Bluebee Pals has just had a major update to their line of cuddly friends for kids, The Bluebee Pro. For the few folks who have not heard of this award winning the line of Bluetooth-enabled stuffed animals, they are amazing tools for educators and parents that convey all the love and acceptance to any child in need of a friend. When connected via Bluetooth through a device such as a phone or a tablet, the pals speak the language of children everywhere. Their mouths move in perfect synchronization to spoken text from an app or conversation from a phone, and it is as if the animal is communicating directly to them. This line is lusher with a greater variety of animals to choose from – there will be ten in all but they are starting with the initial six according to their phenomenal website at Bluebeepals.com TWA has followed Bluebee Pals’ development and originally reviewed the first edition here, and found it to be a fabulous learning tool. How the Bluebee animals were being used for special needs kids can be found in Jayne Clare’s Edutopia piece about the collaborative efforts of founder and CEO of Bluebee Pals, Laura Jiencke, and Jodi Murphy of Geek Club Books. Their goal was not only to help improve the lives of children but also to communicate with the greater public about autism. Their collaboration has led to the creation of Bluebee TV, and greater awareness of the community of children with alternative abilities in learning. Many children, not just those on the Autism Spectrum or others with Special Needs have benefitted from the interaction that the Bluebee Pals offer. It is truly a gift to witness the connection that these animals make with kids. So many times, it is hard for a child to interact with an adult or peer due to social anxiety or sensory processing difficulties. The Bluebee Pals offer not only a non-threatening presence but also by holding and squeezing the Pals, it provides a means of self-calming and regulation through deep pressure. Deep pressure awakens the proprioceptive senses deep in our muscles and joints that calm and help us focus. And because it is without an interference of an adult or other, it can then be assimilated and generalized as a coping mechanism unique to the child or user. AND this makes a child less prompt dependent on adults or others for their state of awareness or ability to maintain an alert state and be ready for action. A calm and alert child is a learning child. In essence, the pals act as a champion of their own independence. Some of the kid's favorite apps are storybook apps. For younger ones, Books or poems from Nosy Crow, i.e. the Nosy Crow Super Pack, or familiar stories such as Good Night Moon by Loud Crow Interactive Inc, or the Dr. Suess books from Oceanhouse Media, are sure to please. Familiar books will lend themselves to eager listeners, especially when they know some of the lines and can anticipate what comes next. Everyone loves to shout out the next line! Tip: We found it helpful to turn off the music in the app so that a child could really focus and build up their auditory skills by listening to words and phrases so that they were able to detect meaning. It was also helpful to use the Bluebee Pal while teaching finger plays to songs such as the Wheels on the Bus HD or the Itsy Bitsy Spider HD by Duck Duck Moose, Inc. Bluebee Pals adds another element of fun when the child teaches Bluebee, or "BJ as we call him, the song and finger plays. We removed the iPad from view on some applications...not only to improve conversational volleys between kids but also to hone into the auditory comprehension piece. Placing the books on a Read to Me selection will forward most automatically. If not, we just had one of the staff operate the iPad from across the room. The Bluebee Pals Website has much to offer including many other apps that were tested out with the pals. Our good friend Jackie Bryla from a.c.t.s has an extensive list of apps in the section called Jackie's Corner, many that were perfect for BJ. Be sure to have a look! Bluee Pals can be ordered online or is at many retail outlets near you. At TWA, we have loved the Bluebee Pals from their inception, and love the Bluebee Pal Proline too! There is a broad spectrum of use of the Bluebee Pals from receiving calls from a loved one far away to have a ready and willing playmate. As Bluebee sings, having him connected to a favorite playlist may be beneficial in a cozy corner to chill out after a stressful day. Therapeutic use is only limited by the imagination of the clinician. Bluebee is not only a Top Pick but has also deserved the TWA Recommended Award of Excellence.
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.
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