May 2020 - Volume 41
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Featured Video:
Golden Buzzer: Kodi Lee Wows You With A Historical Music Moment! - America's Got Talent 2019

COVID-19 Resources

Educators and families want to support learners with disabilities throughout the school closure.
Alt+Shift is here to provide technical assistance and resources for families and educators related to:

  • Accessibility of digital materials.
  • Assistive technology (AT).
  • Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
  • Mathematics for learners with disabilities.
  • Learner engagement.
  • Guidance from the Michigan Department of Education.
 The Alt+Shift COVID-19 Resources page includes resources that can help educators and families address some common barriers to learning. We will continue to add resources as they are discovered.
If you or anyone in your networks have questions or require support in addition to these resources, do not hesitate to request technical assistance.

Ask Alt+Shift

Connection seems to be a key theme of remote learning - staying connected to your school community, and also connecting to colleagues and organizations for support and guidance.

Alt+Shift will hold weekly "office hours" as one more way for you to ask us questions as you implement approaches from our trainings from a distance.

Pop in, ask your question, and either hang out for a bit, or go back to your day.  We will be in the Zoom room and are looking forward to your questions!

Who: Briana Bancroft, Kate Fanelli, Mike Klavon, Carolyn O'Hearn, Sara Pericolosi, Ashley Rust, and Peter Schaafsma

Ask Alt+Shift Hours for May: Thursdays from 10 - 11 AM Eastern

Where: Zoom Room (

Call in with your question: dial 312-626-6799; meeting ID 836 2055 4071

ISD Partnership Application Timeline is Open Ended

Throughout the school closure, we have received many inquiries about extending the March deadline for partnership applications.
The new deadline for applications is NO DEADLINE.  Feel free to submit an application whenever you are ready.
Due to the many uncertainties regarding the school year, and the various states of readiness that sites are in with moving ahead on new and existing training initiatives, our deadline will be open ended.
Alt+Shift partners with intermediate school districts (ISDs) to provide initial training, co-constructed implementation planning, and subsequent follow-up for:

  • Improving alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) and literacy for students with complex communication needs.
  • Setting up team-based systems for the effective provision of assistive technology (AT).
  • Providing high quality math instruction for students with disabilities.
  • To learn more about the Partnership Process, visit our website.

If you are interested in applying, download the Call for Applications for the training you are interested in, peruse the information linked in them, and then complete the application.

NEW timeline for applications:

  • Application deadline: No deadline.  Whenever you are ready to move ahead with partnership, submit the application and we will follow up with you.
  • Accepted applicants may start planning with Alt+Shift, knowing plans are tentative and flexible.  Plans will be responsive to federal, state, and local guidance regarding health and safety, as well as readiness at the sites to move ahead.

One Newsletter Starts This Month

Beginning this month, the Michigan’s Integrated Mathematics Initiative (Mi)2 and Alt+Shift newsletters are one and the same. This newsletter will continue to have monthly updates on our training areas as well as links to resources and upcoming events. Feel free to share with your colleagues and networks. The subscription information is on the News page of the Alt+Shift website.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

Keeping accessibility in mind is important as we all adapt to instruction in a virtual environment.
Not only do we need to do our best to ensure that our lessons are accessible, we need to make sure the websites and web-based tools we are using will work for all of our students.
You can quickly learn about the accessibility of any website you use by looking for its Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) or any other accessibility statements they offer. The best way to find these is to do a Google search for the name of the website along with “VPAT” or “accessibility statement” (eg. “Schoology VPAT” or “Zoom Accessibility Statement”).
Note that a website having a VPAT does not ensure full accessibility, but it does help you to understand what is and is not accessible on the website. Also, a lack of a VPAT doesn’t necessarily mean that the website is inaccessible, but it may be an indicator that accessibility is not on the forefront of the developers list of priorities.

Assistive Technology (AT)

On May 7, Michigan AT leaders will join together virtually for the spring AT leadership meeting. This is a great opportunity to connect with other AT professionals throughout the state, as well as work toward streamlining how to meet accessibility needs in remote learning and designing remote learning lessons for all. Registered attendees will receive Zoom connection information and an agenda as the date gets closer. If you’re interested in attending, please fill out the spring AT leadership meeting registration form.

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction

If you have students who are at home without the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device they used in school, we encourage you to find a way to provide them access to their voice. If you are unable to provide access to their designated AAC device, consider printing (laminating if possible) and sharing a paper Core Vocabulary board. Printable Core Vocabulary boards are available for high-tech devices or communication applications on the company’s website. If you have students who do not have a designated communication device/system, the Core Vocabulary boards available at Project-Core may be a great place to start!

Delta Math

The Ottawa Area ISD, with the support of Alt+Shift, is working to support the vision of “The Path Forward Strategic Action Plan” from the Michigan Department of Education.  Our goal is to decrease current barriers of time, money and resources many schools currently face trying to provide a multi-tiered system of supports in mathematics.

Delta Math online readiness screeners are currently available to identify student readiness for 1st grade through Algebra 2.  The annual screening fee of $3 per student and implementation support is included with the one-time district start-up fee of $250. 

For schools who would like to screen students for readiness and do not have money available in their budget to support this activity, paper-based versions of the Fall, Winter and Spring online grade level readiness screeners will be made available this summer for FREE.  A Course Overview report will also be available to assist educators for scheduling small groups of students for targeted tier 2 intervention.  This report will be generated in an Excel spreadsheet by entering student scores for each readiness standard.  Online training and technical support for math RtI/MTSS leaders will also be available at no cost.
If you have any questions about Delta Math RtI Program resources or implementation, please contact Mike Klavon at

Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students With Significant Disabilities

Enhancing Math is a course designed to help teachers make mathematics more accessible to a range of learners. The goal is for teams of math and special education colleagues to attend the training together. This promotes the collaboration needed to address challenges related to the teaching and learning of mathematics for students with disabilities.

For more information on this training, please visit our Enhancing Math page on the Alt+Shift website. There are currently no trainings scheduled for this offering; however, you can view our Math Accessibility Framework online module designed from the course. It offers great resources for designing lessons with a lens for accessibility. Don’t be deterred by the word ‘math.’ Educators around the state have told us it is useful for all content areas!

Foundations of Communication (FoC)

As educators across the state begin to provide distance learning opportunities for all learners, many are questioning how to support families and caregivers as they adapt to this new reality.  A couple of things to consider as you begin: 

  • Gauge parent/caregiver overwhelm: reach out to families to determine how they're coping, how their learner has been communicating and adapting to the change in the routine, what they need/want from you as a provider, etc. 
  • Offer parent/caregiver choice: allow families to identify targeted communication partners for the week, ask for input/feedback on how to target key vocabulary and routines, etc.

Foundations of Math (FoM)

Looking for ways to use the Foundations of Math approach in a home learning environment?  Consider combining reading and math by reading children’s books about math. Here are some features to look for to ensure that the books align with Foundations of Math thinking:

  • Quantity: Look for books that demonstrate quantity by showing sets of objects. For example, illustrations that show three cookies and not just the numeral “3” or four rows of five flowers and not just a sentence that says “4 x 5 = 20” or “four times five equals twenty.”
  • Structure and discussion: Look for books that provide opportunities for learners and their families to talk about the mathematical ideas in them. For example, “Will there be enough cookies?” “Show me where you see four,” “Can a square really do that?” “What about a circle?” or “What’s another way they could have figured that out?”
  • Symbols: Look for books that also provide a connection to numerals and symbols. For example, if the picture shows two friends joining a group of three friends, the author has also written the equation “2 + 3 = 5” or if the picture shows two ladybugs, it also has the numeral “2” written.
  • Interest: Always choose books that connect to ideas and situations that are interesting to the learner. Books that learners can relate to provide “stickiness” that help students connect current understanding to new ideas, making the learning permanent in the brain.

For students with disabilities, remember to support this activity by providing the assistive technology that is required for them to fully engage. Watch this speech-language pathologist combine reading, the Foundations of Math approach, and language development by reading Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.
Looking for book titles? Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) has compiled a bibliography of children’s math books aligned to the Common Core State Standards for grades kindergarten through 8th grade.

Foundations of Math: Teaching Students With Significant Disabilities (FoM:SD)

Looking for ways to support math learning at home during the school closure? Alt+Shift has created 3 Steps to Doing Math at Home with Students with Complex Communication Needs, Sensory Impairments, and Physical Impairments.
This resource is a Google doc, so it will be updated as new information is available. Whether your student is just beginning to engage in math activities or has been a math learner for a long time, these steps can help educators and families work together to set up and engage in math activities at home.
Questions? Follow the technical assistance link in the document to ask your questions.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD)

The PODD partnership sites had the opportunity to connect with each other during a statewide meeting in April. Topics discussed included helpful resources and webinars, how to support students virtually or remotely, and how to coach families to support communication in everyday activities. Starting this month, PODD, Foundations of Communication (FoC), and Comprehensive Literacy partnership sites will have opportunities to collaborate at statewide AAC meetings with the overall goal being to support learners (and their families and educators) on the path to becoming autonomous communicators.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Foundations of Math (pending health and safety guidelines)
August 3-4, September 21-22, and October 12
Best Western Okemos (August dates) and Clinton County RESA (September and October dates)
Okemos (August) and St. Johns (September and October)
Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities (pending health and safety guidelines)
August 5-6, September 23, October 13-14
Clinton County RESA
St. Johns, Michigan

Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together (MRALT) - Save the Date
What: A joint conference for general and special educators of mathematics
When: October 19, 2020
Where: Wayne County Community College - DownRiver Campus

Upcoming Events: Michigan

AT Leadership Spring Meeting
May 7, 2020
Clinton County RESA
St. Johns, MI
Life Without Limits through Assistive Technology Conference and Expo
May 21, 2020
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel
Detroit, Michigan

Upcoming Events: National

100 Days of Professional Learning
April - September, 2020

ASHA Connect Conferences - 2020
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
July 10–12, 2020
Sheraton Dallas Hotel
Dallas, TX

National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM)
October 19-21, 2020
St. Louis, MO
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Regional Conference
November 11-13
Tampa, FL

Lending Library Closed During Stay Home Order

The Lending Library will remain closed throughout the Stay Home Stay Safe order and will reopen according to guidelines regarding the health and safety of doing so.

Do not return Lending Library materials at this time.  Materials can be returned, and extensions can be requested, when the library reopens.  Borrowers will be notified when that happens.

If you have questions, please contact:

Opportunities to Learn More

All 36 words of the Universal Core vocabulary are now available in the 3D symbol format. Each tactual symbol is printed on a base that has a shape, texture, and color that mark the word category. Each also includes a unique raised element, the printed word, and braille to make the individual word. You can visit the Project Core website to download the free 3D printing files. The full set of symbols will soon be available in the lending library as well.


#ATchat is a Twitter hashtag and weekly scheduled chat revolving around trending AT topics. The moderators of this chat (AT professionals Mike Marotta and Karen Janowski) created an AT Chat website to address how to support AT during distance learning. Archived Twitter chats and town hall recordings can also be found here.

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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.