June 2021 - Volume 54
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In this issue:

The evolution of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). 

Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together Call for Presenters (MRALT)

The Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC) and the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM), in conjunction with Alt+Shift, seek presenters for their 7th annual joint conference to be held during the month of October 2021.

Submit an MRALT speaker proposal to present online by June 15.

This virtual conference is designed to increase collaboration and shared learning between general and special education math teachers. Collaboration occurs at all levels including the planning committee, session presenters, and attendees. Participants learn about strategies, tools, and techniques that aid teaching and learning of math for students with individualized education programs (IEPs).
As the conference will be virtual, sessions will be pre-recorded and available for attendee viewing from October 18-29, 2021. Sessions should be approximately 30 minutes in length and should be submitted by October 11, 2021. More details will follow if your session is accepted. Additionally, presenters should be available for a web-based, 30-minute question and answer session on October 25 between 3:00 and 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (a schedule will be created for this).
For more information on the event, email or download the MRALT conference flyer.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

Adding alternative text (alt text) to images is one of the first steps people often take when they begin making accessible content. Although creating concise, contextual, and adequately descriptive text is fairly straightforward for many images, it’s not always cut and dry. If you’ve ever found yourself looking for advice on some more challenging alt text descriptions, you’re not alone.
Veronica Lewis is an accessibility and disability advocate and assistive technology user who created the Veroniiiica (Veronica With Four Eyes) website. She has a series of posts that cover the topic of alt text, specifically dealing with alt text and image descriptions within social media and for unique images like GIFs, food, jewelry, architecture, cosplay, photojournalism, and more. If you’re looking to improve the accessibility of your content by honing your alt text writing skills, Veronica’s site is a good place to explore.

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey

As you begin to think about your AT team and the next school year, consider the variety of stakeholders and perspectives that could improve getting the right AT into the hands of students. Some educators may not be aware of their potential role with AT. Luckily, Alt+Shift has created an Assistive Technology Skills Inventory.
The inventory can assist administrators, as well as those currently serving on an AT team, with identifying and supporting the educators who can contribute knowledge and skills related to the provision of AT. This fillable self-assessment offers a way for educators in a variety of roles to rate their level of proficiency with regard to the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with their role. Results can be used to identify who would be most beneficial to include in the AT consideration process and/or AT team, as well as identify areas of need for professional learning.

Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication

May was Better Hearing and Speech Month. To celebrate, Alt+Shift staffers highlighted some of their favorite Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) resources. Here are just a few that made the list: Kate McLaughlin's AAC Coach website, Rachel Madel and Chris Bugaj's Talking With Tech podcast, and Carole Zangari's PrAACtical AAC website. If you want to see Carolyn and Sara's complete list, check out (and like) our Alt+Shift Facebook page

Alternative Access Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Books Now Available

Individuals with complex communication needs and complex bodies may need an alternative way to interact with communication systems when they want to express their wants, needs, and ideas. Alternative methods include eye gaze and partner assisted visual scanning.
Educators who have attended the one-day Alternative Access PODD training and own a copy of the Alternative Access templates may purchase select eye gaze and partner assisted visual scanning books from Alt+Shift. Additional selections will be released as they are available.
Software for creating and customizing PODD books involving alternative access methods (e.g., eye gaze, partner assisted visual scanning) is not yet available in the U.S.; however, interested individuals or intermediate school districts can purchase an international copy (i.e., on A4 paper, with international vocabulary) through the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC) or Spectronics websites.
These books are also available in our lending library.

Delta Math

A new Delta Math report is available to represent and compare the amount of Tier 2 support each student may need throughout the school year.  Green displays for students who may not benefit from Tier 2 intervention.  Yellow displays for students who may benefit from Tier 2 intervention for 1 or 2 readiness standards.  And, red displays for students who may benefit from Tier 2 intervention for 3 or more readiness standards.
We believe it is important to clarify that colors and titles are not being used to represent and categorize students.  The purpose of this report is to help educators understand and communicate the amount of Tier 2 support that may be needed to help each student increase their readiness to learn new grade level content standards.
After each screening cycle, this new report displays the decreasing need for Tier 2 support.  The amount of Tier 1 support that will help each student to be ready to learn for the next grade level is also displayed in this report after screening up in the late winter and in the late spring.  Tier 3 screeners can also be displayed for students not responding to Tier 2 support.
Real data from two 3rd grade class reports can be viewed by clicking here.  If you currently use Delta Math and would like to generate this report for your students, ask your building administrator to contact Mike Klavon at to request a temporary link for the report with your district’s username and password.

Foundations of Math (FoM and FoM:SD): Implementation Story

Darnella Delfine
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Consultant
Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)

Alt+Shift: What problems were teachers expressing about math instruction before you started implementing Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities (FoM:SD)?
Darnella Delfine: The biggest challenge teachers had in our center programs and in cognitively impaired classrooms was they just did not have the right materials or strategies that worked with their students who needed so much support.
When it came to curriculum materials, it was always a lot of modifying the materials or the constant need to create your own with the hope of finding or creating something that worked.
A+S: What was different about FoM:SD from what teachers were trying on their own?
DD: The biggest difference that FoM:SD brought to the table was the focus on the concepts - not the stuff. Many times, we focus on activities and do not emphasize the purpose enough.
One teacher shared how she helped her students who were struggling with recognizing “half” in terms of volume.
“When my students work for popcorn as a reward, I have a small clear cup that I scoop with. I show them different amounts until I have half and then they get to eat the half cup of popcorn.  They are very good at recognizing empty, full, and half now!”
This is a great example of how a teacher came up with an instructional strategy based on learning in the course where we visually learned what division and fractions really mean using scoops of beans. It’s about understanding the concept, not just completing an activity.
A+S:  In what ways have you been able to support implementation during the pandemic?
DD: During the pandemic, we have mostly been Zoom and phone call cheerleaders and/or collaborative teammates for problem solving. Mostly the teachers have been figuring out with their teams how to convert what they learned during the FoM:SD training to a virtual format.  Having cohort and school teams has really helped all the districts build that camaraderie that supports you throughout good and challenging times.
In the winter, we hosted a Zoom mini-series to help new teachers, administrators, and veteran teachers who wanted more clarity on the FoM:SD implementation. We have also supported by providing assessment and learning kits to teams.
A+S: How is implementing FoM:SD impacting staff?
Implementation has been a mixed bag over the last two years. For some, FoM:SD really helped them stay focused and motivated because they were excited about this “new way” of teaching math and for others they couldn’t dive in because the world was crashing in on them.

For those who were more successful, the learning trajectories and assessment/learning kits really helped them stay on track and actually know where to start, and what to focus on first, second, third.
Others have figured out ways to teach concepts virtually using Jamboards, whiteboards, virtual manipulatives, and even virtual games. Take a look at two examples of student work done in Jamboard.

screenshot of student work filling in fraction bars

screenshot of student work labeling an ABAB pattern

A+S: How is implementing FoM:SD impacting students?
DD: Students are using age appropriate materials, activities, and learning concepts. They are engaged, especially face to face, and gaining skills they are able to generalize.
Students are being offered more learning opportunities based on the components of number sense. They are learning more than just money, time, shapes, measurement, and counting.  Students are learning algebra and area and perimeter with tiles. They are drawing pictures or cutting out pictures to solve number-based and word problems. Lessons are not just being taught - Learning is happening.
This pandemic has been very hard on students with significant disabilities as well. Some find this learning platform too abstract and miss the personal connections. Teachers have found that sending the same exact manipulatives and materials they are showing on screen to each student’s home has helped a lot.
Parents have really been great partners during this time.
A+S: What is your next step for implementing FoM:SD?
DD: Next year we will begin another cohort and work with three to four new districts. We also continue to mentor and coach cohort 1 and assist each team as they share knowledge and build capacity to FoM:SD teaching strategies in their districts.

Numberless Word Problems

Have you ever said or thought any of the following?
  • They just add all the numbers! It doesn’t matter what the problem says.
  • They don’t stop to think! They just start computing as soon as they’re done reading the problem.
  • They don’t even realize this is exactly the same type of situation as the problem we did yesterday.
And so begins Brian Bushart’s blog post, Numberless Word Problems
In this post, Mr. Bushart shares what numberless word problems are and how they address these types of challenges. He shares his own numberless word problems (all set and ready for you to try out or adapt for yourself) and how to write your own.
For students who would benefit from conceptual understanding in order to better apply procedures to math problems, numberless word problems can help by scaffolding a word problem and drawing attention to the underlying mathematical structure in it.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

IM Math Professional Learning brought to you by Michigan Math and Science Leadership Network (MSLN)
Spring and Summer 2021 - check registration page for information
Virtual meetings

Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) 72nd Annual Conference
July 27-29, 2021
Virtual conference

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

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

Upcoming Events: National

AAC In the Cloud
June 23-24, 2021
Virtual Conference

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2021: AT Connected Home
Available for access through June 30, 2021
Virtual conference package includes: exhibitor activities, sponsored ATIA member education content, and select social networking activities

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 7-9, 2021

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Schools Connect
July 14-26, 2021
Virtual Conference

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

Lending Library Update

There are 84 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

PCEye 5

New Item:

PCEye 5

We have updated our library to include the PCEye 5.

PCEye is a compact eye tracker enabling people with physical disabilities to control a Windows computer with their eyes. Connect the PCEye to your Windows device via USB and access your computer with the Computer Control software.

Use the PCEye with a wide selection of devices; it attaches to most Windows tablets, laptops and desktop monitors with screens up to 27" in size. It can be used both indoors and outdoors, even in bright light.

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.