Thanksgiving and Halloween

October is the beginning of fall and a couple of fun celebrations. For Thanksgiving the iBand had many similar themes like spending time together with family and friends, good food and enjoying the fall colours. Carolyn remembers driving to Cornwall and admiring the fall colours along the 401. Rhonda remembers when her dad was alive they would go for a ride or walk to look at the fall colours. 

Samantha usually has a quiet Thanksgiving with just her mom, dad, sister and grandma and our neighbor, Peter who joins us for dinner. Carolyn has a larger family that she goes back to her home town of Cornwall to see. Irene remembers Thanksgiving at her brother’s house, where her whole family is there including her favourite grandmother who will be 99 next month. Shirley has many happy memories at her cottage in Bala where she had family and friends visit and help with all the work of closing a cottage. Shirley remembers blending “the chores with long walks to gather leaves to decorate the cottage, sharing the last boat ride, singing songs around the piano, and sharing our dreams for the future.” 

For many of us the good food includes turkey with stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and for Rhonda, especially pumpkin pie. Not everyone has had the Canadian tradition of turkey for Thanksgiving.  Elaine W grew up in England where they celebrated a Harvest Festival, which was more of a religious celebration. For Rebecca, Thanksgiving was something she learned about at school and she didn’t celebrate it until she had her own family. She found the hustle and bustle of a Thanksgiving meal being prepared and then being dismantled, was an experience she enjoyed. Moshe usually has a traditional Thanksgiving but last year with a new baby and the pandemic he celebrated with sushi and wine. Gabriel is looking forward to spending time with his new nephew and reminds us that we should all be thankful for family and good friends. Moshe’s experience also “brought our little family closer than ever and reminded us how important family is”.

October also includes Halloween and Audrey remembers going on a bus tour with her sister to see a Musical at the Stratford Festival Theatre and had an opportunity to try on some of the costumes. It looks like Audrey had a lot of fun!!

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Happy Birthday Rhonda

Rhonda told us that she likes to celebrate her birthday at her friend’s camp. She likes to sleep over and have drinks like rum & coke.

Rhonda’s friend Elaine told us that Rhonda’s birthday was a little different last year due to Covid. “We celebrated at Batchewana Bay on Lake Superior. Had take out food from the restaurant on picnic tables as we couldn’t eat inside. Then a bonfire and cake and gifts. Her sister brought the cake and 9 other friends joined in. She wore her favourite butterfly dress but then had to cover it up as it was so cold and windy that day. So I took a couple of photos of her on her own next day.” 

What a beautiful dress that you are wearing!

Remembering Summer!

Summer of 2021 by Carolyn Henry

I had a wonderful summer because I had two trips to Stratford to see plays. They were called A Midsummer Night’s Dream and R&J. They were very good plays to see. I am also visiting with my mom every two weeks and having FaceTime with my mom.

Some of my favorite memories of summer include the first year we had a day camp offsite of 2880 Bayview. We went places like Ontario Place where we went for a walk around the grounds and we went to the zoo.

In 2012 My sister and I went to the Paralympics in London, England. We went mostly to track and field events. They were neat to watch. We also watched the marathon event from in front of Buckingham Palace. The blind runners were impressive to watch.

Summer of 2021 by Samantha Millar

My family and I went to the cottage for the last week in August. We had a lot of people visit and that made my dad very happy. 

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Happy Birthday, Samantha!

You are like a breath of Spring all year!!

With love from your Bliss i-Band Buddies

From Samantha:

I remember a birthday from a long time ago. When I was 10 years old, I went to Bala, Ontario for Bliss camp. They had a cake for my birthday, everyone sang Happy Birthday and helped me to blow out all of my candles on the cake … the power went off all over Ontario. In some places for days.

In the last few years, I really like my birthday because my sister, Jayme, is home to celebrate with me. At our house, the person whose birthday it is gets to choose what we have to eat at dinner. I always choose Mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese.

Carolyn: Mmm, I love macaroni and cheese, your mom’s must be very special!

Flowers for your special day!

We loved having you at our Bliss Learning Centre in Bala.

You were our youngest guest!

That was special for us!

Love and Happy Birthday!


Canada Days We Remember!

Remembered by Carolyn

Once I went to Cornwall there was a fair with games and rides for Canada Day; then I found a funny hat for Canada day. There were some fireworks in front of my parent’s condo at night. Then one year, my sister and I went to Vancouver for Canada Day and went to the celebration at Canada Place. We saw some fireworks from our hotel room. This year, Canada Day will be more thoughtful as we remember all parts of our history. Our country has done good things, but we have also made some big mistakes. We need to try to fix them, so all our people feel like they are a Canadian.

Remembered by Samantha

Dad, fireworks, fun at the cottage and Grandma’s birthday are what I think of when I think of the long July weekend. Celebrating Grandma’s birthday, July 3rd, at the cottage usually means a trip to Dairy Queen. Dad and our friends from across the lake love to put on a fireworks show. It is a lot of fun and I am glad to be having them again this year!  

July Birthday for Elaine!

July 6th marks a special birthday for Elaine D. This past year has been hard for her but she has risen to the challenges. She is living in a new home and keeping in touch with her friends. Now that she is settling in her new home we hope that she will be able to join us playing in the iBand this fall. 

Happy Birthday Elaine! We hope you enjoy your surprise on your special day!

From all your Bliss i-Band friends!


Another birthday in the Bliss i-Band!

Gabriel’s birthday is July 18th and he has told us that he usually celebrates his birthday by having chinese food, and that he spends it with his parents and his sister and brother-in-law.  He is hoping to do the same this year for his birthday, but this year is different because he now has a nephew named Max. 

Samantha: Have fun with your new nephew!!

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry 

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

June Birthdays!

Thanks to Samantha and Carolyn for sharing the June birthdays of Bliss i-Band member (Fran), music director (Aaron), and new helper (Elaine). We are celebrating all their birthdays with the i-Band’s special version of “Happy Birthday” on June 16 !

By Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry

with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

Comments in red are by Samantha and Carolyn

In June we are celebrating three birthdays:

Fran on June 5th, Aaron and Elaine W. on June 15th.

Fran’s Birthday

“My birthday is on Saturday June 5th. If it was a normal year Chris Rowntree, Donna Symington & one of my former pastors would be going to a Blue Jay game at the Rogers Centre. The year I was 70 there were about 20 of us who did that.”  Even though you couldn’t go to the game, at least they won for you. Maybe you could arrange a zoom meeting with everyone so that you can watch the game together.

Aaron’s Birthday

Aaron hasn’t thought about celebrating his birthday this year but he has shared a memory from a previous year.

“When I turned 40 my parents and siblings organized a Limo to take me and my family to the Sunday AM Bluegrass Brunch at the Dakota tavern, and they also knew I wanted a fancy resophonic guitar so they all pitched in toward that gift that I bought myself a few months later.” Have we heard you play this guitar? Is it still your favourite? 

Elaine’s Birthday

“I usually celebrate my birthday by having dinner out with friends or invite a larger group of friends over for a get together if it’s a significant one. Last year I turned 70 and had a couple of major travel plans to celebrate, including an Antarctica cruise in February and a trip to Newfoundland in July with my girlfriend from England,  who is 3 days older than me. Of course due to the pandemic none of this happened so I guess I’m still 69! I moved to a new home just before my birthday last year so I wanted to have a small birthday and housewarming party the same weekend. We had a come and go on my deck, just going indoors for apps and desserts. Luckily Doug Ford increased the maximum gathering size from 5 to 10 people a few days before the party. I had visions of drawing chalk lines on the sidewalk 6 feet apart and limiting people’s visiting time. And I had a birthday cake but wasn’t allowed to blow out the candles, had to wave them out due to COVID!  

With regard to celebrating this year it will depend on what is allowed, maybe take out food at a picnic table?” It looks like you will be lucky again this year to have 10 people to celebrate with you.

It’s Carolyn’s Birthday !

Carolyn’s Birthday is May 28th. She has shared her birthday memory with us: 

“One birthday I really remember was when I was quarantined in my room for ten days because I went to North York Hospital at the beginning of the SARS outbreak in 2003.   I stayed in my room for ten days, it got boring sometimes.  People used to wave at me in the window in my door. A birthday memory is when I turned 40 and 50. I had 2 parties when I turned 50, one with my family in Cornwall and one with my friends in Toronto.  It was special for me because I saw friends and family that I hadn’t seen for a long time.  We played games, visited and ate cake.”  I guess you will probably be celebrating in your room again so you will have to zoom with your family and friends. I will be thinking of you on that day! 

Let’s all wish Carolyn a very happy birthday and if you can, send her a birthday email wish!! 

Me & My Mom

Mother’s Day

May is Mother’s Day month and we wish our mothers, and those who are like mothers to us, a very Happy Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day is special to Samantha because she has both her mother and grandmother living with her! Carolyn is very lucky to have a sister, who is like a second mother to her. Let’s be creative when celebrating the day with all of our “mothers” this month!

Victoria Day

Victoria Day is a federal holiday which falls on the Monday before May 25th. It  was established to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday and now to celebrate the current sovereign’s birthday.  It is unofficially  the beginning of the summer season.  It is a long weekend, also called May Two Four weekend.  May 24th weekend is Jayme’s birthday (Samantha’s younger sister)! As with many people it is the weekend we open our cottage. It is usually celebrated with summer activities such as having barbeques.  We have to find a different way to celebrate the day again this year. We can be outside with our families but probably with no fireworks to watch.

Jayme and Queen Victoria share the fireworks!

Written by Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry, with assistance from Julie Millar and Glynis Henry. Comments in red are by Samantha.

April Birthday and a Special Invention

April is the first full month of spring and Christine’s Birthday is on April 28th.

Christine has shared her special birthday memory with us.

“A special memory from my birthday was when I was at my Mom’s house several years ago.  A lot of my family and friends came to celebrate, and we were outside, listening to music, and I had a birthday cake.  Because of the pandemic, I am not able to have a birthday party with all of my friends and family.” 

Your friends are wishing you a socially distanced Happy Birthday, Christine!!

April also saw a Breaking the Ice Town Hall on Saturday April 10th. They had a special presentation by Joseph, who shared his invention with us. There was a general discussion about what other AAC users have invented to help them in their daily lives. Both Carolyn and Samantha found it very interesting and how people are able to be so creative. 

We have a new way to put on lip gloss now!!

See Nola’s message below

It was interesting to hear how people learned to adapt and maintain their communication and relationships during the pandemic. People have had birthday parties, had a virtual summer camp, and had learning sessions on different topics. We can’t wait for the next Town Hall.


Carolyn Henry and Samantha Millar,

assisted by Julie Millar and Glynis Henry

A special invention from Breaking the Ice Town Hall submitted by Nola Millin

My invention is a block of wood with a hole drilled in the top. The hole is big enough to hold a tube of lip balm (or chap stick) standing. I can then bend over and apply it to my lips whenever I need to..

Here are 2 pictures.

Thanks Nola for sharing with our readers!

What a Gift We are Given

When We Take the Time to Know Them!

In learning of the deaths of two members of our Bliss family/community this month, I could not help but reflect on the huge impression these two men have made in their respective communities. Justin touched the lives of  persons across Canada and in his home city of Ottawa. Chico made his impact in his home city of  Sault Ste. Marie. They both enriched the lives of those who knew them.

We are so fortunate – we who have the opportunity to know persons like Chico and Justin, who are unable to communicate through speech and who must work endlessly to share their ideas and feelings in some form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). From them, we learn about perseverance, bravery, drive, trust in the caring of others, humour, the inner strength of the human spirit. As AAC users, they tirelessly, and often relentlessly, persist on getting their message to us. 

I have witnessed this in so many of my friends who rely on AAC to communicate. What a wonderful bond is possible for those of us who learn to watch, wait and listen! 

As AAC professionals, WE shared the language of Blissymbolics with those who were nonspeaking, as they were developing their language. Later, THEY learned print and mastered voice output devices. THEY learned and effectively USED the AAC methods we gave them. THEY showed us their strengths and their individuality and shared with us their dreams and aspirations.  We are the fortunate recipients!

Remembering Dwayne Houle, (Chico)

By Elaine Windus

In the following tribute to Dwayne Houle (Chico), Elaine Windus recounts the determination and humour Chico displayed, and the joy she and others experienced in knowing him.

When I first met Chico he had no speech but he proudly showed me the most enormous communication system I had ever seen, attached to his wheelchair tray. Part of it was a Blissymbol display, with many large pages to flip over, but the other part had just as many pages with names of pop singers and bands, which he could read and find easily as needed. Yes, Chico’s ambition was to become a disc jockey. I remember one day when we spent our whole therapy session on adding one name (Sammy Hagar) as his spelling was not the best and I had to rely on guesswork and clues. But he was determined to have that name on his display and stuck to his guns.

At that time (1986) Chico was still in high school and I had just moved to Canada at the age of 35. Over the years we managed to reduce his display to a more manageable size by using different short cuts and techniques to access his symbols. He also embraced new technology as it was developed, mainly in the form of voice output devices. When he got his first one he informed me that he could now speak French and demonstrated this by selecting the symbol for “we”. Furthermore Chico was the first client I worked with who learned to use a computer, long before these became permanent fixtures in the administration department offices.

Chico was a client of the Algoma District Mental Retardation Service (now Community Living Algoma) where I worked as a Speech Language Pathologist, though he had no intellectual disability that I could determine. From the very beginning I was impressed with his positivity and his wicked sense of humour. I always looked forward to our sessions as I knew that he would always brighten my day, even when I was having a bad one. My predecessor Marquise reminded me of the time that she was working with him when he asked to have the f-word added to his display. The staff at his group home were outraged and did not want it put on, but Marquise told them that he too needed to learn when it was appropriate to use, just as a verbal person would, and complied with his request.

Chico was able to access his display with the hand that he had control over, but he had no control over his other arm, which was subject to wide ranging involuntary movements, and as he described it, had a mind of its own. He frequently told us he wanted this arm amputated, as it was no use to him. Failing that he wanted it put in a coffin. When he moved into a family home, his caregiver made him a black shiny hard case to cover it and attached it to his wheelchair tray. It served the purpose for a while, but was eventually removed as it caused chafing on his skin. But at least he tried it out.

Chico was a huge Soo Greyhounds fan for his entire life and held seasons tickets for all their games every year. He was a familiar and beloved figure, always seated close to the ice, and made many friends this way. He even got to meet Wayne Gretzky, his hero, on one occasion. Knowing nothing about hockey, this topic was one where I was not the best conversation partner, but he was very patient with me. 

Before Marquise handed Chico’s communication needs over to me, she mentioned in passing that Apple Computers was donating free computers to deserving individuals who were unable to afford them; you just had to write and ask for one. So Chico and I composed a letter telling the company a little about himself. He talked about how his physical disabilities were the result of a car accident when he was a young child. I asked him what he missed most since that time, thinking he would mention being unable to walk or speak, but no, Chico missed being able to make snowballs.

Apple Computers did donate a computer to Chico, an Apple II e. At that time there was only one computer store in town where it could be sent and they would not deliver or install it. So I picked up 3 large boxes (CPU, monitor and printer) in my car and took them back to his apartment to assemble. There I sat on the floor, screwdriver in hand, thinking that this was the last thing I expected to be doing as an SLP, but I would have a go at it anyway as he was relying on me. At that time you had to open up the computer and flip little switches inside it, following the instructions and diagrams provided. Anyway, both Chico and I finally got the knack of how everything worked, but we felt like true pioneers. While the computer was processing something we were waiting for, unlike the small icons used today, the words “THINKING” flashed on the screen in large letters. Chico thought this was a huge joke and kept asking me who was inside it. 

In his later years Chico preferred to be called Dwayne, which he regarded as his adult name. He developed a talent for abstract painting and enjoyed this activity immensely. He was generous with the finished works of art and donated them to all his friends as well as to fundraisers he wanted to support.

After I left Community Living Algoma in 2009 I did not see as much of Dwayne as I would have liked, but still kept in touch, asked how he was doing and visited him once in a while. Although his health had deteriorated in recent years and his mobility was considerably reduced as a result, he still maintained the same positive attitude to life and the same wry sense of humour. When I last saw him he proudly showed me his 50th birthday cards and we joked about him getting old.

So it was with sadness that I learned from a former colleague that she believed he had passed away at the age of 55, and this was then confirmed when I saw his obituary. Although he had a hard life with many challenges, Dwayne won the hearts of all who knew and cared for him, in both senses of that word. Dwayne made our lives so much richer for having known him, and I feel privileged to have been both his therapist and his friend.

In closing I would like to acknowledge the role that Blissymbols played in Dwayne’s life. He was a man with a lot to say and Blissymbols allowed him to express himself freely on a wide range of subjects. He used them in many inventive ways to get his message across and he was the most proficient Bliss user I have ever met. His life would have been very different without them.

Elaine Windus

Remembering Justin Clark

by Shirley McNaughton

In the video recording of my last interaction with Justin at my zoom birthday party, I could have edited out the many repetitions of a phrase that his body kept forcing him to activate. It would have been simple to edit out the repetitions in this short clip. But I want to remember, how this challenge was a part of Justin’s life. And he never gave up in delivering his message! He always persisted until his objective was achieved. For my party, Justin had prepared three sentences to transmit. He persevered until they were delivered!

Looking back…

Justin was praised by Michele Landsberg in The Toronto Star, in December, 1981, with the following statement:

“There are human strengths – of courage, of decency – that amount to giftedness. In these last months of the Year of the Disabled, able people like Justin Clark and Sue O’Dell have helped me grow a bit, and to recognize those gifts.”

Justin was described by Judge Matheson, who presided  at the court hearing in Perth in November, 1982, “We have recognized a gentle, trusting, believing spirit and very much a thinking human being who has a unique part to play in our compassionate interdependent society”.

Justin’s thick binder, containing the many articles written about him through the years, will be treasured within the Blissymbolics Archival Collection at the University of Toronto. It was a valued gift from Justin to BCIC.

After the court hearing in 1983, I wrote a tribute to Justin in our magazine, Communicating Together. In the 38 years since then, my warm and high regard for Justin has only increased. He demonstrated his “gentle, trusting, believing spirit” every time we were together. I wish it could have been more often! My memories of Justin’s times with us at the Bliss Learning Centre in Bala will always be savoured by me. He sang a rousing grace every night at dinner! He brightened the lives of all who knew him!

‘Justin Gives to us All’, published in Communicating Together , Winter, 1983, is online at, as a resource from CDAC, Communication Disabilities Access Canada

Justin and Chico, each in their own way, gave much to those in their worlds. We who knew them will always treasure their lives, and we will always be grateful to have shared our lives with them! They each gave us a treasured gift!