Favourite Vacation Part 3

Carolyn’s Trip to Paralympics in London

One of my favourite vacations was going to Paralympics in London in 2012. London is my favourite city to visit.  I was amazed at the blind people in the long jump. Everyone has to be quiet when a helper would stand at the jump line and clap so the jumper would know where to jump.  Also we watched a marathon from in front of Buckingham palace. 

Blissymbolics Archive Treasure #1

The beginning stage of developing the Blissymbolics Archival Collection has been underway since the fall of 2019. This project has been made possible through a generous donation to Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada (BCIC) by Margaret (Peg) Rooks, following the death of her husband, Rob Rooks, April 23, 2019. Both Peg and Rob have been supporters of our Bliss program through many years! Upon completion, the Blissymbolics Archive Collection will be housed in the University of Toronto Archives Library. Below you see the U of T storage facility where Russell Galvin, BCI Board Member arranged a visit for Margareta Jennische, BCI president, and me last November.

At this time (August, 2020), the materials stored in my storage unit are being sorted, organized and placed in bankers boxes for delivery to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). There they will be prepared for storage in the University of Toronto Archives Library. This work is being done with the help of Rebecca Chan, who helps BCIC projects in a myriad of ways – as technical coordinator for Bliss i-Band, as assistant in Bliss Study Group and Board of Directors meetings, as helper to Bliss users, as our resident videographer.

Rebecca showing the first completed 12 boxes in the storage unit.

Currently, Rebecca and I are working at my home, sorting through those famous shopping bags and cartons, and entering the documents into a data base prior to putting them into more OISE boxes.

As we worked away yesterday, and continued discovering materials that reminded me of memorable happenings in our Bliss history, we thought of sharing our enjoyment in Blissful Thoughts. So from time to time, we will be making short videos and I will be making an entry about a “finding”!

Here is the first Archive Treasure for Blissful Thoughts!

Autocom- made- Blisscom, in the 70’s – 80’s

Most fortuitously, Penny Parnes, who was Director of the Augmentative Communication Service (ACS), 1979-1990, at what is now called the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, , came across a picture of the autocom during her COVID-19 ‘sorting pictures’ time in March, 2020. In the above picture, Penny is demonstrating the device for her daughter Sarah and a friend. You can see the control mechanism in Penny’s hand. It is shaped like a flat iron. It was a perfect shape for users like Sue Odell, to maintain a firm grip. To date, this is the only picture we have found of the device.

In the short video that follows, I describe how the autocom worked and share a little of its history. We called the version of the autocom produced with Blissymbols by the TRACE Centre, the Blisscom.

Below you see Sue Odell working with Shirley, using her manual communication board. There will be another Blissful Thought telling about another device Sue helped design in the nineties. Watch for the entry about BMW!

Shirley working with Sue Odell .
More than likely Sue was giving some directions for a project! Sue was very good at telling us what she thought we should be doing!

Blissymbols can be found in the most surprising places!

It happened last Sunday morning, following the Sunday morning zoom service at Don Heights Unitarian Congregation. We were having our small “break-out” group discussion with just 6 participants, when I caught sight of the Blissymbol for “feeling, as an adjective”!

(The “indicator” appearing over the heart symbol denotes the grammatical category.)

“Feeling” appeared in the backdrop behind Peter Lister.

I was wondering why the symbol appeared to be layered on a “grid”, but not properly positioned…. 

I just had to ask Peter where the symbol came from! His response….

“What symbol?” 

“I’m sitting in front of a picture of a table with a checkered table cloth!”

With a little detective work, we discovered that the “feeling” symbol was a great example of ‘meaning being in the eyes of the beholder’.

Only, I, would perceive “feeling” in the back of a wrought iron chair!

It could be said that I’m “seeing things” that aren’t there. I prefer to believe that I bring the language of Blissymbolics to many aspects of my life – with enjoyment!

Leads me to a great book, for anyone wishing to delve more into perception. It’s one of my favourites!

Graziano, Michael S.A. (2010). God Soul Mind Brain. 

Massachusetts: Leapfrog Press.

I invite anyone who sees a Blissymbol in an unexpected place to share your finding with readers of Blissful Thoughts! You can do this by sending an email message to shirley@blissymbolics.org

Masked Emotions!

It is always wonderful to learn about the experiences of those in our Bliss community! Rebecca was happy to share her “masking” experience with her grand-daughter, Iris Hannah. My thanks goes to Iris Hannah’s parents, Caitlin and Jordan, for permitting us to enjoy seeing Iris Hannah as she newly discovered more of what her grandma looks like! 

From Rebecca

A thoughtful friend gave me this see-through mask, concerned that the baby was only ever seeing half my face.

August 5th picture shows the very first time 5-month old Iris Hannah saw the lower part of my face. Not counting the first (pre-Covid) 3 weeks of her life, when she was still in an infant “fog”, she had only ever seen me with an obscuring mask on, hiding my mouth.

She first enthusiastically grabbed at my mask, perhaps drawn by the pretty gingham. After I pried her fingers off, we looked at each other…that’s when she reared back and started looking a little uncertain. In the second picture, you can see her arm is a blur as she “wind-mills” them in an attempt to get to her mother (and away from me). 


The meaning of the elements in the Title symbols.

Masked = combine symbol + mask (face + make-believe) + nose + mouth + adjective indicator + combine symbol. [Rebecca and I had to create a new “combine” symbol for mask to accommodate to Covid-19 masks.]

Emotions = emotion (heart shape) + plural indicator

The Blissymbol Alphabet Song

The Blissymbol Alphabet Song was written by me in the early eighties to help Bliss instructors and students look up symbols by their Bliss alphabet components and determine their meaning.

The first authorized vocabulary of 1400 Blissymbols was published in “Blissymbols for Use” (Hehner, 1980). We now have over 6,000 Bliss-words in our BCI Authorized Vocabulary.

In this 1980 publication, learners could look up symbols in three ways: (1) their English gloss, (2) the semantic category to which the symbol belonged (3) their Bliss alphabet “spelling”.

Having an alphabet song, helped make the ordering of the symbols memorable. Today, this same ordering is used in drawing symbols by those using www.blissonline.se

I invite anyone who would like to sing the alphabet song and totally master “isosceles triangle” to contact me for a zoom session recording! I would be happy to add an additional performance to this entry!

This song was sung at Bliss Workshops around the world by enthusiastic groups of Bliss instructors. I have a memory of one rendition on the steps of a large railway station. I don’t remember the city! Our last effort was in St. Catherines, Ontario, at Brock University in 2016. Not many of us remained who remembered the 80’s!

Sharing a radio interview

On Tuesday, August 11, I was interviewed by Chris White for his radio program, ‘Special Blend’, on station CKCU, FM. Joining us was his sister, Sheila White, music director at Don Heights Unitarian Congregation. We had an hour of conversation about my experiences with Blissymbolics and those who have used ‘Bliss’ for their first expressive mode of communication. In response to their thoughtful questions, I was able to do lots of reminiscing about the Bliss program we developed in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s in Canada, and I described a little of what is happening with Bliss today. Near the end of the hour, Chris included the Bliss i-Band playing the ‘Blues with Margareta’ – a recording we made when Margareta Jennische, President of Blissymbolics Communication International, visited Canada from Sweden last November, and joined us in making music in our Wednesday afternoon session.

You can hear the interview by going to https://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/158/48713.html, with my interview starting at 1:01.

After our conversation, as I reflected on what I had said, I found three mistakes! Memory can play tricks as one looks back over 49 years!

  1. I stated that our first Blissymbol Program in 1971, began with six children, “meeting once a week”. Really, it was the clinical team that met once each week (on Fridays). The children met Monday through Thursday, in two groups of three.  
  2. I attributed the Halloween combine symbol for ‘vampire’ to John Dowling. Terry Martin should have been recognized! He was the vampire! Terry always liked to be known at gatherings as “Mr. Combine”, competing for first place with Valerie Cruse of Brantford, who claimed the title of “Ms. Combine”! John had an Indian costume that Halloween, back in 1972 or 1973!
  3. I said there were 150 Kindergarten children in my Ph.D. research project. There were only 107 children in my study, although the amalgamated school in Effingham, Illinois, where I did my testing, did have 150 Kindergarten students all in the same location. I was correct in saying there were 32 adults with severe congenital physical and speech impairments in my study.  My thesis can be read:                                              https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Reading-acquisition-of-adults-with-severe-speech-McNaughton/dc16cf141539c7a48221f9078dc2b6c5d47d6ea5#paper-header

Now I have a little task for you to do:

When you listen to the i-Band playing, try to identify which improviser was a person with no physical disability. There was only one! Then click the link to watch the video. See if you were correct. I would love to hear from those who correctly identified the improviser who had no physical disability. I would love to know how you knew!

If you discover any other memory mistake, i invite you to write and tell us all!


Look below to see Gabriel’s Comment (sent by his dad, Jimmy), translated into Blissymbols.

Favourite Vacation Part One

Samantha’s Trip

Samantha, along with other members of the Bliss Support Group decided they would like to share memorable trips they have had. The trips can be real or imagined. Here is the first entry. The following story was written by Samantha in print, and translated into Bliss by her mother, Julie, using Bliss Online.

Favourite Vacation


Samantha Millar

Samantha with her family and the Aleutian Ballad crew

Stories will be translated into Bliss if they are submitted in print.

I look forward to more stories – in print or in Bliss.


Symbol Secrets

Back in the early seventies, I received funding from the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, to publish a book about the children in our first Blissymbol classes. It was an exciting project, providing a glimpse into the type of experiences we had, as children used Blissymbols for the first time. The changes in their lives were profound, as they learned to share their thoughts and imagination. Our classrooms grew from a part-time class in the basement of the Ontario Crippled Children’s Centre (OCCC), now the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, to two full-time classrooms in the school wing. Throughout our initial program and its expansion, we were supported by an interdisciplinary team of committed professionals. From this early beginning in 1971, the use of Bliss spread to 32 countries and 17 languages. When our Bliss archival collection is completed, there will be many more experiences to share. For now Symbol Secrets provides a beginning!

On Sunday Aug. 2, Don Heights Unitarian Congregation devoted the zoom  service to sharing the creative accomplishments of members and friends. There were presentations of humorous short stories, thoughtful reflections, and, best of all, three children’s stories. One was a loving tale about a friendly giant and a lost butterfly, called The Princess Butterfly, written by Bev Gorbet with her young students many years ago. One was about a pig that angered his fellow farm animals by biting them until one day he learned to stop, accompanied by a song, by Chris White. This story and song had been written when Chris was a teenager, trying to stop his very young brother from biting family members. Lastly, I read a section of Symbol Secrets, sharing the fun we had in our early Bliss program. There was a bit of a mix-up with no sound accompanying the video of Symbol Secrets at the beginning, but we were able to rectify the situation by my reading live. 

I was delighted to share part of Symbol Secrets with the Don Heights zoom group, and I invited them to hear the end of the story here, at Blissful Thoughts.

I hope those who come to our blog for Symbol Secrets will leave their comments for the Bliss users and friends who are regular Blissful Thinkers.

Symbol Secrets by Shirley McNaughton