Letter from Elina
I am Elina and 24 years old. I live with my helping dog in a student apartment, where there is assistance 24/7. I also have a personal assistant to help me with things I want to do outside home.
As a small girl I used Bliss symbols as a communication aid. I was also communicating with gestures. I was in my own opinion and in the opinion of others a very fast and a most multilateral bliss user. I could easily communicate with my friends. Of course it demanded from the others reading skills or knowledge in Bliss.
I have heard my mother grumbling, that Bliss, which is my mother tongue, has almost disappeared from Finland and instead there are PCS-pictures which are more for people with cognitive problems. I know that many people with CP also have cognitive problems. But sometimes I feel that everyone wants to take the easier path and doesn´t think about the best for the children and youth. Of course not all kind of augmentative communication will suit everybody, but my opinion is that those that has the ability to use Bliss should also have the right to do it, even if it takes more time and the demand of patience is higher on parents and speech and language therapists.
Usually we don´t demand so much of people with disabilities, even if they have capacity to much more. And because we don´t demand, they will not demand of themselves.
You should always think about the future, because life is full of possibilities. Few thought that I should continue to high school after I had done my first years in a special school. But I finished the high school. I don´t know, but I think that if a person with communication needs continues in vocational school he or she will not succeed there as well with only PCS symbols as with Bliss which is so much more multifaceted. Usually as a girl I combined a couple of Bliss words to get a word. For example I combined “pay” and sausage to get “liver sausage” (in Finnish pay (=maksaa) is almost like maksa, which is liver), river and mouth to get the Finnish city Joensuu (river inflected is joen and mouth = suu), wall and river to get the Finnish city Seinäjoki (in Finnish wall=seinä and river= joki).
In my Bliss book the nouns, verbs, objects, numbers and pronouns were of different color and it has helped me later on in life. For example, when we in high school during Finnish classes discussed word classes, I remembered that pronouns were blue and usually started a sentence followed by the red verbs and so on.
Bliss helps you to perceive symbols, and through that letters. Sometimes when I had nothing else to do I learned bliss texts and at the same time my visual memory was trained. Some people with communication difficulties never learn to read and write. But if you just learn to write simple words, that is already a big step forward towards a broader communication.
In my teens I stared to use letters more and more beside Bliss, because sometimes I could not find the right word and I wanted to speak to my friends more youth talk than literary language. I don´t think you should lock yourself into only one way of communication, but you should take advantage of different ways. I heard from a Finnish speech and language pathologist that nowadays those children, who in the future will have the ability to read and write, move directly to letters. And that those that don´t learn to write are only using PCS. I was so surprised I didn´t had time to ask if the becoming writers don´t have any other communication support in the beginning. Without any other support than letters it would be very heavy for those not yet so advanced in writing to express themselves.
As an addition, Bliss is international. As a kid I liked changing of letters. How nice to write in Bliss to someone in China without knowing any word in Chinese or English. Today the advances in technique make it even more easy to keep in contact around the world with people using bliss.
Thank you / Elina