August 2021 - Volume 56
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In this issue:

“People are so afraid of variety that they try to fit everything into a tiny little box with a specific label,” says 16-year-old Rosie King, who is bold, brash and autistic.

Remembering and Appreciating Joy Zabala

Last month, the assistive technology (AT) community lost a passionate and fierce advocate for learners with disabilities. Dr. Joy Smiley Zabala not only developed the Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools (SETT) framework but worked tirelessly to educate and bring awareness to the need of AT for students of all ages. She was a knowledgeable teacher and coach, highlighting what was done well while providing suggestions for improvement. Every encounter with her was welcoming, bubbly, and full of life. She truly lived up to her name: Joy. Help us continue her legacy by dreaming big for learners of all ages, having those tough conversations, and providing AT to the students who need it. On July 7, several members of the AT community gathered on Twitter for a special #ATchat dedicated to Joy. You can read shared memories and comments on Mike Marotta’s #ATchat Wakelet.

Welcome Noelle!


Please join us in welcoming Noelle Palasty as our new Math Accessibility Specialist.
Noelle comes to us with 24 years of experience in education. She started her career as a special education teacher where she spent 11 years working with students with emotional and learning disabilities. She also spent one year as a program specialist and 12 years as an elementary principal where she successfully led a building of more than 450 students and 35 staff members. 
Noelle has a strong passion for math and literacy curriculum and instruction, but more importantly, supporting students with disabilities. She feels strongly about having high expectations for ALL students and believes it is achieved through relationships and high quality instructional practices. She places significant value on developing a shared vision, ongoing professional learning/reflection, and collaboration. 
Noelle is married and lives in East Lansing with her husband Christian and their three children Merrick, Keegan, and Kinleigh. They recently added a Goldendoodle (Ellie) to their family. In her free time, Noelle enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and traveling. 
Have a math question?  Want to reach out and say hello? Contact Noelle at

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR): Implementation Story

Genesee Intermediate School District (ISD) staff have taken the challenge of making their website fully accessible head on. This month, we interviewed Sally Eilersen, the program secretary for the Marion D. Crouse Instructional Center (MCIC) at Genesee ISD and an online AMMR participant, to get her perspective on digital accessibility in her job. We hope you are inspired by the steps Sally has taken to make resources more accessible in her district. 

In what ways have you been able to implement the ideas and information you learned from the AMMR course?

All documents leaving the MCIC go through me, which has enabled me to set accessibility standards. My therapists’ letters are all accessibility checked, and I’m finding most are coming to me without errors. That may be because they are using a past letter as a document, but whatever works! I’m surprised at how little needs to be changed, especially when working in Word. But the accessibility checker is invaluable. 

In what ways has what you learned in AMMR influenced the culture of accessibility in your district?
No one questions when I make changes for accessibility. They accept that we want to have all documents accessible even if they will never be posted online. 

In what areas have you seen the greatest gains or success around accessibility within your district?
Correspondence has been an easy success. Basic notes home. Even some simple classroom newsletters. 

What are some of the biggest barriers you have faced?
My biggest issue is our newsletter, which I do in Publisher, and in aligning pictures. I am an old school typesetter/layout person and want to wrap pictures! Accessibility checkers hate my wrapped pictures, but for our newsletter, for example, I don’t have the space to have pictures all in line. And it takes time to add all the alternative text. (Sometimes the newsletter gets submitted to the print shop before they are all done.) 

What are your next steps?
Continue teaching employees, especially our new ones. If we start from a position that everything is to be accessible, there are no struggles. Just people working together with a common goal. My challenge is working in Publisher to make those documents more accessible. I’ll figure it out.

Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication

The Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication partnership offers sites an opportunity to engage in a literacy overview or a complete training. Previous participant feedback from the literacy training reflected the need for increased time to process, reflect, and apply the content within the sessions. In response to this feedback, our statewide literacy trainers gathered in Muskegon to make these changes a reality. The updates will go live during the Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication cohort and the upcoming Emergent Statewide Literacy Training and Conventional Statewide Training.

3 teachers sitting at a table with laptops open
Two people working together at a table
Two people, one with a big smile, work together at a table

Delta Math

The Delta Math Response to Intervention (RtI) program resources are available for free to support the Michigan Department of Education’s recommendations for accelerated learning to help students with unfinished learning.
Accelerated learning, as described by the department, “keeps students moving forward on their intended grade-level trajectories by strategically preparing them for success in current grade-level content. Acceleration focuses on teaching only what must be learned, at a given level, instead of trying to teach everything that a student did not learn in a previous grade or grades. Acceleration requires teachers to identify crucial content they need to teach and that students need to learn so students can access current grade-level material.”
The Delta Math RtI program provides implementation recommendations and tools (readiness standards, screeners, and intervention resources) to build multi-tiered systems of support and accelerate learning for all students in kindergarten through Algebra 2.
There is no cost for schools to use Delta Math RtI program paper resources to implement the following components of accelerated learning.

  • Screen groups of students on high priority standards in less than 30 minutes.
  • Use the Course Overview report to plan targeted intervention for small, flexible groups of students.
  • Use the intervention lessons that integrate evidence-based recommendations from the Institute of Education Sciences to help students complete their unfinished learning.
  • Use the targeted practice resources to help students strengthen and maintain their conceptual understanding and procedural fluency using visual representations and precise mathematical language.

If you have questions about Delta Math RtI program resources or implementation opportunities, please contact Mike Klavon at

Foundations of Math

Partnership applications for Foundations of Math are now open.
Alt+Shift partners with intermediate school districts (ISDs) to strengthen ISD capacity to provide Foundations of Math training and implementation support. Training and implementation supports are co-constructed. We utilize long- and short-term planning, ISD implementation team meetings, and multiple perspectives to assist ISDs in providing sustainable change that improves mathematics outcomes for students with disabilities. 
Strengthening Tier 1 math instruction for all students, including those with disabilities, has never been more critical.
The Delta Math and resource section of this month’s newsletter reference Accelerated Learning guidance from the Michigan Department of Education. Accelerating learning for groups of students, including those with individualized education programs (IEPs), can be addressed through the approach taught in the Foundations of Math course. 
Foundations of Math is designed to improve mathematical content knowledge for the teaching of mathematics to students with disabilities and students who struggle. It is for both general and special education staff responsible for teaching students with IEPs in grades kindergarten through high school.
The Foundations of Math approach can be applied to any math program. It is based on developing a strong number sense, utilizing research on how the brain learns math, and strengthening connections between known math and math not yet known.

Accelerated Learning Guidance From the Michigan Department of Education (MDE)

The MDE has released Accelerated Learning Informational guides on how to address student learning gaps through accelerated learning. The informational guides were developed by MDE in collaboration with educators and education partners throughout the state. The department highly recommends districts focus their programming on accelerated learning rather than remediation.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Alt+Shift Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
Days:  October 5, 2021, November 3, 2021, December 9, 2021, and January 11, 2022
Time: 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. EST (Registration); 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EST (Training)
Virtual Conference
Alt+Shift Conventional Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication
Days:  October 5, 2021, November 3, 2021, December 9, 2021, and January 11, 2022
Time: 12:00 - 12:30 p.m. EST (Registration); 12:30 - 3:30 p.m. EST (Training)
Virtual Conference

9th Annual Autism Conference
October 7-8, 2021

Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together
Asynchronous conference October 18-29, 2021, synchronous conference October 25, 2021
Hybrid Virtual Conference

Pre-Conference: November 4-5, 2021
Conference: November 8-9, 2021
Virtual Conference

Upcoming Events: National

NCSM Annual Conference
September 20-22, 2021
Atlanta, GA

Closing The Gap 2021
Pre-conference Workshops: October 7-8, 2021
October 11-13, 2021
Virtual conference

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Regional Conference
October 27-29, 2021
Phoenix, Arizona

ASHA Convention 2021: Rising United
November 18-20, 2021
Hybrid Virtual Conference (Washington, DC)

ATIA 2022 Conference
January 26-29, 2022

Lending Library Update

There are 38 items out on loan. 

The Alt+Shift library is open.
Please return items/devices to the Alt+Shift office at:
1037 S U.S. Highway 27
St. Johns, MI 48879



PicSeePal is a low-tech communication system that is lightweight, portable, customizable, splash proof, and modular. It includes a visual support starter pack of 35 communication board sheets from various augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems.

Connect to Other MDE OSE Grant Funded Initiatives

Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF) - Subscribe to the newsletter to stay up-to-date on events and special education news.
Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) - Sign up for email notifications and the newsletter from MDE-LIO.
Michigan Multi Tiered System of Supports Technical Assisitance (MiMTSS) - Visit the MiMTSS website and look under “Announcements” for updates and events.
Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS) - Visit the SEMS website for updates and information.
Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) - Subscribe to “START Connecting,” a monthly email with an article and information about START’s project activities, events, and resources.

Request Technical Assistance

If you have any questions about our offerings or resources, request technical assistance and someone from our staff will follow up with you.

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Alt+Shift is an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Grant Funded Initiative out of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education.