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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Top 2 Things Many Kids with Disabilities Love: Want Some Warm, Fuzzy Technology?

The concept of a soft, fuzzy stuffed animal ‘friend’ to read to you, teach you, and talk to or for you is a great one. When my son was very little (about 30 years ago) he had a Teddy Ruxpin who read books to him, and he loved it!  Well, Teddy Ruxpin is a thing of the past and a concept that ran out of steam.  But now, with the expansion of technology, so much more is possible.

When I first took my Bluebee Pal bear out of the box the first thing that struck me was how soft and cuddly he was.  That was a big plus for me, as well as how relatively hidden the mechanism is.
I plugged him into my computer to charge, and turned him on.  It took only a few seconds to connect him to the Bluetooth on my iPad and, like that, we were connected.

I tried a couple of different apps with him, including a storybook app, an alphabet/word learning app, and an augmentative-alternative communication (AAC) app.

Right away my bear could talk to me, read a story to me, and name letters and words to me.  What a great concept.  What small child wouldn’t want to curl up with a favorite stuffed animal who reads them stories or plays app games?

I picked a storybook app that still required the child to turn pages as the bear read to him.  This maintains the emergent reading skill, and gives the child some control over the pace. The Pal’s mouth didn’t move as much as I've seen on their website, which I thought was a bit of a drawback.  But it does move.  I listened as ‘he’ read the story to me and imagined all of the storybook apps I have being read to some of the students I’ve worked with. Magical!  Technology and stuffed animals are probably the top 2 favorite things on many kids’ lists.

The app I chose for letter/word matching allowed the Pal to say the letters and then the word as I dragged and dropped.  I listened to the giggly letters of Endless Alphabet coming from the Pal as I dragged them around and I had to giggle, too.  There are so many apps for educational skills where the Pal could give the prompts, ask the questions, say the cue for the child to repeat.

  Then I opened an AAC app and had the Pal say some phrases.  This would be great fun for a nonverbal child who craved some power over his environment.  I could envision asking the student questions through the Pal using an AAC app - less threatening than my asking, and much more engaging. 

Bluebee is subject to some of the same vagaries that plague all bluetooth technology.  Sometimes the connection gets dropped.  If either the Pal or the iPad go to sleep, you need to reconnect them.  Sometimes I needed to turn off the Pal and turn it back on to restore the connection.  
Unfortunately, the child would have to know how to do this, or would need an adult handy to help.  On the other hand, so many young kids now are handier with the technology than we are, so that may not be a problem.

Other than that, I thought my Bluebee Pal was great. I can see lots of opportunities for using him in therapy and evaluations with kids who might interact better with a stuffed animal than with me, and those who would love to make him talk. 

     Bluebee Pals sent me the Pal to review, but I have not been paid for this review.

Keep on talking!


  1. That is wonderful! Reading and cuddles go together!

  2. I'm thrilled they sent this to me - I'm having fun trying it out with kids. Planning on using it in an evaluation next week.