Not Your Traditional Plush Toy
By Melissa Bishop
While searching for an Assistive Technology (AT) tool for this particular post, I became quite overwhelmed with the number of tools available. I knew I was looking for something a little different and relative to the students I teach. After narrowing my criteria, I came across Bluebee Pals. I became intrigued with the idea of marrying a child’s plush toy with AT. Here is what I discovered.
Bluebee Pals are an AT tool that students use to engage with their learning. Using the Bluebee Pal also supports social skill development in children with autism. The plush pal comes in the form of a Zebra, Lion, Dog, Lamb, Bear or Monkey and connects with Bluetooth-enabled Apps or devices for students using Augmentative or Alternative Communication Applications. The Blubee Pal also connects with Android or Apple devices. Here is a quick video on how to start with your Bluebee Pal.
What the Teachers Say
Speech Language Pathologists and Special Education Teachers report observing increases in communication, following directions and turn taking when using the Bluebee Pal. Using this tool bridges learning with fun to teach students about voice apps, how to communicate and learn the language. It is especially effective in early learning environments where Bluebee Pals support young learners in modeling the use of communication apps.
Top 3 Benefits
- Bluebee Pals are attractive to younger students. Making a tool for students that is engaging can be a difficult feat. Bluebee Pals engage with the students in a non-threatening manner and engage curiosity in young learners in any language. Educators report students are more engaged with their learning and that they are using social skills taught using the Bluebee Pal more often.
- Bluebee Pals can engage with students to aid in teaching communication software. Students who are disengaged with their communication software have added a Bluebee Pal and learned how to use the software to communicate.
- The key factor for students with Special Needs is that teachers and parents report an increase in receptive and expressive language skills. Students who are using their Communication Software Tools in combination with Bluebee Pals are developing much needed expressive and receptive language skills. This video shows the Bluebee Pal in action.
- The Bluebee Pal uses Bluetooth Technology and at times connections are dropped and need to be reconnected to continue learning.
- If the Bluebee Pal or iPad go to sleep, the will need to be reconnected to restore the connection.
- Teachers and parents report the Bluebee Pals mouth movements are not precisely in sync with the communication programming, but students appear to enjoy the technology regardless.
In short, most of the challenges with the Bluebee Pals are associated with technology. Students will need an adult present to support them in technology glitches and to reconnect when the connection is dropped.
Despite the drawbacks of Bluetooth Technology, I would use Bluebee Pals in my classroom of Early Learners as a learning center and with my special needs students. Bluebee Pals would be effective for younger students in early learning environments to support the development of receptive and expressive language skills. This tool would not be as practical for older students.
The official website for Bluebee Pals – find teacher resources, links on how to use AT and Bluebee Pals, school information purchasing information, and much more.
AblePlay – Fantastic resource on how to use your Bluebee Pal for Social Skills, Play, Learning, Communication, and Sensory.
Video Links for Bluebee Pals – the videos show the Bluebee Pals in action.
Teachers with Apps review of the Bluebee Pals – this site reviews how Bluebee Pals can be used in the classroom, some pros and cons, and useful information on the implementation of the Bluebee Pal.