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 Pal Ambassador Program
Our educators, therapist, parents and even kids ambassadors use a variety of our products at home, classrooms, and work in different settings including therapy, Pre K-3 level teaching, and professional development presentations. Bluebee Pal Ambassadors have firsthand knowledge of our products, and an understanding of how they enhance the learning process for students, teachers, homeschoolers, and the education community. They know the challenges and changes that teachers and students are facing and help us to adapt to the continuously evolving education system.https://www.bluebeepals.com/ambassadors/
How Bluebee Pals Ambassadors Support US
- App Recommendations and App Reviews with Bluebee Pals.
- Submitting Workshop Proposals: Bluebee Pal Seminars utilizing Apps and Smart Boards with Bluebee Pals.
- Evaluating our products for content, ease of use, and how well they assist students in the learning process.
- Writing stories for publications and blogs.
- Providing feedback on Bluebee Pals products, website, and general marketing information
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 were donated to the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District as an assistive technology tool to engage communication and learning in special needs classrooms and participate in research with Boston Children’s Hospital. Our tech buddies provide companionship and encourage communication when connected to Bluetooth enabled mobile/ tablet devices and paired with apps with a narrative.
The Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District is a K-12 public school district located in the Town of Manlius in Central New York, enrolling approximately 4,800 students. F-M serves a large portion of the Town of Manlius, including the villages of Manlius and Fayetteville, as well as portions of Jamesville and Pompey. The district is partially funded by and governed under the authority of the New York State Education Department, whose standardized examinations are designed and administered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York. The district has been recognized statewide and nationally for academic and athletic excellence.
Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District and Boston Children’s Hospital( SOURCE www.fmschools.org)
Fayetteville-Manlius School District special education staff and administrators established a partnership with researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Northeastern University to introduce a researchbased, cutting-edge instructional methodology and strategies to teach students diagnosed with autism and moderate to severe communication disorders.
“Imagine a room filled with technology that has the potential to shape how children on the autism spectrum learn. Then picture a team of teachers, therapists and IT specialists driven by the singular purpose of accelerating communication and learning for these children. Well, stop imagining because that is the essence of the Mott Road program,” said Dr. Howard Shane, a Harvard Medical School associate professor and director of the Center of Communication Enhancement at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Shane served as a consultant for F-M during the 2015-16 school year and provide training in 2016-17 to all of the district’s special education staff on his Visual Immersion SystemVisual Immersion System (VIS) is a unique communication method that uses visual supports – such as videos, photographs and pictures, along with technology such as iPads and Apple watches – to enhance and expand the language and communication skills of students.
During the 2017-18 school year, the district formally partnered with Dr. Shane, along with Dr. Ralf Schlosser, a professor from Northeastern University, and other researchers, to bring VIS to a Mott Road Elementary School class of seven students diagnosed with autism. Fayetteville-Manlius School District is the first and only school district that they have worked with. “The progress and growth of our students participating in this project have exceeded all of our expectations,” said Lisa Miori-Dinneen, F-M’s assistant superintendent for special services. “The VIS methodology has been lifechanging for our students and their families.”
2018 Bluebee Pal Tools Introduction into the VIS System
Dr. Shane described some of his recommendations for using the Bluebee Pal Parker and friends for directive teaching, symbolic play instruction and other ideas into the curriculum, he is developing in a research-based classroom in the F-M School district. The school is excited about introducing Bluebee Pal Tools into the hi-tech classroom.
- The class will have 7 children with autism. There will be a lead teacher, 6 teacher assistants, 2 speech paths, 1 OT.
- Tech will include smart boards and tablets, iPads, the capability for parents to log in from work/home and view their child in school. Parents have all been given our Visual Immersion Book.
- Bluebee Pal Educational Tools
Lisa A. Miori-Dinneen: Assistant Superintendent of Special Services.
My favorite photo is Suzy using the Ipad and Bluebee. She is so engaged with Bluebee and this was the very first day she was exposed t it( amazing)! As I mentioned to you, I am writing an article about your generosity for our newsletter in October as well as how we have been involved with the research study and will include photos of the children using the Bluebee Pals. I will periodically send you updates with videos and photos from the class as well as other classes that are using the Bluebee Pals.
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:
Core Words are a hot topic in the world of Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). Core words are the words we use most often when communicating and makeup 80% of what we say. These high-frequency words can be used across contexts and settings. They include words such as “it”, “that”, “is”, “he”, “go”, “not” and are often times more abstract than their counterparts – “fringe” words. Fringe Words are approximately 20% of the words that we say when communicating and are used in fewer situations. They include words such as “zoo”, “pizza” and “wet”. For many years AAC was focused on the use of fringe words particularly with requesting.
AAC users were introduced to many fringe words to help them communicate their needs/wants and access their curriculum. Fringe words are very important, but how often does a child need to express “zoo” versus the times they may want to express a core word like “go”? This understanding and the research supporting the focus on core word use has transformed the way that AAC users are being taught in the classroom and therapeutic settings with far-reaching results!
The AAC device companies are following suit by creating vocabulary systems with easy access to core word vocabulary on home pages and a vast array of resources focused on core word learning and use.
The Tobii Dynavox company calls their set of core words “Core First”. They have created books, lessons and Core First posters that complement their Core First Gage Sets. In the ESE classroom setting I have used Core First books to introduce the use of “go”, “want”, “more”, “you”, “it”, “is” and many more! Aided language modeling (the therapist activating words on the AAC device while speaking and reading) can be used to demonstrate to users the various ways the core words on their device can be used. https://www.tobiidynavox.com/en-us/software/content/core-first-1/
Assistiveware has created an entire online toolset called the “Core Word Classroom”. Teachers, AAC professionals and parents can download lessons, five minute fillers (outlines of core words to be used during play activities), watch videos and read articles all related to best practices for use of core words in the classroom and home settings. http://www.assistiveware.com/assistiveware-core-word-classroom
The success of core word use in the academic and therapeutic setting are coming to light at schools and clinics around the nation. A quick online search will reveal hundreds of resources related to “core words”. It’s amazing to hear AAC users expand their utterance through use of core words such as:
*Stating Observations: “I see the ___./I see that.”
*Expressing Likes/dislikes “I do not like it.”
*Asking Questions “Can I have it?”
Learning how to use these Core Words can open up a new world for AAC users. They are given the gift of learning words that can help them communicate 80% of what they want to say. What is better than that??!! Maybe only one thing – pairing Bluebee Pals and the new Bluebee Pal App with Core Word instruction.
The house activities of the Bluebee Pals App are a great tool for practicing use of core words. Students can state what they see and hear happening in the lively Bluebee House with the core word vocabulary on their AAC device. Bluebee is great at saying core words too! Hip Hip Hurray for the new Bluebee Pals App that is available just as the world of AAC is expanding!
***Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP-Speech Language Pathologist-Princeton House Charter School-Passion-Hope-Communication-Service
Kayle Concepts recently welcomed the Florida Alliance of Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) to the Bluebee Pals Project. The regional centers received Bluebee Pals to use with clients during evaluation sessions, training activities and instructional events. FAAST is a state-funded program that provides device demonstrations and loans to help customers select assistive technology equipment that will help with activities of daily living and communication.
The Gulf Coast Regional Center is part of the Center for Independent Living (CIL) in Pensacola, Florida. LaVesta Feagin, an AT Specialist at CIL, works tirelessly to provide seniors with equipment to better access their environment and live active lives. LaVesta began working as a volunteer through a Career-Transition Program and then was hired as the AT Specialist.. She primarily works to provide the elderly with items from their “senior kit” including car canes for stability, car caddies, swivel seats, lifts, power chairs, and weighted eating utensils. However, she is faced with another crucial tasks of helping customers all over the Gulf Coast find Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices that will help them communicate effectively.
LaVesta has delved into this area with a thirst for knowledge that has guided her journey as the centers only AT Specialist. LaVesta was faced with limited experience working with children and AAC devices but was up for the challenge! She has used Bluebee Pals to engage children as well as the seniors at CIL with much success! She connects Bluebee to her trial AAC Devices including the Tobii Dynavox, the iPad with Proloquo2Go Communication App, Android devices, Kindles and even smart phones! “I was excited about how they can be used with so many devices because they are Bluetooth enabled” she stated.
LaVesta hosts a “Foster Grandparents” program which connects seniors with children. Both populations benefit from the shared experience of chatting, playing games and now interacting with Bluebee Pals! “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!” -LaVesta Feagin
The Bluebee Pal’s biggest fan at Gulf Coast FAAST is Hannah. LaVesta works with this 17-year-old student with Autism who without question always lets her know if she is interested in a new activity or tool right away. “She will let me know right away if she is not interested in something and she absolutely loves the Zebra Bluebee Pal that she has named June. I checked out the Bluebee Pal’s recommended apps on the website and downloaded Toca Hair Salon. Hannah loves hearing the hair salon sounds through Bluebee June and is so engaged.”
“Bluebee Pals are a good price-point for people because AAC is expensive. Not only is it an affordable price, but there are a variety of animals for kids. It offers people different choices.” – LaVesta FeaginLaVesta Feagin is an AT superstar, working hard to engaged seniors and children during FAAST activities as well as for AAC evaluations. We love that Bluebee Pals are helping her in this endeavor. We salute you LaVesta!…..https://www.bluebeepals.com/bluebee-pals-project-participants/
FAAST Gulf Coast Regional Demonstration Center
3600 N. Pace Blvd
Pensacola, FL 32505
The Bluebee Pals Project soared to new heights in 2017! Laura Jiencke, the creator of Bluebee Pals, has donated 1000+ interactive plush educational companions to schools and centers around the United States. Bluebee Pals Project sites have taken these generous donations and incorporated Bluebee Pals into their educational activities and therapy. We are thrilled to hear about how students and clients have benefited from Bluebee Pal experiences through surveys and testimonials.
The most frequently reported observation has been increased engagement and joint attention when Bluebee Pals were incorporated into activities. Students were observed to make eye contact, participated in tasks and attended to activities when Bluebee Pals were present.
Several participants reported that clients seemed to enjoy the novelty of being given instruction by Bluebee Pals versus the teacher/therapist. Successes were also observed when Bluebee Pals were used as a reward. Reward systems are a crucial part of any classroom or therapy session, allowing clients to know exactly what is expected of them and what they are working for.
No one likes to work for free – so it seems that Bluebee Pals were a very motivational reward! Bluebee Pals were used for a variety of activities including vocal imitation, social skills, feeding, group attention, turn-taking, grammar activities, behavior treatment as well as gross motor and fine motor activities. Bluebee Pals participated in dance parties, sing-a-longs, story telling and even potty training!
Here are some things the participants had to say in 2017
“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)
“It definitely helped our students stay engaged during reading time.” -Brittany High School Intervention Teacher at 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
We thank all participants of the Bluebee Pals Project! We are so grateful for incorporating Bluebee Pals into their educational and therapy programs.
A few months ago, The Bluebee Pal Project donated Bluebee Pals to Bierman Autism Centers in Indiana and their Boston Locations.Therapists graciously agreed to monitor the role of Bluebee Pals in their therapy daily sessions with children with Autism. We have provided photos and feedback to share with other therapists and families on the positive effects of the utilization of Bluebee Pals as a learning tool for children with Autism.
Bierman work with children with autism spectrum disorders up to the age of 13. They specialize in providing early intervention, personalized and intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs. Their early intensive intervention programs (EIBI) are designed to help children learn skills across many different developmental domains in order to be happy and successful in any environment, whether that be in the home, community or the classroom. Whether a child was just recently diagnosed or has been in a traditional school setting but unable to make adequate progress, they deeply believe every child is capable of learning with the right programming in place.
1. How often is Bluebee Pal used daily/weekly?
Used daily, 2-3x times a day….What activities is Bluebee Pal used with?
Stories via youtube, singing along to songs via youtube (individual child), stories with friends (youtube), dance party with friends ( group ) Bluebee is the DJ), practicing taking turns with BlueBee, practicing taking turns which story bluebee reads (group), individual student uses Bluebee during independent time (usually relies on adults to play)
2. Who is using the Bluebee Pal (teachers, therapists, teacher assistants, students, administrators etc.)?
behavior technicians, behavior analyst, trainers, administrators, students
3. What goals/objectives are you targeting when using Bluebee Pals (educational, speech/language, occupational, behavioral, physical)?
Group attention (educational), behavioral (for motivation), gross motor (dance), turn taking (social), asking in full sentences for stories/activities (speech)
4. How does Bluebee Pal effect the activity and student progress/engagement?
For students who are motivated by Bluebee, students will engage in activities such as reading, stories, listening for much longer with bluebee. Students who often want to play alone will be prone to listen to a story with a peer if the story is read by a Bluebee.
5. Are you experiencing any technical or implementation difficulties when using Bluebee Pals? Please explain.
One student became frustrated when Bluebee had enough battery to say low battery but not enough battery to properly function, but no real technical issues. Very easy to use.
6. What are your most favorite and least favorite things about using Bluebee Pals?
The moving mouth seems to be the biggest hit. It helps the child engage and focus as you would in real conversation. No least favorite so far!
7. Anything else to share?
The Bluebees have been a great teaching item. The Bluebees seem to be a great item to help kids who are usually hesitant be more open to new activities.
Crystal Academy of Coral Gabes, Florida received an early Christmas Present. Bluebee Pals were donated to Crystal Academy. They specialize in early intervention and education for children overcoming the challenges of Autism Spectrum and related disabilities.
They believe every child’s life begins with the ability and desire to communicate with the people they love. Children on the autism spectrum suffer difficulties in all areas of communication, socialization, and learning. Early intensive intervention has proven critical to these children realizing their highest potential.
CRYSTAL ACADEMY’s premium therapy center utilizes a variety of evidence-based and ancillary services combined in a holistic program personalized to each child. Services are focused on the child’s specific needs and coordinated to optimize measurable results.
In the Primary School at Crystal Academy, they develop and nurture the children’s unique abilities, while meeting their needs and challenges through a curriculum designed specifically for each child including academics, evidence-based therapy services, and socialization with peers.
Central to their approach is the belief that the brain can be re-wired and impaired cognitive function enhanced or even fully replaced. New neural pathways can be developed through intensive intervention during the early years. They are proud to provide a variety of services that include intensive Behavior Therapy based on the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) and Speech and Language Pathology, also incorporating Occupational and Physical Therapy, Sensory Integration, Neuro-Developmental techniques, life skills, Music and Art as Therapy, Gymnastics, and socialization and play activities.
Crystal Academy programs were developed to provide a behavior milestones and language acquisition intervention that promotes appropriate cognitive and social development, communication and language, independence and life skills.
A comprehensive evaluation of a child’s skills and developmental challenges is conducted by their staff in order to design a child’s personalized program. A program designed to provide behavior milestones and language acquisition and promote appropriate cognitive and social development, communication and language, independence and life skills. A detailed assessment of each child’s progress is provided to parents every six months. An objective measurement of skills is performed every day.
Last, but certainly not least, at Crystal Academy, they believe learning should be a fun and rich relationship between the child and the staff.
CRYSTAL ACADEMY Coral Gables.
107 Antilla Avenue
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
What’s new in the Bluebee Pals Project? Donations, donations, donations! Kayle Concepts has connected with THE leading resource for those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders – The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD). CARD was founded in 1990 by Doreen Granpeesheh, Ph.D., BCBA-D after she was inspired by a young boy named Corey.
After studying under renowned Autism therapy scientist, Dr. Ivan Lovaas for 12 years, Dr. Granpeesheh was profoundly touched by the positive affect therapy had on Corey. She began a center that now has over 100 locations across the U.S. CARD has two programs (CARD I and CARD II) that serve children birth to 21 years old in the areas of communication, friendships, health and Specialized Outpatient Services (SOS).
CARD provides families resources for health providers and therapists as well as opportunities to learn real-life strategies to help their family member with ASD gain crucial skills. Many families and person with Autism depend on organizations like CARD to assist in navigating our ever-changing world! http://www.nova.edu/card/
With the help of Dr. Carol Zangari, Director of Nova Southeastern Universities Satellite CARD, numerous Bluebee Pals have been donated to the University of Miami CARD, University of Central Florida CARD, University of Florida CARD and Florida Atlantic University CARD.
We are beyond thankful to Dr. Zangari for helping to unite Kayle Concepts and these CARD locations! Each of these centers is associated with communicative sciences and disorders clinics, allowing the donated Bluebee Pals to be used during speech-language therapy sessions! We can’t wait to hear how the speech-language pathology graduate students, clinical directors and most of all clients are interacting with Bluebee Pals!
But that’s not all! Bluebee Pals have also been donated to the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) in Tallahassee, Florida. FAAST is a part of the Florida Department of Education’s Assistive Technology (AT) Act of 1998 and as such receives grants to help provide AT services throughout Florida. FAAST has regional centers serving the Gulf Coast, Northwest, Northeast, Central, Atlantic and Southern areas of Florida. Their many services include providing information, referral services, educational programs, access to publications/research and funding opportunities related to Assistive Technology.
Those in need of AAC devices that can help them find their voice can go to FAAST for device loans, device exchange, and reuse options, AT evaluations and demonstrations. The world of Assistive Technology can be very overwhelming with families often unaware of where to start their journey. We thank FAAST for being a trustworthy guide to AAC users and their families AND letting Bluebee Pals be part of the process! It is a perfect fit as our Bluebee’s are device users themselves – communicating with the help of iPads and Android tablets! Stay tuned to hear how Bluebee Pals are being used at the Tallahassee FAAST center in the near future!
Bluebee Pals were donated to University of Miami – Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD). Individuals with autism and related disabilities frequently require specialized services and supports.
CARD, The Center for Autism & Related Disabilities, is a network of state-funded outreach and support centers based at universities around the state. In South Florida, the main center is at the University of Miami (UM-NSU CARD).
The center at NSU(Nova Southern University) is a satellite of UM-NSU CARD and was established in 1999 to serve the community in Broward County. They are housed in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) in the College of Health Care Sciences at Nova Southeastern University and collaborate closely with the main South Florida CARD Center at the University of Miami.
Dr. Carole Zangari serves as Executive Director of the NSU Satellite and met with Laura Jiencke(founder of Bluebee Pals) to discuss and confirm the Bluebee donation to various offices and branches of UM-NSU CARD. She is a professor of speech-language pathology (SLP) at Nova Southeastern University. In addition to autism and other developmental disabilities, her areas of interest include augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), assistive technology, and literacy.
What is CARD? CARD stands for the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities. Our center, based at the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University, is one of seven state-funded, university-based outreach and support centers in Florida dedicated to optimizing the potential of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), dual sensory impairment, sensory impairments with other disabling conditions, and related disabilities.
In addition to ASD, CARD also serves a variety of related disabilities including deaf-blindness, sensory impairments with other disabling conditions, developmental delays in children under 5 who also present with autistic-like behaviors, and genetic disorders that may co-exist with autism symptoms (e.g., Fragile X Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis, Angelman Syndrome, among others). Over the years, CARD’s constituency has grown from 88 families in 1993 to over 9,000 families today in Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties.
CARD services are designed to build on the capacities of state and local resources, not to duplicate or replace them. CARD provides families with resources specific to their needs. Some of the services that CARD provides include:
- Individualized Client and Family Support
• Family and Professional Training
• Public Education and Awareness and Community Outreach
• Programmatic Consultation and Technical Assistance
University of Miami – Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD)
CARD Main Office
University of Miami
5665 Ponce De Leon Blvd.
P.O. Box 248768
Coral Gables, FL 33124
CARD Satellite Office
Nova Southeastern University
6100 Griffin Road
Davie, FL 33314
CARD Branch Office
By appointment only.
CARD Branch Office
5801 NW 151st Street Suite #201
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
CARD Branch Office
By appointment only.
Apple Patch Therapy & Learning is a family and therapist-owned private practice in Orlando, Florida. Named “Best Speech Pathologists in Orlando 2017”, Apple Patch provides comprehensive speech and language therapy services to adults and children in the home and clinical settings.
I had the pleasure of working with Apple Patch Therapy this Summer thanks to the dedicated and forward-thinking owners Dino and Josann Fernandez. Not only do their therapists provide specialized 1:1 therapy to children and adult, but they are also privy to the Fernandez’s tech adventures! Dino and Josann are currently developing an app to facilitate the treatment of various modes of speech and language called SLP Assistant!
I instantly knew that Apple Patch would be a perfect fit for implementation of Kayle Concepts Bluebee Pals educational tool. Their love for incorporating innovative technology into therapy sessions showed as they dove in head first with the Bluebee Pals. The speech-language pathologist used Bluebee Pals with children in the home and clinical settings during 1:1 therapy and the results were exceptional!
Some of the highlights were:
- higher engagement for children
- increased phrase length when talking to Bluebee
- sustained participation in repetitive tasks
- motivation from all ages including middle school students
- great tool for following directions
- success as a communication icebreaker for conversational skills
- wonderful signing partner
- increased sustained participation and motivation for articulation drilling
The therapists at Apple Patch Therapy were very creative with their use of the educational tool! They used Bluebee Pals as an “alter ego” to comfort their more shy and reserved clients as well as encouraging them to hold the cute and plush toy for an additional sensory component. We were thrilled to hear that Bluebee Pals were able to help children reach their communication goals while having fun during therapy sessions! We can’t wait to see what else the inspiring Apple Patch team with Bluebee Pals in the near future! http://www.applepatchtherapy.com
Bluebee Pals are great therapeutic tools for speech therapists and behavior therapists. They have already proven themselves to be invaluable in the classroom setting and are now making their way into therapy centers around the United States. Bluebee Pals are a great assistive technology device that enhances the overall experience of iPad or Android Tablet.Turns therapy activities on the iPad into a more engaging experience, giving kids additional sensory component as they have to hold and touch the animals.Children respond to these huggable furry tech animals adding another dimension to therapy. https://www.bluebeepals.com/therapists/
Beyond the Spectrum, a therapeutic and educational center for children with Autism in Sarasota, FL recently used Bluebee Pals helped motivate a child to use the potty for the first time! A speech-language pathologist with Apple Patch Therapy in Orlando, Florida also found success using the Sammy the Bear to encourage a client to participate in language and articulation therapy and following directions tasks when Bluebee gives the actual directions. Her client increased attention to task dramatically to earn time with his Bluebee Pal! Affiliates centers with AblePlay-Lekotek in Georgia, Illinois, North Dakota, New York, L.A. and North Dakota have been using Bluebee Pals to engage students in therapeutic play!
The Apps section of the Bluebee Pal website lists many of the therapeutic apps that these therapists are using to address therapy goals in a fun and innovative way. These include Text to Speech, Articulate It, Super Duper Following Directions, Food Frenzy, Super Duper Category App, Autism iHelp Apps, See Touch Learn,
Speech Flip Book and many many more! Tablet and iPad technology are used almost daily in most therapeutic settings making it very easy for therapists to connect the Bluebee Pals and begin using them during sessions instantly!
So, get your Bluebee Pal and start taking your therapy to the next level!
Bierman ABA Autism Center is an innovative provider of personalized and intensive services for children with Autism in the areas of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech & Language, Occupational and Physical therapies. The center’s multiple locations include Boston, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Rhode Island. Founded by, Courtney Bierman in 2006, Bierman ABA is focused on staying true to their mission of being “the best provider of early intensive behavioral intervention in a center-based setting for children with autism.” Bierman ABA provides services to children up to 13 years of age with programs designed to help children learn skills across all areas of development for success in all settings.
How do they provide all of this? By caring deeply about the employee culture of their 180+ therapists and staff.
Bierman employees are guided to work with Passion, be a Team Player, be Motivated, be Principled, be Curious and have Fun! The staff’s ongoing training and evaluations with use of their Skills Development System (SDS), team of Behavior Analysist designing clinical programs, focus on naturalistic teaching and school readiness make it clear to see why Bierman ABA has received numerous awards and accolades. Bierman ABA’s is a wildly successful model for how to create a setting where employees are inspired to make a lasting impact and help transform the lives of children with Autism.
Kayle Concepts finds the mission of Bierman ABA inspiring and quite similar to our mission to provide an educational tool that can help children with special needs reach their highest potential. We donated Bluebee Pals via the Bluebee Pal Project to all of the Indianapolis and Boston centers and the outcome is better than we could have ever imagined!
Bluebee Pals were used daily during by Behavior Technicians and Analysts at the Bierman Centers. Speech-language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists at the centers also used the Bluebee Pals to engage children during 1:1 therapy.
The goals targeted were endless including:
- Group and Joint Attention
- Gross Motor Skills
- Expressive and Receptive Language
- Expanding Preferences
- Increasing Tolerance of Non-Preferred Activities
- Expanding Social Settings
Bluebee Pal helped the children engage by reading books, playing music, helping them “eat” during feeding therapy, and even DJ-ing at dance parties!
Best of all are the positive effects Bluebee Pal has provided for so many of the children at the center.
- Increased Attention During Group Activities
- Increased Tolerance of Peer Activities
- Increased Duration of Engagement with Non-Preferred Tasks
- Increased Attention to Communication Partner Instead of Electronic Item
- Increased Participation in Feeding Therapy
We can’t thank the therapists and support staff at Bierman ABA Autism Center for inspiring us in our quest to help make education and therapy interactive and fun!
Dr. Howard C Shane is a world-renowned pioneer in the world of Autism. He is an Associate Professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Center for Communication Enhancement and the Autism Language Program at Children’s Hospital Boston at Waltham. Dr. Shane has been a researcher in the field of Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) for over 30 years and is the creator of dozens of computer applications to that increase communication and learning for individuals with Autism.
These include Touch ‘N Speak, Microsofts HandiWare, Starbright World and the Visual Immersion System. Dr. Shane’s many collaborations include being a Director of the Monarch Center for Autism and Model Autism Program (MAP) with Boston Public Schools.http://www.childrenshospital.org/centers-and-services/center-for-communication-enhancement-program
Bluebee Pals is taking it to the next level with Dr. Howard Shane in the coming weeks! Dr. Shane and his team are set to begin researching the effectiveness of using Bluebee Pals with children with Autism. Bluebee Pals will be used during speech-language therapy sessions at Children’s Hospital Boston.
Kayle Concepts is honored to be part of this important and innovative research focused on the use of technology to help persons with Autism reach their highest potential! Thank you, Dr. Howard C Shane for the vast body of work and dedication to those with communication impairments and for letting us be part of your journey!
Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) & Core Words
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. Just one look at a well-known AAC website http://praacticalaac.org/ will help you to see how core word use is really at the forefront of the AAC world!
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 are a great tool for use with AAC apps and core words. Simply connect your Bluebee Pal via Bluetooth connection to your iPad with communication app. As the AAC user activates buttons on their communication app, Bluebee will speak. What a fun way to hear your “voice” being used!
Opportunities and need to communicate are all around us.
Our daily routines at home allow for many communication opportunities we may not notice at first glance. Free time, even if limited, can also be language rich. Children with language delays/deficits and related disabilities need as many of these opportunities as we can help provide. A useful strategy is to name and label items around the home. Modeling the names of items when eating dinner, doing the household chores, reading books and even driving in the car can significantly increase vocabulary skills. Many families label household items with words and pictures (google images is your best friend!) to increase identification and naming. Repeating and rephrasing also help to model language skills. When your little one comes to you with the remote, you can respond with “Oh, do you want me to turn on the tv?” followed by modeling a functional way to ask “Say, On Please”. It can be difficult to take the extra moment to model and require requesting and labeling-but so effective! Your child will learn that they can get their needs and wants to be met very effectively with the words you model. During household chores, children can work on receptive language/understanding skills. Give them simple directions to follow (Get the shirt and bring it here) as you fold laundry or clean the kitchen. And how about during the small amounts of free time we are able to carve out? These are the most engaging times to work on communication skills. Pretend play with a farm, blocks or a dollhouse is the perfect time to continue modeling the names of items, giving directions to follow (get the duck and put it in the barn) and practice turn-taking. Many simple words can be taught during play with bubbles (pop, blow, up, down, more, your turn, my turn), car play (go, stop, up, down, fast, slow) and even on the playground (go, run, jump, swing, help, more, want). Our kids may need models or extra time to respond with appropriate language during these play activities, but often catch on quickly when the activity is motivating! So begin looking around when you are home with your child that has language needs. What can you name them? What can you ask them to do? How can you model and require increased language? What language can you encourage during play? Even 10 minutes a day of a language-rich environment at home will help to carry over the important communication skills we long for our kids to achieve!
Check out the AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom for many resources to encourage language with verbal and nonverbal children!
By: Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Princeton House Charter School
Technology and Autism
Our lives are intertwined with technology daily. From email to smartphones, tablets to touch screens computers, virtual reality viewers to GPS enabled devices – technology is everywhere and ever-changing. Schools (including Princeton House Charter School in Orlando, FL) and therapy centers around the nation are noting the success achieved when students are provided opportunities for learning and interaction via technology. Parents are also turning to technology to engage their children with Autism and keep them safe. Autism Speaks, for example, has a list of locating devices that can be used for children that elope (https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/locating-devices).
Home security packages and “smart home” devices allow parents and adults to gain information and control home appliances just by speaking to a small device. Not only can these home devices help with safety (locking your doors and alerting you of entries/exits) but also to turn on shows, play music, answer questions, and create sensory friendly environments. For example, the Phillips Hue is a wireless lighting device that helps you to create the perfect ambiance for every moment (http://www2.meethue.com/en-us/). Kids, including students with Autism, love interacting with these smart devices by asking questions and controlling their environment. For a child that may sometimes feel out of control, these devices can be very rewarding.
In the classroom setting, students with limited verbal skills and those that learn better with visual representations can interact with Smart Boards, computers with touch screens and iPads with educational apps. At Princeton House Charter School, students have access to Promethean interactive tables with touch interfaces. They also explore new environments and experiences with our virtual reality viewers. Many students with Autism have difficulty visualizing stories for listening comprehension and writing activities. Our teachers use virtual reality viewers and interactive table experiences as “writing prompt”. It is often easier for our students to describe scenes they visually and tactically experienced minutes prior.
Technology is taken even further through Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC). Students with limited verbal language use low and high tech devices to communicate their wants/needs and participate in academics. Low tech devices include speech generating devices such as switches (https://www.ablenetinc.com/technology/switches), AAC devices with paper overlays (http://www.amdi.net/products/aac-devices), communication boards and books. Students can press buttons to formulate messages with pre-recorded voice output.
High tech AAC devices include dynamic display touch screens house a vast array of words and phrases with picture symbols and/or typing options (https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/assistive-technology). These devices allow students with Autism to communicate with their teachers, peers and family members quickly and effectively. The invention of iPad and Android tablets have blown up the world of AAC with greater access and cheaper prices. Apps such as Proloquo2Go and GoTalk have help students with Autism gain their voice more than ever before! Seeing a student learn the power of communication via an AAC device is one amazing experience that just keeps on giving.
Technology, whether used in our daily lives or with persons with Autism, is an invaluable tool that will surely continue to transform all our lives!
Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Princeton House Charter School
Reading comprehension is an integral part of the reading intervention provided to students in school daily. States even mandate how many minutes of reading intervention students must receive. At Princeton House Charter School(Orlando, Florida) many of our students with Autism struggle with reading comprehension. They often have difficulty understanding the Wh-Questions and are unable to answer them after listening to a story. Our teachers have been focusing on intervention to help students understand the difference between each type of Wh-Question.
We use visual supports and Wh-Question apps throughout reading activities. One such app is “Autism iHelp Wh-Questions”. It allows the instructor to choose types of Wh-Questions to ask with vivid picture choices. Recently, a teacher assistant was using this app for her small group during reading.
Autism iHelp is a vocabulary teaching aid developed by parents of a child with Autism and a speech-language pathologist. Autism iHelp was inspired by the need for specific language intervention tools for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder focusing on their unique strengths and difficulty with expressive vocabulary.
The students, who usually love doing anything on the iPad were really struggling to maintain attention to the task. What did she do? Bluebee to the rescue! The teacher assistant stopped the activity and connected Bluebee to the app via the easy to use the Bluetooth connection. She resumed the task with Blubee giving the instruction. Viola! The students were excited to see their friend Bluebee and began attending to the task and answering the Wh-Questions. At Princeton House Charter School we must do a ton of preplanning and have activities set up and ready to go for our students. Even with all that planning, we constantly need to assess our student’s engagement and motivation during tasks. Without attention, there is no learning. Bluebee helps us to be flexible and make quick changes to bring our students back to a “ready to learn” state.
Princeton House Charter School-Orlando, Florida
Carissa Thompson – Teacher***Shannon Westfield – Teacher Assistant***Megan McGovern-Speech Language Pathologist Assistant
The faces of Autism: How Bluebee Pals and technology are making a difference with children with Autism.
Serving children with Autism is a dynamic task. Therapists and teachers are constantly working to engage students in learning activities in the face of attention,behavioral, and cognitive challenges. It does not make for a traditional setting. Students with Autism need their classroom environments and therapeutic experiences to be captivating but not overstimulating, structured but not too rigid, novel but not drastically changing….the list goes on and on.
It’s a constant dance between taking their lead and challenging them to reach their highest potentials. How many times do we struggle with helping our student increase their social skills? How often do we search for something new to motivate them? How often do we wonder what it would be like to live in their world and know what they are thinking?
Bluebee Pals working with therapists at the Princeton House Charter School for Autism
Sometimes it’s the unexpected that help us chip away at these questions. Bluebee Pals are one of the unexpected tools that have helped in achieving these small victories. These loveable high-tech plush toys are a huge motivator! Holding Bluebee, talking to Bluebee and getting the chance to make Bluebee talk and sing is a unique and highly desired reward for students across the range of the Autism Spectrum. Nobody likes to work for free, so Bluebee has provided educators with a very valuable currency! Even better is when Bluebee helps with the educating. Connecting the plush toy to learning apps allows Bluebee to deliver the instruction. “Teacher Bluebee” definitely helps to gain student’s attention during small and large group instruction.
We are all always looking for tools that will help us keep our student’s attention and participation during instruction – Bluebee does just that! Many students with Autism struggle with the sensory input and demands of the classroom environment. Bluebee pals gives them an opportunity to take control. It is quite cool to see a student make Bluebee speak with a text-to-speech app or sing their favorite song. It’s an experience that allows us to get a glimpse into their feelings, observations and often their humor! They love seeing Bluebee make their words come alive! Bluebee Pals are an inviting and comforting conversational partner. For some students it is much easier to make eye contact and conversational exchanges with a BluebeePal than with their peers/adults. Bluebee Pals can be the bridge between conversational partners with one person speaking through the toy while the other speaks to it. All in all, the BluebeePals are a tool that help students with Autism work on a vast array of skills by serving as a motivator, instructor, co-pilot, and furry friend.
Author: Punam Desormes, M.A., CCC-SLP: Speech-Language Therapist-Princeton House Charter School in Orlando, Florida.