Course 101 in Blissymbolics has been designed to introduce you to the structure, capabilities and vocabulary of the language of Blissymbolics while guiding you to construct a Bliss Display, consider various teaching strategies, and gain information about language, literacy and Augmentative and Alternative Communication along the way. If you wish to take the full course, you can request a Bliss tutor, who will help you when you are having a difficulty and who will be able to suggest additional reading materials in topics of particular interest to you.

    This course is intended to support the teaching of Blissymbolics to those who wish to assist persons who are nonspeaking or those who have learning or literacy difficulties. Adults who use Blissymbolics could find this course of interest as well, if they could share it with a partner who would read the text for them or you may download the Opera web browser which, for PC users, provides screen reading (Please see the notes on Web Browsing for more details). The ten lessons included in this course are intended as an Introduction to the Language of Blissymbolics. A second course is planned and some of the content will be described in Resource 25, Looking ahead to Course 201. As participants provide feedback within Course 101, the contents for Course 201 will be adapted and extended to meet identified needs. The development of Course 201 will take place during the summer of 2007.

    About the Author
    Shirley McNaughton has been teaching Blissymbolics to children and adults since 1971. Her association with Bliss users has provided her with many opportunities to learn from them and she has shared her insights with instructors and families through workshops and conferences for over 35 years. Blissymbolics Language: Online Nexus is now providing a venue for her ideas re the teaching of Blissymbolics – making them available to any instructor wishing to learn the language of Blissymbolics for the purpose of teaching the language to an individual who lacks functional speech. For further information, consult Shirley McNaughton's curriculum vitae.

    The Community and Culture of Blissymbolics
    Before you embark on this course, I would like to tell you a little about those who teach and those who use Blissymbolics. Since 1971, teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and others who work with persons who have complex communication challenges have shared a wonderful experience. They have had the privilege of witnessing the development of language in those who learn Blissymbolics. For some students, Blissymbols remain their primary means of communication throughout their life. For many others, Blissymbols are the foundation upon which they move to print and full literacy. The goal for every student who learns Blissymbolics is to attain their highest level of written communication.

    Those who learn Bliss and those who help them share a perspective that has united Bliss instructors around the world. The first goal is communication, of course. But with Blissymbolics, the shared journey of the learner and the instructor is an exciting one of discovery of new insights. With each new Blissword and each new Blissstrategy leading to greater success in communication, comes a growing awareness of the power of language.

    For over three decades, those who use Blissymbolics either as learners or as instructors have shared in the development of the language and in supporting others who wish to become Bliss users. In the world-wide Bliss community, there is a culture built upon sharing, exploring and enjoying language. The strength of Blissymbolics is the language infrastructure it offers and the meaning inherent in every symbol. In Course 201, attention will be given to the support Blissymbolics can offer to literacy development. For this course, the focus will be upon the features of Blissymbolics that contribute to an understanding of language and to the resulting enhancement of communication.

    Many Bliss users now use voice output devices to expand their communication capabilities. Many also choose to continue to use their Bliss boards when they want to express a difficult sentiment or to share a complex idea. The mutual support the two partners can give to each other within Blissymbolics communication is a very satisfying experience. I hope, as you undertake your study of Blissymbolics, you will have the opportunity of communicating with a partner who will help you learn the full capabilities of Blissymbolics in practice.

    Charles K. Bliss embedded a philosophy within his language. His books and the film “Mr. Symbol Man” provide excellent sources for an understanding of his objectives in creating Blissymbolics. For those who have learned Blissymbolics within the community of those with complex communication needs, the objectives have been in another direction - toward language, communication and literacy development and enhancement. The language of Blissymbolics has proven to be rich enough to serve well this new application.

    Format of Blisswords
    We apologize for the quality of the Blissymbols that appear in some sections within this Web Course. In transferring the Blisswords from one format to another for the purposes of displaying them on the web, quality is lost. As technical advances make it possible, we will upgrade the symbol presentation. For those who are taking the course, a printout version is made available, so the quality of Blissymbols directly from the Bliss software can be seen. This also enables those taking the course to maintain a hard copy of the lessons.

    Bliss Display and Vocabulary
    The vocabulary for the display is kept small in an attempt to direct attention to the many features of Blissymbolics and provide a glimpse into the scope of the language. At each step, you will be offered additional vocabulary items and further information sources - to be explored as you wish. The current BCI Authorized Vocabulary contains 3,588 Blisswords. However, an unlimited number of Blisswords can be produced through the use of Bliss indicators, modifiers and word-building strategies. As you proceed through the course, you will be introduced to the many different ways of extending vocabulary and hopefully you will gain glimpses of the breadth of communication that is possible through applying the full capabilities of the language. A visual semantic language offers many unique avenues to be explored by those who are interested.

    Charting Your Route
    The route you take within this course is for you to choose. If you already know something about Blissymbolics, you may choose only to take the lessons pertaining to the parts you have not already studied or those you want to review. If you are beginning your learning of Blissymbolics, it is advisable to follow the lessons in the order they are presented. If you wish to know more about the topic of any lesson, examine its introduction and its resources. They provide supplementary and explanatory information. They can be read at any time during the course to gain broader knowledge. If you have further questions, contact your Bliss Tutor. Please, follow the learning approach that best suits you! For a short history before you begin, see Resource 9.

    Your Display
    The display you will be constructing will NOT be a display appropriate for a Bliss user. The most important difference is that YOUR display will have no English words accompanying the Blissymbols! This would never be the case with a display for a Bliss user for they would always have the words accompany the Blissymbols to assist their communication partners. Within this course, YOU are being given as much practice as possible in relating to the Blissymbols with no help from English. (Remember, this is the situation for Bliss users, since they cannot read.) Within this course, the objective for your display is YOUR learning. You are being required to read every Blissword on your display in order to reinforce the new knowledge you are gaining as an adult learner of the language’s capabilities. The design of the display will however, follow the pattern that is recommended for Bliss displays, that of the Fitzgerald Key (See Resource 5). Hopefully, questions will be stimulated as you create YOUR display. You are invited to submit your questions to your Bliss Tutor if you are unable to gain the information you need from the material presented on-line.

    In producing a display to be used for communication by a Bliss user, many factors need to be taken into account relating to the developmental and experiential level of the user. Information related to these factors can be found in Resource 4.

    As Blisswords are introduced in this course, the section of the display to which they are to be assigned will be specified. By the third lesson, you will have been introduced to enough vocabulary on your display to enable you to construct simple sentences. By the time you complete all ten lessons, you will have the knowledge to produce conversations.

    Extending your vocabulary
    As you learn new vocabulary, ways of extending your Bliss vocabulary will be identified and you will be asked to apply them. Resource 5 will provide a summary of all indicators. Sources for word-vocabularies are listed in Resource 10.

    Most important
    The two most important things to remember as you study Blissymbolics and embark upon teaching persons with communication challenges:

    1. The Blisswords and Bliss characters are meaning based. The learner requires no knowledge of letters and their sounds to learn and become fluent in the use of Blissymbolics. Printed words appear with the Blisswords, but this practice is to inform the communication partner, not the Bliss user. (Although there is a side benefit for the Bliss user in developing a word sight vocabulary.)
    2. A Bliss vocabulary is only of value if it is used in communication. The first step after being introduced to a new Blissword is to put it to use while talking with a partner. (Vocabulary review, games, worksheets, etc. can help reinforce the learning of a new Blissword. But applying the words in conversation should always be the primary goal!)


    Bliss 201 is directed both to those instructors who have completed Bliss 101 and to those who have years of experience in teaching Bliss. A foundation in Blissymbolics is the critical requirement. Upon this underpinning, Bliss 201 provides additional information to further develop the instructors’ understanding and appreciation of Blissymbolics. The primary objective, however, is to provide a practical means for instructors to extend beyond their teaching of Blissymbolics for communication, to the teaching of Blissymbolics for communication AND print literacy. As these two goals are intertwined, the full potential of Blissymbolics for individuals with complex communication needs can be realized. For this to occur, the instructor must have an understanding of the capabilities of the language of Blissymbolics and be comfortable applying them as an individual learns to read. With a strong foundation in Bliss combined with an understanding of reading acquisition, the teaching opportunities for the instructor and the learning opportunities for the student are endless!

    The many strands that contribute to becoming a successful reader provide the underlying framework for Bliss 201. The approach presented relies on a theoretical foundation relating to both the cognitive and language underpinnings of literacy acquisition supported by both the reading acquisition and AAC literature. It also applies the findings derived from this author’s doctoral thesis (McNaughton, 1998), integrating this knowledge with experience from over 35 years of teaching children and adults with complex communication needs.

    Bliss 201 provides two types of instruction through offering information relating to print literacy in two formats. It also offers a continuation of instruction relating to the language features of Blissymbolics. Bliss 201 differs from Bliss 101 in its style of interaction with participants. Bliss 201 does not provide Quizzes for independent review of lesson content as in Bliss 101. Instead, both the Instructor and Student are invited to join in conversations with the Author or with an assigned Tutor, as they progress in applying their knowledge of Blissymbolics to learning to read Print. Moodle facilitates this communication between Course author and tutors and those taking the course through its messaging capability. This can be enriched with SKYPE and logmein conversations upon arrangement with the Course Author. The direction these tutoring sessions take will determine the reading that will be provided from the Author’s professional library.

    Section One, entitled PASS, provides a practical “how-to” GUIDE TO INSTRUCTION
    It is directed to the student (or their parent, if the student is a young child) for them to share with their instructor. It is based on the importance of four key factors – Practicing, Analyzing, Sight Words, Sounds of letters. The instruction contains three steps of learning – (1) SIGHT WORDS, (2) ANALYZING the parts in Bliss-words and Print-words, (3) READING and WRITING in Bliss and Print.

    Section Two, entitled BAP, provides a supportive GUIDE TO THEORY RESOURCES AND REFERENCES for instructors, parents and students who wish to know more about the reasons for the activities recommended in PASS. The theoretical information is organized through the Blissymbolics and Print (BAP) cube. Within BAP, can be found supportive readings (See Resource Listing in Resource 2.1) and other resources to help in the implementation of PASS. This section will develop and grow according to the need expressed by those participating in Bliss 201. The readings include those written by specialists in reading acquisition that have been well used by this author, papers written by this author over the years and excerpts from Reading acquisition of adults with severe congenital speech and physical impairments: theoretical infrastructure, empirical investigation, educational application (McNaughton, 1998).

    Section Three, entitled Blissymbolics - Features of the Language: Epilogue to Bliss 101 provides further information relating to the capabilities of the language of Blissymbolics. It includes information relating to:

    1. Sentence Order, Negative and Conditional Sentences, Active and Passive Voice
    2. Display Considerations
    3. Vocabulary Expansion (extended and related meaning viii)
    4. Comparative/Superlative
    5. Relativizer
    6. Prefixes – generalization
    7. More strategies: Slang, Metaphor, Bliss Name

    To summarize:

    Bliss 201 contains three sections:

    Section One called “PASS – Practice, Analyze, Sight words, Sounds”
    It contains a practical approach to learning to read for persons who use or have used Bliss. It keeps instruction practical and simple!

    Section Two called “BAP – Bliss and Print”
    It provides a guide to readings regarding the theory underlying the recommendation of PASS - for those who want to know and understand more. It discusses the many factors contributing to the complexity of learning to read.

    Section Three called “Blissymbolics – Features of the Language: Epilogue to Bliss 101”
    This section can be read independently as a continuation of Bliss 101 or in conjunction with Bliss 201.

    Learning Print Reading with Bliss

    Those who study and apply the approaches presented in Bliss 201 will discover through their own experience the contribution that can be made by Blissymbolics to Communication + Cognition + Language + Literacy (C2L2). (See Resource 2.6). Within the range of AAC graphics that are available to persons with complex communication needs, Blissymbolics stands alone as a medium with broad language capabilities. It rests, however, with the instructor to provide the links between Bliss and print and the student to ask questions and learn more about the relationships between their first expressive language of Bliss, and print. Bliss 201 needs this partnership for its objective to be achieved. For adult Bliss users, there is a special challenge - to demonstrate to their instructors how much Bliss can help them in learning to read. Bliss users are urged to contribute their insights to the learning process, as comparisons and contrasts are made between Bliss and Print.

    In describing the Community and Culture of Blissymbolics in the Overview for Bliss 101, the “privilege of witnessing the development of language in those who learn Blissymbolics” was recognized. In using Bliss 201 as their guide, instructors will witness the impact of this language development in the literacy and communication accomplishments of those they are helping. Both partners derive satisfaction from the experience. The path being recommended has in the past been labeled “Adaptive Instruction” or “Diagnostic Teaching”. It means learning with and through your student’s strengths and weaknesses! In Bliss 201, I would add another descriptor – Collaborative Adaptive instruction – to recognize both partners in the learning process.

    To the Instructor:
    As you plan your teaching for your special student, remember the following teaching maxims that enable you to learn most profitably together:

      Let your student’s strengths guide you to activities that will increase their self-confidence, as you work together on overcoming their weaknesses. You too will gain confidence as you support your student’s learning.
    2. COMPETENCY –SUPPORT CONTINUUM Let your student’s growing competency guide your progress in providing support, moving along a continuum from total support to your student’s total independence (no direct support from you).
      Use knowledge of the known to introduce, learn and discuss parallel and related concepts and skills in the new knowledge being experienced.
      Follow the accepted teaching methodology of introducing, practicing, extending, and revisiting skill-developing tasks (Adams et al, 1998, p.5).
      Always demonstrate with your student the reason and outcome for new skills within real reading activities. They need to know why they are involved in repetitive activities. Drills and games to gain automaticity have an important role to play. They are, however, only a part of the instructional process. Applying the skill being developed within functional communication and connected reading is the reason for developing the skill. Be sure your student understands the reason for the work they are doing.
      Whatever skills you and your student are working on, be sure your student reads every time you are together (in whatever manner is appropriate along the competency-support continuum. (And support arrangements for them to read as often as possible between your times together!)
    7. As an instructor, take advantage of the vast amount of research and programming support available to assist in planning the literacy program for a student with complex communication needs. Many of the tasks will need to be adapted, but the skills that are needed for the speaking individual to gain competency in literacy are needed as well by the individual with complex communication needs. The differences must not be used to rationalize that the person who is nonspeaking cannot learn to read. The differences must be understood and then accommodated through the careful planning of their literacy experiences. (See McNaughton & Lindsay, 1995).

    To the Student:

    1. Always give your instructor feedback as to what is working for you and what is not.
    2. Persist with Bliss 201 only as long as you believe you are benefiting from the instruction provided.
    3. Do not spend your time on activities that are not providing you with new knowledge and skills.
    4. Ask questions about the new information you are learning and about how it relates to what you already know. Offer your ideas regarding the relationships between old and new knowledge.
    5. Tell your instructor what YOU want to learn and how you can best learn it.

    Steps ONE-TWO-THREE of PASS and the theoretical discussions in BAP should be explored in parallel. Each time you are together and/or you are involved in planning lessons, as many as possible of the factors related to learning to read should be considered. Learning to read requires the integration of activities and understanding. As with learning to communicate with Bliss, learning to read with Bliss is an adventure in learning that benefits both student and instructor. Do enjoy!

    Before embarking upon Bliss 201:
    It is recommended that you first read Resource 2.6, [McNaughton, 2000. C2L2, Communicating Together,17 (4)]. This article was written as the Symbol Talk for the last issue of Communicating Together and offers a glimpse into the thinking that underlies Bliss 201. All the Resource readings are offered for reading before, after, or along with the Lessons.

    If you would like a quick review of the features of the language of Blissymbolics, click here to view a power point presentation entitled the ABC’s of Blissymbolics.