February 2019, Volume 26
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
Steep Your Soul: Meet Chris

Foundations of Communication Update

The Foundations of Communication sites have completed their implementation plans and are excitedly moving forward with providing communication to their students all day, every day. Carolyn O’Hearn will be meeting with these sites this month to learn more about the teams, check-in on student and staff progress, and provide support for continued growth in the areas of aided language input, core vocabulary, and all-day communication.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Implementation Sites Update

This year, we have five returning PODD implementation sites and two new teams. Our newest teams are completing their implementation plans and joining the veteran teams by working toward the long-term goal of autonomous communication for students by the time they exit educational programming. A focus in many sites is increasing accessibility of PODD by training a wider range of communication partners (e.g., parents, bus drivers, custodial/janitorial staff, peers, etc).
PODD teams meet with Carolyn O’Hearn monthly or bi-monthly for observations, check-ins, and team meetings. They also have the opportunity to network with other PODD teams by coaching each other virtually as well as joining in bi-monthly, all-PODD-site Zoom Rooms. It’s been an amazing journey to see the growth in these teams, both in PODD use and in the connections they’ve formed across the state.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) Update

Over the past several years, all school districts in the state had complaints filed against their websites with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). After an extended period of silence, OCR is once again engaging with some institutions in Michigan, following up on their original investigations and looking to see if appropriate changes have been made.

Even when experiencing silence from OCR, districts should not back away from accessibility on their websites. Accessibility is primarily a human rights issue and should not be driven exclusively by compliance. If your district needs help in this endeavor, don’t forget about the free AMMR courses available through EduPaths. Alt+Shift also continues to explore new ways to expand the scope and depth of AMMR offerings to districts across the state.

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction Update: Implementation Story

Bethany VandenBrand
Autism Spectrum Disorder program teacher
Paris Ridge Elementary, part of Caledonia Community Schools

Alt+Shift: In what ways have you implemented ideas and information from the Conventional Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities Complex Communication Needs training?
Bethany VandenBrand: I have embedded all components of the conventional literacy model. My favorite new routine is daily journal writing. I am amazed to see what my students are able to say when given the opportunity to choose a topic, when they have an appropriate and efficient writing tool, and when they have someone care about what they have to say.
AS: What impact has the training had on you and those with whom you work?
BV: Since attending the training and Camp ALEC, along with my fabulous speech-language pathologist, we are providing multi-day professional development focusing on conventional literacy for all program teachers, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists. It is amazing to see how each person uses the new strategies. We are seeing the benefits of everyone working on the same thing and working on common activities in student progress and growth.
AS: What is one implementation challenge you have experienced? How did you overcome it?
BV: As much as I like writing with my students, it was a challenge to find an appropriate pencil for all of my students. Collaboration with my paraprofessionals and occupational therapist made finding and creating alternative pencils easier. It just took time, determination, and a little non-traditional thinking.
AS: What is one implementation success you experienced?
BV: In the area of reading, I struggled with finding books that one of my students would be willing to read until I realized he loved to read video covers and video game CD cases. Now we present those to him as a choice, and he is an avid reader. This student provides a reminder to me to think outside the box and to not be afraid to take risks. As Dave (Dr. David Koppenhaver is a co-developer of the Conventional Literacy training) often says, “This is what it looks like today, how can I make it look better tomorrow.”
AS: What is your next step for implementing ideas from the training?
BV: It is an honor and privilege to be training with Karen and Dave (Drs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver co-developed the Conventional Literacy training) to be able to provide this training to others in Michigan.

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey Symposium Update

At this point in the AT Journey, our three implementation teams are continuing to form their implementation plans with Carolyn O’Hearn and Mike Marotta. By referring to their “why,” our sites are moving toward building capacity in AT consideration, sharing information with colleagues, and forming an AT process within their districts. Our AT travel-goers have opportunities to collaborate as a whole group in webinars, focus on their own districts in coaching sessions, and navigate the Twitter world through Twitter chats. Join us for our next Twitter chat on March 12, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. EST! Follow @AltShiftEd and #ATinMI to join in.

(Mi)^2 Update: Enhancing Mathematics Implementation Story

Dana Colo
Bemis Junior High
Part II

In our August (Mi)^2 2018 newsletter, Dana reflected on her journey through the Enhancing Math course with her colleague and shared how they planned to take the information and learning back to the classroom this fall. We reconnected with Dana to see how implementation has been going in her classroom.
Our classroom has become an environment where math instruction is accessible to all. I have learned how to better identify potential barriers for all students, but mostly for those with disabilities. My students have been exposed to a variety of accessibility strategies and have benefited greatly as they have been showing mastery of the skills they are learning. 
Using the "Math Accessibility Framework," I begin each lesson plan by first identifying the goals and task demands for my students. I then look to a variety of strategies and begin to plan how to implement. Having this plan allows me to be ready to better deal with each student’s barriers so we can move past them and master our skills.
All students, especially those with disabilities, have gained confidence in their ability.  Accessibility strategies such as offering manipulatives and using visuals can move students to an entire new level in their learning. Some fear that accessibility means more time and work, but that doesn't have to be true. These strategies are often easily implemented and help all students become successful. With time, each student has gained strategies that work best for them to support their weaknesses while building on their strengths. Applying this framework to any environment is a win for all.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Upper Peninsula Special Education Conference

February 22, 2019
Marquette, MI
Alt+Shift breakout sessions include:
  • Emergent Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs (title subject to change) by Megan Zell
  • From Research to Practice: Teaching Mathematics to Students with Significant Disabilities by Kate Fanelli

Conventional Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
February 25-27, 2019
St. Johns, MI
Michigan Council for Exceptional Children Annual Conference
March 6-8, 2019
Grand Rapids, MI
Alt+Shift breakout sessions include:
  • Assisting the Team with Assistive Technology by Carolyn O’Hearn and Ashley Rust
  • Building CapAACity - Implementation of School-Wide AAC by Carolyn O’Hearn
  • Don’t Get Stuck in the Math Mud, Use Concrete by Briana Bancroft
  • From Research to Practice: Teaching Mathematics to Students with Significant Disabilities by Kate Fanelli
  • Shared Reading for Students with Significant Disabilities by Megan Zell
  • Writing for Students with Significant Disabilities by Megan Zell

Upcoming Events: Michigan

79th Annual Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference
March 6-8, 2019
Amway Grand Plaza
Grand Rapids, MI
Michigan Reading Association 2019 Annual Conference
March 9-11, 2019
DeVos Convention Center and Amway Hotel
Grand Rapids, MI
Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference
March 20-22, 2019
Detroit, MI
Michigan's - Speech - Language - Hearing Association Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI
2019 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
18th Annual START Conference (Grand Valley State University START Project)
April 29, 2019
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, Michigan

Upcoming Events: National

Using Technology to Support UDL Instruction
February 15, 2019
New York, NY
2019 Everyone Reading Conference
March 4-5, 2019
New York, NY
California State University at Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference
March 11-15, 2019
Anaheim, CA
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
June 24-28, 2019
Toronto, Canada
ASHA Connect Conferences - 2019
July 19-21, 2019
Chicago, IL
Closing The Gap 2019
October 2-4, 2019
Prior Lake, MN
International Literacy Association 2019 Conference
October 10-13, 2019
New Orleans, LA

Lending Library Update

There are 77 items out on loan. 

New item:

Snap + Core First for iPad

Snap + Core First is a symbol-based communication app made by Tobii Dynavox. It lets users start communicating quickly and stay engaged as they grow and evolve on their communication journey. The app includes a wide variety of pre-designed button layouts, full range of Acapela voices, and free cloud storage backup. Bilingual English/Spanish pages are also available.


It can be easy to get stuck in a modeling routine while providing aided language input. Dr. Jill Senner and Matthew Baud use the mnemonic “S’MoRRES” to help build your modeling skills. S’MoRRES stands for S: Slow rate, Mo: Model (self and parallel talk), R: Respect and reflect, R: Repeat, E: Expand (build up), S: Stop (pause for the student’s response). Check out their interview with or visit the Technology and Language Center website to learn more about S’MoRRES, view webinars, or download a helpful reminder of this strategy.

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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.