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ATU571 – zPods with George Bailey

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Special Guest – George Bailey – President of zPods

Find out more here:
www.zpodsforsleep.com
www.zpods.tech
www.zpods.io
or on Facebook at zPods

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—– Transcript Starts Here —–

George Bailey:
Hi, this is George Bailey and I’m the president of ZPods. And this is Your Assistant Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello, and welcome to Your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.

Josh Anderson:
I’m your host, Josh Anderson with the INDATA project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 570 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on May 6th, 2022.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re very excited to talk about one of my favorite subjects, sleep. As a father of some young children, sleep is something that I’ve learned I took for granted many, many a year. And for individuals who have children with disabilities, sleep can be even harder to find, not just for them, but also for their children, and other family members.

Josh Anderson:
So today, we have George Bailey on and he is the president of ZPods. And he’s here to talk about how these beds can help some individuals get a better night’s sleep which, in turn, allows others in the household to get a much better night’s sleep as well.

Josh Anderson:
As you listen to our show, if you happen to know of a product, or some other assistive technology, or someone working in the field, who’d make a great guest, please, please, please reach out to us. We always value, not just your feedback, but also your ideas. We’re always looking for great interviews. I’m blessed to get to talk to so many amazing people, but we’re always looking to talk to more. So, if you’ve got some ideas for the show, please reach out. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124. We always value your feedback but, for now, let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
Maybe you’re looking for some new podcast to listen to. Well, make sure to check out our sister podcast Accessibility Minute and ATFAQ or Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. If you’re super busy and don’t have time to listen to a full podcast, be sure to check out Accessibility Minute, our one minute long podcast that gives you just a little taste of something assistive technology based, so that you’re able to get your assistive technology fixed without taking up the whole day. Hosted by Tracy Castillo, the show comes out weekly.

Josh Anderson:
Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, or at FAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of experts, including myself, Belva Smith, and our own Tracy Castillo as we try to answer your assistive technology questions. This show does rely on you, so we’re always looking for new questions, comments, or even your answers on assistive technology questions. So, remember if you’re looking for more assistive technology podcasts to check out, you can check out our sister shows Accessibility Minute, and ATFAQ, wherever you get your podcast now, including Spotify and Amazon Music.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners, sleep is something that we could all probably use a little bit more of. And if not more, maybe just some better sleep. Well, our guest today is George Bailey. And he’s here to tell us about a new sleeping solution for kids with some unique sensory needs so that they and, in turn, their parents and others can get a better night’s sleep. George, welcome to the show.

George Bailey:
Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. And I am really excited to get into talking about the technology. But before we do that, could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

George Bailey:
Well, I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I was born and raised there. And I went to school in Utah. I met my wife there on a blind date. We got married after three months of knowing each other.

Josh Anderson:
Oh wow.

George Bailey:
And then, one year after we got married, we had our first son Joseph. When we moved… I had a teaching job in Germany, and when we moved there, Joseph was very, very young, became very evident very early on that Joseph was autistic. We didn’t have anybody there in Germany to be able to give us an official diagnosis. And, matter of fact, they don’t diagnose until about the age of 11.

Josh Anderson:
Oh wow.

George Bailey:
If you can believe it. Yeah so we were really excited when we came back to United States for the opportunity to check out and find out what’s going on? What can we learn about this? And we moved to St. Louis where I studied law. And we lived there to this day. I love St. Louis, it’s a fantastic place. If you ever want to travel on over from Indiana to St. Louis and take a little bit of vacation, we’ll get you some good barbecue, set you up. But St. Louis has a really, really outstanding autism community. And that became the place where we both got a diagnosis for Joseph, but also were able to set him up with some of the resources that he needs.

George Bailey:
Now, since then, we have had four other children.

Josh Anderson:
Oh wow.

George Bailey:
And of those four, so of the five total, another is also diagnosed with autism that’s my six year old daughter Madeline. And she expresses it, as you can believe, in a very different way from Joseph.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

George Bailey:
And not quite as obviously. So, I don’t think that we would’ve caught it had it not been for Joseph’s diagnosis because once your oldest child is diagnosed with autism, then your doctors are going to want to check out all of them, and find out what they can. But that’s a little bit about our story, and how we ended up where we’re at. But just really excited to be working for a startup that is working in this community as well.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely.

Josh Anderson:
And you brought up a really good point. I think a lot of families don’t realize that services are so different across the United States. And when you’re in different places. So, if you can find a place that have as a good community, and kind of a good service base, then it’s a really good thing to stay. Because yeah, I’ve worked with folks who’ve come from different states, and come to different systems here. And Indiana does a pretty good job on a lot of different things. It’s not always easy to find, but it’s great that you guys did find a good place that you enjoy, that you like that has good barbecue, and good services. Being able to help out your family is always a good thing too.

Josh Anderson:
Well, George, the real reason we had you on here was to talk about the ZPod bed. So tell us what exactly is it?

George Bailey:
So a ZPods bed is an enclosed bed. It’s what is technically known as a capsule bed. They actually started not in the United States, but in Asia where they’ve been used for airports, and for micro hotels in China, and Japan, and other countries. And they’re just these little beds that you can get inside of.

George Bailey:
Now I say little, but they actually can fit a… The ones that we’ve been using are six feet five inches from end to end on the inside. So you can get a pretty tall person in there. I’m six feet two. And I fit in pretty comfortably. But the point is that these beds, they were being used for micro hotels, but we saw a different purpose for them. We were encouraged to go down the autism route. And I was a little bit skeptical at first because I am an autism parent, and I don’t believe in easy solutions. And I also was kind of raising the question, well, solution to what? You don’t just go out and get a bed because it’s cool. Looks like a spaceship. You want it to actually solve a problem.

George Bailey:
But the more research that we did, and the more autism professionals that we talked to they really encouraged us to go in this direction, and to explore what kind of application this type of enclosed bed could have for kids with autism. So, that’s how we got started out. And now, we have helped about 60 to 70 families. And we’re very new still but, at the same time, we’re very receptive to the autism community, and trying to do things to make them more comfortable in terms of… Now, when I say enclosed, I guess I’ll give my best description possible to what that even means. You crawl into the bed, you slide the door closed, and then you have a control panel that allows you to control the lighting, and the fan system to control the environment to a limited level. But still, we found that kids with autism just fell in love with this thing. Whenever we showed it to them, just wild about it. And so we thought, “Oh my gosh, this could be really fun.” And that’s what the bed is.

Josh Anderson:
Okay, got you. And you kind of mentioned and started talking about some of the features. But tell me a little bit kind of deeper about the features, the things that I can change once I get in the bed. If I have special sensory needs or things like that what all kind of settings, I guess for lack of better word, can I change once I get in the bed to really meet my needs?

George Bailey:
So, a little bit of background on that. The bed that we initially started using was a made in China product that had limited control over the features. You had your two fans, you had multiple different lighting systems. You could connect a television in there though, naturally, I don’t recommend that. I think that television is not good for children before they go to bed. We still enable it because we have sold to some sensory rooms, and they love being able to have that. That’s not the place where the kids sleeps at that point. If it’s in a sensory room, it’s a very different purpose. But it fits both.

George Bailey:
And so, what we’ve done is by listening to all of the parents with whom we’ve worked, we decided okay, let’s upgrade the features, and include things that are not in the original model. So, what we’re going to be coming out with in June, we’ve phased out all of the made in China beds. They’re gone, we’ve sold the last one. And, in June, we’re coming out with the made in USA bed that we designed. And some of those features include the fan system is actually more advanced now. It both brings air in, but it also pushes air right back out. So, you get kind of better air circulation in there.

George Bailey:
The lighting, instead of only having a choice of five different colors, you actually have a full spectrum choice now. And it can phase from one color to the other without there being a kind of sudden change. So a lot more dynamic there. And then, we have speakers in every bed that’s not in the original. And every parent was just like, “Oh, it’d be so great if we have some speakers in here.” We thought, “Well, why not?” So, that was an upgrade that we added.

George Bailey:
And then, the entire control panel can be old now with the new one from your smart device.

Josh Anderson:
Oh.

George Bailey:
So, that was another thing where the parents wanted the ability to be able to check in on the control panel, lock certain features, unlock others as their children are able to demonstrate a given level of maturity, or self-control. And then the doors, we’ve changed those as well. We wanted to be able to remove the doors really easily, which you can with this one. Just FYI, the bed does not lock neither the made in China, nor the made in the United States version. So, it’s just not a lockable system. We want to stay away from that. We know that it’s needed in certain circumstances, but that’s not our business right there.

George Bailey:
But the doors now that you can easily lift, tilt, and remove the doors, and then put them back in the reverse order that was something really fun because that’s a design feature where later on down the line, we want there to be doors that are different per child. Every kid has different preferences. I want stars, I want ponies, I want cowboys, whatever it is that the kid wants, we want to be able to make doors that match their needs. But that’s something that’s coming a little ways off, but it’s going to be possible.

George Bailey:
And then, the last feature I can think of right now is that the entire bed is much easier to assemble with the made in USA version. It takes about 30 minutes. The made in China used to take up to three or four hours. So, we wanted a better design, more convenient ways, so that parents don’t feel like they’re like, “How do I build this thing?” And we tried our best with the instructions, but you can never build the perfect instructions. We just said, “Why not build a more intuitive bed?”

Josh Anderson:
I’m very glad you did that. As somebody has to put stuff together constantly I’m very, very thankful for that.

Josh Anderson:
George, you kind of said these kind of beds were used in micro hotels and stuff like that, but where did the idea really come from to make these for individuals with sensory needs?

George Bailey:
So, when we brought these back from China to the United States, my business partner bought a full container. He sold half that container to a spaceship themed living space on Walt Disney World property. And you had to really feel like you were sleeping on like the Millennium Falcon or something like that. It’s really cool what they did. But we were looking at these beds and thinking like, “Well, what did we do with them?” And this goes back to what I was saying about when people started bringing up autism, I balked at that. I thought like, “Ah come on, man, we get so much stuff thrown our way,” so I was pretty hesitant, but in a few things changed my mind.

George Bailey:
Number one, watching my son, Joseph, interact with the bed was pretty amazing because it chilled him out on a level I’d never seen before. Second was the conversation with all of the autism professionals that really encouraged us. I was a little bit surprised because I thought I’d bring them in and they’d be like, “No, we don’t need it.” And if that had been the case, then I’m going to go somewhere else because I don’t want to impose a solution on someone who doesn’t really care for it. And then, the last thing was our first case study. We tried it out with a family, the daughter 13 years old at the time, she’s now 15, it’s been over two years. From the age of 5 to the age of 13, she’d been sleeping four hours a night in her closet. And this is actually something now, looking backwards, we see this all the time actually.

George Bailey:
I’d say, if it’s not the closet, it’s under the bed. If it’s not under the bed, it’s in the bathtub. If it’s not there then it’s up scrunched up against the wall. And so, we see these habits in sleep that made us think like maybe there’s a sensory issue for sleep, and we have a sensory solution. And so, Natalie jumped literally overnight from four hours to about over 10 hours of sleep at night. And I was shocked. In my wildest dreams, I did not think that that was… I just couldn’t have asked for anything better. And so, we thought when we saw that jump, and she’s been sleeping the same ever since, just really solid sleeper, that was a big eye opener. And I really felt like we have changed this young woman’s life. And if we can do that for other children, then I really want to find those kids. Again, I don’t think that it’s every kid who’s going to be this responsive.

Josh Anderson:
Sure.

George Bailey:
Very careful not to make any medical claims. Although, we are putting together clinical trials through the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, which can be found at the University of Missouri.

George Bailey:
And because we take it really seriously, but that was what led us in that direction. And then, of course, we started learning that up to 20% of US children, according to the CDC, have a sensory processing disorder, which is huge. Yeah, I had no idea that was very surprising for me, but you can believe that that kind of disorder makes it very difficult to sleep, and that’s where we started out.

Josh Anderson:
Nice.

Josh Anderson:
Do you want to talk more about the study that you guys are doing?

George Bailey:
Philosophically behind the study is this kind of belief that we have that we really want to understand the science of what’s happening, and not just kind of like just sell stuff. Not just that, but I feel like we’re better served as a company.

George Bailey:
Here, I’m just going to speak frankly, as a business person and that is that I really believe that when you try to become as informed about your product or your service as you can, that you’re better served for doing so. And I want to understand what’s happening, and with which children, because I do want to be able to say to someone like, “Okay, here’s the type of kid, here’s the profile,” because I want to save them the time and the trouble, if it’s like, “No, we’ve never found that it’s helpful for X.” Then I want to say that to them. I don’t want people who are upset at us because we sold them something that really doesn’t resolve their issue. And so, that’s one of the big reasons.

George Bailey:
I think that the other obvious big reason for wanting to do clinical trials is because we believe that by doing so. And by being able to isolate that audience that we are better able to get insurance, or other funding solutions, activate those for parents because look, it’s hard and I know this, when you’re a parent of an autistic child, or any other child who has disability, you’re spending a lot of money, and you’re putting in a lot of time.

George Bailey:
And so, it’s wonderful to have insurance solutions that can really help out. It’s wonderful to have state funding solutions or programs like Easterseals. I’m a big believer in these programs. And I think that they do a lot. And if you look at all that they’re doing together, we just want to help. And I think that we help by becoming an evidence-based solution rather than just something that like, “Hey, we had this cool idea.” It is a cool idea. Don’t get me wrong. It’s cool.

George Bailey:
And the funny thing about this is that we here, we’re talking about autistic children and other children, we worked with kids with ADHD, and OCD, and schizophrenia, but I think that what we’ve landed on, what we love about it is that basically any kid who comes up and looks at our bed is like, “I want to sleep in that,” because it’s just so cool.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. And I got to admit until you told me that I couldn’t lock it from the inside and keep my kids out, I would like to have one. It doesn’t really solve the problem with them waking me up. But no, it is. And I do say listeners, kind of as we get done and we put links down in the show notes and stuff, definitely do go check it out, because it is very futuristic, but I can really see how it can help.

Josh Anderson:
And I’m glad you are doing those studies because George, you brought up a good point and I’m sure you’ve kind of probably encountered this of people saying this is going to help everyone with X, or Y, or Z. Every visually impaired person is going to be able to benefit from this. Every person with autism can benefit from this. And that’s just not true, because people are people. And we’re all completely different and disability affects people differently. Be it sensory, be it cognitive, or anything.

Josh Anderson:
But that’s a good idea to get it kind of maybe honed down a little bit so that if folks come with those exact kind of parameters that I have a son with autism that shows this, this and this, well maybe this is something that can really help you out. And really be able to do things. And then of course, as you said, finding funding can always be a challenge and that even varies state by state, or insurance by insurance, or all those different things can become a bit of a pain. So, I’m glad you guys are doing all the studies to kind of get that all together.

George Bailey:
One thing that I always like to address with people, and it’s the elephant in the room, is that we’re talking about a fairly expensive bed. It’s about $5,000, and you put in shipping and that costs some additional as well. But the one thing that I always try to address with parents is number one, we are looking for every viable solution to be able to help them make this more affordable. And that’s whether that’s financing or leasing, whether it’s getting state funding, getting grants, we’ve had a number of these beds donated. Whether it’s being able to put together a fundraiser, whether it’s our long-term play of insurance, state disability waivers, we are really pulling out all stops because we’re believers that where there’s a need, we need to be able to create access.

George Bailey:
And that’s on us and it’s happened because we have a number of parents who were really aggressive, and assertive about like finding solutions. Like, “I’m going to get this for my kid one way or another.” And I’ve been really impressed with their sticktoitveness. I think that really makes a big difference. But, I guess in short, we want people to have this bed who need this bed, and we will fight to make that happen.

George Bailey:
One thing I’ll, I’ll say additionally about that for some people it might feel like, “What’s going on? Why is it so expensive?” And I think that what I want people to understand is that new technology is always brought about with a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of people putting money in that they’re not sure they’re going to get right back out. And so, a lot of things that start off expensive over time actually become a lot more accessible. And that’s actually the normal trend with products. Think about your phone right now, how much that cost you, maybe a few hundred dollars. And that’s not necessarily inexpensive, but if you look at the price of the first brick cell phones, the ones in the ’80s, those things were thousands of dollars.

George Bailey:
And so, that’s always our hope is that when you disseminate technology, and you make it more common, you can actually do it for less expensive as well. So, we are all about innovation. We are all about taking tech, and making it as accessible as possible.

Josh Anderson:
George, you touched on this a little bit, and you kind of told me the story about the one girl. But can you tell me a story about someone else who’s been kind of helped by the beds and maybe they even surprised you a little bit?

George Bailey:
Oh, that’s a good one. Another one that always kind of tickles me a little bit is we had one boy who’s neurotypical, and actually this is the child of one of my partners. My partner and his wife, they had a son who was just terrified to sleep alone, just a lot of fear. And so, he just needed a place that he felt safe, but he wouldn’t get out of mom’s bed, which was hard for dad, and hard for mom.

George Bailey:
And so, we set him up at the bed and, again, like we don’t know, is this going to coax him out, or is the underlying fear too strong? But, apparently, having that personalized and enclosed space was enough him to feel like, “I love this.” And so, he started sleeping in his bed, no problem. Mom and dad get to be back together again, which we celebrate and think is great.

George Bailey:
Similar situation with my own kid, Joseph, we had to go put him to bed at many times throughout the night. And now it’s just like, “Okay, Joe time to go to your zPod.” And he’s cool with that. And every once in a while, I still need to go down there, and remind him to get back in bed. But it’s not on the same level that it was before. My son, although he’s autistic never had the severity of sleep shortage, whatever you want to call it, childhood insomnia that we’ve seen in a lot of the kids that we work with, but it wasn’t pleasant either. I mean, like I could put him to bed at eight and it would take him until 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock to go to sleep. And now, he goes to sleep a lot more easily.

George Bailey:
So, I would say that we’re seeing patterns in kids who have high anxiety, things like that. So, there’s been some other stories. One more, I suppose I’ll choose this one, I actually really enjoyed. And that is that we had a young man, 18 years old, who’s sleeping in the bed. And one of the things that his mom noticed was that when she would pull up to the driveway that every day before he got to bed, every day he would just scream his head off, he’d launch into a big fit.

George Bailey:
And either she’d be taking him home from daycare, so this is this daycare to home transition time. So, that transition was taking 15 to 30 minutes for him to calm down so that they could just get him something to eat. And all of a sudden he got into the routine of just getting home, getting out of the car, running straight to his bed, shutting himself up, and then coming out calm. And it may be 15 minutes later, but it was over. None of the screaming.

George Bailey:
Now, it wasn’t every single time that this happened, but it was at least half the time. And all sudden mom finds like, oh my gosh, coming home is not this thing to dread that it used to be. So, what’s interesting is that the kids who respond to this manifest it in many different ways. As you said earlier, there are many different types of children.

Josh Anderson:
That is awesome. And that’s such a help for the parents too. And I mean, and you can probably relate to this, not having to spend the two hours getting Joe back in bed gives you time to spend with the other kids, with your wife, with yourself. And just kind of have that because we’re all human, and we all love our kids and things, but they can frustrate the crud out of us sometimes with, or without any kind of disability.

George Bailey:
It’s true.

Josh Anderson:
So, anything that cuts down on that really seems to help with the family dynamic and relationships throughout it as well. So, anything that can help is great.

Josh Anderson:
Well, George, if our listeners would want to find out more kind of about the ZPods and everything, what’s the best way for them to do that?

George Bailey:
So our website is zpods.tech. So, if you’ve never heard of that little tech afterwards, so zpods.tech, T-E-C-H, or zpodsforsleep.com. And yeah, you can find us there. We also have a Facebook page as well. Facebook page, we actually built a good size following, and we really appreciate our followers. And everybody’s welcome to keep up with our story.

Josh Anderson:
Well, that’s probably a great place for other users to kind of connect and talk to each other and everything as well. So, excellent.

Josh Anderson:
George, we will put all that information down in the show notes, so our folks can easily find you, and find out more information. But thank you so much for coming on today, and telling your story, as well as just the story of ZPods, and how much they can really help out individuals with a lot of different kinds of needs.

George Bailey:
Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure, and I appreciate your time.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If so, call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or shoot us a note on Twitter @indataproject. Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation or Intrac. You can find out more about Intrac at relayindiana.com. A special thanks to Nicole [Pri-eto 00:26:37] for scheduling our amazing guests, and making a mess of my schedule.

Josh Anderson:
Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guest are their own, and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners, or this host. This was your Assistive Technology Update, and I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye-bye.

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