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Rob Burrow makes CBeebies Bedtime Story history by reading book with eye-controlled computer

Rob Burrow has made CBeebies Bedtime Story history by being the first person to ever read a book using an eye-controlled computer.

The former Leeds Rhinos player, 40, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019, has filmed a special episode of the BBC series to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. 

The father-of-three has chosen Tilda Tries Again by Tom Percival to read in his television special, which airs at 6.50pm on 3, December.

Rob’s ground-breaking computer has been able to recreate the rugby star’s voice – allowing him to read the story in his Yorkshire accent. 

Rob Burrow, 40, has appeared on CBeebies Bedtime story using eye-controlled technology.

The rugby hero says he used to love reading with his family before losing the ability to speak and even had his wife Lindsey and two of their children Maya, seven, and Jackson, three, accompany him to the CBeebies studio. 

Helping their father with filming, Maya and Jackson watched from the TV gallery and shouted ‘action’ as the cameras started rolling.

The story Rob has chosen is about a young girl who finds her world has become ‘topsy-turvy’ and things which were once easy have suddenly become an incredible challenge. 

The story explores how Tilda can discover a new way to approach her problems and find her inner self-belief. 

Rob said: ‘I used to love reading to my own children as part of their bedtime routine. I was so excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to read a CBeebies Bedtime Story.

The father-of-three read  Tilda Tries Again by Tom Percival for his upcoming episode.

The father-of-three read  Tilda Tries Again by Tom Percival for his upcoming episode.

Rob pictured with wife Lindsey and their children Macy, 10, Maya, seven, and Jackson, three,

Rob pictured with wife Lindsey and their children Macy, 10, Maya, seven, and Jackson, three,


Motor neurone disease is a rare condition that mainly affects people in their 60s and 70s, but it can affect adults of all ages.

It’s caused by a problem with cells in the brain and nerves called motor neurones. These cells gradually stop working over time. It’s not known why this happens.

Having a close relative with motor neurone disease, or a related condition called frontotemporal dementia, can sometimes mean you’re more likely to get it. But it doesn’t run in families in most cases.

Early symptoms can include weakness in your ankle or leg, like finding it hard to walk upstairs; slurred speech, finding it hard to swallow, a weak grip, and gradual weight loss

If you have these sympthoms, you should see a GP. They will consider other possible conditions and can refer you to a specialist called a neurologist if necessary.

If a close relative has motor neurone disease or frontotemporal dementia and you’re worried you may be at risk of it – they may refer you to a genetic counsellor to talk about your risk and any tests you can have

Source: NHS UK 


‘Reading and literacy are so important. It doesn’t matter what your disability is, reading is accessible to everyone. Anyone can enjoy reading and develop a love of books and bedtime stories, just like me and my family.’ 

Before his heartbreaking diagnosis, Rob spent his entire sports career at Leeds and made 492 appearances and also won 15 caps for England and five for Great Britain. 

Earlier this year, Rob filmed a BBC2 documentary about his degenerative disease – comparing it to being a ‘prisoner in your own body’.

Speaking about his wife, Rob said it was difficult to watch Lindsey take on so much responsibility since his diagnosis.

He said: ‘I was such a hands-on dad. You hate to see your wife with the burden of doing it alone.

‘I think I would have broken down if it was me, but Lindsey has this unwavering patience with everyone.’

Meanwhile, the dedicated mother and wife never complained about the situation, saying: ‘It’s as if there’s not enough hours in the day sometimes but it’s all good.’

In a particularly emotional moment, Lindsey talked of how her husband had previously encouraged her to find love again after he has gone, but she admitted she doesn’t think it will happen.

She said: ‘There was never anyone else for me, to be honest.

‘Just because Rob was Rob and he treated me like a princess and there was never anybody else I was going to marry and so I think probably for me from the start… it’s a cliche isn’t it, love at first sight, but that’s true. No one can ever take Rob’s place.’

Writing for The Mail on Sunday last year, the ruby legend described how heartbreaking it was not being physically able to speak to his children anymore.

He wrote: ‘I’ll never kick a ball around with Jackson. I can’t even reach out and touch him, let alone leap from my perch, toss him over my shoulder and charge headlong into the garden. And I can’t even burble, let alone tell him I love him.

Rob Burrow played for Leeds for a total of 16 years. Pictured on the pitch before his diagnosis

Rob Burrow played for Leeds for a total of 16 years. Pictured on the pitch before his diagnosis

‘I try to live in the present as much as possible. Savour each moment. But I can’t help looking back. Sometimes, I picture myself as I was, that speedy kid with the wicked swerve and sidestep. 

‘I find it difficult to comprehend that my body was ever able to do those things. The same body that struggles to get off the sofa, feed itself or send a text.’

During his 16-year career, Rob won the Challenge Cup in 2014 and 2015, as well as three World Club Challenges and three League Leaders Shields. 


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