January 2020, Volume 37
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
Learn about the Mencap Voices Council

New Website Features

If you haven’t visited our website lately, check out the new Professional Learning portion of the site.  You will find information on:

  • Self-directed Learning: Courses (like Accessible Materials Made Right and the AT Journey: Web Edition) as well as Quick Wins (short modules highlighting high leverage practices from our partnered learning courses) are provided for anyone to access at their convenience. First timers and revisters are welcome!
  • Partnered Learning: Learn more about our training courses and how to access them either as general audience, state-level offerings, or through partnership with Alt+Shift.
  • Partnering Process: Learn more about how intermediate school districts can partner with Alt+Shift to build their own capacity to provide training and implementation support on topics such as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), math instruction, and assistive technology.

Countdown to the Newsletter Merge

Alt+Shift publishes two newsletters each month: The Alt+Shift newsletter (which you are reading) and the Michigan’s Integrated Mathematics Initiative (Mi)2 newsletter which focuses on our math offerings. Beginning in April 2020, our two newsletters will become one as we bring (Mi)2 completely under the umbrella of Alt+Shift.

Foundations of Communication (FoC)

In an effort to ensure that all students learn how to express themselves using AAC, we need to maximize opportunities to teach and model AAC throughout the day. Although modeling AAC is often easier to think about during academic routines, daily routines are a great way to ensure that modeling is happening outside of structured routines. The school day is filled with countless opportunities to model how to use AAC for multiple purposes, in a variety of environments, and with various communication partners. Project-Core offers a Daily Routines Planning Form that can be used to ensure that modeling is occurring throughout the day. 

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction

Our literacy partnership sites recently joined together for a webinar focusing on independent writing. For students with significant cognitive disabilities there are a number of barriers that can limit their opportunities to write. Barriers may include physical and/or sensory needs that make the use of a traditional pencil or computer keyboard difficult for students to use or writing via copying, tracing, or repeated trials versus the function of writing, and the belief that students need to demonstrate "readiness" before learning to write. Alternate pencils can provide students with a means of interacting with letters and overcoming barriers  while they learn. An alternative pencil is anything that provides a student with access to all 26 letters of the alphabet while writing (such as a keyboard, portable word processor, label maker, alphabet eye gaze frame, or letters printed individually or as a group on a page). Many of these alternative pencils are available for loan in the Alt+Shift Lending Library. Check them out today!

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD)

PODD sites in their second and third years of partnering with Alt+Shift are actively building capacity within their intermediate school districts and local programs. Areas of focus include improving the coaching of each other, providing training and/or overviews to potential communication partners (e.g., parents, bus drivers, peers, building staff), and reflecting on their own practices. Each site is making great strides toward providing AAC supports and systems to their students with complex communication needs.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR): Implementation Story

One ISD’s Journey To Web Accessibility

Submitted by Kristin Tank
Public Information Officer
Muskegon Area ISD

Can you tell us about your journey with AMMR?
Back in June of 2016, the Muskegon Area ISD (MAISD) learned of a formal website accessibility complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). At the time, our staff barely knew what Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was! Since then, Alt+Shift has heavily influenced our journey to accessibility that has led us from a 70 percent complaint website to where we are today, which is at 90 percent compliant.
One of the first things we did was to define ADA website accessibility for our board and staff members and explain why we needed to change our practices. Then, in October of 2016, the MAISD signed a resolution with the OCR listing several requirements we need to comply with. Our journey toward compliance had officially begun!
In June of 2017, a team of two staff attended a two-day Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) training held by Alt+Shift. This opportunity confirmed we were on the right track. Our training team expanded their knowledge, made valuable connections, and returned to the ISD to engage another staff member in training.
In June of 2018, a team of two attended the Alt+Shift Summer Retreat. Here the emphasis on strategic thinking and planning shifted our focus to the bigger picture of implementing the changes needed to make accessibility a priority. (Previously the focus was on compliance and training.) It was now clear that a more systemic approach was needed. After the retreat, Alt+Shift hosted quarterly virtual networking sessions with fellow AMMR Summer Retreat attendees so we could share our successes and challenges.
In June of 2019, a team of three (including an administrator) attended the Alt+Shift Summer Retreat eager to breath new life into our work. There, we quickly realized we were missing two important steps to organizational change. While our staff was aware of what ADA compliance was and why the change was needed (and our web content editors had the knowledge about how to change and the ability to implement the change) we needed to build the overall organization’s desire to engage and participate in the change. We also needed to provide reinforcement to ensure the change would stick.
During the conference, we reviewed our previous work, set new goals with action plans, and established timelines to complete specific action steps. The team agreed an ADA Infographic should be developed to remind staff why website accessibility is important, outline what is at stake, and provide specific actions staff can take to help push us forward. We presented the infographic to our entire office staff and shared it with our local district superintendents. We also recognized our website content editors for their work since 2016.
Again our Alt+Shift experience allowed us the time we needed to reflect, brainstorm, and plan more ways to make MAISD materials accessible to everyone! During the conference, we learned about additional accessibility tools available in Office 2019 and were able to share this information with our technology team. We located tip sheets developed by Ryerson University for Office and Adobe Accessibility and made them available to staff. “Grackle Docs” was also suggested during the conference as an affordable, user-friendly Google tool. We have since purchased and trained staff on Grackle which allows more direct conversion from Google Docs into ADA-compliant PDFs. This fall we purchased SMORE, a direct email tool that is completely accessible. Another part of our plan is to work together with our technology team to revise our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to reference our accessibility policy and standards. The AUP is now in place and has been signed by more than 400 staff members!
Alt+Shift has provided sustainable support, top-notch professional development, and a strong focus on planning, strategy, and processes and protocols to drive real organizational change. Without it, we would have been checking boxes in a disjointed fire, aim, ready manner. Our organization has benefited from consultations with their experts (through virtual meetings, emails, and phone support) in a personable, professional, and product-neutral manner.  Alt+Shift has been a game-changer for the MAISD and the schools we serve! 

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey

This month, we welcome Mike Marotta back to Michigan! He’s heading to the UP to join Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) and two of their local districts on their AT Journey. Topics covered will include their AT consideration process, eliminating silos by sharing information, and developing a strategic implementation plan to help teams get the appropriate assistive technology tools into the hands of students in an efficient and effective manner. We look forward to partnering with them this year.

(Mi)2 Update - Foundations of Math: Implementation Story

Melanie Packman
Gaylord Community Schools
5th Grade Teacher

In what ways have you implemented Foundations of Math?
I have used many math games introduced in the training and a few subitizing resources. The biggest take away from the program is the math sense or ideas that the program presents (such as not looking at things so procedurally). Even though that was the way I learned specific mathematical concepts, it is not the best way to understand the concept. I now dive deeper into mathematical concepts to unearth the WHY of mathematics.

What impact has Foundations of Math had on you and those you work with?
Conversations with my colleagues have changed dramatically. Instead of "I need to teach that again, my students are just not following the right steps," the idea is changed to say, "How can I teach this mathematical idea better, so my students understand it?" With others who have been through the program, we discuss ideas that can inspire that teacher to dive deeper into the understanding instead of just worrying about a procedure.

What is one implementation challenge you have faced?
I am working on trying to overcome using incorrect or misleading mathematical language. I am trying to use proper terms and avoid phrases that will confuse or take away from the understanding (such as saying "addend" instead of "top number" or "bottom number”). I am being specific and purposeful with my language and having my students model the same vocabulary. It is tough for them to change their mindset, and I am hoping that this language will be a force of habit for them and me.

What is one implementation success?
One success is the use of number or math talks that I use heavily at the beginning of the year. Number talks help build student flexibility with numbers. They do not directly teach the curriculum, but they help students tremendously when they are learning more complex mathematical concepts.

What are your next steps for implementing Foundations of Math?
I want to use more ideas about algebraic thinking from Foundations of Math. Algebraic operations and thinking are the number one struggle for students in 5th grade, and I would like to incorporate more games and learning opportunities for students.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Conventional Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
February 17-18, 2020
Clinton County RESA
St. Johns, MI

Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC) Conference
March 4-6, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI

MCEC Alt+Shift  Breakout Sessions:

  • Assistive Technology: How to try Before you Buy with Ashley Rust
  • Delta Math: Tier 3 Recommendations based on Research and Experience with Mike Klavon
  • From Research to Practice: Teaching Math to Students with Significant
    Disabilities with Kate Fanelli and Darnella Delphine
  • Strengthening Capacity for Districts and Programs to Provide High
    Quality Math Instruction to Students with Significant Disabilities with
    Kate Fanelli, Patricia Silveri, and Darnella Delphine
  • Coaching: The Missing Piece of the Implementation Puzzle with Carolyn
    O'Hearn and Lori Seagraves
  • The Road Less Traveled - One Team's Journey with AAC with Carolyn
    O'Hearn and members of the Shiawasee RESD team
  • Supporting Students with Learning Difficulties in the General
    Education Classroom with Briana Bancroft
  • Foundations of Math: A Shift in Mathematical Thinking Can Change
    Mathematical Outcomes with Briana Bancroft and Mike Wolf
  • Building Team Capacity to Increase Positive Impacts for Students and
    Staff with Sara Pericolosi
  • Supporting Student Communication Needs in the General and Special
    Education Classroom with Sara Pericolosi

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference
March 11-13, 2020
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michigan Transition Services Association Conference
March 16-18, 2020
Grand Traverse Resort, Acme, Mi
Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association Conference
March 19-21, 2020
Detroit, Michigan
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

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

CSUN Assistive Technology Conference
March 9-13, 2020
Anaheim Marriott
Anaheim, CA 92802
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 8-11, 2020
Arlington, Virginia

Lending Library Update

There are 85 items out on loan. 

New Item:

Accent 1400 with Look Eye Tracking

The Look Eye Tracking System is the new eye gaze feature for PRC’s Accent devices. Look provides the refinement necessary for specific populations. For individuals with progressive neurological diseases, Look has a full range of calibration (0, 5, 7, and 9) and adjustment for speed of cursor movement, stability, dwell selection, and timing to create a precise and accurate control required for extensive use for text, communication, and control of the Windows environment.


The processes of considering, selecting, and implementing assistive technology (AT) are not meant to be tackled alone. If you find your students could benefit from accommodations or supports in order to access the curriculum or their environment, your assistive technology team and/or ancillary staff may have valuable knowledge surrounding available tools and supports. Not sure who to contact? Consult the AT Contact List to find people in your region who are part of their ISD AT teams.

Our other Newsletter

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

Subscribe to the (Mi)2 Newsletter

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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.