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.