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..
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.
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!
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 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!
by Samantha Millar, Carolyn Henry, Glynis Henry, Julie Millar
Lets wish Rebecca a Happy Birthday on March 15th!! Rebecca’s birthday memories help us learn about different ways to celebrate birthdays.The following is from Rebecca with our comments.
Okay….people who don’t share my background always find this a little strange, but my very first birthday present didn’t come until the birthday I turned 9.
You see, it is customary for us to really go all out for the birthdays of our elders- so twice a year, we had to dress up and we’d fill the entire restaurant where my 2 grandparents each got elaborate 10-course banquets and be given money from their guests. These were big, big deals that took up the whole day, and we’d do family portraits in the restaurant.
In contrast, children’s birthdays were never considered- no, you had to wait until you got old!! [Carolyn: Gee, I am glad I am not from your background.]
What changed is that when I turned 9, an aunt who was more modern decided it was high time I received a present. Pretty sure no other kid in history was as thrilled as I to get a shirt for their birthday! I think it was my first exposure to a present meant specifically for me and only me. I hung on to that shirt well past the time I could still wear it- wish I’d kept it for Iris Hannah because by the time she’s old enough, that late 70’s style is sure to be fashionable again! [Samantha: I would never get rid of that shirt]
Yes, we had toys, and books, and board games, but they were “family gifts”- no one kid could lay claim to it; it was meant for all. And being the last of 5 kids, (not to mention the 3rd youngest of 15 cousins), pretty much everything that eventually made its way to me had first filtered through many others. [Samantha: I knew there was a reason I was glad to be the oldest]
And yeah, I’d been to my classmates’ birthdays for which I brought gifts, but birthday presents were for other kids, not us, and it seemed perfectly normal to me that we didn’t do birthdays. Consequently, I have a tendency to let birthdays slip by unremarked, which is not good, because people think you don’t care. [Carolyn: We know you care Rebecca.]
When Caitlyn was growing up, we followed the custom and threw annual birthday parties for her with her friends- nothing elaborate, but still my mother used to look askance and remark, “In MY day, we didn’t….”. It was hilarious to think what my mother would have made of the fancier children’s parties with hired clowns and bouncy castles.
Last year, during my birthday week in mid-March, stores, theaters, and coffee shops were shutting their doors and people were not allowed to gather. In that regard, almost a year later, nothing has changed.[Carolyn: Sigh.]Last Wednesday was Iris’ first birthday, and I saw pictures of her digging into a cupcake, wearing frosting on her nose and cheeks…, for my birthday, maybe I’ll re-create that picture- smeared frosting and all! [Carolyn & Samantha: We would love to see that.]
Here is what grand-daughter and grandmother looked like on their birthdays….
by Carolyn Henry, Samantha Millar, Glynis Henry, Julie Millar
February 2 Groundhog Day – The story goes that watching a groundhog come out of its hole can determine the weather forecast for the coming weeks. If it is a sunny day and the groundhog sees its shadow, it supposedly is afraid and it goes back to its hole to sleep for six more weeks of winter. If the weather is cloudy and the groundhog does not see its shadow, it stays outside, which people believe means that the worst of winter is over and spring will come soon. About 10 communities in Canada have this tradition today, attracting the attention of tourists and media alike. Wiarton Willie, from Wiarton, Ontario is the most famous groundhog in Canada and has been predicting the weather since 1956.
Groundhog Day is based on the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, which was halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It was when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. Germans expanded on this practice and selected an animal–the hedgehog–as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they changed from hedgehogs to groundhogs. The first Groundhog Day was February 2, 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
The true story is not quite as exciting. Groundhogs go into hibernation in the late fall; during this time, their body temperatures drop significantly, their heartbeats slow from 80 to five beats per minute and they can lose 30 percent of their body fat. In February, male groundhogs emerge from their holes to look for a mate (and not to predict the weather) before going underground again. They come out of hibernation for good in March. Also they aren’t very accurate. Data from 13 Canadian cities over the last 30 to 40 years indicates the groundhogs’ predictions were correct only 37% of the time.
Valentine’s Day Celebration
Valentine’s day is celebrated on February 14th. It started in the Roman times when Roman Emperor Claudius II imprisoned and killed Valentine who was made a saint after his death.
Throughout time and all over the world there have been many Valentine day traditions. In Wales wooden spoons carved with keys, keyholes, hearts were given as gifts. In the past unmarried girls believed the first man they saw on Valentine’s Day would marry them within the year. In other places unmarried girls would write men’s names on paper and put them on clay balls then drop them in the water; whichever paper floated up first would be their future husband. Today, in Canada candies, chocolates and cards are given to celebrate love, not just romantic love.
There are many symbols of Valentine’s Day like hearts, cupid, roses, doves and love knots but whatever you choose, it is a way to say you care.
by Samantha Millar, Carolyn Henry, Julie Millar, Glynis Henry
We think the best way to beat the February Blahs is spending time with friends and family, so let’s wish Audrey and Silvano a Happy Birthday wish.
Audrey’s Birthday is on February 15, born one hour after Valentine’s Day ❤️. Audrey says that, “this year I am doing nothing “special” because of Covid 19. Just saying home with my cat Oliver. ( I wonder if he can “meow” Happy Birthday? “ )
There are many February birthdays in my family. We used to always get together and celebrate them with a family February party. One time when I was working at the Hugh MacMillan Centre I was eating lunch in the big cafeteria and a man came in with 50 balloons and everyone in the cafeteria started to sing Happy Birthday along with him. That was a very special memory!!
Silvano’s Birthday is February 18th. Silvano says that this year he isn’t having a celebration either, because of COVID. He remembers his “best birthday was my 50th. I celebrated with a lot of my relatives and friends in a big restaurant.”
We are looking forward to connecting with you about all the special things in our lives. In January there are several special birthdays. COVID has made January Birthday celebrations different this year. Here is what the Birthday folks shared with us.
Shirley’s Special Day
Shirley celebrated her 90th birthday on January 3rd. Last year, she teased her friends that she wanted a big party. She got her wish – just differently! Her sons and some close friends arranged a surprise Zoom party with well over 70 people from around the world. There were friends and colleagues from the 50 years that she had met as the first teacher of Bliss. Everyone had wonderful comments and thanks for Shirley’s leadership, guidance and friendship. It was so interesting to hear about Shirley’s work from so many of the people whose lives she touched.
January happens to be full of birthdays in my family. Mine is on January the sixth, so I just had it a week and five days ago. I turned 56.
I must say that I was a lucky one because a lot of the residents at my home had to celebrate their birthday in their room due to the lockdowns we had during COVID 19. We just got out of our third lockdown just before my birthday. This is the biggest change from my birthdays in the past. Having it during COVID 19. Usually, I go to a restaurant to celebrate my birthday.
This year I got flowers from my brother and his family, cards, and even presents that the supervisor had ordered from Amazon and a friend gave me an iTunes card. I felt like having dinner with shrimp, so the supervisor had ordered a shrimp chive dinner, which lasted me three more suppers. It tasted delicious. Instead of a birthday cake, I had a Tim Horton’s carrot muffin.
I have to say that my most memorable birthday was when I turned 23. I had Ann Running and her parents at my parents’ house. It was so much fun for the best friends and fans of Anne Murray!
Carolyn would like to reminisce sometime with Kari about both Ann and Anne.
My birthday is on January 25. Last year my aunts, uncles, cousins, sister in law, my three brothers and my favourite niece came for my birthday. My grandmother who was 97 year old also came. I got lots of gifts but one gift I remember was a bottle of ice wine from Niagara. I think this year will be different. My grandmother won’t be able to come because of Covid. Maybe some people will come for a porch visit. This year I will have a birthday cake with mom and dad, my brothers and the cat Belle.
Samantha wonders if you could take pictures to share with your grandmother.
Joe’s Birthday was January 28th.
Miss those days of my birthday parties @ lots places and friends planned them.
Carolyn remembers some of those parties at The Granite Brewery in Toronto and misses those noisy, crowded, fun nights now that Joe lives in Orillia!
Thanks to the three Toronto conspirators – Penny, Lynnette and Nora – who planned and achieved the day!
Thanks to my family for abetting the conspirators – Kevin, Litsa, David, Janice, Christopher, Kathryn and Matthew!
Thanks to Bob and my mother, who, through different periods of my life, believed in me and supported me in what I did!
And looking back and remembering others who are no longer with us, I have to say a quiet thank-you to Jinny and Dick Storr, Jane Green, Els Koerselman, Maurice Izzard, Anna Greta Malstrom-Groth, Sue Odell, Paul Marshall, Ann and Miriam Running, Val Cruse, Andrew and Mark Murphy, Clarence Meyers, Anne Warrick, and so many many more! And I must say ‘thanks’ to Charles K. Bliss who gave us his seminal language, and ensured we would have a memorable beginning to our experiences using his language with our special communicators.
Thanks to all those who spread the word about the party – Katherine, Audrey, Judy, Claudia, Rebecca and Margareta are the ones I learned about!
Thanks to all those who spoke such kind words at the zoom party!
Thanks to all those who attended – too many to see all at one time, needing four zoom screens!
Thanks to those who sent chat messages during the party, or emailed and phoned the following week!
Thanks to everyone who had me in their thoughts on Jan.3 !!
Thanks to everyone for including me in your life !!!
I was privileged
to travel the Bliss and AAC road
amongst the pioneers.
I continue to be privileged
to share the journeys
of those who have travelled
and are travelling their unique paths,
through five decades!
If you would like to view the recording of my Birthday Party, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On December 6, 2020, Jorge Almeida will be 50 years of age! I am very happy to celebrate his birthday by giving you the link to his life story, published by the Inclusive Design Institute, OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) University!
I met Jorge many years ago when I used to visit Computer Wise in Ottawa and learned about all the great work being accomplished there by several Bliss alumni and their colleagues. You will be able to read about Jorge’s experiences at Computer Wise in the “Jobs’ section of his book. I hope you enjoy Jorge’s story. He shares his many interesting ideas, experiences, and dreams. He tells about his girlfriend Chantal Bedard whom many of us knew in our Ontario Bliss community. You can learn about how Jorge uses his left foot to control five switches that work his electric wheelchair and his Liberator computer. If you wish to send your greetings to Jorge or ask a question, leave a comment and Jorge will see it.
“It’s complicated” is not something that is unusual for AAC users to hear but in this new age of social distancing and computer video calls it takes on a new meaning. Samantha uses the program Tobi Communicator on a Toughbook Windows computer as her face to face communication device. As with most AAC users, it takes time for Samantha to decide what she wants to say and then to compose her message on the Toughbook. Pre-COVID days, Samantha relied on her communication partner to give her time and patience to say what she wanted. Her partner could watch as she composed her message and begin to understand the time consuming process it takes to say what comes easily to the verbal population. But these pandemic times have made communication difficult for many of us; with the additional technology involved for Samantha to talk to people, it really has become more complicated.
Samantha began by adding an external camera to her Toughbook to use Google Meet for her video calls. This worked but, as she was composing her message, the computer screen was taken up with Communicator (the speech output program) so she could not see the other person as she was writing her message. This left the communication partner looking at her but not sure what she was doing, so they often jumped in, not giving Samantha time to complete her message. We had to be creative to come up with solutions to facilitate good communication practices. Samantha now uses two devices, an iPad and her computer to communicate on a video call. The iPad is connected to the call (with the microphone blocked to prevent feedback) to act as a second screen so Samantha can see the person she is talking to even whilst writing. Samantha’s screen is shared with the communication partner so they can see what she is doing as she is writing.
As everyone is trying to find ways during these troubling times to stay connected, I am glad we were able to help Samantha work through some of the issues so she too can connect with family and friends.
Blissymbols in Title
it + is [present tense of verb “to be”] + complicated [combine indicator + difficult + many + part(s) + adjective indicator + combine indicator]
The symbol for “complicated” in the title is enclosed with combine indicators to denote that this Bliss-word does not appear in the BCI Authorized Vocabulary (AV)technology. It has been created through the collaboration of Shirley McNaughton, Margareta Jennische and Julie Millar and will be submitted to the Blissymbolics Approval Committee for consideration for inclusion in the BCI AV.