April 2018, Volume 16
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
Stephen Hawking's daughter : 'You could ask my dad any question' - BBC News

Alt+Shift Update

This month, Alt+Shift offers its first set of one day Start the Assistive Technology (AT) Journey workshops with Mike Marotta. We will go to Romulus, St. Johns, and Grand Rapids (followed by Gaylord and Kingsford in May - note the event previously scheduled for Marquette has been moved to Kingsford).

Teams of technology consultants, classroom staff, related services personnel, and administrators will:

  • Think about a sustainable, team-based, local district approach to AT consideration.

  • Consider the skills and knowledge that the team would need.

  • Plan how best to develop those skills and knowledge in team members.

This one-day offering will also serve as a preview to a 40-hour hybrid workshop, led by Mike Marotta, coming next school year.

Anyone who works with students who might benefit from AT will benefit from learning how to improve systems to get that technology to those who need it.

Dates and Locations:

Time: 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Cost: $30 for individuals, $20 per person in teams of three or more; some complimentary administrator registrations available (see registration form for details).

State Continuing Education Clock Hours are available.

For more information including registration, download the Start the Assistive Technology Journey flyer and visit the Alt+Shift website.

(Mi)2 Update - Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together 1-Day Conference


Michigan’s Integrated Mathematics Initiative (Mi)2 is partnering with the Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC) and the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) for the 4th consecutive year to present this annual collaborative math conference.  

Location: Lansing Community College West Campus
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Registration: Opens May 1, 2018
Download the Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together flyer.
Submit a Speaker Proposal.

Previously named Making Mathematics Meaningful Through Collaboration, the Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together conference brings together general and special educators for a day of addressing the challenges of teaching mathematics to students with disabilities.

Dr. Thomasenia Adams of the University of Florida will provide the opening session, followed by breakout sessions the rest of the day.

  • Do you, or someone you know, have instructional strategies that improved mathematics outcomes for students with disabilities?

  • Do you, or someone you know, have tips for creating and maintaining effective co-teaching partnerships?

  • Have you, or someone you know, successfully integrated technology into special education or inclusive settings?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you have any other information that has helped you improve mathematics outcomes for all learners, please consider submitting a Speaker Proposal to present a breakout session at the 2018 conference, and/or invite others to submit proposals as well.

Lending Library: Opportunities to Learn More

Did you know you can use home assistant devices, like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home mini found in the Lending Library, to help kids with learning disabilities? These devices can help with spelling and sounding out words, researching information for homework, solving basic math problems, and keeping kids on schedule (by setting timers).



With the overwhelming interest and participation in last month’s Comprehensive Literacy Training with Dr. David Koppenhaver and Dr. Karen Erickson, we want to remind everyone about Tar Heel Reader.

Tar Heel Reader is a collection of free web-based books. The books are easy to read and can be speech enabled. Users can access them through several means including switches and touch-screen. The books cover a wide variety of topics. Create your own books using the pictures provided or upload your own pictures. Books can be saved as drafts, edited, revised, and then published upon completion.

Upcoming Events: Michigan


Start the Assistive Technology Journey

17th Annual START Conference
(Grand Valley State University START Project)
April 30, 2018
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, East Lansing, Michigan

Keep #Talking AAC
May 4, 2018
Charlotte, Michigan

SibShops Training
May 4 and 5, 2018
Grand Rapids, Michigan

11th Annual Life Without Limits Through Assistive Technology Conference
May 10, 2018
Detroit, Michigan

Michigan Reading Association 2018 Summer Literature Conference
August 1-2, 2018
Shanty Creek Resort
Bellaire, Michigan


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

Upcoming Events: National

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

UDL-IRN Summit
April 25-27, 2018
Orlando, Florida

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

International Literacy Association 2018 Conference
July 20-23, 2018
Austin, Texas

Closing The Gap 2018
September 26-28, 2018
Prior Lake, Minnesota

11th Annual Clinical AAC Research Conference
September 28-29, 2018
Fontbonne University
St. Louis, Missouri

Lending Library Update

There are 69 items out on loan. 
New item:
Livescribe Echo Smartpen

Record everything you hear, say, and write while linking your audio recordings to your notes. No matter what your learning style is, a smartpen lets you capture words, scribbles, and diagrams. And it syncs everything to what is said. Livescribe also lets you organize your notes to fit your learning style. Transfer all your smartpen notes and recordings to your computer to search for key phrases and create custom virtual notebooks to better organize your notes.

Educator Feature

Tracy Wood, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Mount Pleasant Public Schools

Which Alt+Shift trainings have you participated in?
Foundations of Communication

In what ways have you implemented ideas and information from the training?

After training and a few Talking AAC conferences, it was overwhelming as a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) to know where to start and with whom to start. I decided to begin with a few areas with the support of my team. First, I just started modeling the use of a Core 36 board with students with complex communication needs but also with other language impaired or delayed students in kindergarten and first grade. I even began modeling and offering a board for a student who was selectively mute due to anxiety. I instantly observed increased engagement of the students and some started to "take risks" by pointing to Core words to answer questions and build comments. While I was able to observe some noticeable changes with students in one-on-one therapy sessions, I had difficulty getting "buy in" from everyone else.

At first, teachers viewed Core as one more thing for them to do. Therefore, I offered to go into several general education classrooms once a week to do Shared Reading. Teachers were happy to allow me to do this. Of course they would let me come in and read to their class and do a lesson for them for 30-45 minutes each week.

I began to see that maybe modeling for the students was not the priority place to was actually modeling for the teachers and staff. After my very first shared reading lesson in a kindergarten classroom, the teacher said, "Oh, I can do that!" That was the start of implementation! That same teacher is now not only doing Shared Reading with Core but also doing Predictable Chart Writing. She has only one student in her class who has complex communication needs, but she instantly saw the value to using Core and modeling language in academics. EVERY student has a Core board taped to his or her desk, and multiple large core boards are available in her classroom.

What impact has the training had on you and those you work with?

The training provided additional information for implementation, helped me feel supported, and offered an outside "expert" to provide the training to our WHOLE team (teachers, paraprofessionals, other SLPs, social workers, and administrators). I could not have done that and made that much progress in implementation in such a short time without training for the whole team.

Describe one implementation challenge and how you are working to overcome it.

"Buy in" is and has been the largest challenge. I continue to find that if I am willing to model for the adults and take the risks for the teachers and staff for the first time, people are much more apt to try it out too. They also see the student engagement increase immediately so they want to then know more and try using Core.

What is your next step for implementing ideas from the training?

My next step is to start incorporating literacy (reading and writing) by modeling lessons in special education and general education classrooms. Also, our entire team has now been through Conventional Literacy Training and will complete Emergent Literacy in May. I plan to help support the team to increase literacy opportunities in the future. I will also continue to spend more time in the general education classrooms. In these classrooms, I will model lessons and how to provide Aided Language Input with the students who are complex communicators.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Corner

How do we measure growth in communication? How do you know when your students are making progress in developing communication functions?

As most of you know, I am a special education teacher* and not a speech language pathologist (SLP). I teach with a mindset that my students are capable of anything and everything. I teach, evaluate (in terms of what I see my students doing, not “evaluate” as a test), re-teach if necessary, or go on to build on their knowledge. Our classroom SLP measures student growth via assessments and observations. For me, I know my students are making progress when they respond to comments, conversations, and initiate communication with me. It’s not quantitative, but it is qualitative. And, over the course of this school year, our students’ initiation, comments, questions, statements, greetings, and a host of other communication functions have increased dramatically.

“Culture drives expectations and beliefs. Expectations and beliefs drive behavior. Behavior drives habits, and habits create the future.”  Jon Gordon on Twitter.

Our classroom culture drives our expectations and beliefs. We have created a culture of positive expectation and we all believe that our students can grow and learn. Our daily habits for providing communication development support our Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) language learners. We have high hopes for our students’ future!

*The PODD Corner is written by Laura Taylor, a special education classroom teacher of secondary aged students with autism spectrum disorder.

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.

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