A Different Christmas Again This Year

by Carolyn Henry

I had a different Christmas once again this year. After two years of being in Toronto for Christmas because of covid and not seeing my mom and brother, my sister and I planned to go to Cornwall to be with them this year. But the weather had a different idea.  Like many people, we had to change plans. On boxing day, we went to Cornwall. I secretly asked my sister-in-law to get my gift for my sister since I can’t go shopping yet and she did. When we went to my mom’s residence, I had a surprise. I saw one of my old teachers from public school. It was nice to see her again

This is a picture of my teacher Mrs. Grant

by Samantha Millar

 Not Christmas day in the regular calendar year but my family celebrated in January. On December 25th, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Jayme, and I quietly celebrated Christmas. The rest of my family were not able to come because of the snow and some of them were unwell.

On January 21st, my aunt, uncle, cousins, Jayme’s boyfriend (Ian), and my immediate family celebrated Christmas. We ate meatloaf, not turkey but it was really good. We had a lot of fun playing together that day!!! 

This is a picture of my Aunt Judy, Uncle Mike
and my cousins.

Happy Music Wish to Ros Irvine

For those who did not know about or who were unable to attend the Youtube Premiere of “My Voice My Song”, here is the link.

We dedicated this song, written for the Bliss i-Band by Mark Weinstock, to Roslyn Irvine, Speech-Language Pathologist & Clinical Coordinator,  Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Clinic, West Park Healthcare Centre, Toronto.

Ros is retiring and returning to Australia after three decades in Canada. Many of the Bliss I-Band members have benefitted from the dedicated service Ros has provided to them at Westpark Clinic. We who have been her colleagues over the years have enjoyed working with Ros and we value highly her many contributions to the field of AAC.

The lyrics for “My Voice My Song” were written by Mark after hearing the lyrics of “Take the Time” written by Kari Harrington. They express well what Ros Irvine knew about the AAC users she served!

We wish Ros much health and happiness in retirement!

By Shirley McNaughton

A Special Book for a Special Boy!

By Shirley McNaughton

I remembered “I Have a Flower” as one of my favourite books written for Bliss users in the 70’s. I wanted to include it in our U of T digital archival collection, but it took clever searching by the OISE  students working on our collection to locate the author and gain permission to digitize the book. Fortunately, they found Jacquie Krech, gained her permission and shared her email address with me. I have enjoyed re-connecting with her after 40 years. Jacquie is a wonderful example of the dedicated and resourceful teachers who helped our Bliss users in the early days. They changed the lives of the students whom they taught!

By Jackie Krech

When Derrin entered my classroom in Oakville in the late seventies, he was using the 100 character Bliss board to communicate.  The only verbal communication within his capability was the repeated uttering of the letter “p”.  Since I was unable to communicate with Derrin because of my lack of knowledge of Bliss symbols, I enrolled in workshops at the then Crippled Children’s Centre (OCCC) in Toronto.  There, under the tutelage of Shirley McNaughton and her colleagues, I worked through a series of lessons and workshops until I was proficient in the use of Bliss symbols and could joyfully communicate with Derrin.  Seeing the excitement he experienced in our new-found ability to talk with each other through Bliss-characters, was a fantastic experience for me.  

To help Derrin, I inserted Bliss symbols above words in a variety of books so Derrin could read them.  One of the books was a science book and his interest in that book sparked a lesson.  We rooted a branch of an impatiens plant and subsequently planted it in a pot in the classroom.  Everyday Derrin came to class, he checked on the progress of his plant.  He was delighted when the plant produced a flower.  That is what inspired me to write a story for him.   After repeated editing with Shirley and Mr. Bliss, the simple story became the book you see today.  It was Mr. Bliss who asked for the addition of the meaning behind the symbols to be included.

Derrin was late for school one day.  His assistant told me Derrin wouldn’t talk to anyone: however, his behaviour indicated he was obviously upset about something.  After awhile, Derrin began to talk to me through his Bliss board.  The sentence he formed was “God put pain in my throat”.  I wheeled Derrin to the school nurse who examined Derrin and discovered he had strep throat.  It wasn’t hard to imagine the discomfort Derrin was experiencing with the pain, fever, swollen tonsils, etc. that are signs and symptoms of this virus.  Without Bliss symbols, Derrin could not have told me the cause of his discomfort.

Although my career took twists and turns that moved me away from Derrin, I hold the experiences I gained learning and applying Bliss symbolics to classroom learning experiences as one of the highlights of my teaching career.

Note from Shirley:

Here are some pictures of Derrin as an adult, when he lived in Brantford and was a member of the Brantford Bliss group. Our Bliss alumni in Toronto keep in touch with the Brantford Bliss folk through BCIC Board meetings and study group meetings. Anne O’Malley is their decades-long facilitator and is seen helping Derrin in one of the pictures. We miss Derrin now that he has moved to Kirkland Lake, but we hope to find ways to keep in touch! 

Anne O’Malley helping Derrin at BCIC Board Meeting
Brantford group visiting Toronto before covid days!
Elaine Drover and Shirley visiting Derrin, Anne and Dean in Brantford

September News!

Happy Birthday Rhonda!!

Rhonda McCaig had her 60th birthday celebration in September. Rhonda’s friend, Kelly McGillvray arranged for some of her fellow musician friends to play at her party. We all met Kelly when she stepped in to be Rhonda’s helper for the weeks when Elaine was in the UK. I am sure everyone had a great time. Happy Birthday!!

A Wonderful outdoor birthday!

Breaking the Ice Town Hall

On September 21 there was Breaking the Ice Town Hall. The topics were pets, travel, and sports. The participants were divided into two break out rooms to discuss these topics.

Samantha attended the discussion on Pets. This is what Samantha prepared: 

“My family and I have a dog named Riley. She is a Havanese puppy. Riley was born on May 24, 2022. My family and I are going to puppy classes with Riley. She is very smart. I love Riley!!!”

 One of the questions that was asked during the pets session was, “How do you talk with your pet using your AAC device? Do they listen?” I thought this was a good question. I do have some phrases in my computer like “Riley, come!” and “Riley, sit!” but Riley doesn’t listen to my computer voice, so I have changed it to my mother’s voice. I’m not sure it works any better.

Carolyn attended the ‘travel and sports’ session.  This is what Carolyn prepared:

“”I like to travel to get away from everything and my problems and I like to see new places. My favourite trips are to London, New York City and Boston. In London, I like to go on the London Eye and go for walks around London, especially to see Buckingham Palace. In New York City and London. I like going to the theatre. I also enjoy going for walks in New York City and Boston.”

Other participants had visited Disney (or wished to!), Niagara Falls, or had come from far away places such as Iran and Turkey. Most participants liked to go to Blue Jays games. One participant combined sports and travel by biking to the East Coast as a fundraising trip!

Written by Samantha Millar and Carolyn Henry,

assisted by Julie Millar and Glynis Henry.

Joe Remembers

Before Bliss

It was bad.  I was a bad kid, I think.  I bit myself.  I cried when I had to go home on weekends. During the week, I stayed with my Aunt Irene before she got blind. She had limited vision when I was young. I liked being there with my cousins, Leslie and Garry. We enjoyed watching TV together, especially seeing the Monkees and Batman. 

I felt like a yoyo, going back and forth. At that age (before I was 6) I was wondering why I had to keep coming and going. I didn’t understand at that age that my mother had to work. I thought that I was very dumb. I thought at first that she was giving me away. I wondered at that age, why I was so dumb.

Learning Bliss

When I was in the Bliss class at OCCC beginning  in 1972-1973 school year, my best friend was Greg Keefe. I stayed over at his place and we took turns staying over at each other’s place.  Our mothers were friends.

Joe and Greg in 1973 in the first Bliss Class

Bliss was my mouth to talk. I remember “boy” and ‘girl”, and “mom” and “dad”symbols. I was shy so I didn’t talk to the other kids.

I had a crush on Sherri who was in Miss Norman’s class. Greg did too! Sherri had black hair and she played with dolls. 

Sherri Joe Greg

I knew Kevin and David  (Shirley’s two sons). We saw them playing outside when Greg’s mom drove past Shirley’s house. Mrs. Keefe stopped at Shirley’s house 4 times. She beeped her car horn. 

I remember. Scott Bond. He was the same as me,  shy.  Here’s what Scott, Greg and I looked like in Shirley’s book “Symbol Secrets”.

Greg, Joe and Scott as they appeared in “Symbol Secrets”

I also remember Mrs. Snetsinger and Mrs Barlow.

Mary Snetsinger and Judy Barlow, Bliss teachers at OCCC in 1973

There is another teacher I remember, Mrs. Bederman.  She used to tease me. She gave us grape juice on Jewish holiday. I don’t have a picture of her.

There is more to come….. about my move to Erin Oak Children’s Treatment Centre.

Joe Jessop will share more of his memories in the next episode.

May and Summer Birthdays

I would like to wish everyone who has a birthday in the summer, a very Happy Birthday!

In May, Carolyn celebrates her birthday.

In June, Fran, Aaron, and Elaine W celebrate their birthday. In July, Elaine D and Gabriel celebrate their birthday and in August Samantha celebrates her birthday. Please send emails during the summer to wish them a Happy Birthday.

Carolyn May 28

Fran  June 5

Aaron  June 15

Elaine W   June 15

Elaine D  July 6

Gabriel July 18

Samantha August 14

by Samantha Millar

Breaking the Ice Virtual Town Halls: January 29 and April 23, 2022

AAC and Identity was the topic for two Breaking the Ice Virtual Town Hall sessions.  The discussion leader was Beth Moulam.  She is a Social Policy graduate, Paralympic boccia athlete and blogger. She draws on lived experience of cerebral palsy, speech and hearing impairments to raise awareness of those who use AAC, the value of an active lifestyle and making your dreams come true. Beth is passionate to empower others to fulfill their own communication and life potential; she leads her own support team living independently. Beth has been an International speaker since 2006 including Co-leading and mentoring on the ISAAC 2018 ‘Dare to Lead’ programme and in 2020 an invited ISAAC Pathways to Leadership speaker. Beth delivers workshops, facilitates training collaboratively and mentors AAC groups/individuals.

Beth’s main point to AAC users was that “How others see you is not important.  How you see yourself means everything.”  

The first Town Hall looked at identity by asking participants to answer three identity questions:

  1. How would you describe yourself in five words?  
  2. What three words describe what you think you are good at?  
  3. Which three positive words would you like others to use to describe you? 

The second Town Hall addressed the questions:

1.    Think of an ANIMAL you identify with. What 3 words or 1 short sentence describe why you identify with this animal?   

2.    Think of a COLOUR you identify with. What 3 words or 1 short sentence describe why you identify with that colour?  

3.    Think of a PICTURE that you identify with. What 3 words or 1 short sentence describe why you identify with that picture? It could be a picture of you, nature, a place or anything else you connect with.

by Carolyn Henry and Glynis Henry

Check it out!

A Neil Squire Program

We went to a Zoom meeting where Makers Making Change were presenting. It was amazing and helpful. Their web site is:https://makersmakingchange.com/

“Our guiding vision at Neil Squire is to achieve economic and social inclusiveness for all people with disabilities. To support this vision, Makers Making Change leverages the capacity of community based Makers, Disability Professionals and Volunteers to develop and deliver affordable Open Source Assistive Technologies.”

They have a catalogue of devices for disabled people but also they help with making things to solve a problem. The prices are much lower because you only pay for materials and shipping costs. Go and check it out!! 

April News

April is an important month for people of many different faiths. We wish everyone a Happy Easter (Christian), Happy Pesach (Judaism), Ramadan Mubarak (Muslim), and Happy Vaisakhi (Sikhism).

April is also Christine’s birthday month – we wish her a very Happy Birthday on April 28!

She would be happy to get email birthday wishes from her friends in the Bliss i-Band!


In the beginning the sunflower was a very tiny seed,

But in the soil it started growing quickly

And  so it was with me, too.

When I got to learn bliss symbols

I wanted to talk a lot.

I think it is the same for many children 

Who cannot talk with their mouth.

I did not understand those who asked:

Was  it hard being a child?

Because when I was little

I didn´t know how it felt talking. 

When I look back in time

I feel like a sunflower

Because I like to learn the bliss symbols quickly.

Now the Sunflower has started to flourish

It is the same with my life.

Sunflower was written by Leo Leppälä, from Finland. He shared his poem at our Canadian Faces meeting on March 27 with the help of Gitta Lönnqvist, his speech therapist and Bliss instructor when he was younger,

Leo wrote Sunflower in 1993 when he spent 2 years in Sweden at FURUBODA. At that time, Leo used the Finnish BLISS MASTER software. Leo has written many poems in Bliss since then and has published a book of his poems.

The version that appears below was made with BLISSONLINE (with Swedish glosses).

We thank Leo for expressing his thoughts so well in Bliss!

From Leo’s friend, Gitta Lönnqvist

It was nice to see Sunflower on the web! I only just the other day learnt that sunflower is the national flower of Ukraina. I hope it gives the same strength to the people in Ukraina as it has given to Leo!

ANIMATION with Blissymbols

film (cylinder + camera [enclosure + light {eye + sun}]) + pencil: film on which images are drawn

Julie Millar and Shirley McNaughton have had some fun looking at the ways in which Blissymbols have been animated through the decades. They have chosen three examples and made three short videos to demonstrate them. Enjoy!

Playing with Blissymbols

This video (3:48 minutes) is taken from the film, “Mr. Symbol Man”, produced by The National Film Board of Canada and Film Australia in 1974. It shows children playing with felt Blissymbols at the McGill Family Centre before being shown the film “Symbol Boy”. After seeing the film, one little girl is asked to name the felt symbols. See how many symbols she learned, just though seeing the film once!

Learning with Bliss

This video (2:17 minutes) is taken from the film “Take the Time”, produced for Rogers Community Mississauga Productions in 1995. It includes the Blissymbols for seeing, talking, hearing, walking, being introduced, followed by and Shayne Dennis using the combine strategy when communicating with his teacher, Barbara Rush in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Music with Bliss

This video (2:23 minutes) is taken from “Celebrating 50 Years of Bliss” produced by Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada in 2021. It shows Blissymbols accompanying the “Blissymbols Alphabet Song”, animated by Julie Millar and sung by Aaron Lightstone. Julie is editor of narrative videos produced by Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada, through funding by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Resilient Communities Fund 2021. Aaron is music director of the Bliss I-Band, a project of Blissymbolics Communication Institute – Canada.