January 2022 - Volume 52
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In this issue:

Watch as Christian, big sister Jade and their whole choir take to the BGT stage to perform 'This Is Me', in a moving performance which really shows what it means to be themselves.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

Our professional workloads are filled with initiatives that all promise to improve outcomes for our staff, students, and communities. Everything we do requires time and resources, and we know that these resources are finite. Which initiatives receive attention largely depends on the interest and support from administrators.

One unifying factor for all of these initiatives is communication and delivery. How can someone participate in your class, school, or district if they cannot sufficiently hear, see, or understand the information you share with them? Roughly 26% of Americans live with some kind of disability. Of that number, 10.8 percent have cognitive difficulties, 5.9 percent have hearing loss, and 4.6 percent have vision loss.

This is where the work of Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) comes into play. Improving the accessibility of materials is of high importance when it affects every initiative that we undertake. One of the goals of the AMMR group this year is to pull together short, fairly informal work groups to look at specific topics. The first of these topics is Administrative Buy-In. Please email Joel Selby at If you’re interested in joining this work group.

Please consider registering for our next AMMR Usergroup meeting on January 20, 2022 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Topic: The Importance of Administrative Buy-In

If you haven’t already done so, please provide input for suggested topics for our upcoming workgroups and consider joining in on the fun!

Assistive Technology (AT)

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities “must be educated with children who are not disabled.” True inclusive education happens when students with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes, which can yield positive academic and social outcomes.
Some students with disabilities require assistive technology to enhance learning, working, and/or daily living. As many of you know, assistive technology needs are best met through a team-based approach. Family members can play an important role in helping to showcase a student’s strengths and identify potential areas of concerns. Through a collaboration with Michigan Alliance for Families, a series of conversations are scheduled to take place surrounding the importance of inclusive education as well as how assistive technology can enhance a student’s education and provide additional opportunities for genuine inclusive education.
Interested in joining the conversation(s) with families and educators? Use the following links to register for:
●      What is Inclusive Education? (January 10 at 7:00 p.m. EST)
●      Inclusive Education in the IEP Using Assistive Technology (March 10 at 12:00 p.m. EST)
●      Inclusive Society: Using Assistive Technology Beyond the School Day (May 11 at 7:00 p.m. EST)

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Including Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication and Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication

Do you have students who are unable to directly point to and/or touch a symbol to communicate? Perhaps you have a student who can access their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) by pointing in the morning, but they fatigue throughout the day. Alternative access enables individuals with complex communication needs and complex bodies with ways to express themselves. Alt+Shift staff recently created a new Quick Win focused on how to model four alternative access methods of AAC. If you recognize the need for alternative access but need to trial different switches and/or devices, don't forget to check out our lending library

Delta Math

Last month, this space provided information on the concrete-representational-abstract (CRA) instructional sequence to help educators engage in professional learning using an article and the Graham Fletcher videos linked to the Delta Math Progressions page.  This month, I would like to highlight a journal article titled Standard Algorithms in the Common Core State Standards written for the National Council of Supervisors by Dr. Karen Fuson and Dr. Sybillla Beckmann. This article focuses on the “representational” and “abstract” phases within the C-R-A instructional sequence by providing multiple “standard algorithms.” Each standard algorithm meets the intent of the Michigan Content Standards and supports conceptual understanding.
The conclusions from John Hattie and other researchers show that students can move from surface learning to deep learning within the C-R-A instructional sequence. But, adequate time must be spent using math drawings to represent the nouns and verbs used during concrete explorations. Also, when the nouns and verbs used with manipulatives match the nouns and verbs used with math drawings, it becomes natural for students to use the same nouns and verbs when they represent their thinking using numbers and symbols.
Page 19 in this article provides multiple standard algorithms for adding multi-digit numbers that extend from student experiences using base-10 blocks or tiles. Multiple standard algorithms for subtraction, multiplication, and division are provided on pages 21, 23, and 26 respectively. Educators can use this article to explore and understand multiple ways that students see and understand multi-digit operations. They can also reflect on their own instructional resources and be more prepared and confident to facilitate student conversations using precise mathematical language that has meaning to all students.
If you have questions about standard algorithms and how conceptual understanding is supported within the Delta Math RtI Program resources, please contact Mike Klavon at

Foundations of Math Implementation Story

Brittany O'Rourke
Brittany O’Rourke
Lyle A. Torrant Center, Jackson County ISD
Special Education Teacher

Alt+Shift: What challenges were you encountering with math instruction before you started implementing Foundations of Math (FoM)?
Brittany O’Rourke: I noticed that my math lessons consisted of videos from YouTube and basic file folders that had students match the number to the corresponding number. These lessons were very basic due to not having an understanding of how to modify math concepts. At this time, math was not the focus as our school had just completed our core vocabulary training and increasing student communication was on the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Also, due to student behaviors, my math lessons were more focused on task compliance and rote counting instead of engaging and meaningful and functional applications.
AS: How is implementing FoM impacting you and your colleagues?
BO: FoM has given me a clear understanding of the “big picture” of how to adapt lessons in meaningful ways. Through our sessions, we were given opportunities to discuss and engage in hands-on activities to help learn ways to adapt math for all students to be successful.
Staff members are seeking out ways to incorporate math into their classrooms by collaborating with each other and looking for math in everyday ways. This is huge as these were not conversations we had in the past. Also, we have teamed up with our core vocabulary team and have added activities into our monthly core vocabulary and literacy lessons.Our students are using math activities throughout their daily routines such as filling snack orders, rolling dice games, and using the core vocabulary board to communicate using words such as “where,” “what,” “more,” etc.
AS: How is implementing the new approach impacting students?
BO: This approach is impacting students by increasing the amount of math terms in everyday classroom language and incorporating meaningful and engaging math activities, math games, etc. in our everyday routine.
This school year, I have a student who is new to my room. At drop off time, her mom expressed how much her daughter is engaged in math activities. She is seeing evidence of this in her home routines. This student never had any interest in her math activities in the past and has taken a new liking to learning math. I truly believe that this is based on the simple fact of how we are using the information we received from Alt+Shift and are implementing the new approach into the classroom.
AS: What is your next step for implementing FoM?
BO: As a committee member of our math team at the Torrant Center, I would like to continue to support my peers in becoming more comfortable in implementing the FoM approach into their classrooms. I will take actionable steps to support others by sharing monthly example lessons aligned with the Learning Trajectories.


*Perspective is written by David Shachar-Hill. David is a Michigan State University graduate in the area of social science. Prior to that, he attended Okemos Public Schools. So far he has lived in six cities. Even though he is an adult, he still enjoys building Legos in his spare time.

Although the pandemic exposed weaknesses in the educational system, it also presented new opportunities. For example, flexible methods for access such as video or a variety of digital formats have existed for a while, but the closure of school buildings presented an opportunity to leverage them. With students not attending class in person, access to content needed to be adapted. Online access allowed students to use assistive technology to access content directly or to reformat it in a way that worked for them.
As a former visually impaired student in Michigan public schools, I struggled to consistently get accessible educational material, needing to repeatedly advocate for the accommodation of accessibility. I imagine when Michigan public schools moved to teach more lessons digitally, this type of universal access to content benefited many students with disabilities and different learning styles.
One tool that has been adapted and should continue to be used is video conferencing. It allows students and educators to continue working collaboratively and effectively. People have learned that video conference platforms can not only replace many traditional in-person meetings but allow people to collaborate effectively with others in completely different locations. This presents a huge advantage in the effectiveness of global communication and collaboration.
Before the pandemic, and before this kind of technology was necessary, people were neither as flexible or adaptable with collaboration. For example, pre-shutdown, I was not aware of video conferencing. I was used to using my iPhone, but my mode of access widened after the pandemic struck. Throughout the pandemic, I have struggled to work effectively with other stakeholders in my work with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Although the NFB has continued its work throughout the pandemic via monthly meetings on Zoom, at the start of the pandemic, when we were not able to meet in person together, I was not fully informed about contingency plans.I was quickly able to get reacquainted with the NFB by reaching out to the local chapter leader via email.
Both video conferencing and adaptation to digital forms of content are vast improvements in education, especially to students in special education who often need a different presentation in order to optimally access information. As we slowly emerge on the other side of the pandemic, educators should remember that there are positive aspects of innovation that should be continued and capitalized upon even in a post-pandemic future.

Grant Opportunity

The Family Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, Children’s Special Health Care Services, and the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) project are offering a webinar on January 31, 2022 about a new grant opportunity to reduce bullying for youth with special health care needs. Download the Bullying Prevention Initiative Grant Technical Assistance Webinar flyer for more information.


Do you have students who are blind/visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing on your caseload? The Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) provides monthly informational webinars in a series entitled “Live with LIO.” During these webinars, participants have the opportunity to join MDE-LIO consultants and guest co-presenters to learn more about the unique needs of students who are Blind/Visually Impaired (BVI) or Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH). Presenters will share evidence-based practices, tools, and resources for supporting students who are BVI and their families. Live with LIO webinars are free to attend. Check out the Events page on the MDE-LIO website to explore upcoming webinars.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Supervisors of Low Incidence Programs Winter Conference
January 13-14, 2022
Lansing, MI

Bullying Prevention Initiative Grant Technical Assistance Webinar
January 31, 2022

Math in Action
February 20, 2021
Allendale, MI

Michigan Council for Exceptional Children 82nd Annual Conference
March 2-4, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI

Michigan Reading Association 66th Annual Conference
March 11-14, 2022
Lansing, MI
Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference
March 16-19, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI
Michigan's - Speech - Language - Hearing Association Conference
March 24-26, 2022
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI
21st Annual START Conference
May 2, 2022
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI

2022 MiAEYC Annual Early Childhood Conference
Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children
May 5-7, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI

Upcoming Events: National

Council on Exceptional Children Special Education Convention and Expo 2018
In-person: January 16-19, 2022
Orlando, FL
Virtual: February 1-4, 2022
Future of Education Technology
January 25-28, 2022
Orlando, FL

ATIA 2022 Conference
January 26-29, 2022

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 14-16, 2022
Arlington, VA

Lending Library Update

There are 102 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

Go Talk Select

Go Talk Select

The Go Talk Select is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device is great for traveling. Keep it with you using the clip or lanyard (both included) or just take it along in your pocket. Small, light, and rechargeable via USB, the GoTalk Select offers four programmable message buttons on each of three levels for a total of 12 wearable, quick messages.

Connect to Other MDE OSE Grant Funded Initiatives

Michigan Alliance for Families

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 Support Technical Assistance Center

Michigan's Multi-Tiered System of Support Technical Assistance Center (MiMTSS TAC)

Visit the MiMTSS TAC website and look under “Announcements” for updates and events.

 Special education mediation services

Visit the SEMS website for updates and information.

Statewide Autism Resources and Training

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.