November 2018, Volume 23
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
Giffin and Turner are two brothers with a special bond. 

Welcome Carolyn O’Hearn

Carolyn O’Hearn comes to us from Lapeer County Intermediate School District where she served as a speech language pathologist for their center-based program for five years. Carolyn was also engaged with Alt+Shift for one year as a trainer and implementation facilitator for Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD). She will be our new Assistive Technology (AT)/Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Specialist.
Carolyn has spent her career supporting implementation of AAC through training and coaching. She has worked directly with students with a variety of speech and language related disabilities but primarily with students with complex communication needs.
Carolyn will continue her work with PODD at implementation sites. She will also provide statewide training through Alt+Shift and ongoing supports through electronic means such as the listserv and newsletter. Carolyn will coordinate efforts around the Assistive Technology Journey Symposium (see update below) by working directly with sites and taking the rest of the state through the journey via the Alt+Shift website.
Welcome Carolyn!

Foundations of Communication Update

Foundations of Communication has engaged with three new sites for the 2018-2019 school year. All sites have had initial training and are currently engaged in the Strategic Planning Process and implementation work. All of these sites have implemented a universal Core Vocabulary for the students in their school districts. They are off and running with demonstrating how to communicate with Core Vocabulary everywhere in the school environment. On October 10, 2018, from 3 to  4 p.m. we had our very first statewide Zoom room.  The meeting was well attended with representatives from all of the current sites and the sites from the 2017-2018 school year. We discussed successes and challenges and had time for members to ask questions of each other. 

PODD Implementation Sites Update

PODD implementation sites are up and running! There were five intermediate school districts across Michigan who set up multidisciplinary implementation teams with the support of Alt+Shift during the 2017-2018 school year. These sites made communication a priority for their students with complex communication needs: engineering communicative environments, collaborating between disciplines, and focusing on the long-term goal of autonomous communicators. The support looked a little different at each site, but typically included a 2-day PODD initial training, monthly check-ins, site observations, and coaching. This year, we’ve started holding whole-group meetings every other month and the sites have started coaching each other! So far in the 2018-2019 school year, we’ve added another team to the mix and they’re already PODDeling (modeling PODD) like rock stars!

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) Update

AMMR is now online! You can access all seven of the AMMR modules through EduPaths. Each module builds on previous ones. Modules include accessibility matters; the basics; and in-depth looks at Word, PowerPoint, and Acrobat Pro.

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction Update

Alt+Shift has engaged with Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. David Koppenhaver in an effort to build capacity in Michigan regarding the Emergent and Conventional Literacy trainings they have developed. So far, Alt+Shift and Dr. Erickson and Dr. Koppenhaver have prepared Megan Zell and Marlene Cummings to conduct the Emergent Literacy training around the state. Megan and Marlene have been conducting statewide trainings and have trained specific teams with whom they will continue to work throughout the implementation process. In addition, the second cohort of potential trainers has engaged with Dr. Erickson and Dr. Koppenhaver to prepare to conduct Conventional Literacy training. These trainers are expected to complete their training by the spring of 2019. These efforts are to help educators learn strategies and have the confidence to provide Comprehensive Literacy instruction for all students every day.

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey Symposium Update

We have officially started on the AT Journey! Mike Marotta, ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) and the AT team are traveling to the upper peninsula and western lower peninsula for the first two face-to-face days at the end of October and beginning of November. In addition to the workshops, the AT Journey includes webinars, coaching meetings, and Twitter chats. Topics covered will include AT consideration through implementation, building capacity and a team approach, understanding and navigating AT, educational technology, instructional technology, and universal design for learning. For those who are not part of the intensive journey, you’ll be able to take a parallel journey with webinars and other materials. Stay tuned!

(Mi)^2 Update: Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students With Learning Difficulties

Kendall Root (left) High School Mathematics and Computer Science Teacher
Elaine Mahabir (right), High School Special Education Teacher

Kendall and Elaine co-teach eleventh grade math classes at Midland High School and attended the Enhancing Math course together.

Kendall and Elaine describe the impact of this course on their teaching and their students:
One of the largest barriers we face with our students is apathy. A lot of the strategies we utilize from Enhancing Math are designed to increase engagement and participation in an effort to overcome this barrier. We work hard to find opportunities for student discourse. We also try to limit the amount of time our students spend in their seats. While these strategies have other benefits, the biggest benefit we see is students who are engaging with course content when they would otherwise be hiding at their desk thinking about anything other than math.
We’ve made a couple of changes to our teaching as a direct result of participation in Enhancing Math. The most regular tool we’ve started to use in our class is vertical, non-permanent surfaces*. This was a strategy we first learned of in the course and we’ve found it to be very effective. Another strategy we’ve used is moving from the concrete to the abstract. For example, we completely rewrote our linear functions unit (in Algebra 1) to start with an exploration of arithmetic sequences using manipulatives and then progressed to the concepts of rate of change and initial value. Once students had these down, we were easily able to launch into discussions about lines, slope, and intercepts and the students found the concepts much more intuitive. While the book introduced lines first, and considered arithmetic sequences as an example of linear functions, we found that reversing the order made the material easier for students to understand.
When we went through the Enhancing Math course, we were teaching freshmen in their first-year Algebra course. This year, we have moved to teaching juniors in Algebra II. This change has caused us to consider the concepts and strategies that we learned in the course, applying them to new content and different students. To this end, we are revisiting the engagement and content delivery strategies that we learned from Enhancing Math and trying to apply them in this new setting.
*Vertical non-permanent work surfaces is a strategy that was added into the course after an instructor went through the Building Thinking Classroom (BTC) training with Dr. Peter Liljedahl.  For more information on BTC strategies, visit Dr. Liljedahl’s site.
Registration for Enhancing Mathematics is now open.

Educator Feature: Elizabeth MacGregor

Name: Elizabeth MacGregor
School:  Mount Pleasant Public Schools
Role:  Speech-Language Pathologist

Which Alt+Shift training are you sharing information about?
Foundations of Communication
In what ways have you implemented ideas and information from the training? Mount Pleasant Public Schools has received support and training from Alt + Shift for more than a year. We have been so excited about using core vocabulary in our classrooms (both special education and general education). We have created an Aided Language Input Initiative within our district to help organize us and keep us moving forward! This initiative was made possible by our administrative team, Stefanie House and Kelly Merrihew. Our main focus is on using the core vocabulary board (36 board provided by Project-Core) with our students in the Mildly Cognitively Impaired and Moderately Cognitively Impaired classrooms to improve both receptive and expressive communication skills. We use the core board with students from developmental kindergarten to high school to post secondary.
What impact has the training had on you and those you work with (e.g. teachers, students, consultants, administrators, etc.)? The impact of this training has been above and beyond our expectations! We are profoundly grateful that we've been introduced to this evidence-based practice for communication. We have trained all of our speech language pathologists, classroom teachers, and para-professionals on Aided Language Input (ALI). We demonstrate daily in these classrooms as well. In addition, we are teaching peers, general education staff, and other team members (physical therapists, occupational therapists, and school social workers) on the use of ALI. We have SO many success stories in our classrooms with the student's use of the core vocabulary boards!
Describe one implementation challenge and how you overcame it or are working to overcome it. We have had many challenges over the course of the past year, and I am proud to say those challenges have not stopped us from making progress. The initial launch of core vocabulary was difficult for some of our teachers and paras who have used the Picture Exchange Community System (PECS) for a long time. In order to help work through that challenge we did our typical training and demonstrating of ALI but we also encouraged a blend of the two approaches. We suggested adding a core board to the PECS book, and we referred to the pictures in the PECS book as the "fringe vocabulary." That helped bridge the gap to some degree and allowed the students access to the core vocabulary words.
Describe one implementation success or highlight. There have been SO many student highlights:

  • A verbal student while in a behavior and unable to use speech was able to communicate that they wanted to "go" home.
  • Non-verbal students combining words on the core board to form statements/comments and questions (I want....I do not want, stop).
  • General education peers using the core board to communicate with students who have complex communication needs.
These are just a few of the exciting things we see on a daily basis in Mount Pleasant Public Schools.
What is your next step for implementing ideas from the training? Our Aided Language Input team developed many different data sheets to monitor:
  • Core vocabulary use by staff (teachers and paras).
  • Communicative functions (student use of core).
  • Beginning communicators (student use of core).
  • Making choices (student use of core).

Our next step is to take quality data and analyze.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students With Learning Difficulties

January 29, January 30, and March 5, 2019
(also March 6 for facilitator certification ONLY)
St. Johns, MI

February 25-27, 2019
Detroit Metro Airport Mariott
Romulus, MI

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Michigan POHI/SXI Conference
November 8-9, 2018
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI

2nd Annual UDL-IRN Great Lakes UDL Experience
(Universal Design for Learning - Implementation and Research Network)
November 12-13, 2018
Macomb Intermediate School District
Clinton Township, MI

#TalkingAAC 2018 Conference
November 28-30, 2018
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI

2019 Supervisors of Low Incidence Programs (SLIP) Conference
Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education
January 17-19, 2019
Crowne Plaza West
East Lansing, MI
79th Annual Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference
March 6-8, 2019
Amway Grand Plaza
Grand Rapids, MI

2018 MiAEYC Annual Early Childhood Conference
(Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children)
April 11-13, 2019
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place
Grand Rapids, MI

Upcoming Events: National

2018 NAEYC
(National Association for the Education of Young Children)
November 14-17, 2018
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention
November 15-17, 2018
Boston, MA
ATIA Conference 2019
(Assistive Technology Industry Association)
Pre-Conference Workshops - January 29-30, 2019
Conference - January 30 - February 2, 2019
Orlando, FL
Council on Exceptional Children Special Education Convention and Expo 2018
January 29, 2019 - February 2, 2019
Indianapolis, IN
Future of Education Technology
January 27-30, 2019
Orlando, FL
California State University at Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference
March 11-15, 2019
Anaheim, CA


Lending Library Update

There are 108 items out on loan. 

New item:

The HoneyBee Proximity Switch senses the proximity of nearly any object. To activate the HoneyBee, the user places his or her hand, head, or other body part over the sensor window. An audible tone is heard when activation has occurred.
The sensing range can be adjusted for any of four distances, allowing for multiple positioning and access needs:

•6-inches (14 cm)
•3-inches (7 cm)
•1-inch (3 cm)

The HoneyBee can be plugged into any communication device, adapted toy, or computer interface that has a standard ⅛-inch jack.

Opportunities to Learn More: 

The new iOS 12 added an accessibility feature for those who are hard of hearing. It is a feature called Live Listen that turns your iPhone/iPad into a remote microphone which sends captured sounds to Apple’s AirPod headphones. It can be used to “zoom in” on specific audio, which is especially useful in a noisy classroom.


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. 

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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.