October 2019, Volume 34
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
This 2-year-old deaf girl loves people — so her whole neighborhood is learning sign language

Foundations of Communication (FoC) Update

Our partnership sites continue to focus on schoolwide access to a universal core throughout the day. Access alone is not enough. Take time to reflect on your behaviors this month. Are you attributing meaning to students’ communication attempts? Are you modeling symbol-based communication throughout the day? What are your expectations for yourself, your staff, and your students? If you're looking for professional development to help guide you in creating a culture of communication for all, visit Project-Core. Project-Core offers short, intentional webinars related to aided language input, universal core, teaching communication during daily activities, and emergent literacy practices.      

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Update

The PODD implementation sites are building a community enabling them to coach each other while sharing resources they create. They plan to virtually connect bi-monthly as an entire group to share case studies and updates on their programs, while connecting to other speech-language pathologists or teams monthly to brainstorm solutions for their programs. In addition to connecting with each other, some of the sites are developing plans to further connect the intermediate school district (ISD) with local districts. For example, when students transition from ISD/early childhood special education (ECSE) programs to local kindergarten or special education programs, they will continue to have their voice and appropriate supports after their transition. Does your ISD or district have a plan when students transition between programs? It’s important to ensure all of their supports are considered, especially communication.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) Update

We continue to see high levels of engagement in the Accessible Materials Made Right online courses hosted by EduPaths. Over the past year, nearly 500 new participants have engaged in at least one of the seven available courses.
Lack of access to online content is a real issue that won’t go away or solve itself over time. We need to continue to work proactively to fix inaccessible materials so everyone who visits our websites can utilize all of the resources we have to offer.
If you or any of your coworkers want to learn more about creating accessible content, including documents, presentations, and PDFs, head over to EduPaths to access the free AMMR courses!

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction Update

Alt+Shift is excited to offer two state level Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities trainings in October. Even more exciting, it is the first time it will be offered in the Upper Peninsula as part of the Upper Peninsula Special Education Conference being held in Marquette. Alt+Shift will offer a two-day Conventional Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities training February 17-18, 2019. If you're interested in learning more about emergent literacy strategies, check out the professional development modules on If you're looking for resources related to conventional literacy strategies, check out the Dynamic Learning Maps Professional Development website modules. 

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey Update

Mike Marotta is joining Alt+Shift for another year of the AT Journey! Teams who participated in the journey last year created and refined their strategic implementation plans at the summer retreat. They will receive bi-monthly check-ins with Carolyn, Mike, and Sara, while a new team embarks on their journey this fall. Don’t forget you can set out on your own journey by engaging in the AT Journey: Web Edition. Each stop contains webinars and guiding questions or supporting content to help your ISD develop a team-based, sustainable approach to providing AT delivery and services.

(Mi)^2 Update - Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities

Alt+Shift, encompassing Michigan’s Integrated Mathematics Initiative (Mi)2, is partnering with three ISDs to provide training and implementation support for Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities. The structure of the training is tailored to fit schedules and structures unique to each ISD. The training is always presented in a series of half-day or full-day sections throughout the year with time in between to practice new skills and reflect on them. ISD implementation teams, as well as at least one local district or program implementation team, meet regularly throughout the year to draft a strategic implementation plan, monitor progress on that plan, and problem solve implementation challenges as they arise.
This training and implementation was piloted at Madison School during the 2018-2019 school year and will conclude during the 2019-2020 school year.

April Perry
Special Education Teacher

April is a teacher at Madison School in Wyandotte. She participated in the Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities site training last school year with her colleagues. This is her story of implementing the training in her classroom within the first year.

In what ways have you implemented Foundations of Math?
I have started using the learning trajectories to assess students' math skills. I use this information to make decisions about lesson planning and goal writing. I have also used the learning trajectories website to find appropriate lesson plans to address deficit skill areas.
What impact has Foundations of Math had on you and those you work with?
Foundations of Math has helped us to understand the developmental sequence of math concepts. There has also been a shift from working on the recognition of written numerals to developing number sense. We found that many of our students could identify numerals 1-10, but they did not know what those numerals represented.
Describe one implementation challenge and how you overcame it or are working to overcome it.
Poor communication skills is a problem throughout our building. We continue to work with the speech therapists to develop reliable communication systems for our students. Within my own classroom, I have core vocabulary communication boards at each student's table. I also use fringe vocabulary during math lessons that relate directly to
the math concept we are working on.
Describe one implementation success or highlight.
I have a student who began the year with many skills already in place. He could verbally count beyond 20, count backwards, identify numerals 0-10, and count small sets with 1:1 correspondence. However, he was struggling with producing sets made up of a requested number of objects. Throughout the year, we have worked on this skill using
several different lessons from the Learning Trajectories website. Now, he is able to produce sets up to five objects.
What is your next step for implementing Foundations of Math?
I plan to continue to use the learning trajectories to assess student skills and to guide my lesson planning. I would like to incorporate more subitizing activities as well because I feel this is an area I have not routinely addressed with my students.

Lending Library Borrower Highlight

Amber Perkins
LIvingston Educational Service Agency (ESA)

Alt+Shift: What is your job role?

Amber Perkins: I am an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher. I work for Early On and work with children ages birth to three-years-old at Livingston ESA.

AS: How long have you been using the library? 

AP: I have been using the lending library for several months.

AS: How did you hear about the library?

AP: I heard about the lending library from our assistive technology consultant.

AS: What have you borrowed from the library?

AP: I have borrowed several switch adapted toys for one of my students. My student loves the stuffed animal switch toys! We witnessed her touching the switch to activate the toy and dancing along with the elephant that she was able to activate on her own! The switch is very sensitive to the touch, which allows my student to have success after touching the switch! We gave the family a couple different switches to try so their daughter had different learning opportunities. The parent of my student said her daughter will be sad when she has to give the switch toy back because she loves it so much. :)

AS: Would you recommend the library to others?

AP: I would absolutely recommend the lending library to others! The customer service is great! Any questions I had were answered promptly. I was able to tell staff specifically what I was looking for and they recommended items that worked great to meet the needs of my student! After placing an order, the items arrived in only a day or two. The items can be loaned out for a couple months at a time, which is nice for families to be able to use the items for a long period of time to practice skills. I really like how each toy comes in a protected container with directions for the family. The toy comes with batteries to use as well!

Parent’s perspective from one of Amber’s students:

"My daughter has loved the toys/devices. She has difficulty with reaching and grasping so the red and yellow buttons attached to the toys help her with “playing.” She can easily hit the buttons with her arms and legs to make the toys interact. I wish every toy came with an easy button for her!
The buttons and interactive toys have taught my daughter how to use her hands and arms more. She knows that if she hits the button, the elephant with sing and dance for her. This toy is her favorite because she will sing and dance as well!
Thank you for providing these toys for us to use. We look forward to testing out more in the future!"

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Emergent Literacy Instruction for Students With Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
October 1-2, 2019
Clinton County RESA
St. Johns, MI
Teaching Students with Disabilities in the General Education Classroom
Breakout: Upper Peninsula Special Education Conference
October 10-11, 2019
Northern Michigan University
Marquette, MI
Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together Conference
October 28, 2019
Lansing Community College West Campus
Lansing, MI
Conventional Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
February 17-18, 2020
Clinton County RESA
St. Johns, MI

Upcoming Events: Michigan

7th Annual Autism Conference
October 10-11, 2019
Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites
Kalamazoo, MI
Upper Peninsula Special Education Conference
October 10-11, 2019
Northern Michigan University
Marquette, MI
(Oct 14: Pre-conference registration)
(October 15-16: Conference Registration)
October 14-16, 2019
Kellogg Conference Center
East Lansing, MI
Third Annual UDL-IRN Great Lakes UDL Experience
October 21-22, 2019
Macomb ISD
Clinton Township, MI
2019 Van Riper Lecture Series
October 25, 2019
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI
2019 MiAEYC Infant Toddler Conference (Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children)
October 25, 2019
DoubleTree Dearborn-Detroit
Detroit, Michigan
Empowering Teachers to Prepare Each and Every Student for Success on the SAT
October 30-November 1, 2019
Macomb Intermediate School District
Clinton, Township, MI
Assistive Technology Playdate
November 15, 2019
Battle Creek Math and Science Center
Battle Creek, MI
2020 MiAEYC Annual Early Childhood Conference  (Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children)
March 26-28, 2020
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place
Grand Rapids, MI

Upcoming Events: National

Closing The Gap 2019
October 2-4, 2019
Prior Lake, MN
International Literacy Association 2019 Conference
October 10-13, 2019
New Orleans, LA
 12th Annual Clinical AAC Research Conference
October 17-19, 2019
Washington, DC
National Association for the Education of Young Children
November 20-23, 2019
Music City Center, Nashville, TN
American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Annual Convention
November 21-23, 2019
Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference
January 28-February 1, 2020
Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Center, Orlando, FL
CEC 2020 Special Education Convention & Expo
February 5-8, 2020
Portland, OR

Lending Library Update

There are 34 items out on loan. 

New Item:
The Big Bang App Bundle on iPads

The two apps offered in this bundle were developed in conjunction with specialist teachers in the field of visual impairment. The activities in both are specially designed for use with children with low vision, including those with cerebral visual impairments and complex needs. They will provide you with a great range of exciting activities with great audio feedback to encourage and develop visual skills.

Both apps offer similar comprehensive options for access using touch or switches, color preferences, and reward time allowing you to identify student preferences and adapt the apps accordingly. This allows you to find activities in both apps that can interest your students, giving them more varied visual experiences.


Assistive technology is too broad to expect any single individual to have all the answers. The key to good coordination is to know who contributes what and to bring those individuals together to make decisions. The AT Skills Inventory allows the individual responsible for coordinating assistive technology to know:

  • What skills and knowledge each profession contributes.
  • The skill set of specific professionals within the district.

The inventory’s primary intent is to assist administrators, as well as those involved in coordinating assistive technology services, to identify and support professionals who can contribute knowledge and skills related to the provision of assistive technology. While not reflecting every skill that each professional brings to the discussion, it should serve as a starting point.

Our other Newsletter

Subscribe to the (Mi)2 Newsletter for more information about Mathematics in Michigan.

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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.