AAC Lab & FAAST Atlantic Regional Demonstration Center.
With the help of therapists at the Academy for Autism and preschool teachers at Calvary City Christian Academy, we were able to create video tutorials to help speech therapists, occupational therapists and teachers use Bluebee Pals to increase success in their therapy and classroom settings. If you haven’t already, check out these tutorials by visiting the www.bluebeepals.com/tutorials (you can also click on the button at the top of the website home page). We encourage all therapists and educators to view and share this resource to ensure your Bluebee Pals are working well for you and your clients!
The University of Central Florida AAC Lab houses the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) Atlantic Regional Demonstration Center. The AAC Lab and FAAST Center provide valuable resources, training, and services to persons in need of assistive technology including Alternative Augmentative Communication Devices, low-tech and high-tech equipment to aid with access to technology and daily living tasks, adapted toys and more! Bluebee Pals are part of the FAAST Center’s AT Lending Library making them available to those in need across the region.
Bluebee Pals were invited to provide a “tutorial session” as part of the “FAAST Fridays” monthly training series in December of 2018. The tutorial was presented in-person and also broadcast on the UCF AAC Lab Facebook page for virtual viewing. We thank the UCF AAC Lab & FAAST Center for inviting us to be part of their series of informational sessions. Shannon Stuckey, a school-based SLP, participated in the tutorial and was the winner of a free Bluebee Pal! Congrats Shannon!
It’s clear that 2018 was a stellar year for Bluebee Pals with increased implementation in the educational and therapeutic settings in Orlando and across the Nation! Happy New Year to all and keep checking back to see what 2019 will bring!
Bluebee Pals Go to Pre-Kindergarten
Bluebee Pals Sammy and Lily made a visit to students at Calvary City Christian Academy and Preschool in Orlando, Florida this past month. I introduced Bluebee Pals to PreK 2.5 year old and PreK 3.5 year old classrooms. They loved it so much that they told all their friends to join them, making Calvary City Christian Academy and Preschool the newest Bluebee Pals Project site! Ms. Llesiris Cores Nieves and Mrs. Wanda Rodriguez were the first two teachers to begin using the Bluebee Pals with their young students. The preschool director, Ms. Nellie Rosado thanked me profusely for the donations and opportunity to become the next Bluebee Pals Project site. I knew that I had to invite Bluebee Pal creator, Laura Jiencke to witness the PreK teachers, students and Bluebee Pals in action!
Llesiris, a teacher that recently moved from Puerto Rico, loves the excitement and attention use of Bluebee Pal Sammy brings to her classroom as well as his ability to provide great English language models to the students. She incorporates Sammy into her circle time using tech-to-speak apps to call the students to circle time, greet the students and provide models for vocabulary. Sammy engages the students during educational songs including the number rock, social skills practice, and imitating body movements.
Llesiris provides her students with a wonderful fun-loving and structured environment with a repetitive sequence of movement activities and songs to teach numbers, letters, shapes, colors, greetings, student names and social skills. Her incorporation of Bluebee into her routine and lessons was seamless and fun for the students and staff!
Wanda Rodriguez, a teacher who was formerly a professional clown, took to use of the Bluebee Pal Lilly into her classroom immediately after receiving the donation from Kayle Concepts. She uses puppets including a lamb daily in her classroom routines. Lilly the Lamb has become best friends with the other puppet animals that Wanda uses in the classroom. Bluebee Pal communicates with the classroom puppets, translating their messages to the students and teacher. Wanda noticed her students love to hear Bluebee Pal sing and play music during their dance lessons and story time. Bluebee Pal often helps the students demonstrate their understanding of the academic content by asking comprehension questions and providing answer models.
What a joy it was to see the love Calvary City Christian Academy and Preschool had for the Blubee Pals. We appreciate their dedication to their students and the learning environment. What fun the Blubee Pals are having there! Keep it up!..https://www.bluebeepals.com
-Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP
Bluebee Pals Ambassador
Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) with Bluebee Pals PRO Learning Tool with Companion Life Skills/Educational App
The world of Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) has been evolving and progressing at a rapid pace. AAC is the use of a method of communication other than verbal language. “Alternative” indicates that the system is being used as an alternative to verbal language and “augmentative” indicates that the system is being used to supplement verbal language. AAC users may be completely non-verbal, have limited verbalizations, and/or have vast verbal language that is unclear to communication partners. AAC modes include the use of photos or symbols on communication boards and books as well as low (paper overlays on electronic boards) and high tech communication devices (touchscreen devices). High-tech devices used to be only provided by a limited number of companies that created the hardware (tablet) and software (communication vocabulary system) at a very high cost. The invention of tablets such as the iPad/iTouch and Android devices have made high-tech AAC even more accessible and affordable. Users can communicate their wants/needs, make statements, ask questions and participate in social interactions with the use of their Alternative Augmentative Communication system.
At the start, the field of AAC often focused on teaching AAC users to request highly desired items like food or toys and labeling nouns and verbs. The vocabulary taught and used was often very specific such as “I want cracker”, “bathroom”, “ball”. Over time a vast amount of research has guided therapists, users, and caregivers towards more effective AAC use. What we have learned is that 80% of the words we use in English to communicate across various settings are not specific nouns and verbs, but instead what we call “core words”. Core words are frequently occurring abstract words that can be used to communicate many messages across many topics. They are words like “it”, “go”, “you”, “see”. Many low-tech and high-tech AAC systems are providing core word vocabulary to the user on their front or home page to allow fast and effect communication across all settings.
The more AAC users hear and see core vocabulary being used by their communication partners on their devices and the more they are aided to use it themselves, the more they will be able to communicate with the world! Bluebee Pals, a plush interactive educational tool is being used by therapists and educators across the nation to increase participation in therapeutic and educational activities for students with Autism with use of their AAC devices as well as any technology (we are talking iPads, tablets, smartphones) they access! These furry companions connect to all iOS and Android Devices and pair with all apps with a narrative or voice output. Bluebee Pal’s patented technology allows its mouth and head to move while reading stories, teaching through educational games, learning a language, singing a song AND connecting with AAC devices.
With their donation initiative, The Bluebee Pals Project, numerous therapy centers and schools have been gifted Bluebee Pals to use during academic lessons and therapy sessions.
- LaVesta Feagin, an Assistive Technology Specialist at the Center for Independent Living, used Bluebee Pals to bridge interactions between the seniors at her center and visiting children during her “Foster Grandparents” event.“The kids and elderly loved activating the Bluebee Pals with the iPad and AAC app (Proloquo2Go)! They could talk to the foster grandparents with the Bluebee Pals and even had the grandparents using the iPads!”
- “I have seen an increase in engagement with students. For example, a student that rarely ever participates with the class has shown interest in the Blubee and will participate with the group/teacher most of the time if the Blubee is used” -Rebecca N. – Curriculum Instructional Specialist – Florida Autism Center of Excellence (FACE)
- “In my classroom, we are learning communication skills using our favorite tech learning tool, Bluebee Pals! Children absolutely love them and are so very motivated to interact with them! Through the use of our Bluebee Pals, my students have shown tremendous progress with their speech and communication goals”! -Helen H. Wagner, M.S., CCC-SL
- “They are very easy to use, and with the Bluetooth you can make the intervention very client-centered. I also like how soft they are, you can barely tell that there are any electronics inside.” -Hannah Lambert, OTAS
Individuals who are learning to use their new AAC device have often only hear the voice output through the speakers of their device. By connecting their device to a Bluebee Pal via Bluetooth connection, the AAC user is able to control the plush companion and make it say whatever they wish! It is quite a novel and unique experience for the AAC user to experience their “voice” emanating from the plush companion!
Laura Jiencke, president of Kayle Concept and Bluebee Pal creator, is thrilled to see how her interactive tool has been able to provide children with Autism and AAC users with great entertainment while assisting in educating and developing communication skills. Bluebee Pals PRO can be purchased at www.bluebeepals.comas well as www.amazon.com. Interested in being part of the Bluebee Pals Project donation initiative? Submit a request at www.bluebeepals.com/contact-us/.
Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP: Bluebee Pals Ambassador and Speech-Language Pathologist in Orlando, Florida: Punam Desormes is a graduate of the University of Florida Masters in Speech-Language Pathology program. She has been working in the private and ESE school settings for 15 years. She also works as a clinical education at the University of Central Florida School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.