December 2021 - Volume 51
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In this issue:

Blake Leeper motivates 2-year-old boy trying prosthetic leg for first time.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

The importance of social media as a communication tool continues to rise as our communities turn to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more up-to-date information. While these platforms are limited in their capabilities, there are a few ways we can improve the accessibility of our posts.
I would encourage everyone to keep these tips in mind as you share information via social media:
  • Make sure the information you share in an image or video is also shared via the text of the post.
  • When posting an image, add alternative text so screen reader users aren’t left out.
  • When posting video, consider using a tool like YouTube first to create and edit captions that you can then upload to the social media platform of your choice.
  • If you are posting a flyer or letter, make sure to also include a hyperlink to an accessible PDF version of the document as well.
  • Wherever possible, make sure hyperlinks in the text are descriptive. Most social media platforms will not let you hyperlink regular text, so the best you can do is use a URL shortener. For example, a hyperlink like is much better than
Please consider registering for our next AMMR Usergroup meeting on December 16, 2021 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Topic: Social Media Accessibility
If you haven’t already done so, please provide input for suggested topics for our upcoming workgroups and consider joining in on the fun!

Assistive Technology (AT)

Educational silos may be inadvertently created because we are not sure which colleague to ask for help when certain issues arise. Thankfully, within your district or intermediate school district, there are educators who have a wealth of knowledge and skills and can help you get AT into the hands of your students.
The AT Skills Inventory is a compilation of information from eight national professional organizations that can help your team identify who can contribute knowledge and skills related to assistive technology. Information is included for seven types of educators:
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech Language Pathologists
  • School Psychologists
  • Teacher Consultants for the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing
  • Teacher Consultants for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Special Education Teachers
In addition, the AT Skills Inventory contains self assessments that allow educators to rate themselves on knowledge and skills associated with their profession on a scale from 1 (low skills) to 5 (high skills). Results can be used to: (1) identify who would be beneficial to include in conversations around assistive technology, (2) identify what skills or educators are missing from your current AT team, and (3) identify areas of need for professional development.
The AT Skills Inventory is one tool to help grow the skills and knowledge of your team. Notice that students, parents, and general education teachers are not listed on this tool; however, these individuals also provide valuable insight and play important roles in the consideration, evaluation, and implementation processes.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Including Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication and Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication - Educator Feature

Theresa Augustyniak
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Consultant

Alt+Shift: As you developed the Muskegon Area ISD (MAISD) implementation team for the Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication (BBtAC) partnership, you approached individuals to gain their input, ideas, and feedback versus sending out a mass email or asking questions in a large group setting. Can you speak to participant responses and the impact these individual conversations had on the development of the team, vision, and partnership?
The MAISD’s AT/AAC team’s participation in Alt+Shift’s Coach Camp 2021 substantially informed our approach to a partnership not only with Alt+Shift but also how we engaged teams of educators in our county in this partnership. It deepened our understanding of the partnership principles and ensured we provided choice regarding professional learning and coaching around the consideration, implementation, and refinement of instructional practices to support the development of autonomous communication. Preferences and choices were more readily shared in our interviews and helped ensure the agency of educators was respected and directed the course of our professional learning and coaching. 
Partnering educators’ responses to interview questions provided us with the gift of enhanced clarity of their teams’ needs, capabilities, and concerns about barriers we were likely to encounter in this first year of partnering. These interviews preceded the development of the 2021-2022 Muskegon Strategic Implementation Plan and led to the inclusion of each educator participating in this partnership in the development of the plan for implementation. This increased the legitimacy of the vision we co-constructed because it authentically reflected the beliefs and hopes of each team.
Alt+Shift: What is the ISD's vision for BBtAC and how does it differ from the previous professional development you have provided?
Supporting the diverse needs and building on the incredible strengths of the teams serving families of infants and toddlers, elementary and secondary students as well as participants in our transition program have not been attempted in previous professional learning series. BBtAC has provided the opportunity for connections to be made across these teams in our county. It has also provided each team with opportunities to identify how they will implement new learning or implement enhancements to practices that will ensure all students have access to robust communication systems and meaningful instruction to support autonomous expression.
Alt+Shift: Educators in your district began engaging in BBtAC at the end of September.  What student changes have educators within your district observed?
During our first implementation planning meeting, teams celebrated increased engagement in communication and students initiating use of provided communication supports.  Improvements in the provision of partner-assisted scanning and resulting improvements in student responsiveness to this access method have also already been observed. We are excited for the next steps that are likely to come through this team-directed partnership.

Delta Math

The Delta Math implementation support website is aligned to the Institute of Education Science (IES) recommendation, “Intervention materials should include opportunities for students to work with visual representations of mathematical ideas and interventionists should be proficient in the use of visual representations of mathematical ideas.”
The last section on the Delta Math Progressions page provides quick reference guides for teachers and interventionists to analyze the Concrete-Representational-Abstract (C-R-A) framework integrated within Delta Math intervention lessons to build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding.
Teachers can begin their learning about the C-R-A instructional sequence through a quick read, and watch a Graham Fletcher video and then reflect on visual representations and precise math vocabulary provided within district adopted core instruction resources. Then, teachers can identify similarities and differences between these resources to create a manageable list of non-negotiables to increase student access to their current grade level standards and provide an equitable experience for all students in their classroom, school, and district.
If you have questions about the Delta Math Response to Intervention (RtI) program resources or implementation opportunities, please contact Mike Klavon at

Foundations of Math

The Foundations of Math course is a professional learning course designed to deepen teacher mathematical content knowledge. Research shows that deeper content knowledge by the teacher positively affects outcomes for students. In the Foundations of Math course, the concept of subitizing is covered. 
Subitizing is the ability to quickly “see” a quantity. If you think for a moment, when you “see” certain amounts you don’t actually count them. You just “know” the amount you see. You might wonder how this connects to mathematics or why it is so important. The ability to subitize is much like having phonemic awareness in reading: it is foundational in the development of math sense. Being able to quickly “see” quantity provides the foundation for using numbers flexibly and is important at all levels. With younger students it helps the development of counting and computation skills. For older students, the ability to subitize can help build fluency and numeracy skills.
To learn more about subitizing and instructional practices to support students with this important skill, please visit Subitizing Videos by Level.


*Perspective is written by David Shachar-Hill. David is a Michigan State University graduate in the area of social science. Prior to that, he attended Okemos Public Schools. So far he has lived in six cities. Even though he is an adult, he still enjoys building Legos in his spare time.

When I started middle school in 2003, I needed to use assistive technology (AT) that I hadn't worked with before to allow me to complete academic assignments. A lot of cutting edge technological advances were explored with me in middle school. In those years, I used a variety of technologies from dictation software to text to speech software in order to allow me to accomplish what my fellow middle schoolers were doing. Today, modern technology is taken advantage of by most people without the realization that many basic tools were much more complicated just a decade ago. The speech-to-text programs that I was introduced to in the early 2000s have been replaced with much superior technology that continues to become more mainstream and less expensive.
The concept of AT should not be limited to modern, cutting edge advancements in information technology (IT). Educators and other professionals working with learners should remember that any tool that helps a student succeed should be considered AT and does not necessarily need to be computer software. For example, if a student struggles with tremors and is not able to organize supplies on their desk, velcro can be used to keep supplies accessible.

Students receiving special education services may encounter many different challenges, and a tool that assists one student may not be helpful for another. It’s often important to think creatively about solutions to different problems.

Educators should encourage their students to use the tools that are available to them in order to be successful academically. For example, if a student has access to a device such as a smartphone, students should be encouraged to use the available capabilities of the device in order to achieve their goals. To be more specific, one very helpful capability of modern smartphones is the ability to easily audio record classes, lectures, and instructions so that people can easily refresh their memories of what their overall task is. Educators don’t need to wait for specific AT professionals to be involved and should be encouraged to think creatively and proactively about problems. It’s important for educators to be able to think creatively and out of the box when thinking of obstacles that some learners face.

Anyone in the business of supporting students in education should keep in mind that any tool that helps students academically is AT. There is no one tool that can be used to help everyone, and that students should be encouraged to utilize all readily available tools. Technology over the last couple of decades has advanced at such an earth shattering speed. When I contrast the AT that I was working with in the early 2000s, with the technology that is mainstream today, it’s amazing.


Collaboration between general and special education teachers is essential in supporting students with disabilities. If you are looking for resources to support this partnership, or to get you started with planning together, check out the Accessibility Planner resources on the Addressing Accessibility in Mathematics website.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Supervisors of Low Incidence Programs Winter Conference
January 13-14, 2022
Lansing, MI

Math in Action: Call for Presenters and Save-the-Date
February 20, 2021
Allendale, MI

Michigan Council for Exceptional Children 82nd Annual Conference
March 2-4, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI

Michigan Reading Association 66th Annual Conference
March 11-14, 2022
Lansing, MI
Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference
March 16-19, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI
Michigan's - Speech - Language - Hearing Association Conference
March 24-26, 2022
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI
21st Annual START Conference
May 2, 2022
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI

2022 MiAEYC Annual Early Childhood Conference
Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children
May 5-7, 2022
Grand Rapids, MI

Upcoming Events: National

Council on Exceptional Children Special Education Convention and Expo
In-person: January 16-19, 2022
Orlando, FL
Virtual: February 1-4, 2022
Future of Education Technology
January 25-28, 2022
Orlando, FL

ATIA 2022 Conference
January 26-29, 2022

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 14-16, 2022
Arlington, VA

Lending Library Update

There are 107 items out on loan. 

The Alt+Shift library is open.
Please return items/devices to the Alt+Shift office at:
1037 S U.S. Highway 27
St. Johns, MI 48879


Alternate Access Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Books

We now have Eyegaze and Partner Assisted Visual Scanning (PAVS) PODD books available in our Lending Library. PODD is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tool that organizes vocabulary to support expression and comprehension for individuals with complex communication needs. Language is organized in a practical layout that requires minimal page turns to communicate.

Connect to Other MDE OSE Grant Funded Initiatives

Michigan Alliance for Families

Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF)

Subscribe to the newsletter to stay up-to-date on events and special education news.


Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO)

Sign up for email notifications and the newsletter from MDE-LIO.
Michigan Multi-Tiered System of Support Technical Assistance Center

Michigan's Multi-Tiered System of Support Technical Assistance Center (MiMTSS TAC)

Visit the MiMTSS TAC website and look under “Announcements” for updates and events.

 Special education mediation services

Visit the SEMS website for updates and information.

Statewide Autism Resources and Training

Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START)

Subscribe to “START Connecting,” a monthly email with an article and information about START’s project activities, events, and resources.

Request Technical Assistance

If you have any questions about our offerings or resources, request technical assistance and someone from our staff will follow up with you.

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Alt+Shift is an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Grant Funded Initiative out of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education.