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.
Advance Learning Academy is a private school in Maitland, Florida that values the uniqueness of all children. They are dedicated to creating a diverse community of learners by providing innovative, effective instruction that promotes academic excellence and social growth. The Bluebee Pal Project has donated Bluebee Pals to this creative school who promotes education through creative forms of technology. Thinking “outside the box” in personalized learning is a must to any early developmental education.
Small Class size—-Innovative, Evidence-Based Curriculum—-Integration of Technology: Advance Learning Academy will provide scientific observations based on implementing Bluebee Pals Learning Tools into their curriculum and measuring students performance. Their mission is to create a diverse community of learners by providing innovative, effective instruction that promotes academic excellence and social growth. The curriculum is flexible and adaptive to allow students to learn where they are and then advance their learning. Children are given the opportunity to acquire knowledge a variety of ways… not just one. It’s not one-size-fits-all and it may happen for a student through critical thinking, communication, collaboration or even creativity.
Message from the Principal: Our school’s focus on active learning allows for more student engagement and improves motivation. We know that part of providing a 21st-century education is not only having the technology but connecting students and learning in innovative ways.
Our expert faculty develops individualized goals for every student to help create a program that is tailored to their specific needs. We provide a variety of special activities – art, music, yoga, physical education, and gaming as well as an engaging After School program.
Programs like positive behavior support help improve behavior, develop classroom families and a positive, healthy school climate.
The social and emotional aspects of learning are important elements of our educational program. We want all of our students to feel safe, respected and loved.
We are a school that treats parents as partners in their child’s education. Learning must occur both at school and at home. Together as a team, we provide the very best education for our students.
Stacy Taylor, MA, B.C.B.A.
Advance Behavior & Learning
140 Advance Point
Maitland, FL 32751
The Academy for Autism is a private school serving up to 60 school-age students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Orlando, Florida. Founded in 2005 by two parents with Autism, the Autism Academy has focused on providing affordable specialized private education for low and middle-income families via research-based curriculum in classrooms set up with the TEACCH Model ( https://www.autism.com/treating_TEACCH ). The Academy for Autism also houses a therapy clinic on-site where students receive speech-language, occupational and physical therapies throughout the school day.
The Academy for Autism recently became a Bluebee Pals Project site and received 16 brand new Bluebee Pal Pros for use in the classroom and therapeutic settings. I had the pleasure of meeting with the Academy for Autism team just after the donated Bluebee Pals arrived! The team of teachers, teacher assistants, speech and occupational therapists gathered to learn about how to incorporate Bluebee Pals into their academic and therapeutic activities to increase engagement and participation. Several therapists and teachers had already paired their Bluebee Pals to classroom tablets and cell phones to play their student’s favorite songs and academic apps. Together we explored this tech tool deeper and discovered many ways that the Bluebee Pals could enhance lessons they were already providing daily.
The occupational therapists shared that many of her students were working on handwriting goals. These tasks can be tedious and boring for some students. – Bluebee Pals to the rescue! Bluebee Pals can be paired with apps such as Handwriting Heroes and Kiddopia – ABC for students to work on letter tracing while their plush friend talks and sings along. When paper and pencil handwriting tasks are required, Bluebee Pal can add excitement by “telling” students what letters to write via letter songs and text-to-speech apps controlled by the therapist or teacher.
TouchMath Counting app came to life when paired with Bluebee Pals by an Academy for Autism classroom teacher. TouchMath,(www.touchmath.com) a leading multi-sensory math teaching approach, is frequently used to help students with special needs learn numbers and operations. When paired with the app, Bluebee provided fun and interactive auditory feedback as the user activated touch points on TouchMath numbers.
The Academy for Autism teachers got some laughs in when using Google Hangouts to surprise each other with Bluebee to Bluebee calls! From there the teachers and staff did what they do best, kept the creative juices flowing as they came up with numerous apps and activities to use as they begin their journey within the Bluebee Pals Project! We can’t wait to see what they come up with!
****Punam is a Speech Therapist and Teacher/Mentor for kids with Autism. As a strong advocate of Bluebee Pals, she will be tailoring insightful articles and reviews of products that she has handpicked to go hand-in-hand with Bluebee, helping your child advance.
Bluebee Pals made an impromptu visit to Princeton House Charter School in Orlando, Florida. Princeton House Charter School is a Pre-K through 5th grade charter school serving students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and a member of the Bluebee Pals Project. As a Bluebee Pals project site, Princeton House has been a recipient of these interactive plush educational tools with exceptional positive outcomes. During this visit, the students were thrilled to meet Bluebee 4.0, whose upgrades include moving head, increased upright sitting ability, and the Bluebee Pals App. With little demonstration, the students began exploring the Bluebee Pals app including its multiple rooms in which their favorite Pal could do things just like them! Students manipulated items in Bluebee’s living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen while learning vocabulary and following directions.
Making Bluebee talk with text to speech apps (Text to Speech!, Robot Talk) continued to be a hit with Bluebee 4.0 saying anything and everything they could imagine! Bluebee was also caught in action during small group reading tasks with Early Literacy Skills Builder (ELSB https://www.attainmentcompany.com/elsb) curriculum in which they were paired with the ELSB app. The teacher shared how her students with significant cognitive disabilities increased their attention to the activity when Bluebee was paired with the curriculum. The speech therapy department at Princeton House received a personal tutorial of the Bluebee Pals app and immediately began brainstorming what speech-language goals could be worked. A therapist or educator’s first question to that would be, well what did they come up with? See below “sharing is caring”:
Speech-Language Therapy Goals with Bluebee Pals App
- Requesting With Words/Phrases
- Identifying and Labeling Functional Vocabulary
- Following 1-2 Step Directions
- Understanding Verbs in Context
- Functional Play Skills
- Retelling Events
- Sequencing Skills/Steps
Thank you Princeton House Charter School for being a Bluebee Pals Project site!
Trying out the new app and Bluebee 4.0? Let us know what you skills you or your student are working on by commenting or messaging us on Facebook @BluebeePalsInc: