Effective communication skills are fundamental to success in many aspects of life, so being able to communicate effectively is perhaps the most important of all life skills. However, some people find it difficult to communicate with others and may need support to develop the communication skills.
In pursuit of successful social inclusion of people with mental disabilities the Jonava people with disabilities activity center together with partners from Iceland and Hungary is implementing the Erasmus+ international project “Communication is the path to integration“. We briefly present the experience of project partner’s from Iceland in the alternative communication methods. Because of damage in the central nervous system, certain members of the population with severe speech impairments are not able to acquire sufficient literacy skills. Despite this handicap, they can become effective communicators by using different graphic or symbol systems. One of these non-verbal graphic systems, which is widely used by project partners from Iceland, is Blissymbolics. In addition, Blissymbolics is used in many others countries: Austria, Canada, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, etc. This communication system originally developed by Charles K. Bliss. It was first applied to the communication of children with physical disabilities by an interdisciplinary team led by Shirley McNaughton at the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre in 1971. Blissymbolics is a semantic graphical language that is currently composed of more than 5000 authorized symbols. People with severe difficulties in speaking to communicate without speech can use this system.
For example, the Blissymbolics language board is a concept for a learning method for the Cerebral Palsy disabled. At present, the Blissymbols are printed on hard board. In our days, Blissymbolics can be using on various ICT platforms. For example, on the internet: http://www.blissymbolics.org/, https://www.blissonline.se/; AAC software with specific support for Bliss: www.handicom.nl, www.jabbla.com, www.misterbliss.it; on the smart phones, tablets etc.: www.q-s.pl/iblissymbols/, http://mozzaz.com/index.php/products/talkingtiles, and so on. During a project meeting in Iceland, we had the opportunity to meet person who uses a tablet to communicate. This tablet have Blissymbolics language that are using by an individual for communication and speech generating device, which speak a message when a particular button is pressed. This alternative communication tool fascinated all project participants because it allows people to communicate, express their feelings, needs and wants in a way that others can understand and respond to.
For many people, the ability to communicate is such an integral part of life. Knowing about different alternative methods of communication can help for project participants had better understand the ways to help clients communicate. We hope that the presented method allow us to improve the social inclusion of people with mental disabilities.
Author – Jonava people with disabilities activity center employee Viktorija Urbonavičienė
Project “Communication is the path to integration“(Number 2018-1-LT01-KA204-046976)