December 2017, Volume 12
Subscribe to this newsletter.
View this email in your browser
AltShift logo

In this issue:

How a blind astronomer found a way to hear the stars | Wanda Diaz Merced
Featured Video:
"How a blind astronomer found
a way to hear the stars"
Wanda Diaz Merced

Alt+Shift Update

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Megan Zell. Megan has joined the Alt+Shift team as an Assistive Technology Contractor. Megan is an occupational therapist who works for the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. Megan has had the opportunity to work closely with Karen Erickson and David Kopenhaver with regards to literacy instruction for students with complex communication needs. Welcome Megan!

Accessible Materials Made Right

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) is now a three-day training (non-consecutive) for teams responsible for providing training to their intermediate school districts and local school districts on creating accessible digital materials for publicly facing websites. 

Alt+Shift is now accepting online team applications for teams wishing to attend this training in Berrien Springs. The application deadline is December 15, 2017.

When: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on January 11, February 2, and February 15
Where: Berrien Regional Educational Service Agency, Berrien Springs
Cost: There is no cost for this training. Registration is contingent upon Alt+Shift acceptance of the online team application.

Teams interested in applying should first visit the AMMR event webpage and review the AMMR Information Guide to learn more about the training.

Please send questions to

Implementation Story

Picture of Jared KoskiEducator: Jared Koski, Alt+Shift Consultant and SLP

Foundations of Communication training sites are doing wonderful things and the administrators and staff have truly made a commitment to helping the students in their local and intermediate school districts have more opportunities to communicate.  
  • Administrators have provided opportunities for related service providers, teachers, and paraprofessionals to receive initial training.
  • Teams have developed co-constructed action plans with Alt+Shift and have documented goals and objectives.
  • Time has been planned for implementation teams to meet regularly to follow-up on goals and strategies that have been developed.
  • Core Vocabulary posters have been put up in classrooms, and individual Core Vocabulary materials have been made accessible.
  • Teams have added these new strategies to their school improvement plans.

Teams have set goals that will expand training, knowledge, and skills to those who work with students with complex communication needs.
  • Teams are using self-reflection forms so that all staff can evaluate themselves as they improve instructional strategies.
  • Sites are eager for more skills and are expressing the need to get training in the areas of literacy and math instruction.
  • Administration is trying to find ways to reach out to transportation, food service, and other staff who are involved with students on a daily basis to find ways to provide training for them.
  • Therapists are exploring new methods to identify baseline data and track progress of students with complex communication needs.
  • Teams are working collaboratively and will meet in February 2018 to work with teams from other parts of the state.

The administrators and staff I am currently engaged with are a true inspiration. At each of our face-to-face and virtual meetings, they bring an energy that is second to none. The administrators, therapists, consultants, teachers, and support staff are truly making the world a better place for students.


The Communication Matrix is a free online assessment tool to help families and professionals understand the communication skills of students in the beginning stages of communication. The Communication Matrix is free, easy to use, helps to establish baselines, helps to track progress, and is available in multiple languages.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

U.P. Special Education Conference
February 22-23, 2018
Marquette, Michigan

MCEC 78th Annual Conference
February 28-March 2, 2018
Grand Rapids, Michigan 

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction for Students With Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
March 6-8, 2018
Romulus, Michigan

Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference
March 7-9, 2018
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association Conference
March 22-24, 2018
Kalamazoo, Michigan

2017 MCTM Conference (Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics)
July 25–27, 2018
Traverse City, Michigan

Upcoming Events: National

Five Day Advanced Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Training 
January 8-12, 2018
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Pre-Conference and Conference 
January 30 - February 3, 2018
Orlando, FL

CEC 2018 Special Education Convention & Expo
February 7-10, 2018
Tampa, FL

CSUN - Assistive Technology Conference
March 19-23, 2018
San Diego, California

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 11-15, 2018
Arlington, Virginia

Closing The Gap 2018
October 10-12, 2018
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lending Library Update

December 2017:
There are 59 items out on loan. 
WinSlate with Enable Eyes device
Featured item:  The Tobii Dynavox I-110 is a speech generating device for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). With a screen made of Gorilla Glass, it can handle any accidental drops or spills. It is small in size for portability around the classroom. The I-110 comes with a full range of communication software including Snap™ + Core First® and Communicator 5. Whether your student is a symbol-based communicator just starting out or fully literate, with the I-110 you will be able to choose which solution works best even as your students evolve in their communication needs.

Lending Library: Opportunities to Learn More

What's new with Accessibility in iOS 11:
  • Smart Invert- inverts only the areas of the screen where it may be deemed necessary instead of color inversion on the entire screen. 
  • Improved Text Detection- automatically scans an image for text and reads aloud with VoiceOver. 
  • Photo descriptions- automatically scans an image to figure out what it contains and then reads aloud a description to you including setting and tone of the image. 
  • Type to Siri- perfect for vocally impaired individuals or those who simply can't use voice assistants. Users will be able to interact with Siri via text.
  • Drag and drop with VoiceOver- VoiceOver will be integrated so that individuals with visually impairments can enjoy the drag 'n' drop experience as well. Tap and hold an item and VoiceOver will read it out and tell you once you've drug it over another app.

You can trial these new accessibility features on the updated iPad Pros in the Lending Library

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Corner

Recent conversations with practitioners around the state have left me with some frustration and hope. 

Hope because there is some real consideration of how we might, as educators and speech/language pathologists, support students who are using AAC in their daily lives. Not too many years ago AAC was not on the radar but for a few students. Many of those students were considered to be “able” to communicate and efforts were made to help them succeed. 

Hope because the tide is changing. More and more people are considering communication supports for all students: including those individual who do not seem to be “ready” for communication. More and more we see AAC as part of the conversation among all educators and SLPs. 

Hope because the presumption of competence is becoming a real “thing” and not just a slogan. Classrooms are changing to include communication supports across the board and for individual students in particular. 

Frustration because we have so very far to go. There are still classrooms and staff that believe that students need to ‘prove’ the ability to communicate prior to getting (or being exposed to) a device or system. There seems to be no presumption of competence. 

What’s our job? Our job is, first, to demonstrate that we presume competence of ALL of our students and provide supports from the day we meet them (early in their lives) and note the impact of those supports. When we’re keeping track of what students take up and use in their everyday activities, we’ll know which supports will be successful and which ones the child doesn’t use. PODD is one of those tools where staff is taking up the opportunity to show students what *they* can say and students are responding!

To steal a phrase: Got Presumption of Competence?

Regional Assistive Technology Meetings

Michigan is divided into five Assistive Technology regions.  Most regions meet regularly to discuss issues pertaining to their profession and to further their professional learning.  To find out what region you are in, and who your Assistive Technology (AT) Contacts are for that region, visit the AT Contact List.

Region 1
December 15, 2017
January 31, 2018
March 12
April 26
June 1

Region 1A
*Contact your regional AT contacts for additional dates.

Region 2
February 22, 2018 - Remote Meeting
April 25

Region 3
No meetings scheduled at this time.

Region 4
*dates subject to change, contact your regional AT Contacts to confirm.
December 14, 2017
January 11, 2018
February 8
March 8
April 12
May 10
June 14

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

Subscribe to this newsletter.
Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list